So you want to get started into drifting, but you have next to no idea where to start. You have a few thousand bucks saved up for a project, but where do you go from there? There are so many different options of cars and individual setups, you’re bombarded with information. Well don’t worry, NETC is here to bring you 5 options for drift cars on a budget to get you started!
The first thing you need to understand is that if you’re going to be drifting, it doesn’t necessarily matter the body condition of the vehicle you choose. Sure, you want to be done up all nice like one of those sweet Silvias you see at car shows, you know the ones with the crazy anime livery and Japanese symbols all over them. Well believe it or not, most drift cars probably won’t look like that. They will likely look something akin to this:
But don’t worry, the good news is that because you don’t have to care too much about the body, you can grab something that’s been sitting in someones garage pretty cheap, assuming the motor still works.
Number 5: The Mazda Miata (NA/NB)
Small and light with room to grow, there was no way the Miata couldn’t make it on this list. You can likely find an older Miata around on craigslist or somewhere that is going to be priced in the 1000-3000 dollar range. That’s not too bad to get you started. Even some of the big names drift Miatas professionally, and a lot of weekend warriors do to, and here’s why:
Super light! The older NA Miatas weigh around 2150 pounds
Rear-Wheel drive! A not entirely necessary staple of most drift cars (AWD is also an option)
Limited Slip! Some Miata trim levels come from factory with a Limited Slip Differential, and ones that didn’t don’t cost much to replace
Now, maybe you pick up a Miata that still has the stock motor, that’s fine! The standard 1.6 or 1.8 will still work for you most of the time, but if you want to change things up a bit we’re certainly not going to stop you. Some people instantly do all the cutting and fitting to do the almighty LS swap, and others take a different approach like slapping a turbo on the stock motor, or swapping to Mazda’s famous Rotary Engine.
Number 4: The Nissan 240SX (S13/S14)
Another car that was definitely not going to be left out is Nissan’s 240SX. Ever popular for both new and experienced drifters, the 240SX is a car you can usually find nearly gutted and scraped up already, some people have them as partial or even complete drift builds and are looking to move on to something else. Now some things about the car:
Engine! for 1989 and 1990 models, the vehicle was sold in the US with the KA24E which made 140hp and 160lb/ft, and after that was replaced by the KA24DE which was slightly more powerful, making 155hp and 160lb/ft. Either one to start will be fine, but you’re going to have a real good time if you get one that already has an SR20DET swap!
Options! From factory, the 240SX had the option to come with an optional sports package including ABS, a limited slip differential, and Nissan’s HICAS four wheel steering for models 1991 and up. They also made a convertible if you’re into that sort of thing.
The 240SX is a car you will likely see plenty off if you search for drifting, as it is still widely popular. The S13 is likely the cheaper option as S14 models seem to be a little bit harder to find, but you should still be between 2000-5000 dollars if you can find one local. If you want a little more power, the S13 has a lot of options in terms of swap kits, ranging from Nissan’s own VQ35 and SR20 to Toyota’s 2JZ, and even Chevy’s LS motor.
Number 3: BMW 3 Series (E36/E46)
For those of you who would like to drift whilst also holding a cup of tea with your pinky out, BMW’s older model 3 Series may be a fancier option. You can find these a little higher of a price range than the competitors, but you can likely find an old 320i or 328i for less than 5000 dollars.
One thing to note is that BMW loves to create several trim levels with different names for its models. You are going to want to opt specifically for the 320i, 328i, or M3 because of the engine. The first two come with 6 cylinder motors that produce 189 and 190hp respectively. The final version is another 6 cylinder that produces 320hp (305 if you have a 1995 model)
The BMW 3 series is not as popular as some Japanese cars for drifting, but there are still some out there. You can of course always do a motor swap if you end up picking up another 3 series model that is equipped with one of their 4 cylinder motors, or you could go all out and do a crazy swap like some other people do.
Number 2: The Mazda Rx-7 (FC)
We go back to Mazda for another entry in this series. Specifically we are looking at their 2nd generation of the famous rotary sports car, as the more popular FD series will be out of budget as it is coveted by all enthusiasts.
The FC was produced with 2 different versions of Mazda’s 13b rotary motor. One naturally aspirated version which produced 148hp until it was revised in 1998 to 160hp, and the other being the turbo model which produced 200hp.
The RX-7 was nice because of its relatively light weight in combination with the light 13b engine. This allows for a car that you can break loose no matter which of the two engines you find yourself with. You can find plenty of old FC models out there for less than 3000 dollars, and even if you need to do the ever famous engine rebuild on the motor, you won’t be spending all that much to rebuild or replace it with something else like an LS motor or a 2JZ.
Number 1: The AE86 Toyota Corolla/Sprinter
The final entry on this list, the famous AE86 variant of Toyota’s Corolla, well known by drift enthusiasts, especially if you follow the Initial-D Manga or Anime.
One of the last Rear-Wheel drive passenger cars to be produced, the AE86 is powered by a 128hp 4 cylinder motor. Later model years saw the engine power lowered once to 118hp.
The AE86 used ventilated disc brakes. The car was equipped with a MacPherson strut style independent suspension at the front and a four-link live axle with coil springs for the rear. Stabilizer bars were present at both ends.
Keep an eye out and try to find a GT-S model if you can, as they came with an option to have a limited-slip differential as well as a higher redline at 7500rpm.
US models of the car are slightly under-powered, and a non GT-S model is going to have a motor that produces around 87hp, so you’ll definitely want to take the extra time to find the higher trim. You can likely find an AE86 between 3000-6000 dollars. A little higher than some of the others on this list, but also a rare find these days.
So that’s out list, 5 cars to get you started drifting on a budget. So take that handful of bills, pick out your favorite, and go ruin some tire tread!
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