The Golden Age of the ‘Savage’ Nitro Truck: HPI Savage X and XL

The HPI Savage line has been around for a while. Founded with the ‘Savage 21′ back in the early 2000s, it has spawned a full 15 different models to date, and more could well be on the way. And there are some good reasons why the Savage family has grown so big and lasted so long; purpose-built for absolute toughness, they are considered by many to be the ultimate bashing (stunt) truck. With huge tyres, super-tall suspension and a whole host of other supporting features, Savage trucks are and always have been able to survive the most gruelling treatment.

But, as you might guess, not all Savage trucks are born equal. Some were always bound to stand out from the crowd and become the quintessential Savage models. And these vehicles, to our minds at least, are the HPI Savage X and XL. The Savage X was so successful that it became the most popular Big Block monster truck in the world – ever – while its bigger brother, the Savage XL, took the Savage name super-size, building its reputation as the loudest, brashest, bolshiest Savage ever to be built. Both trucks were also honoured with the prestigious AMT ‘Car of the Year – Monster Truck’ Award (the Savage X in 2007 and the Savage XL in 2009), proving the respect held for them by the RC community. While they might no longer be the most technically advanced vehicles in the range, they are undoubtedly the most iconic pieces of kit that the Savage line has produced so far.

Let’s take a closer look at their background. Back when it was released, the Savage X was the third major upgrade of the basic Savage vehicle (being a direct descendant of the Savage 21 and Savage 25). It maintained almost all of the classic features of the earlier Savage vehicles in some form, but you’d be hard pushed to find a component that hadn’t be improved in some small way. Upgrading the Roto Start system to a Roto Start 2 design, lowering the engine, radio and centre gear box by 5mm for a lower centre of gravity and better handing, improving access to a whole host of maintenance points and altering the design in myriad other subtle ways, the Savage X was a lesson in perfecting an already great design.

But there were bigger alterations, too; the classic Nitro Star S25 engine that had powered a generation of Savage trucks was replaced with the all-new Nitro Star F4.1, which added power and torque to the already acclaimed big block engine. Today it is still considered to be among the most reliable and most durable of the HPI engines, thanks to its innovative crank case design, extra cooling and numerous tweaks to the cylinder, piston, connecting rod and crankshaft that perfected the internal structure. You might find a more powerful 1:8 engine elsewhere these days, but you’ll be hard pushed to find a better loved one.

It was in the April of 2008 that the Savage XL followed, bringing with it a new K5.9cc (.36 cubic inch) engine – the biggest ever installed in an RTR Savage truck – and an elongated chassis to support its greater size and bulk. It had a 390mm wheelbase, 570mm length and immense 7” diameter Terra Pin tyres, making it bigger than the rest of the Savage range in every dimension and more confident to boot. The unapologetically chunky ‘Gigante’ body shell and XL colour schemes were all about making it the most eye-catching truck on the track; the Savage XL was going to perform brilliantly, and look the part while doing it.

HPI also used the Savage XL’s size to fit in even more durability features, making it a virtually indestructible machine. The 2.5mm thick aluminium alloy used to create the TVP (Twin Vertical Plate) chassis on other Savage models was bumped up to 3mm; HPI added dual fibre disk brakes, aluminium alloy clutch shoes, larger diff outdrives and axles, pinion bevel gears and a machined brake hub; the clutchbell, dogbones and driveshafts were also reinforced. In short, the Savage XL was not a machine to be messed with.

Both the Savage X and Savage XL have in fact spawned spin-offs of their own, which only enhances their reputation, especially when some of these vehicles have been so successful. The Savage X was the base platform for three new models, namely the Savage X SS (a very similar truck that simply added a bit more engine power and some enhanced durability features to deal with the extra engine grunt), the Savage X 4.6 (which was a ready-to-run version of the same vehicle with just a few more adjustments) and the Savage X 4.6 Reverse (an RTR version with the added benefit of reverse drive). The HPI Savage X SS 4.6 was honoured as the ‘Car of the Year – Monster Truck’ by popular German RC car magazine AMT in 2008, a real commendation of the Savage X spin-off range.

The Savage XL, in the meantime, has become the platform for a truly exciting new development: the first petrol-fuelled vehicle to be released as part of the HPI Savage range. Christened the ‘Savage XL Octane’, this much anticipated (and much delayed) model was due to hit the shelves first in 2012 and then on the 24th of June 2013, but as we speak (August 2013), it is still at the pre-order stage with no confirmed release date. It is to be a 15cc, 2-stroke engine-powered vehicle with a whole host of impressive features including a composite triple disc brake system and oversized fuel tank alongside the proven Savage XL components.

But these vehicles would have been nowhere without the extensive development that went into their immediate predecessors, the HPI Savage X and Savage XL; a pair of classic HPI vehicles that will be remembered long after the last of them has given up the ghost. And that certainly isn’t going to happen any time soon!

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