Turning Old Stock Cars Into Drift Cars Makes Perfect Sense

It’s so obvious, it’s amazing it’s not already the norm.

byLewin Day| PUBLISHED Jan 23, 2023 9:00 AM
Turning Old Stock Cars Into Drift Cars Makes Perfect Sense
YouTube/Lone Star Drift
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One enthusiast has decided former circle track cars are the key to the sustainability of drifting's future. Even better, he put his money where his mouth is, turning one such race car into a capable drift machine.

As covered by Motor1, Aaron Losey is a drifter with his eye on the future of the sport. We get to see his latest build in a recent video from legendary photographer Larry Chen. The idea behind it is a simple one: repurposing ex-circle track racecars for the drift circuit.

There's a lot to like about Losey's thinking. Manual, rear-wheel-drive cars are heavily sought after on the used market. Classics like the AE86 Toyota Corolla and S13 Nissan 240SX are now worth a king's ransom. Old, uncompetitive circle track cars, on the other hand, are cheap, readily available, and built to be easily serviced during competition. There's no need to fit a roll cage either, with the car's entire tube chassis built to protect the driver from the outset.

Losey's build bears this out. It's a tube-framed circle track car built from the ground up for competition. According to Losey, the car won some trophies back in 1994, and then sat in a collection untouched for years. Losey bought it, made some simple modifications, putting together a stripped-back, barebones drift car.

All-in, without a body, the car weighs approximately 2,450 pounds. It sports an old Chevy small-block V8 that originally put out 330 horsepower at the wheels. A new carb was enough to boost that to 370 hp on the dyno, with the engine capable of revving out to 8,000 rpm. As a race engine, it's built to run flat out all day long, so there's no issue with the heavy demands of drifting.

Losey plans to trim the car's weight further by swapping out the cast iron manifold and heads, and suspects the motor may be capable of up to 450 hp with a few tweaks. The driveline is stout and built to race, consisting of a four-speed manual gearbox sending drive to a Ford 9-inch differential at the rear. There's no need to fit an LSD, either—the car came with a spool already fitted.

The car was originally built solely to turn left, but sorting that out took little effort. Since it was designed as a racecar, the suspension was heavily adjustable out of the box. With little more than some wrenches and new springs, Losey was able to get the car turning both left and right. From there, some welding and fettling of the front-end suspension components helped unlock a more fitting stance for drifting, along with plenty of steering angle for lurid slides.

Losey's car won't be dominating Formula Drift anytime soon. It's not eligible to compete for various technical reasons, for a start. Additionally, most top competitors run engines with four-digit horsepower these days, which is far beyond what Losey's humble V8 is putting out. The stock car is also relatively primitive in some aspects, such as its solid rear axle setup.

That hasn't stopped Losey from getting the car sideways, though. Outside of testing sessions and the video with Larry Chen, he recently competed in YouTuber Adam LZ's LZ Invitational event. The bodyless drift car laid down plenty of smoke but also broke some suspension components in the process.

For advanced grassroots competitors, the concept is compelling. Rather than spending huge money to convert a road car into a competition vehicle, one can buy a racecar from the outset. The safety gear and the roll cage are already there, too. Plus, there's no need to duck and weave under pesky body panels to make adjustments or repairs. Compare adjusting the rear shocks on Losey's car versus tinkering around in the trunk of a Mazda Miata, for example, and you'll see the value immediately.

Expect to see more drift missiles built out of former racecars in the future. The drift community is always quick to make the most of any newly-discovered untapped resource, and that's always a beautiful thing.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com