This past Christmas season yours truly was ecstatic to find that his loving family was generous enough to leave one of his most sought after gifts under the tree. No it wasn’t a Red RyderBB gun, it was the Axial Exo Terra! Even though I dove into that box late Christmas night and starting assembling this beautiful buggy as soon as possible, piles of snow and everyday life leads us to this point over six months later. Meet Project Exo! Join along as I document an Axial Exo Terra build from start to finish with tons of photos and whatever information I can remember along the way. Then we’ll take it for a spin and see how she does!
While you’d expect Axial to make the outside of the box pretty, they went one step further by supplying some gorgeous box art inside the lid! We wonder if the Exo Terra inspired the artwork or the other way around?
The Exo Terra box is crammed to the lid with bags and bags filled with parts. Axial includes high quality hex head screws throughout. By the time you get done building this kit you aren’t going to want to see a plastic bag or hex head screw ever again.
Well it’s time to get started. The first thing Axial instructs you to build are the front and rear oil filled differentials. Both gear diffs are filled with pretty beefy looking steel gears and the supplied 10k weight.
If you have done any reading up on the Exo Terra you have probably heard owners complain about the buggy’s motor mount. While the stock mount is made from aluminum, it has been known to crack when tightened too much. That is why we chose to go with the motor mount offered by Vanquish Products. If CNC machined aluminum parts were an art this would be it.
Another shot of that beautiful Vanquish Exo Terra motor mount. For the time being we are going with a Novak Velociti brushless motor mated to a Novak GTB ESC, both of which we had laying around, but I’d love to eventually upgrade to something that can take 3s power with a 550 size short course motor. Anyone want to donate to the cause? In this photo you can also see the center differential which, like the front and rear diffs, is oil filled. Axial includes 20k oil for the center diff but most people eventually go up to 50k or even 100k to get the car to hook a little better. We’ll have to try it out at some point.
Here is the chassis finally assembled with the front and rear diff housings attached. I think we could stop here, bolt on a truck body and we’d have a sweet 4×4 short course truck but that wouldn’t be any fun.
The Axial Exo Terra includes a set of officially licensed Raceline Renegade wheels and Hankook Dynapro MT off-road tires. As we’ve said, the Exo Terra is much like a 4×4 short course truck with the wheels and tires being the same size, well sorta. Unlike SC trucks which have the same size wheels/tires all around, the Exo Terra features slightly skinnier front tires with SC size tires in the rear. Fear not though, you can still use regular short course truck wheels and tires if you’d like.
To hold the battery in the chassis, Axial includes these adjustable rubber battery straps. Even though these are well made you are going to learn to despise them in no time. You see, with that sweet scale roll cage and interior installed the Exo Terra has very little room left for the battery so when it comes time to install one you’re going to be cursing these things. With time you get the hang of it though.
Axial realized that many hobbyists were going to want to run their cars in adverse conditions so they designed this waterproof receiver box. While it’s a nice piece we had numerous problems getting our receiver wires to fit without getting crimped. At one point we inadvertently pinched our antenna leaving it basically useless. ARGH!
The Axial Exo Terra includes a set of plastic bodied, oil filled, threaded shocks. They look great but prior research has told us to watch out for shock caps that pop off during crashes. We’ll see how it goes.
Here is the assembled roll cage. I lost count how many small hex head screws were used to hold this thing together, all I know is my hands were killing me afterwards. Be sure to get everything assembled correctly now or you’ll be kicking yourself later.
One of the things that drew us to the Exo Terra was the details. Axial could have easily thrown this kit together and rushed it out the door but when you look at the details, like this miniature radiator, you realize that they spent a ton of time making it perfect. Believe it or not but those tiny radiator fans actually have little fan blades in them that can spin!
The Exo Terra features a sweet set of roll bar lights that can utilize optional LED lights for night time driving. Axial includes three sets of light guards including those with no logo, with the Axial logo, and with the licensed PIAA logos shown here.
Axial also includes this cool little lexan engine and fuel cell. We chose just to paint ours black and let the decals do it justice but you can detail these out to your hearts content. A set of tiny spark plug wires and some headers sure would look trick back there.
The Axial Exo Terra’s body was easily the most complicated RC car body we have ever seen. It includes a roof panel, hood, three sides pieces and two rear pieces. As you can see in the picture below, the Exo Terra’s right side panel is a two piece part so you can remove the rear section for that fun battery installation later on. Trimming, sanding and painting all of these pieces seemed to take forever!
Finally finished! Actually if you look closely you can see that we forgot to secure the rear of the roll cage to the chassis. Boy oh boy, putting those two together is quite the challenge. The manual instructs you to install all of the body panels before trying to mate the chassis and roll cage but we found that it was nearly impossible to get everything lined up. In the end we had to remove the hood and side panels to get everything together.
Here is another picture of the assembled Axial Exo Terra. You may be wondering what color that paint is. Well, in essence it is a custom color, but in reality it’s just an accident. At first I wasn’t sure what color I wanted to paint this car. Thoughts of going with a flat black paint job crossed my mind, as well as the idea to replicate Sebastian Vettel’s championship winning Redbull F1 race car. In the end I decided to try something different. I sprayed a coat of Parma Pearl Blue on the body, then backed it with a few coats of Auto Air Candy Blue and finally backed it all with Createx black. The result is totally beautiful, the pictures just don’t do it justice. At some angles the body looks metallic blue while at other angles, thanks to that pearl and candy, it looks black. I wish I could say I meant it to be this stunning, but like I said, it was an accident.
For those wondering how big the Exo Terra is, here it is standing next to our SC10 project truck.
With the Exo Terra finally all buttoned up and ready to go we decided to take it for a spin. First impression? This buggy is a load of fun! Much like its full size counterpart, the Exo Terra squats forward and backward when braking and giving it throttle, the result is a very realistic driving buggy. The downside to all that suspension movement is that it also allows the body to roll a bit too much at speed resulting in roll overs. Its nothing a little suspension tuning won’t fix but we thought it was worth mentioning. We’d love to see how the optional sway bars alleviate that problem too. As for the durability of the buggy, we read quite a few horror stories about shock caps popping off, suspension arms snapping and kingpins bending but we are happy to say that after a dozen battery packs we have had nary a hiccup. The only time the Exo Terra let us down was after a hard landing directly on the right front wheel. The outer kingpin pulled right out of the a-arm. We were sure the a-arm had to be trashed but upon closer look it was just fine. A two minute repair and we were back on the road!
Over jumps the Axial Exo Terra felt much like a short course truck but we did notice that the rear end would sometimes slap the ramp causing the buggy to nose dive. While there are a few suspension tuning tricks that should fix the problem, for the time being we just got used to giving it gas to pull the nose back up in the air.
Well that’s it for now. We’re thinking of doing a follow up to our Exo Terra build in the future with a list of whatever repairs and mods we did in the mean time. Heck we may even do a budget mods article. What do you think, got any ideas for some good budget Exo Terra mods? Stay tuned!
Axial Exo Terra Pictures