The Truth About Cars » drifting The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » drifting Driving In A Winter Wonderland Fri, 03 Jan 2014 12:00:51 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’ve never quite understood why snowstorms in winter are news, but I noticed Diane Sawyer talking about it on the evening news today so I guess if you live in the eastern half of North America, you’re probably experiencing some winter weather. Living in Michigan, where we discuss the finer points of materials science when it comes to snow shovels (my personal preference is laminated hardwood but those are no longer imported into America from Austria), dealing with snow is just part of life here. Now there are plenty of people around here who stay indoors when the snow emergency announcements start getting broadcast, lots of people hate driving in winter conditions, and I’ve had more than a couple of white knuckle experiences due to poor traction caused by snow or ice, but to be honest, I flat out love driving in snow. Do you?

Can you have more fun behind the wheel, legally, on the street, than when those streets are snow covered? While I admire the car handling skill of professional drifters, I’ve always thought that it’s a bit silly as a motorsport, but I have to admit that its fun to slide a car around. When else, on public roads, can you set up a corner in a front wheel drive car by getting it sideways, power understeer through the corner, then opposite lock to grab traction and get the car straight? I can think of few things more fun to do behind the wheel than drive a front wheel drive car in snow. Scratch that. Driving any wheel drive in snow is fun. I got my driver’s license when just about the only cars you could buy here with FWD were the Eldorado/Toronado cousins, Austin Minis and Fiat 128s, so I learned to drive in snow with big American rear wheel drive sedans. Since then, I’ve driven FWD, all wheel drive, and even a couple of ass-engined Vee Dubs, and I think that I’ve gotten stuck in the snow exactly three times. Scratch that. I’ve gotten stuck in snow once, when I got caught in a big snow drift driving on a not very snowy but quite windy night on a dirt road out to a friend’s farm in a ’74 Mercury Grand Marquis Brougham I’d borrowed from my dad.

The other two times weren’t really snow. On an Ann Arbor street I managed to park my VW bus with two of the wheels in a deep snow rut that had become solid ice and needed a tow truck to yank me out of the rut. The other time also involved ice, also in Ann Arbor as a matter of fact. I was on my way from the D to the Chicago Auto Show media preview in a Pontiac Bonneville SSE, nice car. I usually drive through the night when I go to the Chicago show and decided to stop at an all-night Kinkos/FedEx in A Squared to see if they had empty paper boxes that I could use for all the press kits and stuff. As I pulled into the lot I realized there was glare ice and had to drive very carefully. There was almost no coefficient of friction. Leaving the store, I went to make the left turn out of the lot onto the driveway and when I cranked the wheel, driving exceptionally slowly, the front wheels lost all traction and the car went on a perfect vector in the direction it had been traveling, which was straight at the curb at the edge of the parking lot, which itself was next to a drainage culvert. The outside front wheel went over the curb.  The car came to a stop before the other front wheel went completely over the curb, but when I got out to see why I couldn’t move, I saw that the front right wheel was hanging in mid air over the culvert. Without a limited slip differential, I wasn’t going anywhere. I went back into the store and some people came out to try and help, but nobody had any rope. Then I leaned on the car and noticed that it was so icy the car moved a little. We ended up just sliding the car on the ice back to where the free wheel could get purchase on the edge of the culvert, I put it in reverse, backed up over the curb, thanked them, and got on my way. Down I-94 I kept asking myself, “Did that really happen?”

Other than that, never been stuck in the winter. Maybe it’s because I don’t trust my skills from year to year and every year after the first significant snowfall, I drive over to an empty parking lot and relearn how to drive in snow. Also, my brain, inner ear and tuchas  communicate well with each other so I can usually tell when the tires lose traction and the car starts to dance. More than once I’ve backed it down on the interstate in winter conditions only to come across a bunch of cars that had gone off of the road. Can’t those people feel the front or rear end start to dance? Once I sharpen the skills, I have a great time driving in the winter.  Heck, I even did a couple of handbrake turns today.

So how do you feel about winter driving? What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you when driving in slippery winter conditions? Do you enjoy it and play rally driver, or do you grit your teeth and white knuckle through it?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Toyobaru Drift School Post-Mortem Sat, 21 Sep 2013 17:11:09 +0000 IMG_2457

Regular readers of TTAC already saw Justin Wheels Crenshaw and W Christian Mental Ward had a chance to attend the Abu Dhabi Drift School where the RWD Toyota GT-86 is the car of choice.

After sliding around like hooligans, we both had some opinions on them and continued the discussion at the Viceroy Hotel’s “Taste of Atayeb” while overlooking Turn 18 of the Yas Island Circuit.

We go the extra mile for you. You want David E Davis levels of luxury? Wheels and I are here for you.

We go the extra mile for you. You want David E Davis levels of luxury? Wheels and I are ready to deliver.


Wheels - What do I like about this car?  Maybe the seats, steering wheel and shifter. Otherwise it’s pointless.


Mental – I understand why Toyota and Subaru built this car. They needed to show they could still build a lightweight balanced car. It reminds me of the several 1st gen Rx-7s I owned. It’s fun.



Wheels – Do you want to me to go ahead and admit that I’m glad they built it?  Then yes, I’m glad a manufacturer had the balls to produce lightweight car “oriented towards enthusiast driving”, but that’s what a Miata is for.  Happy?


Mental – You act like you weren’t having fun driving it. It’s not that much different than your M Coupe, except, you know, it’s affordable. I wouldn’t call it pointless.


Wheels – I had fun because I was sliding around like a hooligan on a wet skidpad.  Put me in a school bus doing the same thing and it would’ve been more fun!  If you like the damn thing so much why isn’t there one in your garage?


Mental – I wouldn’t turn one down. I agree with your assessment of the seat and the tiller. I even liked the “lift-the-ring-to-get reverse” shifter.  It was a throw-back to the glory hot-hatch days. The constant flow of praise about the well balanced nature of the car is spot on. It’s light, chuck able and balanced. The AC works, the radio is clear and easy, the instruments make sense. The clutch is light, and I wouldn’t complain about being stuck in traffic, aside from being stuck in traffic. You could have a great time with it at the autocross, and still take the missus out on date night. It is comfortable and capable. I bet when BMW introduces their joint “Das Supra” Z4 replacement you’ll sing its praises.


Wheels – I bet the Supra will have more than 200hp.  There you made me bring up the subject of power, but we both knew it was coming.  Oh, but a true drivers car doesn’t need a lot of power, right? True, but it shouldn’t dog out of corners either.  Let me to tell you about the HPDE where I drove an automatic FRS; drove every corner perfectly, and yet Mr. Cialis in the Corvette runs me down on the straight and passes me before every corner.  Then I have to watch him early apex, drift out, and apply brakes mid-corner.  My point is, you can drive this car perfectly and it’s still slow.


Mental – Normally I would retort that it is more satisfying to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, but that Corvette ordeal should be punishment for insisting your Pontiac 6000STE requires 93 octane. I still believe it’s a good car, not a great one, and not a halo car, but fun. As a pure track car, no, but for the young person who wants a solid capable car that he can dodge cones or run at a track day without breaking the bank or needing a trailer, it’s a solid purchase.

But seriously, why in the hell would you buy an automatic? That totally defeats the purpose.


Wheels – Can we agree to never say the word automatic during this conversation again?  I will admit the manual was much more satisfying, but I knew it would be after screaming at that slushbox to “shift already” the entire time on track.  And wait did you say take the misses to dinner?  Maybe if I was 21 and she was a Fast & Furious fan, but I’m pretty sure if that were the case she’d me more impressed by my dropped Scion TC.


Mental – That’s a deal. Hey what kind of transmission is in your 300 SRT-8?


Wheels- Oh you mean the car I take the misses to dinner in?  I do think the car community is obsessed with power these days, but the reality is it’s needed to be competitive.  If you’re the least bit competitive at auto-x and track days then you don’t stand much of a chance against (good) drivers in more powerful cars.  I won’t belittle you with the cars you can buy for $25k-30k instead of this 151 torques monster. Props to Toyobaru, they built a Miata coupe.


Toyota, Scion and Subaru didn’t pay for a damm thing. In fact, the school took our $275 each then we both forked out another $50 for dinner. Mental highly recommends the eggplant hummus.


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Snow Drifting Fri, 24 May 2013 17:31:32 +0000 Photo courtesy of

The black Nissan 200SX Turbo was only a few years old but it had been solidly thrashed over the years. It had obviously been an expensive, well optioned little car when it was new, but the people into which its well being had been entrusted had obviously not respected that fact. Now it slumped on its sagging suspension, any number of small dents defacing its once gracefully straight bodylines and its once beautiful aluminum wheels, now torn by contact innumerable curbs, were shod with cheap, mismatched tires. This car was supposed to be fast?

The little Nissan’s owner was almost as scruffy as the car. Tall with long flowing hair that fell down over his collar and got in his eyes, Kazu, a Japanese exchange student from the far Northern Island of Hokkaido, looked like a real life anime hero. The son of an Olympic ski jumping champion, Kazu was a handsome guy and women swooned whenever he appeared. He seemed to care little for his natural good looks, however, and dressed in shabby, worn clothes that stunk from the many cheap cigarettes he liked to smoke. Like so many young Japanese men I have met, he was congenial and since we had a common interest in cars we had things to talk about whenever our girlfriends decided we should do things together, but there was no genuine friendship between us.

Over the few weeks we had known one another, Kazu had educated me about the Japanese car scene. He had any number of Japanese car magazines and because I couldn’t read the language he often had to explain the content of the various articles. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the future when it is staring you in the face and, truth be told, I was a little incredulous at some of the things written in those magazines. Four or five hundred horsepower out of a four cylinder seemed extreme to me, even if it was turbo charged and, what’s more, much of this power was coming through adjustments made on a computer! How could that be? real power required V8 engines, lumpy camshafts and big carbs. I was dubious.

One of the things Kazu was into was called “Dorifuto” and many of the magazines showed pictures of small Japanese cars sliding violently through corners on wet or icy pavement. Being from Hokkaido, an island that spends much if its time under a great deal of snow, Kazu knew all about this and was eager to demonstrate his skills. So, on one rare Seattle snow day, he invited me along for a ride and we headed out into the hills in search of slippery roads.

Highway 2 led us out of Everett and up into the hills where the previous day’s snowfall still lingered on the back roads in the shadows of the tall trees. Despite the recent snowfall, warming weather was having its effect and much of what had only hours before been dangerous compact snow and ice had turned to sloppy slush. Kazu smiled when he saw it though and we charged into the first corner way too hot.

Photo courtesy of

In one swift, smooth motion, Kazu whipped the wheel and with a quick heel to toe movement of his feet pitched the Nissan into the curve. The back end slipped out and the nose of the car pivoted towards the inside ditch. Kazu mashed the gas, found the groove and held the car there on the edge of control as we slipped through the corner. Upon our exit, he straightened the car and raced towards the next curve here he completed the process in the opposite direction. The curves came faster and Kazu continued to navigate them with remarkable skill, the car always on edge but never out of control in his capable hands. The overall feeling from the passenger seat was not one of jerky, violent motion like I had imagined when I had first seen the photos in Kazu’s magazines but was instead smooth, the car pivoting and slipping in a gentle rhythm controlled by the constant steering and pedal inputs the of driver. I was surprised.

The next corner was a blind left hand sweeper cut into a steep hillside, the inside of the curve up against the mountain and the outside of the corner falling steeply away into a deep, brush filled ditch. As we approached, Kazu made his usual motions and the car pivoted again. We dove headlong into the corner, the little Nissan stretched sideways across both lanes as it slid sublimely into the curve.

The car in the opposite lane came as a total surprise. Kazu reacted instantly, grabbed the emergency brake and whipped the wheel. The car responded to the inputs and the front end pivoted back onto the right side of the road a moment before impact and the oncoming car passed by us on the left with just inches to spare. Still sliding, Kazu released the e-brake, whipped the wheel the other direction and punched the gas. The car pivoted back into the corner and resumed its full slide. The whole process took only an instant and the effect was like opening and then closing a door around the other car.

The road straightened and Kazu got back on the gas and set us up for the next corner, but after a couple of more slides it was clear the fun had gone out of the moment. Caution returned and he slowed the car’s speed. At the first turn off, we headed back down towards the valley below and down out of the snow. Later, as usual, we would speak little about the ride but from that point on, whenever I had the opportunity to look at Kazu’s strange magazines, I had a new appreciation for this strange new world I saw reflected in those pictures. It looked like fun. Maybe one day, I thought, car guys in America would do something similar. Maybe one day…

Photo by Thomas Kreutzer

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Drifting Reaches Russia Wed, 20 Jun 2012 10:46:28 +0000

Who needs a mid-engined rice racer to drift? Latest dispatches from Russia show that with a little training, your can even drift when pulling a trailer. This creates so much enthusiasm that the camera car engages in a little sympathetic drifting as well.

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Curbside Classic: The Legendary 1985 Toyota Corolla AE86 GT-S Tue, 11 May 2010 15:08:43 +0000

Is it a stretch to say that finding this beater Corolla AE86 GT-S on the street is the equivalent of finding an original and beat up 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda? Maybe, but they’re both legends, and while the odds of finding the GT-S are definitely better, they’re not exactly easy to come by either. I’ve had my eye out for one for quite a while, and suddenly this showed up in the neighborhood; a wish fulfilled. Now I’d be happy just to catch that non-hemi beater ‘Cuda I’ve seen driving. Anyway, with all the excitement building about the coming FT-86 coupe and a possibly even cheaper and lighter RWD car, it’s time to take a look at its inspiration.

The AE86 Corolla came about almost as a fluke or afterthought, but what a charmed one. In 1983, the Corolla sedan switched over to a completely new FWD chassis. But whether for expediency, or to deliberately prolong the opportunity for fun potential, Toyota chose to keep the coupe and liftback models on the previous generation’s RWD platform, but dressed up in a new suit of sheet metal. From 1983 through 1987, the AE86 designation applied to these orphans, but the gifted child in the bunch was the GT-S version.

While the basic and SR-5 versions had a 1587 cc SOHC 4AC engine with a carburetor and 87 hp, the GT-S came with the DOHC 16 valve 4AGE engine with AFM multiport injection and T-VIS variable induction system. I’ve seen quotes of 124 hp, but the California-compliant version made 112 hp @ 6600 rpm. That may not seem like much in today’s world, but it has to be put in the context of its time.

In 1984, the Corvette mustered all of 205 hp out of 5.7 liters, and the Mustang GT managed 175 hp from its 5 liter V8. 112 eager horses from 1.6 liters was a feat at the time, thanks to the kind of advanced technology that Detroit was still dreaming about back then. And the Corolla was a featherweight, tipping the scales at around 2200 lbs. Anyway, it wasn’t raw acceleration that was the big draw here, but a delightfully balanced RWD coupe with quick steering and an ability to hang on way beyond one might expect from its 185/60-14 tiny tires.

There really was nothing quite like it it at the time; it was the last of its kind. The GT-S was comparable to what an Alfa or BMW 1600 were in their day in the sixties. Bare bones, balanced, quick-revving, and a competent suspension, if not exactly the most sophisticated one. Front struts and a live real axle with four links, and anti-sway bars on both ends kept things under control even on tight downhill mountain passes.

That was where the AE86 first made a name for itself, by Japan’s street racers who flew them down “touges”, tightly-curving narrow downhill roads. And it became the seminal drifter, in the hands of the Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya. He played a large role in popularizing the whole sport of drifting, and the AE86 Corolla was his mount of choice.

It wasn’t just drifting that established the AE86′s competition creds. It was a popular choice for showroom stock, Group A and N racing, rallying and circuit racing. An eminently tunable engine, and the last RWD platform of its kind, the AE86 is still sought after for a variety of competition and street uses. That’s why there aren’t hardly any left in an unmolested state as this one.

The owner of this one picked it up cheap a while back, and says it’s a barrel load of fun to drive. It’s approaching 300k miles on the clock, but these vintage Toyotas are built for the long haul as well as the long drift. What a combination, after the cantankerous European sports coupes everyone put up with for decades.

The AE86 still commands a huge and loyal following, akin to the Fox-body 5.0 Mustang. The two are almost perfect reflections of the same theme expressed on different scales and engine technology: light, simple, RWD, easily tunable to any degree desired. Elemental sports coupes, living legends: a formula for automotive immortality.

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