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.
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 – flickr.com/lucasstanois @lucasstanois