Published on May 21st, 2013 | by Jos Roder


Crash, Diet, Align and Modify – Part 1

The Drift Life 180sx has had an interesting birth and development, the latter parts of which you can view in the technical section of the site here.

I have always been of the view that less is more in many ways when it comes to drifting (against the prevailing trend) and this is reflected in “Mr Sparkle”, as the car is known.

Vic Drift Summer Matsuri 2013

Before the Drift Matsuri at Winton in February, Victoria was experiencing a heat wave and I didn’t want to be sitting on the grid slow cooking like every other driver.  I wanted to be sitting on the grid saying “It’s a bit nippy in here”.  Luckily Mr Sparkle had all of its air conditioning still attached (but not working) so I thought it would be a waste not to have it cooling me out on track. So in true drift style, on the Friday afternoon before the event, I loaded up the car on the trailer and called a few mechanics in the vicinity of where I lived. A local garage was willing to assist me and without really knowing why the system wasn’t working, I took a punt and asked for some new gas, excited at the prospect of being able to use air conditioning on the Winton frying pan.

After the gas was added, I started the car and pumped the air conditioning onto full…….and 5 minutes later, still nothing. The system wasn’t leaking, but it wasn’t pumping either. Either a block or a faulty compressor was probably to blame.

So I handed over my $100, with no cool breeze, a lighter wallet and the thought that I had grasped the holy grail, but it had been ripped from me at the last minute.

After this failure, I realised I still needed a seat belt harness to hold me in place for the weekend. A quick google search on the smart phone found a store in north west Melbourne with a harness in stock so I headed off amongst the peak hour craziness of a summer Friday afternoon. Apart from the usual parking issues towing a trailer, the harness buying went to plan and I was now ready to complete the final stage of my long  journey to Winton.

Out on track and the festival was supremely laid back, fun and I learnt a lot with my driving, as i tagged along with some of the top drivers to push myself.  Apart from an occasional overheat, Mr Sparkle was proving to be a trooper. Here I am in the middle of a skyline sandwich.

Sunday afternoon I was in a four car tandem and unfortunately spun causing another car to hit my rear quarter and rear right wheel.

2013-02-24 14.41.46
This broke the toe arm and put a nice dent in the side but it was my mistake and I took it all as a learning experience. By some irony I had only installed the left side aftermarket toe arm before the event due to time constraints. As a result the right aftermarket toe arm was sitting in my spares kit for the event and gave me the perfect opportunity to install it. I was back out in no time and luckily so was the other guy involved in the CRASSSSHHUUUU!!!

Back home and assessing the damage, I knew spending money on a proper repair wasn’t viable so it was left to hand jacks and hammers.  The result is not inspiring, but it certainly is an improvement on where it was.

Realising another weekend of drift would be upon me quickly, I drew up a list of modifications to Mr Sparkle that would aid in reliability and hopefully driving consistency. I gave the list to a friend Warwick “Waz” at Garage Low and he agreed to help, so the car was shipped over and the work began. After a day of working on the car Waz rings me and says “This is a 2004 spec road car pretending to be a 2013 drift car. Mr Sparkle is a trip back in time”.  Inspiring!  Waz added a few more changes to my list which I agreed were necessary.

It’s a simple operation at Garage Low, but the motto is “We Try” and they certainly do!

When I was younger and playing the first Gran Turismo on Playstation, I was the guy who bought a stock Civic, raced a few laps to get a base time, then purchased every stage of weight reduction to lighten the car as far as it could go without increasing performance. I then returned to the track to see how much time I could save. I still have this weight based fascination grinding inside my head and I was able to explore it through the Garage Low experience. After my recent air conditioning woes, it was time to remove all that excess weight, because it was a big useless dangling carrot i didn’t need. Waz ripped everything out in quick order.

I found some scales and weighed all the parts. The compressor came in at 8kg on its own, with the condensor 5kg and the various bolts brackets and pipes another 4kg. A grand total of 17kg removed.

The other awesome result of removing the weight is that the condenser no longer blocks air flow to the radiator meaning the car should have a higher tolerance against overheating. Yes this is a pretty straight forward modification that nearly every car has already removed, so it is somewhat of a throwback to 2004 again!

There was two more weight saving modifications that would prove important.

This is the cast bracket in the engine that holds another bracket to the alternator. It is not a necessary item so was removed from the engine bay and weighed. Another 4kg. Bam!

The factory bonnet was removed and weighed. 20kg. I had an alternative in the backyard that we hoped would be an improvement.

A Factory style carbon/fibreglass bonnet. Weight, 10kg! Exactly half. What is missing from this picture though? The Mr Sparkle sticker has been sacrificed in the noble weight chase.

The total weight removed in this process was 31kg. That doesn’t sound like much, but with a low powered car, every kilo counts and Mr Sparkle can fit into those tight jeans again.

Stay Tuned for Part 2: Modifications continue and some interesting results with the alignment!


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About the Author

Jos Roder

is the owner of Drift Life and delves deeper into drifting culture. Jos started drifting more than 10 years ago after discovering a sport existed that captured his favourite motoring endeavour, going sideways! Jos works full-time in the automotive/motorsport field as a PR Manager and Advanced Driving Instructor and currently owns a JDM S15 Nissan Silvia for drift/track/hillclimb duties.

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