Muscle cars are generally seen as large torque monsters that attack crowds (sorry, Mustangs!). Is that all there is to muscle cars though? Since muscle cars have lots of power and are rear-wheel drive, shouldn’t they be able to drift?
Muscle cars in stock form can drift, but not well. With minor modifications, most muscle cars can become excellent drift cars.
Muscle cars are known to have incredibly soft and unstable suspension, especially the earlier years. Having such incredibly soft suspension and high weight result in large amounts of body roll. With that, these cars are unstable around corners, whether you’re gripping or going sideways. While muscle cars have torque, if they don’t have a stable wheelbase, their balance through the skid will be all over. However, there are plenty of muscle cars that drift! What do they need to be able to drift though?
How To Modify Muscle Cars To Drift
Taking a car that’s built to go fast in a straight line and converting it to a drift car isn’t as hard as you think. Really, there’s three things to worry about: power, steering angle, and suspension. Each one of these is important for fairly obvious reasons, but they’re all essential to just about any drift car.
While some tuner cars struggle with power, muscle cars excel here. From the factory, they generally have an excess of power (for that 1/4 mile), meaning they’ll have enough balls to keep the tires spinning. Simple modifications to give your car a little extra “oomph” include a larger intake/throttle body, a free-flowing exhaust, and a dyno tune.
If your car doesn’t have enough power to keep the tires spinning even with those modifications, there’s more options. You could have your car tuned to run on a higher octane fuel, such as E85 or Methanol. Some Formula D cars have a NOS injection system installed as well, to help them run that much power.
This is the easiest of the 3 to correct. With almost any car on the market, you can purchase an “angle kit”. These allow you to steer much farther, making it easier to control drifts at high angle. Stock muscle cars generally have about 30 degrees of steering angle to each side. This isn’t nearly enough, and that’s where an angle kit comes in. With the average angle kit, you’re getting 65 degrees and more per side!
Being able to steer that much will give you an incredible amount of control over your car at high angle. Not only that, but it will help in day-to-day life as well. Slow-speed maneuvering becomes much easier, your car being able to steer much tighter and quicker. However, when you’re at high speed, the increased angle makes your steering much more twitchy. I wouldn’t recommend putting an angle kit on a car that would go over 60mph, for safety reasons.
Oh boy, this is easily the biggest problem. The suspension from most muscle cars is meant to be able to squat and help absorb some of the launching force, giving more mechanical grip. While mechanical grip is a big part of drifting, this is different. Muscle cars, if sliding sideways, have incredible body roll. In drifting, this imbalance makes controlling your slide incredibly difficult.
It is common to see drifting muscle cars on coilovers, or on air suspension, to tighten up the car. Anti-roll bars in the front and rear keep the car even tighter, further negating the body roll caused by such a heavy car. These together can help the car stay much more stable in a drift, and provide more mechanical grip while drifting.
Vaughn Gittin Jr: 2018 Mustang RTR Spec-5D
Starting off with the word of Formula Drift, we have one of the most recognizable cars to grace the circuit. VGjr’s sponsorship-laden Mustang, pushing out over 1100whp, has been shredding tires for years. With a Roush/Ford Coyote v8 and a full nitrous system hooked up, it can put up quite the smoke-show!
This car, as of recently, became the first car to drift the entire Nürburgring in one try! It took him three sets of tires to do it, but the smoke is a sure sign of where those went.
ChrisFix: 1998 Mustang GT “DriftStang”
Not all muscle cars need millions of dollars worth of R&D behind them to drift! Famous YouTuber ChrisFix has started to build his own car, his DriftStang. With only a few performance mods (including an exhaust system, throttle body, intake manifold, and tune), he is able to get the tires smoking. He bought this car as a non-runner, and with a little work, he got himself a car to learn to drift with!
He made videos every step of the way, from getting the car running to steering angle, even showing him learning to drift. His videos are always entertaining and informative, and he is a very relatable person.
Ken Block: 1965 Mustang “Hoonicorn” V1+V2
Here’s another oddity in the drifting world; an all-wheel drive classic Mustang. Oh, not just one of them, there’s been two! Ken Block’s Hoonicorn v1 was a 1965 Mustang notchback with just shy of 850 naturally-aspirated horsepower. This tire-muncher is completely slammed to the ground, with the Mad Max-esque hood scoop and gray on black color scheme. His rally-inspired style of driving in this Hoonicorn can be seen in his Gymkhana 7 video.
Did you think that was crazy? It only gets better from here! With a new livery, a revised driveline, and an almost completely rebuilt motor, the Hoonicorn v2 comes out kicking and screaming. Adding two turbochargers (pushing 21 pounds of boost) to the already ludicrous engine forces the horsepower all the way to 1,400 to the wheels. Watching him shred all the way up Pikes Peak in Climbkhana 2 was our first look at his new monster.
While all-wheel drive sliding isn’t technically drifting, 240Drift isn’t picky. There’s a lot of smoke, engine noise, and that perfect smell of burning rubber mixed with burned race fuel. What more could you want? A yule log video?
Don’t worry, Hoonigan has you covered there too!
Dean Kearney: 2006 Oracle Lighting Viper
Up until now, we’ve been talking exclusively about Mustangs. While those muscle cars have avoided attacking crowds somehow, let’s talk about a more exotic muscle car (an oxymoron, but bear with me). Namely, a 1,500whp, twin-turbocharged Dodge Viper built by Oracle Lighting’s Motorsports division. This v10 beast has been running in Formula Drift for 10 years, and even before that, it was burning tires over the pond in the European drift circuit.
While this car doesn’t have some exotic manufacturer, and the driver doesn’t have some crazy pedigree, that doesn’t stop the two of them from scaring tires away! There’s enough power under the hood to outrun a Bugatti Veyron!