There used to be something known as ‘Skyline Tax’ which basically meant people could charge extortionate amounts for anything with ‘Skyline’ in the title, insurers eventually felt they would get involved and do the same. This has now spread to most ‘drift’ cars. This amazing phenomenon means that if a car is rusty, sitting on the floor on £100 coilovers, ripped out interior, non-brand wheels and mismatching body panels it is suddenly worth some money when it’s dubbed a ‘drift car’. Don’t be fooled though, perfectly clean standard versions of the same car (including an MOT which didn’t arrive through the post) are usually cheaper and have lead a much calmer life.
So here are a list of what I believe are the Top 4 starter drift cars.
4. BMW E46
I’m a bit bias here as I actually have an E46, it’s not a drift car as it’s a 330D auto but I can easily do 3000 miles in a month and that’s not something I’d like to do in an out and out drift car. Anyway as is stated in the recent M3 comparison video, the E46 is an incredible machine. I’m not suggesting we go out and learn to drift in an M3 but pretty much any E46 is an option. These days they are as cheap (if not cheaper) as E36s as the market is saturated with them. They are very much a proper car which you could drive every day and be happy turning up to a meeting in as well as throwing it around a track. Plus half of the CT team seem to own E46s! Just a little side note, you can drift diesels and you can drift automatics. Neither of those are the best choices and I’m not recommending it, but it is possible.
3. BMW E36
I drifted for a long time before I even stepped foot in an E36 but I have to say I enjoyed each minute of it when the time came. Really easy car just to jump in and slide around. It’s longer than the MX5 so it does give you a little more time to catch the back end as it comes around. Also available in bigger engine sizes which is always nice (but not essential). E36 M3s will come with (I assume) some sort of LSD but other than that you will probably have to buy a locking diff or get the open diff welded. Only issue with these cars is that they are a little old these days so rust and general age related wear and tear needs to be kept under control.
My first drift car was a 200sx S13. I bought it (and regrettably sold it) before the prices sky-rocketed for just £1000. I loved it, it was light and 1.8 turbo engine was nothing like I had ever driven before, it makes all the right noises and looks like a drift car. But, as I just mentioned the prices for the S13 has gone mad. As has the price of the S14a, but the S14 with the round front end is almost reasonable. For that you will get a 2.0 turbo engine with mountains of tuning capabilities and more available modifications than any reasonable person would want. I found mine a little heavy with standard power but that’s just my opinion. Very predictable car and the turbo means it’s easier to slide around so you won’t learn as much as you would in an MX5.
1. Mazda MX5 (MK1/MK2)
I’m not sure I can rave any more about the MX5 than Alex already does but I will give it a go. It actually hasn’t been a popular choice until more recently, it’s as if someone discovered one, accidently found out how much fun it was to drift and the rest of us followed suit. Its lack of weight, bullet proof engine and agile chassis means you can throw it around all day long. Power is low but you will be rewarded in the long run. The 1.8 is the better choice but the 1.6 will still drift. Look out for higher insurance premiums on the ‘Eunos’ for no other reason other than the fact that it’s imported. Some of the editions come with torsion LSDs which will slide but a welded differential is going to be more predictable. Probably not worth spending over £1500 on one in my opinion but each to their own.
This is by no means a complete list but in my opinion, these are all good purchases. Each of them you can get for under £1000 except the 200sx S14 (not 14a). They are still rather cheap and are turbo, more to insure and but more out of the box power. If you don’t need to insure it as you have a trailer, this list becomes pretty long. The MX5 is the king of starter drift cars, it ticks all the boxes and its amazing fun. Ask almost any experienced drifter and they will tell you that that is the car to learn in, and if you can drift that, you can drift anything.
To the drifters on here, make sure you comment and let us know what your first drift car was and why you picked that one. Also next week I will be going through drift day essentials so keep your eye out for that one!