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I got the Dark Impact the week it was released in Japan, but with the other commitments I had at the time, and a lack of interest from Tamiya themselves, it ended up just put to one side.  During this time Tamiya shocked many with the announcement of their most 'high-end' off-roader ever, the TRF branded 501X.  It was whilst looking at final production photos of the 501X at the Tokyo Hobby Show 2006, that I noticed the latest DF-03 (Impact) chassis car, the KEEN HAWK.

The ‘Keen Hawk’ which I’m reviewing here can be seen as just a re-branding of the Dark Impact to appeal to a different market.  Both cars share the same exact chassis, which Tamiya call the DF-03.  With little of difference from the Dark Impact, the most obvious of which would be the body shell and white coloured wheels (instead of black). 

The name “Keen Hawk” will either leave you feeling that the buggy will be empowered with the spirit and agility of the mighty predator of the skies [Hawk], ready to swoop down on the competition.   Or, more likely will make you cringe and feel ‘just a bit silly’ when push comes to shove and you have to say the words out-loud in a hobby shop – best buy it online then, eh.

The Keen Hawk [DF-03], is a shaft driven four wheel drive 1/10th scale off road buggy.  Despite its rather odd and slightly toy-like name, it [DF-03] is Tamiyas first real racing-capable buggy in a long while, prior to the 501X of course. It can probably be thought of as the successor to the abandoned "Neo Shot" belt driven racing buggy which was shown at model shows and then promptly cancelled just prior to release.

The Keen Hawk comes fully ball raced and has some neat features which make it stand out from the rest of tamiyas non-TRF buggy line, such as Ball Differentials, alloy prop shaft and steel dogbones (The plastic dogbones on other recent Tamiyas were really just ludicrous).  The layout is interesting and wholly unique to this buggy, with the battery pack down the centre of the car (much like a 2WD buggy), and transverse mounted motor just behind.  The layout keeps the weight very much in the centre line of the car, and the chassis is similarly narrow with the steering servo standing upright alongside the battery on one side (similar to the XX4 or X-5 buggys) and the receiver & speed controller on the other.
The Prop shaft runs from high up at the rear and slopes down just above the battery pack to the front gearbox.  To get the propshaft into that position requires more gears in the gearbox than most people will be familiar with on other shaft driven racing buggys.  The drawback of this arrangement (friction) is lessened by the modern motors and batterys, not to mention brushless systems.  So drivetain drag is possibly not as much a factor as it used to be, slightly compromising efficiency to maximise handling and balance seems to be the way to go.
And optimum balance seems to be the backbone of this car, the designers have clearly set out to make a very narrow car with great balance.  Time will tell if it works, or not.

The Keen Hawk box follows the current Tamiya trend and instead of the fantastic illustrations of old – there is just a studio photograph of the completed car. 
Inside there are various bags containing plastic parts

The first step in the manual is to put your battery on charge – eh! With the battery on charge (I lie), the first part of the build is the rear differential and gearbox.  The parts for the rear diff’ are spread across various bags and are mixed in with other parts from later in the build.  This is slightly confusing, not to mention time consuming – hunting out parts from the various baggies.  Most modern cars tend to put their parts into steps according to the build manual, a much better practice I think.

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