These Are 8 of The Best JDM Drift Cars
Last Updated on September 4, 2022 by E. Lindgren
There are a lot of good JDM cars suitable for drifting, but these are arguably some of the greatest of all time.
Undoubtedly, some of the best and coolest drift cars have come out of Japan, in fact, drifting as we know it first arose in Japan in the 70s. Drifting is the art of controlling a car that is out of control. In-Circuit Racing you push the car to make the quickest lap times, drifting is not about lap times. It is about how big of an angle, smoke, and speed you can take a corner while being sideways. Basically, you’re pushing the car to the limit with these things in mind, without trying to spin out. Even when you’re sideways and “out-of-control” there is a limit to “how much” you can be out-of-control until you spin out – the art is getting as close as possible to this limit.
When in training, it is inevitable that you’ll surpass this limit at some point, driving off-track, hitting a barrier, or another drifter is the norm. Therefore, drift cars tend to look pretty beat up, and most are not registered to be driven on normal roads.
When considering a drift car there are some things you should have in mind. You’d likely want a Rear-wheel-drive lightweight coupé, sedan, or perhaps a wagon. Your drift car of choice should be fairly easy to work on and repair, since it is inevitable that it’ll need work at some point. You don’t necessarily need a whole bunch of power, one of the most famous drift cars of all time, the Toyota AE86 only made about 118-128hp from an Inline Four (I4), but thanks to its low weight (1984-2304 lbs., 900-1045kg) it still made a great drift car.
Here are some of the best JDM Drift cars money can buy:
1. Nissan S-Chassis
Probably the most common choice when it comes to JDM drift cars. Aside from a fairly weak bracket on the subframe, the Nissan S-models are rock solid. Common engines in the S-chassis are the Turbo inline-four KA24 and the famous SR20 which you could find in either the 200SX or one of my favorites, the Nissan Silvia.
The major reasons for the popularity of the S-chassis when it comes to drifting are because they are cheap, there is a large supply of aftermarket parts, easy to tune, and of course RWD. Both the S13 and S14 are close to 50/50 weight distribution, combined with a fairly long wheelbase you’ve got yourself a sweet drift car straight out of the box.
The Nissan S-chassis panels are very easily replaceable, and they are quite cheap as well. This might not sound like a big deal – but for a dedicated drifter you’ll definitely have to change somebody’s panels at some point, and the last thing you’d want to do is spend hours at the tracking booth changing panels…
Look into getting a subframe strengthening kit if you go with an S-chassis. The brackets that attach to the subframe are quite thin and easy to rip out, or rip off – the subframe should get welded in order to avoid it breaking.
2. Mazda RX-7 (FD)
The Mazda RX-7 has great power to weight ratio, making 194hp per 1000kg (2204 lbs.). But this was not the only thing that made it a great drift car. Thanks to its amazing chassis; with just a simple Coilover upgrade, this was a really good drift car directly out of the factory.
Also, you’ll probably be the coolest guy on the drift track as well, the sound Mazda’s 13B-REW makes is just incredible, there is no other car that’ll sound even close to this, enjoy it.
Maintenance and repair bills will be a lot higher for an RX-7 drift car than for some of the other cars on the list, hence why it is the first car on the list. Nonetheless, if you only look at it from a performance point of view, the RX-7 makes for a unique and great performing drift car. And you’ll definitely get praise from the JDM community!
3. Toyota Chaser
While not first on the list, the Toyota Chaser is still arguably one of the greats. The Chaser came with a large variety of engine choices, but the one you’d want to settle for is either the 1JZ or 2JZ I6 engines. These are known as the four-dour Supra and are super tunable. With just a basic tune, you could easily fetch 500 bhp without really touching the stock engine at all.
Compared to the other vehicles on this list, the Chaser is one of the larger ones. Where the X90 and X100 come in at 4,75 meters long (187 inches). Thanks to its long wheelbase, sporty gearing, and high power you could make some really long and controllable drifts. The downside is that these are getting really expensive, even for a beat-up one you’d have to pay a fair bit of money. Nonetheless, you’ll get a car with probably one of the best engines in the world. The gearbox (a340e) is also known to easily handle about 600 bhp without slipping.
4. Corolla AE86
There is a lot of history behind the AE86, and some even go on to say that the AE86 is the father of drifting as we know it. While you and I sat on the sofa as kids and watched cartoons, some madman in Japan we’re laying down some mad skids in an AE86 through the mountains of Irohazaka.
The AE86 was great, it came with a 1.6 Liter I4 with either a single overhead cam or two double overhead cam options (you’d want to go for the latter two). The AE86 had 50/50 weight distribution and with the double overhead cam (DOHC) options you’d have about 130 hp at your disposal. Thanks to its low weight (1984-2304 lbs., 900-1045kg) and almost 8000 RPM redline you still could lay down some smoke.
The AE86 is great learners’ car for understanding how to operate a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Due to its simple nature
5. Toyota GT86
It is now 10 years ago since the first GT86 was manufactured. Prices have fallen significantly and you could now purchase a GT86 for less than $10,000! The GT86 manage to achieve 200hp from its 2-liter boxer-four engine. Thanks to its relatively low weight (2650-2865 lbs., 1200-1300kg) and Torsen Limited Slip Differential the GT86 was actually quite a good drift car. There are a lot of aftermarket parts you can purchase like coilovers, angle kits, body kits, engine upgrades, etc.
The options for the GT86 are quite endless, no two GT86s will be the same, so if you’re into modifying your cars, chances are that the GT86 would be an excellent choice.
6. Nissan 350/370Z
The 350Z and 370Z are really common choices of drift cars in the states, but less so in Japan. The 350/370Z is an RWD coupe powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-3.7 Liter V6. The selling point is the price. The 370Z and especially the 350Z are generally pretty inexpensive to purchase. And although they are rather heavy for their size 350Z (3188-3602 lbs., 1446-1634kg) 370Z (3232 lbs., 1466kg) you could easily strip out extra interior and lose about 100kg. The V6 in these is pretty rock solid and makes a great sound.
A downside is that the 350/370Z does not have a 50/50 weight distribution, which could make it a little bit tricky to maneuver in the beginning. But once you’ve gotten used to it, the Z has actually proven to be quite a good drift car.
7. Mazda MX-5
Like the AE86, the Mazda Miata MX-5 is quite underpowered compared to some of the other cars on the list, but on the other hand, is extremely light. The Miata has a balanced chassis and closes to 50/50 weight distribution. A first (NA) or second-generation (NB) Miata is likely the best choice for a drift car since these will be less expensive and lighter than its successors.
A common modification is to weld the differential and remove unnecessary weight – this alone will allow it to make some mad skids. There are many turbocharging kits available for the MX-5, as well as some supercharging kits. Although if you seek the most power per $ spent then turbocharging is the way to go.
8. Toyota Soarer (Z30)
The Soarer is likely the most underrated drift car on this list. Sur, the chassis design is not to everyone’s taste, and the headlights look a little bit weird. For a 90s coupe, the Soarer is also not the lightest, weighing in with a curb weight of around 1560 kg up to 1750 kg. So why then, is it on this list? Firstly, the Soarer can be had today for a really fair price. In comparison to Skylines, S15s, and Chasers, the Soarer is great value for money.
The other great thing with the Soarer was the engine choices. The first Soarer was available with the twin-turbocharged 1JZ-GTE (276hp) engine. Later the same year, a 4.0L V8 (261hp) 1UZ-FE, and 3 years after the launch the 3.0L 2JZ-GE (230hp) was available. Unfortunately only the 1JZ-GTE came with a manual, fortunately, the manual conversions method is fairly easy, it’s just a question of finding the right parts.