Remember When Pro Drift Cars Were This Cool?

It could be argued all day that the pro drift cars of today are better than those that dominated the motorsport in its early professional years, or vice versa, but one thing that’s not up for debate is just how cool D1 Grand Prix cars were in the first few years of the 2000s.

So what was it that made these early pro-spec machines so good? I’d say it was a combination of many things, but much of the beauty was in their simplicity. For the better part, these were highly evolved street cars – some still even wearing registration plates – and that kept them relatable to D1GP’s fan base.

If you’ve been following drifting since the early years of the Japanese D1GP, you’ll know doubt have your favourites. Katsuhiro Ueo’s Yuke’s AE86 Toyota Trueno perhaps? Maybe Youichi Imamura’s A’PEX D1 Project FD3S Mazda RX-7? Or how about Ken Nomura’s Blitz ER34 Skyline? And how could I not mention Yoshinori Koguchi’s Koguchi Power RPS13 Nissan 180SX? They’re all iconic drift cars in their own right, and I’m sure you guys can add many more to the list.


But one of the cars that always stood out to me was the HKS Hiper Silvia RS-2, as driven by the one and only Nobuteru ‘NOB’ Taniguchi. All the photos in this post are from the 2004 D1 Grand Prix round in Odaiba, Tokyo.


Essentially, the RS-2 (here numbered #1, but elsewhere in this post running a plain white #2 race number) was an evolution of the RS-1 (left), which I believe was developed from the car that Taniguchi won the first D1GP championship with back in 2001. The RS-2 carried HKS through its D1 program until mid-2004 when the Japanese tuning powerhouse turned its attention to a wide-body SXE10 Toyota Altezza.


Built in 2003, the Hiper Silvia RS-2 took many of the lessons learnt in the original car and mixed them up with some fresh thinking. The front wheel tubs were a new addition, but there was no tube framing ahead of the suspension as is commonplace now.

As it did with RS-1, HKS stayed true to the S15 by running a SR20DET in the RS-2, but in this guise the four-cylinder was putting down 480PS thanks to an HKS 2.2-stroker kit, HKS Step III cams, an HKS GT2835 turbo and HKS F-Con V PRO engine management.


Given the Silvia weighed in at just 1100kg (2425lb) it wasn’t short on performance, something helped along by an HKS sequential 5-speed gearbox – a cutting-edge drift car upgrade 13 years ago. There was no quick-change diff though, just a Nismo GT-LSD running a 4.1 final drive.

Handling came courtesy of HKS Hipermax D coilover suspension and a full course of Ikeya Formula arms, bars and rods, while Endless supplied the 6-pot front brakes.


In typical HKS fashion, the RS-2’s interior was immaculately finished, featuring a full weld-in rollcage and the latest HKS electronics. Note the Japanese drift car staples – Bride seats and a Nardi steering, but also note the lack of a hydraulic hand brake.


With the combination of a Vertex Ridge body kit, Esprit GT-type wing and 18×10-inch Advan Super Racing Ver.2 wheels front and rear, the HKS Hiper Silvia RS-2 represented the height of Japanese pro drift car cool back in 2003/2004, and the look is timeless more than a decade on.

In the pursuit of higher speeds, increased angle and more smoke, pro-spec cars have come a long way since the very first champions of drifting were crowned, and that’s not a bad thing – the motorsport must evolve after all. But despite all the advancements, it’s hard to forget or not be impressed by the pro machines that started it all in drifting’s motherland.

I’ll leave you with the above clip from Video Option, introducing the HKS Hiper Silvia RS-2 and showing some of the development that went into it, plus a few more images from the ’04 Odaiba event below.

Brad Lord



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Be still my beating heart.


Kind of miss the days when I'd read "480ps" and think "wow" because it was a lot




Remember the Signal Auto 180sx drift twins!!


In 2008, I thought Takatori's R34 was the coolest! Bayside blue, cherry blossoms blowing in the wind, and Work Meisters together made a beautiful machine!


Share a moment to shed a tear for Tezuka's 81, which finally met its end at the jaws of the crusher last month. I cri


I wouldn't argue that these are this era of drifting was the best, I would outright say it is. Like you said, these are cars that people could still identify with because some number of them were still street registered. Now, I doubt the average person can identify with an S-chassis with four figure horsepower.
Back then, we had some of the best drivers competing in D1GP, along with the best liveries. The judging was done by Dori Dori and Dai Inada.
Thank goodness for D1SL and Drift Muscle or this early form of drifting would be lost to history.


So much cool in one place! I remember walking through the gate of Silverstone the first time several of the legendary D1GP machines arrived in the UK in 2005 (I think?). We'd only seen frankly terrible drifting up to that point and being greeted by a train of 6 D1 cars sliding around Luffield was truly jaw dropping.
I know RS-1 and RS-2 ended up staying in the UK for a while. They might still be here?


@yes Yup!  Drifter X and Drifter XL lol


I miss the old glory days so much!


I actually touched on this in an extremely long-winded comment that I left a couple years ago on one of Paddy's posts.  The close association between street and Pro cars back then was a huge factor in drawing new eyes to the sport, similar to how the cars of Pro import drag racing were relatable to fast street cars in the early years.  Now, Formula D cars have largely become silhouette cars, far removed from their street car origins.  Interestingly enough, when the import drag cars stopped looking like street cars, people lost interest.  Foreshadowing?  I guess we'll see.  FD will tell you their attendance has never been higher, so they probably don't care either way.

Not whining, not complaining, not pining for the "good old days", but when the old heads and purists complain about how "soulless" Pro drifting has become, that's probably their justification.  On a related note, I've noticed that Final Bout seems to be picking up steam, up one event in 2015 to three in 2016.  Hmmm...  Something to think about.

Oh yeah...  Haraguchi.  Shame on you, Brad.


@SW1 I hate to admit, but the wisefab "Tuerk'd" fitment is growing on me.  Reminds me of a bulldog.


Simply P You are 100% correct. Thesame thing happend with WRC rally cars. Back in the days with Escort Cosworths, Lancia's and whatnot, people fellt a huge connection because you could see them racing on Sunday and buy them on Monday. sort of speak. 
After brand like Citroen came into play and rules change, there was no longer a need for a roadgoing version of the rally car. WRC is now very far from it's popularity it had back then.

It seems people do not seem te learn from their mistakes....


Jordan_Butters One of them went to the USA AFAIK as the Falken S15, the other became the pink Sumo Power S15, again, I think.


ComJive So true! Now people laugh at it


Awesome post Brad, this was D1GP at it's prime. Formula Derp is an absolute abortion compared to these cars in their day. TAKE ME BACK


Thanks for inputting the video, Brad!! Helps alot haha
Btw NOB's '01 S15 was actually his personal car, it wasn't until '02 where the RS-1 was introduced (it was initially black until KT crashed it at Nikko haha!) at Rd.2 of Ebisu


Love this car. It is the cause for my obsession with advan 3 spoke wheels. Haha.


Simply P Haraguchi's car was before 03/04


The Kei Office S15 was my absolute favorite! I love the green livery with the gold Bridgestone Prodrive wheels. 

I used to hate the three spoke Advans, but as I get older and FD strays farther and farther out of touch.. I long for these cars.


Great article and pictures, it almost feels like reminiscing about an old relationship, thinking of the better times.
Times when the only place to buy a D1 DVD was from someones boot in the pits at Mondello. The days of Drifter X and Chunky Bai on the streets or Osaka. When D1 would include Orido stepping away from the garden furniture judging table to put down a qualifying run in his twin tone S13 and Kuroi would destroy in his RB powered 180


Cool read this
I liked the older days
Cars nowadays are big bhp engines & near space frame bodies
I liked the way it was like , 1 big jap tuner company vs another
HKS v G-Reddy v Apexi v Top secret


i remember the article in NZPC with the snippet of (my words your experience) "the press had their turn being passenger, it was all a rush, everyone running for the best D1GP cars, thinking i'd missed out on a drive in one of the good cars i found myself shaking hands with NOB and i was squeezed in through the roll cage and into the race seat"


speedhunters_dino ComJive should see when Kazama links Ebisu with 270ps dark green S14 Zenki :P


I've wanted three spoke super advans on my car since forever. I just can't find them in anything but super aggressive offsets.


Another great throwback post! These machines are still very cool to me because they never strayed too far from being "street tuned" machines in a sense that some of them were still driven on the streets. I didn't heavily follow pro-drifting until more recently, but I do remember watching old video option videos when I was in 4th grade (about 10 years ago) where the og D1 drivers had no problem taking their pro-machines on the streets to slide with some local amateurs on the touge or harbors. In a culture dominated by wide bodies at the moment, these older kits still seem to be strong eye catchers for their simplicity in extending the natural curves of the vehicles they were designed for.


I have a few pics myself when D1 came to south florida in 2009


I believe to be all the explanation that's necessary in order to prove your point.


All the drift cars in today's era are all ls swapped boring........


I actually try to write a long post, 'bout todays Soulless ' pro cars, but you were the 1 stU0001f60a
Still, 100% agree.
Not a single connection with civilian cars U0001f61e
* write this one as Daytona'69"


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Shaunock  They pop up or sale quite often here in the UK, has to be the right car to pull it off though I find!


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was this written by a school child? it feels like it was, as another user wrote recently " the writing/content here is really going downhill"

Jeroen Willemsen

Those were the days, good post!!


Oh man, wow.  This is an awesome post.  I remember my buddy coming back from Japan around 1999 with a bunch of Option vids on VHS.  We'd watch them over and over and over.  The only one I wish they showed was the yellow "Ox" RX7.  Oh, and I guess the dark brown hachi.  Hell, I wish there were a bunch more shown!


Top Secret S15 was my favourite! Image taken from Speedhunters vault ;D


you’ll know doubt


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@losinghope At least he knows where the upper case keys are, right?


JeremieSunico 100% my opinion!


This article touched my heart! Yes, those were the glory days for me. Nearly street legal looking cars and no drifting widebody Supercars...I lost relationship to all the pro drifting thing those days, because style has been lost several years ago, unfortunately.


Simply P Formula Drift cars are indeed beautifully engineered. Nobody can deny that. The craftsmanship and RND put into them is incredible. Some of the more expensive cars have the ability to change 50% of a crashed car in a matter of hours in between runs. I’d say that’s very impressive.
However my emphasis here lies on the appearance of the cars. Call it shallow if you will, but drifting is something that originated on the idea of “looking cool” which of course is something entirely subjective but many can agree that the cool looks of drift cars here is rather rare.
It is also arguable that the Japanese are doing “America Style” better than the Americans are. But thats a whole n’other can of worms right there.


Well You have Final Bout as far as Livery is concern most people want to bring back that Late 2000 era back but that's just from what i've observe


Great pics Brad, this feature really struck a chord with me. I went to the very first D1GP demo event at Irwindale back in 2003, and I have loved drifting ever since. I think you correctly placed the appreciation of these cars on their being so relatable to drivers and fans alike.
I believe @Neal made a similar observation regarding the Group A WRC cars of the 90s. My love affair with Subaru began with the 555 Impreza, and it was enormously rad to me that I could purchase a similar car (albeit not in the US) and raise my share of Cain on the back roads.
Formula Drift and WRC alike are squarely following in the footsteps of NASCAR, which is cool from a technology and performance standpoint, but certainly makes them far less accessible to the casual fan. I like ALS and tire fog as much as the next guy, but these $100k+ FD cars are getting crazy.
For that reason, this just never gets old to me...


These were the glory days of drifting. Even FD here in the States had the style with the Falken Team cars, the RSR S2K, all the cars with the actual early to mid 2000s Japanese styling.
A large percentage of the enjoyment I find in drifting is the style of the cars. Events like Final Bout are so much more exciting than Formula D and the like. Drifting is about style, so be stylish.


i remember wasting 200 grand on the hiper silvia on gran turismo


I need more photo's of Koguchi's 180sx!!!!!! PLZ!!!


I've fixed the title for you

"Remember When Pro Drift Cars Were cool"



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Anyone else remember this from Gran Turismo 4's HKS Tuner Village car? :D


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@kevinf93til You are so right man! In drifting the style of the car is the factor, if it´s nice or not nice. I also lost interest in Formula D, because there´s no style anymore. That´s why I love grassroots drifting so much!


Back when drift cars were basically really stylish street cars with roll cages and not the useless monuments to angle that they are today? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
I'd rather watch grassroots drifting than something like FD.


JoshChaney Outstanding comment, my dear fellow.


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VictoryLapGaming And the Blitz ER34?  Tuner Village was tbh one of the coolest parts of the game at the time.


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What about kazama green kei office s15, that was my favourite, or takahuro ueno's soarer ?


Odd, I could have sworn that car had mirror imaged graphics on the right side to be symmetrical, as was the style of the time


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ChuChu2 More like late 90s, early 2000s-style.


Paddy G Correct me if I'm wrong but that was towards the end of the drifting's golden age.


@Neal Simply P Same thing happened to JGTC.


This was when drifting was still cool, fun, and interesting, unlike today.


That battle between Nobuteru & Ueo @ Irwindale was like a real life version of Ryosuke & Takumi's 1st battle in Initial D.


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yes, this car, Blitz's ER34, Kei Office's S15 and Team Orange's Evo. :D


@RZA how about Ueno's E92? :P


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