When we first met them last summer in the Belgian woods, they were carrying a handful of tiny cars, eager to show us what they’d made. Martin Doring and Kenneth Kampers had come to RC crawling event Walk the Trail to tackle off-road terrain. We might as well have been there to accidentally meet them. The pair of friends ended up showing us how 3D printing can transform a weekend hobby into a calling.
Martin and Kenneth create radio-controlled cars as VRCP. The star of their fleet is the Wild Willy, a replica of the legendary Willys Jeep, the original Jeep that was produced during WWII. Historically, the Willys Jeep was four-wheel-drive. But an out-of-the-box RC model by Tamiya was only two-wheel-drive. And not useful to these off-road trekkers.
Martin made his first foray into 3D design in 2012, when he began developing custom maps for flight simulators. He then designed and printed a gift for a friend through Shapeways. Now, to get the performance he needed from his favorite ride, he would turn again to 3D printing.
“The Wild Willy is one of the most fun cars ever. Your face is too small for the smile you get when driving one of them.” – Martin
No one had ever tried to build something like it before, but Martin and Kenneth were determined to replicate the historic Willys Jeep. The new machine would be a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, borrowing pieces from the Losi Mini Rock Crawler, the Tamiya original, and Martin’s Shapeways prints.
After three prototypes, the new parts were ready. The pair were so impressed with the 3D printed components, it forever changed the way they work. Martin started designing everything from vents to doorhandles to grilles, expanding from one to many makes and models. And he took his hobby pro, opening a popular Shapeways shop. His lightweight, durable 3D printed parts also give Kenneth and Martin a competitive advantage, of course, when they showcase their work as VRCP.
By focusing on creating parts that aren’t available in other stores, Martin is building a following. He’s also helping to pioneer a whole new approach to the world, one that doesn’t accept what’s available from mass manufacturers and instead says, “I can do that.”