The Guide to the Best Cheap Drift Cars. Drifting is one of the most expensive hobbies available. It’s easy to see why. In essence, you’re pounding on a piece of machinery until it eventually breaks down. Then there are all of the other necessities like tires, brakes, regular oil changes, and so on. When you’re going sideways, everything adds up rapidly, and a lot of that is reliant on the car you choose to drive.
At this point, enthusiasts have created drift cars out of almost everything. There is a wide range of prices, some of which are exorbitant. For the purposes of this post, we’ll concentrate on the less expensive options.
Just because an automobile is inexpensive does not mean it cannot be used as a drift car. In fact, they are usually preferable for novices. Drifting a hoopty eliminates the failure dread that the men driving 800 hp FD RX-7s are likely to have. This post will explain five of the greatest affordable drift cars available for less than $10,000.
Considerations for the Best Cheap Drift Cars
Before settling on a model, as with any used automobile purchase, you need know what you’re looking for in a cheap drift car. There are several general indicators that make some automobiles better for drifting than others. The majority of these indicators are concerned with drivetrain configuration, transmission selection, chassis dynamics, and power delivery.
Best Drifting Engine Configuration
A front-engine, rear-wheel-drive arrangement is unquestionably the best drivetrain setup for drifting. This has a lot to do with how weight moves through the chassis of a vehicle when traction is lost. It’s actually quite simple to describe how that works.
It is critical for a drift car to have good front-end grip. The rest of the chassis moves in the same direction as the front wheels. There are a few things you can do to improve front-end grip. The front tire width/compound and the weight that rests between them are arguably the two most critical elements. A lot of weight sits between the front tires in a front-engine arrangement, driving them down into the tarmac. This improves front-end traction and makes it easier to keep the car going in the desired direction when rear traction is lost. Weight over the front wheels, on the other hand, can cause a front-engined automobile to understeer.
The opposite is true for the back. You want less rear traction and thus less rear weight because you want the rear end to come loose as easily as feasible. Obviously, having some grip in the rear is vital because that is where your forward movement originates from. However, that extra weight does not have to provide that extra traction. It could be due to the compound or size of your tires.
After all of that, those two requirements aren’t set in stone. In truth, mid-engined vehicles may also drift extremely effectively. They’re simply more difficult to control at times. As the engine’s weight shifts further back, the car’s center of mass shifts to the rear. This introduces a slew of new handling characteristics, particularly while drifting.
Best Drifting Drivetrain Configuration
When looking for an economical drift car, the drivetrain is likely the most critical thing to consider. It’s so critical, in fact, that anything other than rear-wheel drive isn’t even worth considering in this price range. There’s a significant reason for this.
Power is sent from the engine to the rear wheels via various components such as the differential (which we’ll discuss in more detail later). Drifting is a physics-based sport that requires a car to be moved by at least the rear wheels. Because the front wheels of a RWD car are primarily utilized for steering inputs, it is easier to lose traction than in an AWD car.
It is feasible to slide an AWD automobile; however, it usually takes greater power. Cheaper cars typically have less horsepower than more costly vehicles. In fact, none of the vehicles on our list have more than 350 horsepower out of the box. The lower the horsepower of your vehicle, the more difficult it is to break traction in general. That is yet another reason why RWD is the finest powertrain option, especially for beginners.
Dynamics of Drift Car Chassis
If you’ve ever been to a drift event, you’ve undoubtedly seen a wide range of vehicles. You’ve undoubtedly seen a lot of gutted Nissan 240SXs with curb weights less than a Pringles can. You’ve undoubtedly also seen a couple LS switched mid-90s Volvo station wagons with a full interior and some bricks in the back for good measure. Weight is a critical aspect in drifting, but everyone has different preferences.
Lightweight vehicles, such as the Nissan 240SX, Mazda Miata, and BMW E30, are more agile on the road. This is due to the engine having to do less work to move the vehicle’s (and your) weight. Lighter cars can reverse direction quicker and, in most cases, accelerate faster out of a drift. They also require less power to break traction since there is less mass pulling them into the ground. Because there is less to keep them planted at high speeds, extremely light cars can be twitchy and unpredictable.
Heavier vehicles, such as Dodge Challengers, Chevrolet Camaros, and Ford Mustangs, are also capable drifters. They just have very different properties than lighter vehicles. At high speeds, heavy cars with loads of torque and horsepower gain a lot more inertia than lighter cars. This implies they can maintain a high-speed slide more easily and predictably. A hefty drift automobile will not respond to steering inputs or direction changes as rapidly as a lighter car. They also require massive amounts of power and torque to keep the weight moving.
Best Drifting Transmission
When it comes to drifting, there is really just one type of transmission that will actually get the job done: a manual transmission. Most performance engines are built to produce the most power near the middle or top of the rpm range. When drifting, it is critical to stay in this “power band” to maintain a slide. You won’t be able to stay in the most efficient rev range with an automated transmission. This is due to the fact that the car normally upshifts immediately once the engine hits that position.
There’s a reason why you’ll often hear drift cars pounding the limiter while sliding around long corners. You have complete control over which gear is ideal for a given turn while using a manual transmission. This allows you to select and maintain a gear with maximum torque and power delivery. The presence of a clutch pedal also provides a unique advantage to manual drivers. One of the most common methods of starting a drift is “clutch kicking.” This requires swiftly depressing and releasing the clutch and immediately applying power. Because of the rapid start of torque and power, the rear end is able to break traction. Because automatics lack a clutch pedal, starting a drift is more difficult.
While drifting a car with an automatic transmission is obviously more difficult, it is achievable. This is especially true if the vehicle has a sequential automatic transmission, which allows you to remain in a specific gear without interfering or upshifting.
Best Drifting Differential
Differentials have an important role in how well an automobile may drift. A car’s differential is responsible for distributing and dividing engine power and torque to the wheels. Different differentials distribute power to the wheels in various ways. Open and limited-slip differentials are the two most prevalent differential layouts.
When cornering, open differentials allow the wheels to rotate at different speeds. They are also built in such a way that engine power is delivered to the wheel with the least amount of traction. This is advantageous for dry-weather driving but detrimental in low-traction circumstances. This is also true for drifting. An open diff stops transmitting power to the other wheel when one of the rear wheels loses traction. This effectively puts an end to a drift.
Limited slip differentials (LSDs) are another type of differential that is commonly found in high-performance vehicles. LSDs operate by moving some power to the tire with the most traction while pressuring the wheel with the least traction to keep up. This is advantageous for drifting since it ensures that both wheels receive at least some power. As a result, both wheels lose traction.
Cheapest Drift Cars
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, here’s a list of some low-cost vehicles that meet many of the requirements. The majority of the vehicles on this list have long been discussed in this context.
Best Low-Cost Drift Vehicles – 2002-2005 BMW E46 330i
M54B30 naturally aspirated straight-6 engine
Torque / Horsepower: 231 hp / 221 lb-ft
Price range: $2,500 – $6,000
As older BMWs begin to command higher prices, the E46 may be the last 3-Series chassis available at a reasonable price. That is unlikely to be the case for much longer. BMWs have traditionally been a reliable choice for drifting, particularly in Europe. This is because they meet many of the characteristics that make a car suitable for sliding.
After the M3, the 330i is the most performance-oriented 3-Series car in the E46 lineup. Its 3.0L M54B30 inline-6 engine provides enough power to get it sideways while still delivering power quite linearly. It also has an almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which increases predictability while drifting.
If you plan on drifting, go for a 6-speed model, since you’ll need to keep the revs high to benefit from the M54B30’s dual-VANOS variable valve timing. While the 330i has enough power to move on its own weight, you’ll probably want to modify the engine in the future to give it more oomph.
Fortunately, the E46 aftermarket community is vast. The priority should be to update the LSD. Because the E46 M3 was the only E46 model with a factory LSD, you’ll need to find an aftermarket replacement. The M54 is a well-known sturdy and resilient engine that is easily upgraded. Forced induction is a popular modification for E46 drift vehicles, and several aftermarket dealers sell M54 turbo kits. If you’re looking for more E46 330i performance upgrades, check out this M54 Upgrade Guide.
Best Low-Cost Drift Vehicles – 1997-2004 Lexus GS300
2JZ-GE Straight-6 Naturally Aspirated
Torque / Horsepower: 225 horsepower / 225 lb-ft
Price range: $2,500 – $7,000
Unlike the BMW, the Lexus GS300 does not appear to be a viable drift car on paper. They weighed approximately 4,000 pounds, had an extremely long wheelbase, and could only be ordered with an automatic transmission. Having said that, some of the characteristics that make them unlikely drift cars also make them highly enjoyable.
The crown jewel in the GS300’s engine room is what truly seals the deal. The Toyota 2JZ engine is well-known in the JDM industry as one of the best ever built, and the GS300 boasts one under the hood. While not the turbocharged 2JZ-GTE featured in the Mk IV Supra, the normally aspirated 2JZ-GE is remarkably close in structure and strength to the GTE. The 2JZ-GE is capable of handling ludicrous power figures with minimal, if any, internal labor.
Because the GS300 is so hefty, it is simple to swing it around and get one sideways. In the drifting community, this approach is known as “inertia drifting.” While it is more difficult to shift direction due to the increased weight, once a heavy car starts driving sideways, it tends to stay sideways. More power simplifies the entire process.
The GS300 was only available with a four-speed automatic transmission, which is insufficient for drifting. Despite this, many aficionados maintain that it will still do the job. There are also several forum threads and resources regarding auto-to-manual GS300 conversions.
Best Cheap Drift Cars – Infiniti G35 2003-2008
VQ35DE / VQ35HR 3.5L V6 engine
Torque / Horsepower: 260-306 hp / 260-270 lb-ft
Price range: $4,000 – $8,000
The majority of individuals will tell you that this is a no-brainer. I concur. The Infinity G35 has so many features that make it a superb cheap drift build. For starters, the VQ35DE engine that drives the G35 is famed for its dependability and gives enough of stock horsepower for drifting. Late-model (2005-2008) G35s produce more power than early-model (2002-2005) G35s, and those equipped with the 6-speed manual have a modest performance advantage. Regardless, all RWD G35s are capable of drifting.
The chassis and most significant parts of the Infiniti G35 are shared with the Nissan 350Z, another well-known drift car. While they are identical in many aspects, the 350Z has long been the favorite option of the drift community. This is attributed primarily to the 350Z’s reduced weight, stronger suspension, and overall performance emphasis. However, despite being only slightly less capable in stock form, the G35 has become the more inexpensive option.
Depending on the choices and bodystyle, some G35s came standard with a VLSD. The factory LSD is most commonly found on well-equipped 6-speed coupes, but it can also be found on similarly well-equipped automatics. For 2003 G35 sedans, the factory VLSD was not an option.
The Infiniti G35 is a terrific budget drift choice despite its somewhat large curb weight and long wheelbase. While manual G35s are becoming more difficult to find, they will still be a less expensive alternative to a 350Z while having very similar gear. The VQ35 is a pretty reliable engine right out of the box, but it is expensive to extract massive power from it.
Mazda Miata is the best cheap drift car.
BP-ZE 1.8L Inline-4 engine
Torque / Horsepower: 129-133 horsepower / 110-114 lb-ft
Price range: $2,000 – $6,000
A list of cheap drift cars would be incomplete without mentioning the Mazda Miata. Miatas are the go-to option for a low-cost, dependable front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car with a lot of promise. The Miata’s modifiability is what actually distinguishes it as a wonderful alternative.
The NA Miata came standard with a 1.8L BP-ZE inline-4 engine producing between 129 and 133bhp. Torque is also limited. However, in the case of the Miata, this is acceptable due to their modest weight. NA Miatas weigh only 2,100 lbs, so the small BP doesn’t have to work too hard to get going.
Miatas are often regarded for their ability to grip corners well. This advantage in some instances can be a disadvantage when it comes to drifting. The most typical technique to address this issue is to add extra power to the mix.
Because the Miata has one of the most active aftermarket communities of any automobile, the high-horsepower Miata recipe is well and thoroughly broken at this time. There are hundreds of NA Miata turbo kits on the market right now, making a 300-horsepower power target relatively reasonable and simple. The same can be said for nearly every other drift-enhancing performance component that can be installed on a Miata.
Related : The Guide to Infiniti G37 Coilovers
Summary of the Best Cheap Drift Cars
There are numerous factors to consider when purchasing a drift car. However, it’s simple to recall the fundamentals and keep to the overall drift-friendly formula. Finding a car with a rear-wheel drive drivetrain configuration is critical, as RWD automobiles can break traction and maintain a low-power drift considerably easier than an all-wheel drive car. Front-engined vehicles are also more balanced and easier to control than other engine arrangements. It’s also crucial to look for a car with a manual transmission to have more control over how power is delivered, or to compensate for an automatic transmission by looking for a car with enough power to pull across the entire rpm range.
Personal preference governs weight and chassis dynamics. Some people prefer lighter vehicles, such as the Miata or E46, since they change direction more easily and respond more quickly to steering input adjustments. Others prefer larger vehicles, such as the Lexus GS300 or Infiniti G35, since they have greater inertia and are more stable at high speeds. Both arrangements work; it just depends on which one you want.
The Infinity G35 and BMW 330i are the most likely to drift well right out of the box of the vehicles listed above. Both have excellent power, a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, and nearly perfect weight distribution. All of these characteristics combine to provide a terrific beginner build for someone who is new to drifting. Those two are difficult to top at a price of less than $10,000.