This Straight-Piped Mercedes-Benz S600 Wants to Be a Drift Taxi for the Masses
Have Benz, will drift.
As car enthusiasts, we are drawn to the unique, the unusual, the extraordinary. And the sight (and sound) of a straight-piped, V-12-engined, German luxobarge going absolutely wild around a drift track? Check, check, and check. World: Meet the Drift Taxi, the baddest Mercedes-Benz S600 you'll likely ever see.
Joining in the grand tradition of participatory motorsports laid down by the famous 'Ring Taxis on the Nurburgring, David Adams's Drift Taxi is the first stage in his grand plan to bring drifting straight to the masses in America. A former competitive drifter himself, Adams was looking for the perfect car that could get five people sideways in comfort and style when he came across this W220-generation S600 and picked it up in July. Why? Why not?
"There are a few reasons [I chose the Mercedes], but the main is that the S-Class is rarely used in any sort of motorsport," Adams tells The Drive via email. "It's roomy, packs a V-12 and really just stands out among the other cars normally seen at events."
As he mentions, it also didn't hurt that the car still had its original M137 V-12 engine. Of course, after a few months in his possession, there are a few differences between this build and your average chauffeur special. Adams welded the differential, straight-piped it from the secondary cats back, and added EBC Yellowstuff performance brakes. Power is likely up a bit from the stock number of 367 horsepower, but it hasn't been dyno'd yet.
His biggest project so far has been swapping out the car's air suspension for a set of CEIKA Performance coilovers after the former failed dramatically during the car's first drift event at an Indiana speedway earlier this month. There's also more to drifting an S-Class than just stomping on the gas. In Adams's words, you need "lots of commitment, and stupidity."
"This car was never intended for drifting, so a lot has to be done, such as completely disabling the ABS and [electronic stability control] just to get the car to be able to slide without interference." he says. "The biggest issue is the aftermarket is non-existent. Everything has to be custom made: Brake kits, coilovers, sway bars, seat rails for racing seats, harness bars, you name it. It all has to be custom made."
Regular maintenance is also pricey, with things like $200 gaskets and an engine that needs 11 quarts of fresh oil with every change. But the whole project has been straightforward enough that Adams has actually used the Drift Taxi as a daily driver on occasion to raise awareness for the business, even if, in his words, "playing the drift game with a V-12 is rolling the dice." His "regular" car is a 2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
Since it's hard to run a taxi service without any passengers, Adams is also laser-focused on building Drift Taxi into a real company selling wild ride-alongs to people around the country. He's started bringing the Mercedes to regional car shows, drift events, and track days, with the goal of hosting his own private sessions for paying customers starting next year. He's also got a laundry list of plans for his Benz, including a possible LS3-swap, a manual transmission, and a "minimalist" roll cage for tandem drift events.
And he's by no means alone in this endeavor. Drift Taxi has a second driver, Barry Clapp, and a second build in the works, an "insane" 2007 Infiniti M35 with a supercharged 408-cubic inch V-8 engine. Adams says it's the "antithesis" of his luxury-appointed Mercedes: A full multi-point roll cage, a "big wing," aluminum racing seats, and a "scary" engine tune should make the Infiniti "a different beast altogether."
He's also in the process of adding two more drivers to the team for next year, one of whom is a soon-to-be-named Formula D driver.
Adams says he's on "pins and needles" waiting to see how everything comes together. It's hard to argue against a solid plan to give people a firsthand taste of drifting, considering that kind of opportunity is all too rare in this country. Plus, a big ol' Benz getting sideways is undeniably awesome, and Adams seems to have the right attitude for the job.
"It's worked out well, and it makes people smile, which makes me happy," he says.