Getting Lost in the Build

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You’ve just done your first drift day. You’ve had a great day and spent a lot of time setting up a mild tune in your early-mid 90s Nissan, Toyota, BMW or whatever. You got yourself some good-ass coilovers, some extra wheels, a track oriented alignment and a bunch of tires with similar compounds–the whatever’s free or cheap compound. Engine mods are minimal because you want to learn how to move the weight of the car; you’re doing everything right. Learning how the track and your modestly setup car fit together. You start to get a hang of the racing line, braking zones, and even ramped up some cool entry speeds in there.  At the end of the day, your car is one piece (mostly), you’re looking at several tires you’ve just murdered, you can’t get the shit-eating grin off your face, and you’re hooked. You’ve just completed your first successful  drift day.

Brad calrton ftn

The next logical step would be to continue to drive this car and replace parts as they break, or as they need to be upgraded. E.g “My car rolls too much around that corner. I am going to do some research and possibly buy sway bars to prevent body roll.” Doing this after every track experience is bound to create a nicely balanced track setup. Unfortunately, here is where a lot of new drivers get confused – Maybe its the product of constantly searching and reading epic builds, telling tales of unheard of engine swaps, and tubes; maybe they just like fabrication and problem solving- nonetheless, said driver will now take his or her car off the road to “build” it.  In theory and with moderation, there is nothing wrong with that; after all, in places like Ontario we get five months of winter to build our daily/track toys. This can be a benefit as it gives us the opportunity to completely rip a car apart and worry about putting it back together later on–we can pick away at it.  During this time, it would be appropriate to tie up some ends that went loose at the end of the season. Things like worn ball joints, brakes, bent inner/outer tie rod ends, replacing multilinks, and bushings are all things that are usually addressed; especially in a beginner’s track toy.


What I have been noticing more and more, though, are beginners who have driven one or two track days (if that) and then proceeding to take their cars off the road for ‘pro-like builds’. People driving one or two drift days, getting the hang of it, and instantly getting a roll cage, truck and trailer and pulling the car’s plates for tubs and a crazy swap with a huge turbo (or LS v8). They skip the whole process. They will usually document it, showing off to all their peers about their fully customized powder coated and reinforced sub frames, decked out with SPL and PBM parts (or another manufacturers equivalent), stating they only spend money on the best of the best- doing it right.


I haven’t been around drifting much, but what I noticed even before I got my car was the consumerism of the build has started to take away from the actual driving experience. It has gotten to a point where people who have never even driven at a track are going around buying rolling shell 240s and spending all of their time and money building a complete monster that drivers with more experience would have trouble actually driving to its full potential; this is wrong. This is not how you enjoy a car. This is however, a great way to ruin a lot of hard work.


Personally, there is no time I resent my car more than when I am working on it. There is no enjoyment in ruining whatever clothes you are wearing, working on the ground of a cold-as-balls garage (if you’re even privileged enough to have access to one) to install a set of rear upper control arms or something like that. I only ever do stuff like that because I need to upgrade or replace it, and as I said earlier that’s the way it should be: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. A car should be upgraded as a driver grows. A driver that is more advanced than a car is always cooler to watch than a car that is more advanced than the driver. There needs to be a seat-time to build-time ratio taken into consideration when taking up these projects. A car owner will never have as much fun building a car than they will beating the hell out of it. Cars are meant to be driven. #drivingnotbuilding


Written: Devaughn Dunbar @devocat
Edited: Ronnie Fung  @ronniefung
Photo: Lucas Stanois –  @lucasstanois

30 Replies to “Getting Lost in the Build”

  1. Well written! Hope to see more of these insightful articles….gives those of us on the “outside” a view into the drift world!

  2. I,sadly have fallen victim to this. Even though I drove my car for nearly three years traded it because it was too beat up for me to fix and started fresh, I still haven’t finished my car, after three years a baby and a wife, with going back to school it has been pushed to the back burner. I do hope I can one day get it back out again and get back to driving for the pure pleasure.

    1. At the very least you’re at a point where you know its more fun being out on the track than striving for the perfect build. Good luck to you sir.

  3. Interesting read, and I completely agree with you. I’d much rather be peddling behind the wheel than sat on a “cold-as-balls” driveway building or fixing stuff. But alas, 20+ year old Nissan which gets thrashed 🙂

  4. I’ve seen a lot of people like this. Right when i get them to the track, they find another reason not to go.

    Also, you have a lot of quote worthy material in this as well as your reply to comments. Nice!

  5. Very nice post, I have been trying to bring this point across to some of my mates who, after drifting a few roundabouts, think they need a sick LSD, a big turbo and a 6 speed gearbox to improve their skill. Thanks for sharing this opinion!

  6. Well put Devo! Although I gotta admit for me the build is also a fun part of the process.. but I was very lucky my mom let me take over the garage years ago and that I had the tools to make things happen! You also have to have the drive to get out in the garage and work on the car as much as possible, like pretty much everyday in the offseason. I would get home from work at 5, eat dinner, then head into the garage and work 6 to midnight, everyday, and weekends, almost all my spare time was spent building my car. Then theres the money, I’ve sunk every cent I have into this silly game for years. You can buy all the best most expensive parts you want for your build, but if you cant afford to put decent tires on the car or gas in the tank when the season comes around, whats the point? You have to think of that stuff too when you build the car.
    But the best thing I did for myself when I first got into this and was building a “pro” car, was I bought an 86 street beater, and I practiced in the snow. Probably the only times I wasn’t working away in the garage at home was when it was snowing. It definitely accelerated my learning curve of drifting!
    The point is, if your gonna build your car into a dedicated track beast, be sure you think about it hard, and be realistic with your goals, dont over build the thing, and dedicate yourself to getting it done!

  7. 1. “I haven’t been around drifting much…”
    2. “This is not how you enjoy a car. This is however, a great way to ruin a lot of hard work.”
    3. “There is no enjoyment in ruining whatever clothes you are wearing, working on the ground of a cold-as-balls garage (if you’re even privileged enough to have access to one) to install a set of rear upper control arms or something like that. I only ever do stuff like that because I need to upgrade or replace it, and as I said earlier that’s the way it should be: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
    4. “A car owner will never have as much fun building a car than they will beating the hell out of it.”

    -1. As this article CLEARLY illustrates.
    -2. No, this is apparently not how YOU YOURSELF enjoy a car. Your method IS however, a great way for ME to cheaply get a car to put alot of hard work into after people such as yourself RUIN it by thinking they are “actually driving to its full potential” when they are really just red-lining the piss out of the motor and denting every piece of steel on the car. As you put so well, “this is wrong”.
    -3. The work that goes into building, improving on and re-engineering the base dynamics of a carefully chosen and personally adored chassis of the owners preference as well as the amount of PRIDE that results from it is for many people (myself being one of them) is the enjoyment. Chefs cook food because they find joy and pride in doing so. NOT simply because they are hungry.
    -4. Build a performance car once. From start to finish, bone stock and 200,000 miles worth of daily driven abuse to something that performs well within a certain set of conditions and guidelines. Do it yourself… in YOUR garage… with YOUR tools using YOUR mind and creativity. And when you feel like your car is complete, go back and re-read the second to last sentence of your article. Then laugh a little, shake your head, put on your mechanics gloves and jeans and go out to the garage. That’s what I did anyways.

    1. I think you’re taking this article a bit wrong.
      I have gripes about working on my car out of necessity, this does not apply to those who work on their cars for fun and because they enjoy fabrication. The way I see it, the less time I have to spend wrenching on my car, the more time I can spend driving and enjoying it. A
      After all, drifting is about driving!

    2. Came here to say pretty much exactly this. That’s not how you enjoy a car, but it sure as hell is how a lot of other people enjoy a car. Drift-cars included.

      Personally, I absolutely love creating something out of nothing. What was designed for a specific purpose decades ago I like bending to my purpose here and now using nothing but my own ingenuity and the ingenuity of other like-minded individuals.

      As you said there’s a lot of pride in doing that.

      It’s not a problem if the author enjoys driving more than wrenching, and he’s probably right that a lot of people enjoy driving then get over their heads building something to drive rather than actually just driving, but the tone of the piece puts my hackles up a bit…

  8. I really enjoyed the arrival seeing as I hope to start track time soon . I my self is partially in that group lv grown up under the hood since age four and have wanted to drift since drift was presented to the world. I have went beyond probably what a beigner should in my build but have left plant room for power and chassie up gtades along the way. This artical was well put and very informative I hope I don’t have issues learning because of taking the build to far to soon.

  9. Wow, you’re a narrow-minded guy, aren’t ya? Your way is the only way – is that it?

    Stop trying to define how people get to enjoy their cars. Have you considered that people might enjoy wrenching on a car for the sake of wrenching on a car? That they may find beauty in that perfect build? That their joy is in creation? After all, there’s plenty of people out there – myself included – who think drifting is for idiotic children, and that real drivers actually race their car instead of screeching around a parking lot like the star of a bad teen movie.

    But you didn’t consider that, did you? And now you aren’t considering that we are just as wrong as you are, are you? Of course not. Stop trying to invalidate everyone else’s view by pushing yours as the only “right” one. After all, the only rule in this wonder and diverse automotive world of ours is that there’s no such thing as `one, true way’.

      1. And that’s fine. No one has a problem with the fact that you think that. What makes you a dick is that you think other people’s views are less than, that someone who likes to wrench as much or more than he likes to drive is somehow not a “real” car guy. No more, no less.

    1. No one said our (or Devaughn’s) opinion was the correct one.

      “who think drifting is for idiotic children, and that real drivers actually race their car instead of screeching around a parking lot like the star of a bad teen movie.” That’s an opinion shared by you and many others. That’s you trying to define how people enjoy their cars. We weren’t suggesting the only way to go about drifting is to go about it the way we described. We wrote an opinion piece on the situation that presented itself in the Ontario grassroots drift scene. We were outlining a growing group of individuals who took themselves out of the scene to engulf themselves into a build/project that is far too advanced for their commitment and skill level. If we look at time attack for example, it would be similar to the guy/gal who brings their lightly modded EG civic to the track for two weeks then decides to work on it for 2 seasons in his garage with a full cage, diff, every bushing, CF panels, full aero, built motor etc. It one thing to do a lot of work in one off season and hit the track next summer, than languishing in the garage for 2-3 years. Its not wrong, we just think that’s over the top and you’re not doing yourselves any favours in the art of drifting or racing.

      We may disagree, but thank you for taking the time to respond.

  10. I think one of the problems with this is that, sometimes someone just wants to build what they want to build. And regardless of there experience, if that’s what the feel they need to do then so be it. It’s no one’s place to say who’s “supposed” to do what or “they’re doing it wrong”. Your experience is your experience with building and driving. There is no right or wrong way to start out that is a myth. Are there some key points in the learning curve you might miss in the beginning with a gutless no hp car? Yes, though that doesn’t mean you will not learn them later or learn to compensate for a lack of that knowledge, by learning from other drivers.

    1. I agree, there isn’t a set right or wrong way to do this. What it comes down to is if you’re building something with a purpose. The build time shouldn’t take over the use time. Unless, you have you’re own shop and/or you’re using the build to to further skills as a pro welder/fabricator/mechanic/painter etc, then the build time is less of a concern. Also at that point, you have more of an investment in your future in the car bizz than a drift car. The purpose of the car changes from a track toy to a skill development tool.


  11. im in the middle of a drift build and actually quite enjoy the build. Wisconsin winters allow the build time and for it not to be rushed.

    1. Dude, Wisconsin here as well. And yeah, they allow for a non-rushed build indeed! Sometimes a bit TOO much allowance though. LOL Wisco FTW!!

  12. initial D its pretty much about making the most of yourself as a driver to overcome the limitations of the car, not building an insane car and having no skill or talent. EVERYONE who gets into drifting should watch it, even if it is just a cheesy anime that at best takes laws of physics pretty loosely

  13. Good read. Seat time should take priority. Don’t let your build keep you off the track. Although, a fully built car and a bad driver is good for a chuckle.

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