Drifting has become one of the fastest growing motor sports in the world over the last few years, and it’s not hard to see why. With its combination of speed, style, and beautiful crashes, drifting is an excellent choice if you’re looking to get into motorsports, or even if you’re simply looking for something exciting to do on the weekends with your friends or family. If you want to learn how to drift or you’re thinking about getting into drifting as a hobby or career, there are ten key things that you should know and follow in order to make an amazing drift car.
Reducing a car’s weight is not just about saving on fuel. In fact, lighter cars are better at drifting thanks to lower inertia. That said, it doesn’t mean you should start scrapping everything and building a drift car from scratch—but it does mean it’s time for a diet. Plastic body panels can be replaced with carbon fiber ones; windows can be swapped out for plexiglass; and replace your standard leather seats with lightweight karting bucket seats. Better yet, try fitting some lightweight wheels that help reduce drag during your slide around corners.
2) Weight distribution
There are many ways to achieve good weight distribution in a drift car, but there is no single way that works for everyone. You need to figure out which set up works best for you based on your comfort level, budget and personal taste. Weight distribution can make or break your car so it’s important to have a good set up before you start drifting as well as during a drift event if possible. Here are some popular ways of distributing weight in a drift car. Decide which ones work best for you!
Having good suspension is perhaps one of, if not, THE most important aspects of a good drift car. The quality of your car’s suspension determines how well you can control your car through a corner and how consistent your drifting lines are. Aside from that, it also contributes heavily to any style points you want to achieve for your drifts. A key part in having great handling and great-looking drifts is getting your front and rear suspension setup correctly! In general, stiffer bushings are more responsive and give quicker steering but stiffer bushings wear out faster than softer ones and as such should be replaced regularly if you wish to continue driving fast on track day.
4) The engine
Because it’s such a lightweight car, your engine needs to be extremely powerful in order for it to pull off professional drifts. However, don’t let yourself get carried away—the most powerful engine won’t do you any good if you can’t control it on your way around corners. Also keep in mind that engines are expensive and require a lot of maintenance; choose one that will last you over a long period of time without breaking down too often. Consider getting a brand new engine or get something used but lightly-used; something with low mileage is preferable because no one likes spending lots of money on something they plan on beating up. And with that said…
5) Steering ratio
The steering ratio is one of those places where cost cutting can really hurt your driving experience. Essentially, it’s how many degrees you turn your wheel in relation to how many degrees your front wheels turn when you’re going around a corner. A high steering ratio means that you have a slower steering system, and vice versa. The reasoning behind all of that is twofold: Handling oversteer and understeer are both caused by slightly different steering ratios, but keeping one from becoming too extreme makes sure your car has a decent amount of responsiveness while also keeping it stable (or vice versa). A lower ratio helps keep oversteer at bay while giving your car sharp handling characteristics.
When setting up a drift car, you want as much contact patch on track as possible. The amount of power you have is irrelevant if you can’t put it down on track. To accomplish this, we go with 4-piston calipers over 6-piston or 8-piston options, though larger brakes will require stiffer springs and possibly more shocks. If going through brake upgrades, start with your street car set up and see how those feel before upgrading brakes for track use. Also, always use high-temp brake fluid – many people make the mistake of using DOT fluid (for street) but it can boil at sustained high temperatures causing much worse braking capabilities during hot laps.
When it comes to drift cars, look for a vehicle with wheels that can withstand abuse. Performance-oriented tires tend to work best for drifting because they are more pliable than regular all-season tires and have a high load rating (meaning they can handle heavy loads). A good rule of thumb is that you want your wheel and tire package to cost about as much as half of what your car is worth if you plan on tracking it—which most serious drifters do. You also want to get larger rims than stock; in general, 19-inch rims are ideal for drift cars.
8) Weight reduction/weight transfer
So, you’re thinking about building a drift car. Well, you’re in luck—drifting is fun and inexpensive. However, there are many power sources that can be used for your car. If you want your first build to be simple yet effective for drifting, then I recommend a front-wheel drive vehicle with a manual transmission. The biggest advantage of these types of vehicles is their accessibility; it’s much easier to find one of these vehicles than something like a rear-wheel drive Mustang or Camaro from 1984.
9) Wheels and tires
The right wheels and tires are going to make all of your time spent on a track a lot more fun. Stick with lighter alloy wheels if you’re looking for top-speed performance, or opt for heavier steel wheels if you’re planning on drifting through corners like they aren’t even there. When it comes to tires, there are a few things you want to keep in mind: different tracks will call for different sizes (and compounds) of tire, so be sure to check out your local track before buying. Just remember that bigger isn’t always better—taller tires with high sidewalls are great on smooth surfaces but tend not to last as long as skinnier, low-profile ones.
10) Choose your power source
Gas or electric? There are upsides and downsides to both. Before you commit, research what’s available, how much it costs and how you’ll charge your car at various points along your commute—not only in your own garage but also at charging stations along roadsides. (This requires a little planning ahead, so factor that into your decision-making.) If you do decide on gas, what type of engine should you go with? Four-cylinder, six-cylinder or diesel? The more cylinders under your hood means more power—but it also means pricier maintenance and repairs. And then there’s horsepower: What kind of horses will be powering your car?