We've all seen the massively powerful, big-budget builds of Formula Drift. Even beater missile cars used for practice are completely nutballs with power nowadays. But what if you just want to go drifting, and don't have a crazy expensive build to hoon? Behold: the street legal drift series.
Texas' Lone Star Drift series is trying out a limited-prep, street-legal class to combat the fact that even the Pro-Am level of drifting includes 500-horsepower cars with hydraulic handbrakes. Some people don't have the time or money for that and just want to go drifting.
"We wanted to create a series where people enjoy their cars on a daily basis, and then take them to drift comps and have a blast in them," said series organizer Aaron Losey.
The Texas Street Legal Series' short-but-sweet list of rules echoes this idea of a limited-prep, limited budget class that would keep a car ready to go on the street. Full interiors and headlamps are required, and leaving the air conditioning in is recommended. If you don't want to shell out for a tow vehicle just yet, this is the class for you.
Besides a very short list of allowed engine and turbo swaps (such as adding the Mazdaspeed turbo to the Miata), those are forbidden for the class, as are other big-budget or non-streetable items like dogbox transmissions, hydraulic e-brakes, Lexan windows and extensive suspension finagling.
In requiring that many items remain stock or close to stock, the series hopes to keep the cars reliable as well. Big-budget, big-horsepower drift builds often fail in spectacular ways that make their upkeep a constant time and money suck, and which also make a truck and trailer a necessity to get the car to and from competitions (in case something blows).
The biggest budget item required for Texas Street Legal? A roll cage. There will be sweet tandem drifts as with any drift series, so this makes sense, even if it moves the car away from being an off-the-street special. Still, the organizers hope that you can build a beater on the cheap, not have to replace pricey custom and unobtanium parts all the time to keep it running, come drift and have a blast.
"The goal is that a car with the addition of a few suspension mods, knuckles, racing seat, and a simple cage a 5K dollar will be capable of winning the series," state the rules.
$5,000 puts it right in line with a 24 Hours of LeMons or ChumpCar build. It's not wheel-to-wheel track racing, so there's less required safety gear, but you're allowed to spend whatever you want on the car. That means you can grab a decent, running example right out of the box and have fewer irritating gremlins to chase down later.
Besides, there's a whole web series on how to build a $5,000 drift car. It focuses on building one up for a missile, but now there's a place where somewhat similar limited-prep, limited-cost hoonmobiles can be competitive.
Do smaller budgets make it any less fun, though? The D1 Grand Prix introduced its own D1 Street Legal series with similar goals (limited prep and limited budget) back in 2005, and I could watch this series all day:
In order to participate in D1SL, participants had to produce a current shaken (Japanese motor vehicle inspection) certificate for the car. While the rules expressly banned a lot of big-budget mods like engine swaps, custom fenders and fuel cells, and required the cars to have a working stereo system and their original dashboards, the shaken requirement kept everything truly street-legal.
D1GP's reasoning for the D1SL series was very similar to Texas Street Legal's: bring drifting back to its roots, where it's actually accessible to normal dudes who want to go sideways.
Maybe the cage moves the car away from being a streetable daily driver for you, even though it's a needed safety item. Consider this budget drifting, then. Common cars like the BMW E36, Mazda Miata, Nissan 350Z, Lexus IS300 and Nissan 240SX can be had on the cheap, in working condition, with decent parts availability should something get borked. Do a handful of minimal mods and take it drifting.
Right now, the Texas Street Legal Series is well, in Texas. It's the first series like it in the United States as far as we can find, so I hope it catches on, and cheap drift action spreads all over. The events include a Saturday practice day with trackside parties afterwards, with more practice time and competition on Sunday. Their first event of 2015 is on March 28, at Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque, Texas, and is shared with the regular Lone Star Drift series. Details are here.
If you don't know how to drift, this is the perfect place to learn how. "We have tons of experienced drivers that would love to help you learn!" says the Lone Star Drift site. The series often runs on wide-open parking lots similar to an autocross, so there's not too many things to hit.
I fully await our new $5,000 drift beater overlords.
Photo credit: Sy Pham (top), StrangeRhythms.net (350Z)
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