Home Kid toys No, these trucks are not children’s toys, but groups of Long Islanders are driving them.

No, these trucks are not children’s toys, but groups of Long Islanders are driving them.

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If you’re walking through a park on Long Island and come across a group of adults driving remote control trucks over rocks, hills, and between tree roots, your first thought might be, “Where are the kids?”

Take a closer look – they are there – inside the adults having fun reliving their childhood.

Christopher Rowley, 45, of Massapequa, co-runs a club called the Long Island Crawlers RC Club for fans of remote control off-road vehicles. Their trucks are not children’s toys; these one-foot trucks can be had for a few hundred dollars at a hardware store, either pre-assembled or as a kit. The kits allow buyers to build their own cars and trucks, invest in parts to control speed, direction and performance, and experience realistic details such as putting a driver behind the wheel. “It gives you more of a chance to customize it however you want,” says Rowley, who works in heating and air conditioning.

Daniel Michel, 42, of Deer Park, (center) travels from states to California to pilot his remote control car.
Credit: Daniel Michel

The Crawlers, who meet weekly at various Long Island parks, aren’t the only adults on Long Island devoted to RC vehicles. Other groups focus on drag racing remote control cars on indoor or outdoor tracks or straight up with race cars that can go 60, 70, 100 or more miles per hour.

Daniel Michel, 42, of Deer Park, who works for New York City, travels states all the way to California to compete and says it’s a sport as well as a hobby. Yet others like to smash, steer their remote control vehicles over obstacles, and do jumps or stunts that often result in the car breaking. “You build it, you run it, you break it, you fix it,” says Ari Kapoutsos, 42, assistant manager of North Bellmore. Some fans collect vintage models.

Various Facebook groups cater to different facets of the RC vehicle hobby. And car and truck fans aren’t the only adults using remote control vehicles – some clubs cater to owners of remote control boats or planes. Interest in RC vehicles grew during the pandemic, when people were looking for activities they could enjoy outdoors, Rowley says. His Facebook group now has more than 900 members.

THE HOBBY IS NOSTALGIC

“The hobby is really so broad,” Kapoutsos says of RC cars and trucks. “For me, I prefer the vintage side. I’m a kid of the 80s. I got back to it 30 years later. He can now buy the kind of cars his parents couldn’t afford to buy him when he was a kid. “It’s very nostalgic and it reminds us.”

Joseph Graziano, 37, a Port Jefferson paving foreman who is involved with the Long Island Street Eliminatorz and Long Island VXL Drag Racing groups, agrees. “It makes you feel like a kid again. I play with toys. You can spend time outdoors with your friends. He races cars many Sundays with others at faceoffs held in the Ronkonkoma LIRR station parking lot.

Many people are reintroduced to remote control when they return to play with RC toys with their children. “I was always intrigued by things with wheels and a remote when I was younger,” says Matthew Catrini, 34, of Farmingville, who installs burglar and fire alarms. A few years ago, he got back into motoring with his son, Matt, now 9, and Catrini’s brothers, who are 30 and 27. “We will race against each other.”

Some members bring their children with them to club meetings. But when their children move on to other interests, the parents – mostly dads like Rowley, whose son is now 14 – stay involved. “Over time it got into other things, and I stuck with that. I like the scale look myself, just because of the detail you can put in it,” says Rowley Rowley has about eight cars.”Some of the guys have 40 or 50,” he says.

THIS IS HIS ‘YOGA’

Some people get into RC cars because they are interested in racing. “It’s the closest you can get to real racing without being yourself in a real car,” says John Goode, 29, a manufacturing engineer from West Babylon who also runs a manufacturing company. 3D printing selling RC vehicle accessories.

Michel says diehard RC vehicle racers need to understand the science of how a car works. “It’s literally like a real car, but it’s scaled down to miniature size,” he says. “The car I drive can cost between $2,500 and $3,000.”

In addition to his interest in vintage cars, Kapoutsos also runs errands. A friend of his has turned his backyard into a dirt road, and Kapoutsos is recording their monster truck and 2WD and 4WD races and posting them on his RC Retro YouTube channel. “It’s fun to build them and tune them to go faster,” he says of his cars. “Change the angle of the tires to improve the steering.”

Runners at the Long Island Street Eliminatorz event in Ronkonkoma.

Runners at the Long Island Street Eliminatorz event in Ronkonkoma.
Credit: Linda Rosier

David Troccoli, 43, a union knocker from Medford, had 15 tonnes of rock delivered to his garden so he and his pal Eddie Montenegro, 46, from East Moriches, who works in a lumber yard, could build a track on crawlers and organize monthly competitions. which they tell people about on the Krawler Island RC Facebook page.

“Every competition has trophies,” says Troccoli, and vehicles are judged in different categories, including scale details and running without hitting obstacles.

Most recreation participants tend to be men. Ashley Schober, 27, of Centereach, who works for a maintenance company, says she got interested in remote control cars because her boyfriend got her hooked. “I love racing and competition,” she says. Other runners often bring their girlfriends or wives to watch the races, she says.

Racers typically congregate at indoor venues such as Traction Action RC Raceway and Hobbies in Plainview or outdoor tracks such as Ronkonkoma Station. Crawlers rotate parks and can be found at Trail View State Park in Woodbury, Massapequa Preserve, Camp Hero State Park in Montauk, Brickyard Mountain Bike Trail at Bethpage State Park, or Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove. Sometimes people stop to ask what the club members are doing, and they can let the kids take turns driving the trucks, Rowley says.

“It’s really just a bunch of people getting together and having fun with something they’re passionate about,” says Doron Schnitzer, 45, of Bellmore, who owns a body shop and co-directs the Long Island Crawlers. “We go into the woods with our little trucks and we go for a walk.” Schnitzer says some people like yoga to relax; he likes to tinker with his trucks.

Says Jason Siegel, owner of Willis Hobbies in Mineola, who addresses the hobby: “It allows guys to go out and be kids again for a few hours and then get back to normal.”