The fall of old Tekin...

Brushed, nicad, radios, etc...

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Momo5
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The fall of old Tekin...

Post by Momo5 »

Some of you may have read this, but I found it when searching for a 410K manual online. I was out of RC from 1995 and didnt get back into it until roughly 2006. I always wondered what happend to Tekin. The only other thing I'm curious as to what happend to Trinity.

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MATTS:
What really happened to Tekin (The Kevin Orton Story)

For those interested,

I was just reading up on some vintage RC stories from the industry, one of my first decent ESC was a Tekin in the early 90's, Tekin died because of bad customer support years ago from what I had heard and got brought back to life about 6 years ago, I just wanted to research WTF had happened, here is the story I found...

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At the time Kevin Orton had gone to work for Delta. Kevin was a specialist in 1/12-scale electric racing. Smart kid. He was the first to develop what "everybody knew" to be impossible, a fully-automatic charger for sub-C nicads, a device which needed only the push of one button to fully peak a set of batteries. Yeah, everybody sells 'em now; but Kevin and Delta were first. Kevin eventually moved on to found Tekin Electronics, supplying all sorts of chargers, speed controls, etc., etc. to RC car guys.

Taken from :
http://www.clstunt.com/htdocs/dc/dcboard.php?az=printer_friendly&forum=103&topic_id=77028
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Part #1

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Kevin Orton was always a bit on the weird side, but he got so he could not trust anyone, and eventually he could not talk to anyone either, he became reclusive and paranoid, and this eventually crippled his business. I worked closely with him as his right hand man from 1988 to 1993, and when I first came to Tekin, he had an old high school friend named Jeff Schultz running the shop. Kevin and Jeff talked, but even Jeff said Kevin would always remain somewhat aloof, and kind of expected you to anticipate what he was thinking. Things changed when Jeff suddenly was killed by a car that jumped the K-rail on the 5 fwy, hitting his car head on. At that time Kevin turned to me for help and I took Jeffs responsibilities along with my other technical tasks.

Kevin was soft spoken, never really had a temper that showed itself in the form of an outburst, but rather an internallized frustration would lead him into retreat. He would mostly show dissapointment when things were not up to his expectations, and he would always act surprized that other people could "just not get it" in his own words. He rarely showed any emotion, but when he smiled it was like looking into the eyes of an inocent child. He had a certain air of being very naive in social situations, especially when it did not involve model cars, he was like a fish out of water. He was only comfortable with people whome he had known and who accepeted him for what he was, then and only then would the real Kevin come out. Big Jim Greenemeyer was a good friend, whenever he came over to the shop Kevin would light up like a kid on Xmas morning.

Mike Reedy told me that when Kevin moved back to California from working with the Cambells at Delta he stayed with him. One night Mike came home to Kevin watching a test pattern on the TV.....hence all us insiders made the joke"He's the man from planet Ort, an Ortonian". This was in the days of the TV show Mork and Mindy, so it was funnier then. Rick Howart was also one of his trusted friends. Kevin's biggest handicap was accepting that some of his products did have flaws or deficiencies that resulted in the car glitching...he would always say it was because people did not know what they were doing, he kind of took it personally and lost his objectivity. Whenever he would come up with a new design, he tested it in secrecy, and often it would be released into pre-production for samples to be sent to racers before I could get one to test at a local track. This practice made him unpopular with the Associated and Losi teams because many of the samples he gave to top racers had bugs that were not ironed out, this hurt his reputation inmeasurably.

I was finally able to get him to let me take the prototypes to local small club races at RCH, and Del Mar, or Bakersfield where I could race and test under actual race conditions, and not reveal any problems to anyone(I always took older proven product just in case so I would finish in the event the new product was undrivable. He would often rebuke me when I told him about the issues I encountered, but would back down when I showed him the problem by having him drive my car. Then he would dissaper with my car, and radio to his bench to go figure it out. I often would not get the car or radio back, as God only knows what Kevin would do with it, he was a true absent minded professor in that respect...one time he gave it away to somebody at a local track!!

When Novak came out with an FM reciver, Kevin had me go buy one at the local hobby shop as he did not want to be seen buying Novak gear.....I told him they all knew me too, but he insisted. He had me draw a schematic of it, and then build a breadboard prototype of it, which I added several improvements to. He then took it and made a bunch of changes that he said were improvements, which they were not. His real intention was to make it different enough to not constitute a copy or patenet infringment, and get out of paying me for a re-design. Kevin was no fool, but he was cheap to a fault. He actually compromised the TERFM receiver to the point that it was marginal, all because he wanted to say he did not copy Novaks design, or give me any credit.

The same thing happened when Noel came to design the 410K touch pad ESC. Kevin had wanted a Corally copy, we were selling Corally credit card ESCs at the time. He basically told Noel that the 410K was a poor design was not any good and dismissed him, but in fact it was awesome. Kevin did this to David Gathwright as well, telling him he did not know what he was doing. It was his way of getting out of having to pay for any real engineering and developement work he contracted for. He took most guys on the come, saying they would get a percentage of the sales. He would then say their design was unproducable, or would not work in the R/C environment and when they left he would begin production with some minor changes to avoid a lawsuit!! Yeah, he was deviouse, nobody can ever say he was dumb. It was David who helped a bit with the Dyno design, but once Kevin was done with messing with it, the final product did not give readings that were meaningful to the operator, Kevin seemed to think everyone should somehow know how to interpolate the numbers, with no explanation of what they really meant!

At that time I was not married, but dating, and one day Kevin came to me with an odd request: I was to drop all my duties and focus on getting him a girlfriend! So, I took him out to dinner ar Gen-Kai in Dana Point, a hopping sushi bar at time, to observe him in a public situation and also to show him how to read the crowd, especially the women. But Kevin was not interested in making the scene to meet people, so I told him he was on his own in the romance department. Later that year a very buxom "cougar" named Jan applied and landed a job as our secretary in the front office, she was quite the gold digger and had Kevin mesmerized with her bodaciouse cha-chas. It was from Jan that we found out quite a bit about Kevin, as he told her things: He had purchased several income properties, he had a Testarossa Ferrari, and a gold Mercedes, and confirmed what we already knew, he was very lonely and a recluse.

Once, we saw a bunch of oil and Slick 50 cans on the will-call shelf out by the back door, they sat there for a week were gone one Monday morning, then we also noticed an oil slick out back and a trail of oil leading around the building. All the empty oil and Slick 50 cans were in the dumpster. About 9:30 AM I got a call from a Ferrari dealer who left me a quote for Kevin, it was for all new pistons, rings, rods, bearings, cams and valves, and a full gasket / seal kit. The total was well over $20K. Then we figured it out: Kevin had brought the Testarosa in on the weekend to change the oil, and forgot to put the drain plug back in, explaining the oil slick and trail, and why he was being quoted all the parts for rebuilding and engine! We told Jan, and she said that Kevin was afraid to bring the Ferrari to work because he though we would resent him for having it. This was because he would never pay us any over time, vacation, sick leave, and on holidays we had the day off without pay. He did not want us to see how well he was doing because then everyone would either not work as hard, or ask him for a raise. Kevin went to great lengths conceal his wealth and success from everyone at Tekin.

The R/C world is a small family, and word travels fast. After Kevin burnt his bridges with most of the other technically talented people, nobody would have much to do with him, he manifested his own destiny and gave creedance to his increasing paranoia. He thought everyone was going to steal his designs, and his product, when in fact he who was the one doing those things. Ironically, he hired a sales manager named Harley, and a production manager, who set up a phoney account named LA R/C and they shipped several hundered thousand dollars of product to this shel/phony company. They then dumped the stollen product to hobby shops, and we found out when people returned them for service. Some of the product was not even released as we had no packaging or instructions made up, yet here was someone who had just bought it at Joe Schmoe's Hobbies!

Even when faced with the truth, which did come out, Kevin blamed me and Joe, as we uncovered the scam, and did not fire Arnie or Harley. He told Harley he could not make sales calls, only answer the phone...that was really weird and we knew then Kevin had gone over the top and lost touch with reality. I have always had a sixth sense for reading people, and Arnie for some reason gave me the creeps, turns out he is jail in Mexico now for murdering one of his many wives.

After the L A R/C debacle we began noticing he was not taking care of himself and his hygene suffered...it was hard to get near him due to that. He would not show up at the shop until noon, and once the FBI came and arrested him right after he entered the building. It turns out he had been at Lake Whipporwill Fl. for the worlds, and that was when the first bombing of the world trade center occured. Kevin got his luggaged screened by security on the return trip and the x-ray showed up all these super matched Nicads he had in his luggage for team drivers, but security thought they were explosives and asked him to open his suitcase. In typical Kevin fasion, he would not respond, or talk to them, even after they had interrogated him. So they let him onto the plane once it was determined he was a harmless nut and figured out who he was from the flight manifest. Two weeks later they tracked him to the Tekin Factory and arrested him for obstructing justice, a federal offense. Kevin trusted nobody, so even I could not acess his money to write out a check for his bail. Consequently he spent a few days in the jailhouse, and it was at that time old Grits(Don Rice) asked me to come work at Futaba with him and Steve Helms.


My buddies at Tekin told me Kevin got to where he spoke to nobody, my leaving him really was a blow, and he would not even take phone calls or orders from distributors...this is what ultimately killed his business, it was self inflicted, and very sad demise that ended in a fizzle. We were at one point really giving Bob Novak some seriouse competition, but when the going got tough, Kevin choked, not physically, but emotionally. He never had any friends other than Jeff, and when Jeff died, so did a big part of Kevin. His sister called right before I went to Futaba, as his family had lost touch with him and was concerned. The last time I saw Kevin was at the Pasadena trade show, and he had gone completely grey in under two years, I hardly recognized him. I asked, "who is that old guy?" and was told it was Kevin, what a shocker that was!

As a footnote: We always though Kevin was different, and later on we began to suspect he needed to seek professional treatment as his condition deteriorated. Due to him running so hot and cold(mostly cold) and unpredicatability, we used to speculate that he was "not taking his meds" when he was having a bad day. We were in several buldings, one was on Trepadora, the other two were on Negocio, it was rumored Kevin had purchased the two Negocio properties, but we never knew for sure. I'm now almost positive he was suffering from a dual personality, bi-polar, paranoid/schitzophrenia dissorder of some kind. This type of disease typically strikes people in their late teens and gets progressively worse. The profile fits, and explains Kevin's behaviour to a Tee. We had also found out from the Cambells at Delta that due to his behaviour, and some other factors, they cut Kevin loose and let him go on his own. In trade, Kevin got to keep the business and invetory for chargers and speed controls, and Delta got a sweetheart deal on Tekin products that could not be beat. The rumors about him being on drugs? Well, I told Kevin at one point he needed to have a beer, burn a doobie, or do something to let his hair down, but he was as straight as a tea toddler. It would be safer to say the lack of medication was probably more to blame than any issues with substance abuse. .. I did like Kevin, but kevin did not want to be liked, it was a burden to him to have to extend social graces.



MATTS:
Part #2

I did not post this to discredit Kevin, but it seems in the wake of Tekin closing, there were many rumors and speculation as to what happened. I felt everyone deserved to know the real story and truth about what went on at Tekin, and the odd events that led to it closing up. From where I stood, Kevin started something that got bigger than he could comfortably handle. It was too many interactions with people, and that was the one thing he specifically did not want to do, but it was necesaary for him to do if he wanted Tekin to grow. So he put his money into real estate, income property, and when those began to pay off he no longer needed Tekin as an income stream, so he let it go, it was no big deal to him. All the employees used to speculate jokingly about what he was "on", and in Kevins defense I really think it was just the way he was, although drugs would have made it more understandable.


Kevin it seems a few years ago applied for several medical patents, one for a method to disspense drugs, another for a girdle that had electric currents for weight loss, so he has been doing things, but in secret no doubt. Typical of Kevin though, they are a bit odd, but you can bet he's making money off it!

I also found a record of him purchasing a propery in South Orange County for 4.3 million a few years ago, so he ain't broke either. This confirms what we suspected, he rat holed his money and had millions stashed away that nobody new about. Once when Jeff was alive, he helped move Kevin into a large multiple unit apartment complex that Kevin had bought, it overlooks the entrance to San Clemente State park and the ocean on Calafia. Anyway, at Kevins old place Jeff said there was dried food, trash, and dirty cloths all over the floor and surfaces that had accumulated for months, maybe years, it was squaller, but more surprisingly was the trash bags full of cash, and alot of it too.

Now I know Jeff was not exagerating, it was all true, we just had a hard time imagining Kevin could live like that. That is why I empathised with him, and knew he was hurting deep inside, but he had a hard time expressing those feeling to anyone out of fear of rejection. He covered it up by ignoring the world, but his finnancial success brought him little comfort. I know he had real low self esteem too, or he would not have let himself go like that. I tried to build him up, tell him not to obsess on what Novak was doing, and realize he was a success in his own right and he should be proud of that. Often, he would start to open up to me and say things, but catch himself mid sentence and the shove me away saying"just, just go do it.." meaning ignore me and go back to work. I really felt for him, he was in pain, and di not know how to enjoy his success. I got more satisfaction from a day at the beach than he did from his millions.

All the employees used to ask me "what gives with Kevin?", as he would basically ignore them and not even acknowledge a good morning greeting from them. I confronted Kevin with this because it was affecting moral, and our productivity. He had it all figured out: "Jay...there are 800 minutes in the work day, now if I spend 2 minutes with each employee saying hello, and that is 25 employees, , I have wasted about an hour a day, and that is 5 hours a week. I draw $200 per hour so that is $1000 per week of my time and 5 hours of production lost per week too. I wish sometimes that I could replace everyone with robots, and come in here at 8:00 am turn on the switch, and shut them off at 5:00 pm when I leave." And there you have it, his rational was it cost him to talk to us, what he didn't get was it was costing him more by pissing everyone off! He would walk around the plant and stand behind people, sometimes for a long time, and when they asked him if there was something he needed, he would just shake his head and tell them to cary on, never explaining his actions. He was timing them, or in other cases observing the process, but the way he did it made everyone very uneasy. I used to have to try and explain his actions to put their fears at rest so production did not suffer. Eventually I learned it was no use to approach him on anything, as he was usually aware of it anyway and didn't care, that was Kevin. It was less stressful for me too, I had begun to fuction in survival mode to handle being around him. We all kind of became numb and mindless, ignoring our surroundings and becoming fully absorbed in our work, ironically like those robots Kevin had wished for!

You should have seen Tony Neisinger when he worked there, as Tony had some prior experience with Kevin. He was so quiet that we thought he had swallowed some glue, and Tony would not say "****" if his mouth was full of it! He knew the path of least resistance with Kevin was to be as invisible as possible. I loaned Tony my electronic theory texts as he was going to school on electronics, which Kevin disscouraged and made Tony sit away from the other techs and myself so we could not interact.

Anyone ever hear about the Joel Johnson fiassco? Seems Joels Tekin ProESC was giving him fits at a large important on-road race, may have been the Worlds, think it was in 1988? Anyway, Kevin determined it was a thermal issue with the ESC electronics and used freeze mist to ice down the speed controll before each heat(pun intended?). But about half way into each heat, it got warm again and went nuts, costing Joel heavily by not being able to finish. This was the last straw for Joel, as it was costing him races, so he switched to Novak gear which just about killed Kevin. It all boiled down to a great design that was not fully tested and had bugs that did not show up while driving in the back alley behind our plant....race testing needed to be done and hadn't. Eventually we had it working flawlessly.



I updated the post, added a few humerouse details. We all wanted the best for him and Tekin could have been hugely successful had Kevin been able to trust and delegate. One of the things that hurt Tekin the most was Kevin's behaviour at race events and trade show, like the incident witnessed by Novak at the airport in Florida going through security. We would hear wild tales when we went to the track or shows from people about what they had seen Kevin doing, it was very dissconcerting as there was no way to really defend the poor guy, and it made it hard to be a faithful and loyal employee. It seemed as soon as you told anyone you were from Tekin, you got a new Kevin story. People would often think our judgement was impared just because we worked at Tekin, we got painted with the same brush as Kevin. Sometimes, people would call in and complain about this skinny tall dark haired Tekin guy they had run into at the track who wouldn't talk to them or made some off the wall comment when they asked for some help with their Tekin product. We just hoped they did not make the connection that it was Kevin (the company owner) and tried to resolve their issues with the product. Right after taking calls like this, Kevin would show up from out of nowhere and tell whoever had taken the call to not answer the phone anymore! We then figured out he had the phones tapped. Later, even when we talked amoungst ourselves about Kevin's latest antics, he would show up too. Well guess what? He had a couple Radio Shack intercoms, wired up on listen, that were strategically place over our work areas so he could hear everything we said, talk about paranoid! He even planted decoy "bugs" in hopes that we would find them and not the real ones. It got to be so insane that to deal with it, we took a Sony Walkman with a Black Sabbath tape of their album "Paranoid" and put it on play next to the bugs he had planted, just to irritate Kevin that his little scheme had been foiled yet once again. In an extreemly rare moment of lucidity, he actually came in and smiled one time after we did that, but never said a word. Tekin has made a comeback, but it is in no way connected to Kevin. They are now in Idaho being run by Jim Cambell, who seems to be a pretty good guy, I've talked with him. It looks like it's not easy to contact them in real time as there is no direct phone lines for calling in for customer service or technical support, which I find unusual. I was also surprized that the BC series of Peak Detecting battery chargers were no longer offered, which was Tekins biggest seller and original product. Trivia: I invented the "Gold FET" concept, and was the the first guy to match MOSFETs for special speed controllers made for our Team guys, like Masami. There was a plating house next to our 970 Calle Negocio building, and one day at the roach coach, I met one of the guys who worked there. He showed me their opperation, they were doing some gold plating at the time. I took a dozen of the matched, low resistance MOSFETS over there to have them dipped in the gold plating tank and then put them in a speed control. The idea was that the gold plated MOSFETS would identify the speed control as a factory special for sponsored drivers only. Kevin actually loved the idea, and I negociated getting the MOSFETS plated for 1 cent each, so it added less than 10 cents to the product cost. Kevin decided to tout the GOLDFET as being a special MOSFET that was exclusive to Tekin, and superior, as asuch we put it our 411 and other top line speed controllers. Kevin was thrilled to have what he though would be a leg up on Novak. This is very typical of all R/C manufacturers and their products, they use "gimicks" and we were no exception as you can see.

Taken from : www.rcuniverse.com Author : jaymen

Email received from Jim Campbell (NEW Tekin Owner since 2004) to Big Jim Greenemeyer

The Big News....

I received this email from Jim Campbell a few hours ago. It explains a lot. Remember you heard it first here and I will publically say that I will be more than happy to assist Tekin and the new owners in any way I can, time permitting. I will be meeting with Jay Kimbrough later today who is still very close to Tony. I will see that your message is conveyed.

"Big Jim,

I contacted you some time ago about trying to purchase Tekin. Well as you have heard it has actually happened. As I stated back then I am very interested in working with you in some manner. Is there a way you see yourself involved with the new Tekin. I firmly believe in surrounding yourself with the best and you seem to command a lot of respect in the industry.

I have been watching the post at rccars.com and feel it is one of the best going on out there. Care to guess which boards are sending the most visitors? (This one, of course!-BJ)


M.
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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by RedScampi »

Great reading! Very interesting to see behind the scenes.
Gary

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by mikedealer »

reason i stopped buying tekin back then was i had a 410k that died, no idea why, just died. Sent in for warranty repair, took 6 weeks to repair, i called them every 3-4 days after week 4 and they kept saying it was almost done almost done. second one i sent in for repair was a later model i forget, but took 3 months to get back.

went to novak and never went back after that.. although today i dont give a crap what i run to be honest.

great read there

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by Charlie don't surf »

What's the guys name that is posting this story?

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by wyldbill »

wow that was a very interesting read in deed. i use to frequent big jim's forum on rccars.com and he always use to say that he was in a way like Einstein or Tesla, a crazy eccentric genius, i never realized he was Howard Huges bad.

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by camlchris »

"MOSFETS plated for 1 cent each, so it added less than 10 cents to the product cost." Then they sell for $100 bucks more, what a rip off ! :shock:

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by Lowgear »

Thats the most I've read in a single sitting in years. :lol:

I can identify with the Kevin guy as we seem to suffer from a lot of the same issues but some of his behavior was really off the deep end. Like not even simply saying hello to his employees.

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by Lonestar »

camlchris wrote:"MOSFETS plated for 1 cent each, so it added less than 10 cents to the product cost." Then they sell for $100 bucks more, what a rip off ! :shock:
Brillant :mrgreen:

Orton was a good engineer for sure... just a tad nuts too.

Sad and interesting reading.

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

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i remember hearing the ferrari story from big jim before, he had a few specitality items that kevin had made for him. one was the balancer and the other was 2 of the team driver fet matched g-9 esc's. kevin had built him a armatuer balancer in trade for one of big jim's world famous battery zappers. he said at one time tekin was going to get into the battery buisness so he built kevin one of his industrial zappers like the one he made for ernie when jim worked for trinity. in trade kevin scratch built him a armature balancer that was far better than the quillen balancers that were the standard. they never made it into the battery buisness and jim said last time he saw the zapper it was still sitting in the crate at the shop. i am not familar with balancers but jim loved it and said it was the best most accurate one he ever used in all of his motor building years. a few years after tekin closed jim's balancer stopped working and he said it took him like a year to get a hold of kevin to get it fixed. the balncer was a mess of wiring and breadboards inside no pc boards or even schematics. kevin showed up looking horible and saying very little to jim and had it fixed in an hour. he fixed it from memory with no schematics after building it years prior he knew exactly what was wrong. after that jim said he got up and said never again and walked out. that was the last time he ever saw or heard from him. about 6 month to a year before jim died the balancer stopped working again and it never got fixed. jim had pictures of the inside of the balancer on rccars.com in the hopes that someone could help and troubleshoot the thing but that never happened.

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by flipwils11 »

Wild, thanks for posting, a great read. I had a Tekin esc in my gold pan in the 80's and was pretty loyal. This was quite an eye-opener.

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by Hcp22 »

This was good reading, and it explains the difficulties I had as importer for Scandinavia dealing with Kevin between the years 89-96
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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by GJW »

what a read, thanks so much for posting this. the quest for money and the greed it create's :roll: very sad indeed.

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by jwscab »

yeah, that's a sad story...shame....

Tekin always seemed to have a better punch over the Novak stuff I ran, which is why I liked them better....he must have put a bootstrap or voltage booster on the gate drive, makes those FET's SNAP on......Novak always worked great, but had almost a 'soft' start comparatively.....

the few times I had stuff repaired, i had no problems, maybe I got lucky...

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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by Lonestar »

jwscab wrote:yeah, that's a sad story...shame....

Tekin always seemed to have a better punch over the Novak stuff I ran, which is why I liked them better....he must have put a bootstrap or voltage booster on the gate drive, makes those FET's SNAP on......Novak always worked great, but had almost a 'soft' start comparatively.....

the few times I had stuff repaired, i had no problems, maybe I got lucky...
Interestingly - Last time I used their products I had a G10 repaired 3 times in a row... the 4th time it blew up (no idea if it was the repaired same one I was getting time after time or a new one every time... I didn't have time to wear it/them out :lol: ) I called it a day with Tekin products.

Never ever blew up a Novak ESC. EVER. Finishing races is sometimes more valuable than having 2% more boost :mrgreen: Likewise all the busted vintage ESC's I have in my collection of vintage electronic have a black case and gold lettering... :|

Oh well. It's a lost era anyway.

Paul
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Re: The fall of old Tekin...

Post by wyldbill »

[quote][Tekin always seemed to have a better punch over the Novak stuff I ran][quote]

most of the tekins had a lower drive frequency than the novaks. sure they were considered a high frequency esc but when it came to stock 27t oval classes the lower the drive fraquency the more punch they had. like the almighty tekin g-9 they called it supersonic but it had the lowest drive frequency coupled with tripple voltage regeneration. it wasn't the smoothest esc due to the low freq but it was just shear raw horsepower. in order to smooth out the drive freq they added a bank of high freq low esr surface mount caps on a separate board above the main board. i have 2 of them one i modified with lower resistance fet's that cost me quite a bit, added buss bars to increase current flow along the tiny circuit traces, tweaked the voltage regeneration circuit a bit, and increased the capacitance on the cap board that really helped it out alot. everyone at the track use to think my motors were illegal but there is nothing in the rules about building your own speed control, being an electronic tech has its privileges.

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