It was only a matter of time. All the signs were there. Finally, in America, Corvettes are taking over drifting. Surprisingly, the momentum feels like it started abroad.
Drifting is a low-buck way to have fun in a car. It attracts kids who have never done anything on track before, so a lot of the cars you see at a drift event will be their owner’s only ride. There are lots of license plates on track.
This explains why you see so many Nissan 240SXs and BMW E36s in the drift scene. You can buy one for a couple grand, use it as your (somewhat shitty) everyday vehicle and also learn to drift on it.
But the thing is that once you start to move past these 1990s imports as your starter car and begin turning them into more serious track-only vehicles, things get expensive. Japanese-market turbo engines fetch a premium and can be unreliable, as can even the most low-cost V8 swaps. By the time even a Nissan S13 from the early ‘90s is ready for competition, it can easily cost an owner well into the five figures.
And at that point, it can actually be cheaper to buy a salvage title Corvette from only a few years ago. No need to modify the car to accept a modern LS V8; the car already comes with one. No need to modify the car to accept big wheels and tires; the car already comes set up for them.
Much of the work that you need to do to make a now somewhat vintage sporty import, that great starter car, is set up from the factory.
Former pro Aaron Losey, who runs Texas’ feeder series to Formula Drift just picked up a salvage title C6, as Houston cars come onto the market.
Losey points out that the Corvette is oddly a kind of Japan-minded solution to drifting. It’s in Japan that most people run their drift cars as stock as possible, aiming for getting the most seat time and the fewest break downs as they can. Reliability is king. That’s why you see so many big, rear-wheel drive Toyota sedans in the Japanese drifting scene; they’re common, affordable and they come with turbo, straight six JZ engines. The American equivalent, oddly, is our plentiful base of Vettes with V8s that come stock.
Current pro Matt Field has gone from a very tired Nissan S14 with a V8 swap to another flood car C6. His Nissan was old, the chassis was haggard, and a Corvette was a clean, straight alternative.
Field has a whole video series detailing his current build, noting that while his Nissan took tons of fabrication work and lots of tips and tricks to make its heart transplant work, the Corvette has a healthy aftermarket for speed parts here in America and much more is bolt-on than his older drift Nissan.
All of this comes after Dirk Stratton, the son of a Chevy dealer out in the Midwest, ran his own salvage-title Corvette in Formula Drift’s Pro2 development series for quite some time.
And after Daigo Saito, one of the top drifters in the world, switched to a C6 Corvette to run in Japan’s D1GP. His Corvette was a shock to the series, more lightweight, more grip than just about anything that came before it. The car had a tricky debut, as you can see above, but it has proven itself to be one of the most capable drift cars yet made.
A big help to this pro boom comes from Latvia of all places. The shop HGK is better known for running BMWs with all-composite carbon kevlar body panels and custom American racing V8s, but a few years back they made a C6 corvette for one of their Russian drivers and have done a lot of development work in making these cars ready for international competition, particularly in the areas of the composite body and the transmission.
I saw the thing run at Englishtown a few years back, in love with how the car looked and sounded with its two-nostril V8 intake jutting through the low hood. It didn’t seem like the easiest car to operate, and I’m fairly sure the car broke down the day I watched it run, but everyone watching seemed to like the thing.
Even in the amateur scene, groups like VetteNuts are putting more and more Corvettes into drifting.
Much like in autocross, if you ignore the stigma of being a Vette owner, America’s sports car is a cost-effective platform for getting as much speed out of your dollar. I guess it was only a matter of time before the drift scene succumbed to the Corvette.
UPDATE: I completely missed Taylor Ray, a drifter big on YouTube and down in Florida who has been running a C5, updating his progress building the car over the past year.