How to Make a Homemade RC Tank

By Grahame Turner
A model remote controlled tank is a great back yard toy.
A model remote controlled tank is a great back yard toy.

The tank is a symbol of battlefield superiority, heavily armored and mobile artillery. For some enthusiasts of RC models, they have made their own model tanks capable of moving like the real thing. If you are interested in building your own version of these heavily-armed military juggernauts, it does take a fair amount of work, and a lot of cutting and small work. However, the project ends up giving you an impressive model army vehicle.

Track Systems

Determine the dimensions of the tracks and track slats according to your plans. Many larger model tanks, for example, use 3/4-inch slats which are 4-inches wide. Determine also how many slats you need. You can figure this out by taking the length of the track base and multiplying by two, then dividing by the width of each slat.

Cut the masonite into the slats for the piece. For example, 3/4-inch by 4-inch wide strips for each of the pieces.

Drill two holes into a masonite slat, one for each of the two bike chains of the tread. Place these holes about 1/4 of the way in from each side. Repeat with all of the remaining slats.

Lay out the slats about 1/4-inch apart. Place a bike chain across the top of the slats.

Stick a pop rivet through the hole on the bottom of the slat, and pop it into shape using the popper device. Repeat with all of the remaining slats, then with a second bike chain.

Repeat to make a second track set.

Body of the Tank

Follow the plans of your tank to build the vehicle. You should make a base panel, which is as long as the tracks, and shorter than the final width of the vehicle. For example, if your tracks stretch out for 2-feet, the body is supposed to be 18-inches wide, and the tracks are 4-inches, then your body panel should be 2-feet by 10-inches (18-inches minus 4-inches times two).

Assemble two walls which are as tall as your treads and wheels, and as long as the body, and a set of front and back panels which are equally tall, but as wide as the base panel. Build these into an open-top box, and glue and nail them into place.

Make a second set of walls inside the model, about 2- or 3-inches from the inside walls of this box. Glue and nail this into place.

Drill through the sides of the vehicle to the points where the wheels will attach to the sides. Drill corresponding wheels on the inside walls of the vehicle.

Insert the wheels into the tracks of the vehicle, and attach them to the side of the body using metal rods as axles. Insert the toothed wheels into the treads, so they mesh with the bike chain. Attach these wheels with rods as well. Repeat on the other side of the model.

Mount an electric motor to the side of the vehicle and attach it to the toothed gear axle. Follow the directions included with your electric motor part. Repeat on the other side.

Cut an upper body plate, something as wide and long as the final dimensions of the tank. Attach this to the top of the vehicle using hinges at the front of the vehicle, so that you can reach the interior of the vehicle. Leave the glue on the body to dry overnight.

Tank Turret

Rotate the bearing about 45-degrees. Attach the bearing to the top of the tank body at the pivot point you want for the turret. Consult your plans for more information. Typically, the turret is in the center, but some models of tank have the turret off to the side slightly.

Cut out a platform for the turret, as well as parts for the walls and top of the turret. Dry fit these parts together before assembly.

Cut a 4-inch circle in the bottom panel, in the center, to go over the bearing. Save this piece of wood. Cut another hole in the front panel to the diameter of your metal pipe, 2-inches above the bottom of the front panel.

Mount the servo to the inside of the bearing. Drill a hole through the top panel inside that bearing space, and drape the servo wires through that hole.

Cut two 2-inch wide strips of wood to the width of the tank turret. Position these on the bottom panel, parallel to each other and on either side of the bearing hole. Place the bearing off-cut on top of these pieces. Nail and glue the pieces into place.

Attach the bottom panel of the turret to the top of the tank using the bearing. Connect the servo to the off-cut panel using a metal rod, so that the servo can turn the turret.

Build the walls and sides of the tank. Put the front panel on first, and push the hollow pipe through the hole and glue or nail that into place. This becomes the turret cannon. Attach the side walls, and then the top panel. Leave the glue to dry overnight.

Open the tank top, and connect the two motors and the servo to the RC receiver according to its directions. Connect the battery to the device, and power on the tank. Test that the motors move the tank and the turret turns the device.

About the Author

Grahame Turner has worked as a freelance writer since 2009 and a freelance reporter since 2010 for Wellesley Patch and Jamaica Plain Patch in Massachusetts. He also works part-time as a bookseller at the Northeastern University bookstore. He is a Northeastern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English.