Fancy a car to learn the art of drifting? Here are ten great options
The origins of drifting are a contentious issue but general consensus is that they can be traced back to the 1970s when Kunimitsu Takahashi, a Japanese motorcyclist turned race car driver started experimenting with the technique to great effect. Holding his car at very large slip angles gave him an advantage out of corners and proved to be very effective in overcoming the shortcomings of bias ply tyres in use at the time.
One man, Keiichi Tsuchiya took great interest in this unique racing style and honed his skills around the mountain roads of Japan in what was to become one of the most legendary drifting cars of all time, the Toyota AE86. The flowing, almost balletic visual style of drifting made him a popular figure in the racing community and the release of Keiichi’s video ‘pluspy’, documenting his skills helped launch drifting as a legitimate motor sport and earned him the nickname of the ‘Drift King’.
Now an international phenomenon, the formula for a successful drift car is simple: rear wheel drive, a mechanical limited slip differential and enough power to sustain long slides. Modifications can be extreme in the search for the ultimate drift, take a look at some of the most popular drift cars, as well as a few that have great potential.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Toyota AE86 – The car that started it all
There may be faster, newer and better looking drift cars out there but the AE86 or ‘Hachi-Roku’ is the one that started it all, introducing drifting to a global audience. Other than being rear-wheel drive the AE86 does not seem like an ideal candidate for the requirements of drifting but the bulletproof mechanicals and easily modifiable drivetrain made it a favourite for decades. Such is its legacy that today’s Toyota GT86 is named in its honour and offers the same playful tail-happy character as the original.
Nissan Skyline R33 GTS-T – The GT-R’s sideways brother
Nissan’s products are popular on the drifting scene and thanks to some enthusiastic but wildly inaccurate depictions of drifting in the F&F movies the R33 in particular has developed a cult following. Despite being best known for four-wheel drive GT-R model, the ordinary rear-wheel drive car can be made into a serious sideways sliding machine. Engines are immensely strong and the 250bhp RB25DET is a drifter favourite.
Another Nissan entry, the last in a long line of S cars, the S15 was seemingly designed for drifting right from the factory. Spec-S turbo cars with the 250bhp SR20DET motors are a favourite, combined with an easily adjustable chassis these were by far the most prolific drift machines at events in the early 2000s. Production ended in 2002 but these and earlier Silvias are still very prevalent on the drifting scene. More modern cars like the 350Z continue to be popular drift event entrants to this day.
Another car to receive F&F attention, the Toyota Supra with its twin turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six was a legendary sports car even in standard trim. Seeing as it had the required LSD, rear wheel drive and benign chassis all built in, all that is required for drifting is for some serious weight shedding. A modifiers dream, the Supra was well catered for by the tuners, and its engine could take a massive amount of boost and a whole lot of punishment – making for some of the most powerful drift cars ever.
Arguably one of the prettiest in third generation form, and definitely the only of our list with a rotary engine, the RX7 has been a popular drift car from the very beginning. A 50:50 weight distribution and linear power delivery made for a very manageable handler, however the rotary engine is a bit torque light and few remained standard for long. 800bhp monsters with massive wings and arches continue to be a common sight at drift events around the globe.
Although the majority of drift cars were based on Japanese models the first six-cylinder M3s proved to be a popular choice on the American and European drifting scene. With a mechanical LSD, rear wheel drive and 286bhp they did not require much encouragement to go sideways. In the quest for more power some have had turbocharger conversions or crazy engine swaps that would have purists shaking their heads in amazement. Subsequent M3 generations have proved to be popular too, but may require deeper pockets to modify.
Vauxhall Monaro – The big V8 brute from down under
The trend for big American V8s to be stuffed under the bonnets of Japanese drift cars may be a contentious issue for some, but there is no denying that a low stressed torquey motor is ideal for the sport. The Vauxhall Monaro and its replacement the VXR8 are ideal candidates then, as their Corvette based LS1 and LS2 motors are just the thing for lighting up rear tyres and heading sideways at every roundabout. Easily sourced in the UK and not requiring too much modification they can be the ideal drift car.
The Mercedes AMG range seem to have been designed to be the ideal drift car, most owners seem to be clearly aware of this fact and can be seen practicing their drifting skills at every available roundabout. For those with deep pockets, the latest C63 S which comes equipped with the all-important LSD is ready to go straight off the production line. 510bhp and more importantly 700nm of torque will surely be more than enough. Remember though that power is no substitute for skill.
Not everyone has £70,000 lying around to indulge in some weekend drifting – sometimes that number is closer to £700. One need not despair because it just so happens that at this price level there is an excellent little entry level drifter called the Volvo 340. Mechanically they are tough and there are still a number of cars out there to choose from. The 1.7-litre manual cars are the ones to go for, Renaultsport engine swaps are easy if you want more power and minimal mods are needed to get you sliding around at every opportunity.
McLaren P1 – How to drift on an unlimited budget...
Image: Dean Smith/evo
At the other extreme to the plucky little Volvo, is perhaps one of the most unlikely cars to see out drifting – the McLaren P1. Costing close to £1 million pounds, the P1 is unlikely to be entered in a drifting event any time soon, but the serious folk at McLaren couldn’t have built a car more suited to the discipline. With 904bhp being metered out to the rear wheels by a cutting edge electronic LSD, the P1 is perfect for carving long arcs around any corner, a highly developed chassis make it look all too easy. Its hybrid drivetrain may even inspire some to develop electric powered drift cars in the future.