If you’re walking through a Long Island park and come across a group of adults driving remote control trucks over rocks, hills, and through tree roots, your first thought might be, “Where are the kids?”
Look more closely, they are there, inside the adults who have fun reliving their childhood.
Christopher Rowley, 45, of Massapequa, co-runs a club called the Long Island Crawlers RC Club for fans of remote-controlled off-road vehicles. His trucks are not children’s toys; These foot-long trucks can be purchased for a couple of hundred dollars at a hobby store, either pre-assembled or as a kit. Kits allow buyers to build their own cars and trucks, invest in parts to control speed, steering and performance, and experience realistic details like putting a driver behind the wheel. “It gives you more scope to customize it however you see fit,” says Rowley, who works in heating and air conditioning.
The Crawlers, who meet weekly at various Long Island parks, aren’t the only Long Island adults dedicated to RC vehicles. Other groups focus on drag racing remote control cars on indoor or outdoor tracks or directly with race cars that can go 60, 70, 100 or more miles per hour.
Daniel Michel, 42, of Deer Park, who works for New York City, travels as far afield as California to compete and says it’s a sport as well as a hobby. Still others like to bash, steer their remote control vehicles over obstacles, and do flips or stunts that often result in the car breaking. “You build it, you run it, you break it, you fix it,” says Ari Kapoutsos, 42, an assistant manager at North Bellmore. Some fans collect old models.
Various Facebook groups cater to different facets of the RC vehicle hobby. And car and truck fans aren’t the only adults driving remote-controlled vehicles: Some clubs cater to owners of remote-controlled boats or planes. Interest in RC vehicles grew during the pandemic, when people were looking for activities they could enjoy outdoors, says Rowley. His Facebook group now has more than 900 members.
THE FANS IS NOSTALGIC
“The hobby is really very broad,” Kapoutsos says of RC cars and trucks. “For me, I prefer the vintage look. I am a child of the 80s. I returned to that 30 years later. He can now buy the kind of cars that his parents couldn’t buy him when he was a kid. “It’s very nostalgic and evocative for us.”
Joseph Graziano, 37, a Port Jefferson paving foreman who is involved with the Long Island Street Eliminatorz and Long Island VXL Drag Racing groups, agrees. “He makes you feel like a kid again. I am playing with toys. You can hang out with your friends.” He races cars many Sundays with others in organized showdowns in the parking lot of the Ronkonkoma LIRR train station.
Many people re-familiarize themselves with the remote when they play RC toys with their children again. “I was always intrigued by things with wheels and remote control when I was younger,” says Matthew Catrini, 34, of Farmingville, who installs fire and burglar alarms. A couple of years ago he got back in the cars with his son, Matt, now 9, and Catrini’s brothers, who are 30 and 27. “We will compete with each other.”
Some members bring their children with them to club meetings. But when their children move on to other interests, the parents, mostly dads like Rowley, whose son is now 14, stay involved. “Over time he got into other things, and I stayed with this. I like the look of the scale, just because of the detail you can put into it,” says Rowley. Rowley has about eight cars. “Some of the guys are in their 40s or 50s,” he says.
THIS IS YOUR ‘YOGA’
Some people get into RC cars because they have an interest in racing. “It’s the closest thing to a real race anyone can get without being in a real car,” says John Goode, 29, a manufacturing engineer from West Babylon who also runs a 3D printing business that sells accessories for RC vehicles. .
Michel says that the most demanding RC vehicle racers have to understand the science of how a car works. “It’s literally like a real car, but it’s shrunk down to miniature size,” he says. “The car I drive could cost between $2,500 and $3,000.”
In addition to his interest in vintage cars, Kapoutsos also races. A friend of his turned his backyard into a dirt track and Kapoutsos records his monster truck, 2WD and 4WD races and posts them on his RC Retro YouTube channel. “It’s fun to build them and tune them to go faster,” he says of his cars. “Change the angle of the tires to improve steering.”
David Troccoli, 43, a union tin beater from Medford, had 15 tons of rock delivered to his backyard so he and his friend Eddie Montenegro, 46, of East Moriches, who works at a sawmill, could build a caterpillar track and hold monthly competitions. they let people know on the Krawler Island RC Facebook page.
“Each competition has trophies,” Troccoli says, and vehicles are judged in several categories, including scale detail and getting through the course without hitting obstacles.
The majority of hobby participants are usually men. Ashley Schober, 27, of Centereach, who works for a maintenance company, says she became interested in remote-controlled cars because her boyfriend hooked her. “I enjoy racing and competition,” she says. Other runners often bring their girlfriends or wives to watch the races, she says.
Racers usually meet indoors like Traction Action RC Raceway and Hobbies in Plainview or outdoor tracks like at the Ronkonkoma train station. Trackers rotate parks and may be at Trail View State Park in Woodbury, Massapequa Preserve, Camp Hero State Park in Montauk, Brickyard Mountain Bike Trail in Bethpage State Park, or Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove. Sometimes people stop to ask what the club members are doing, and they may let the kids take turns driving the trucks, says Rowley.
“It’s really a group of people coming together and having fun with something they’re passionate about,” says Doron Schnitzer, 45, of Bellmore, an auto body shop owner and co-director of the Long Island Crawlers. “We go into the woods with our little trucks and wander around.” Schnitzer says that some people like yoga to relax; he likes to play with his trucks.
Says Jason Siegel, owner of Willis Hobbies in Mineola, which caters to the hobby: “It allows kids to go out and be kids again for a couple of hours, and then it’s back to normal.”