When Carisma Scale Adventure announced their 1/24-scale MSA-1E lineup, I was immediately drawn to this new machine and hoped it would live up to whatever hype I’d build around it. While I’ve added a number of smaller-scale R/C crawlers to my collection, not all of them have been able to match the level of performance that I had in mind. The Pro-Line Ambush 4×4 was the first small-scale trail truck to grab my attention and quickly became the benchmark against which I’d compare all other models. The ECX Barrage 1/24, while better in some areas, doesn’t match the low-end power that the Ambush is able to produce.
With Carisma’s new entry, I am tempering my expectations as best I can, but I’ve been impressed by the few videos and first-hand accounts that have showcased this tiny truck. But the time for observing and wondering is over. With a Coyote Pup in-hand, it’s time to see if this little rig can slay some giants.
There’s no denying that Carisma has mastered the art of body design. Whether they’re replicating a 1:1 production vehicle or bringing their own creation to life, they understand the beauty which lies within every curve, line, and feature. Between the two body styles available for the MSA-1E, I chose the Coyote Pup, a scaled-down version of Carisma Scale Adventure’s 1/10 SCA-1E Coyote. This retro-styled pickup truck isn’t a licensed body, but it carries with it the essence of classic pickup truck design. Rugged, refined, and beautiful.
Capturing as much detail in a 1/24-scale model can be a tough task, however, Carisma appears to have a handle on it, from the detailed hood lines and raised blinker light scoops all the way back to the trim on the truck’s bed. Making the molded details even more stunning is the metallic blue paint job that this truck has been given. In any light, indoors or out, it sparkles and becomes the center of attention. Photos just don’t do this truck justice.
Under that beautiful body lies a sturdy ladder-frame chassis that features more nylon than metal. While this can be an undesirable feature on a 1/10-scale rig, the 1/24-scale MSA-1E doesn’t seem to suffer from the choice of materials. In fact, the chassis is one of the most solid that I’ve seen. While the Pro-Line Ambush 4×4 and ECX Barrage 1/24 utilize metal frame rails, they don’t appear to offer any significant performance advantage when trailing or tackling obstacles.
Using a four-link suspension setup, the MSA-1E features an impressive amount of flex and articulation. The shock springs are ultra soft and there is visible body sway while turning and bouncing over uneven terrain. While that body roll might appear extreme, the performance tradeoff that the soft springs offer far outweighs it.
The chassis layout is very precise, with every component and item having it’s own home. The battery is nestled into a padded tray in the rear, the motor and gearbox are in the middle, and the combined ESC/receiver is positioned toward the front. It’s truly inner tranquility.
The Electronics and Radio System
Despite its size, the Coyote Pup makes quite an impact through the amount of tech it provides and supports. The combined ESC and receiver feature additional inputs for powering an FPV camera and adding LED lights. Outside of these additional outlets, the ESC/receiver combo performs very well.
The CTX2000 controller/transmitter includes a number of driver adjustable features including three selectable speed modes (low, medium high). While these appear to be designed to match driver ability, they can come in handy while motoring over obstacles. The overall feel of the controller is nice. It’s a smaller size when compared to “standard” R/C controllers, but it’s not too small that it feels like a toy.
Out for a Spin in the Great Indoors
My go-to indoor crawling setup hasn’t changed much over the years. I’ll usually put whatever rig I’m testing on the floor and drive around until I find a debris field of toys and other mess that my kids have left in their wake. Between the spilled toybox and my foam ramps, I’m able to get a fairly solid impression of how a rig will perform. Having said that, the MSA-1E is a bit of a mystery to me. While it has torque and is able to drive over whatever I put in front of it, the initial takeoff isn’t as crisp as I’d expect it to be. Again, it will power over anything that I put in its way, but I’m missing a tactile sense of “punch” when I mash the throttle.
What I do appreciate about the MSA-1E is its low-end performance. With the front wheels butted up against an obstacle, a half-throttle trigger squeeze (or less) is usually enough to get this truck up and over and on its way. The long suspension travel makes the MSA-1E look like a 1/10-scale crawler as it makes its way over uneven obstacles. And yes, it can crawl and not just cruise. If you dig the sensation of driving a 1/10-scale R/C crawler, then I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the performance of Carisma’s MSA-1E. I know I am.