Sometimes, you just need to take a step back, take stock, and view things a little less seriously.
That even goes for professional drifters. Grasping your passion and squeezing a living from it is undoubtedly what constitutes ‘the dream,’ but with professionalism comes the pressures, including performance measurables and sponsorship commitments. It’s passion elevated to the next level.
It might sound a bit weird to the casual onlooker, because how could you possibly have more fun than slinging a 1000hp-plus, weapons-grade drift machine sideways in front of adoring fans?
Mad Mike Whiddett reckons he’s got the perfect mechanism to forget the rigours of professional sportsmanship and focus on the lighter side of drifting. It’s the anti-pro drift car; this is the MADCAB.
Publicly unveiled at the 2017 Summer Bash event, MADCAB is a drift car with a difference. Mike says the uninitiated swarmed around the car across the weekend, with murmurs along the lines of ‘what is this – a C33 Laurel?’ permeating conversations.
A Nissan it most definitely isn’t. This is Mad Mike, ambassador for all things Mazda – generally rotary-powered – so a switch of codes was never going to do for the latest creation to roll from the MADLAB lair. Still in the dark? This is an HC chassis Mazda Luce, the flagship of the Hiroshima fleet from 1986 through to sometime in 1991. And yes, before someone points it out, it’s pronounced ‘Loo-Chay’ but the opportunity for a colloquial pun simply can’t be denied.
It was as big and luxurious as Mazdas got at the time, and the Luce was also propelled by the rear wheels. That made it an ideal platform for the germination of an idea in the back of Mike’s creative mind.
While the idea bounced around for a year, it only took two months to build the fully-fledged four-door drift machine. That’s testament to the solid and loyal relationships Mike maintains with his roster of key partners.Four Doors For More..?
The term ‘drift taxi’ has long been bandied around, generally as a reference towards some of the big-body drift cars like the aforementioned Laurel, plus Nissan Cefiros and the X-chassis Toyota varieties. The Luce takes the moniker and runs with it – quite literally.
The creative process involved is especially notable. It’s a facet of any build that Mike heavily invests his personality into, evident with the constant updates and switching up of his stable of pro-spec BULs. The Luce? Well, it’s a complete departure from the Red Bull liveries of the pro cars, instead embracing the Tokyo taxi theme with an unmistakable yellow on black combo, all designed and applied in-house at Mike’s Hampton Downs Motorsport Park-based workshop.
Translation of the kanji on the sides clearly states the Luce’s intent: boso-kōtsū, or crazy transportation, headed by Mike’s ‘MM’ logo is a reasonably straightforward hint of what any prospective fares might be in for as they step from the kerb into the Mazda’s oh-so-’80s sumptuously-appointed maroon interior.
Here, Mike has fitted up a range of Japanese taxi curios, all in the name of a bit of authenticity. The rear shelf sports an illuminated sign which, ironically, states smoking is prohibited. Up the front, a real-deal meter complete with ¥200 flag-fall nestles into the centre console, juxtaposing with the array of drift-specific hardware.
But the pièce de résistance sits on the dashboard. From the outside, this gadget lets prospective thrill-riders know MADCAB is available for hire, while inside the passengers are informed of who their somewhat unhinged chauffeur is, courtesy of a custom license card produced by Mike himself.
Just peering through the front driver’s side window, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just like any other drift interior. A suede OMP steering wheel, roll cage, and the billet lever for the ASD hydraulic handbrake stand proud amongst the maroon.
But with the frameless doors flung open, the full story unfolds: a full cage fabricated by the team at PPRE surrounds four Takata Racing bucket seats and harnesses. The cage is 100% homologated and approved by the Kiwi motorsport authority, and Mike even explained it’s been designed in such a manner that the car can be engineer-certified to be road legal. Meaning, the whole taxi thing can be taken a little more literally than most may expect.
While Mike’s out there on track letting others experience the drifting buzz, there are further details his captors can take in. The Takata seats, for example, have custom-ordered maroon piping around their periphery, as well as MADCAB embroidered logos. Each passenger also has their very own tsurikawa to grasp while experiencing a whole bunch of lateral G-forces.Not Just A Show Pony
Originally, this HC Mazda Luce trudged through city streets with a 3.0-litre SOHC V6. Unsurprisingly the original engine has been sent to the scrapyard, a PPRE-built 13B turbo now nestling in its spot.
At its core the engine is JC Cosmo fare. Mike explains the JC block is the pick of the bunch when it comes to 13Bs, simply due to its superior port design which leaves a bit more freedom to run wild with breathing mods.
The engine now sports a hearty bridge-port, maybe a bit too extensive as Mike admits, but it does give the Luce a pulsing idle that’s the archetype of the late ’90s Kiwi modified rotary scene. The turbo is a big, old school plain bearing Garrett, scavenged from the parts shelf, expelling its gases into a home-built 3.5-inch stainless exhaust, exiting via a retro Dytech muffler. The combo is good for around 420hp on 24psi of boost, plenty to pitch a family of four on a wild ride sideways.
Mike explains the key to drifting a peaky rotary engine is quick and easy access to close gear ratios. While the Exedy triple-plate clutch is a cast-off from the RADBUL MX-5, the HGT Precision 6-speed sequential transmission is anything but. Supplied as a bolt-in kit to suit the FD RX-7, the HGT gear is Kiwi-designed and manufactured. It’s been adapted to fit the Luce floorpan and the billet shifter rises from the original maroon shift boot, consistent with many of the little details peppering the build.
Like his pro cars, rolling stock is Rotiform. In this instance they’re a bit smaller than usual, measuring 15×10-inch in the RBQ style. Extras for the rear come in the form of classic black off-road steelies, a cost effective option to stretch a 205-section tyre across. Redline Performance, a sponsor who’s been alongside Whiddett since his earliest days of drifting, served up a set of aggressively sprung BC Racing coilovers, crucial to handling a full car load of yahooing, high-fiving adrenaline seekers.
While MADCAB is built on the relationships formed through carving out a professional career, for Mike it’s also about giving something back. The intent is to share the enthusiasm, to say thanks to a range of generous backers, to his team of dedicated fabricators and spanner-spinners who make each race weekend possible. Even to say thanks to the Kiwi public for keeping the faith.
Remember, whether you’re a builder, a racer, or even a photographer in the car scene, chances are you’ve entered the realm through a pursuit of passion. No matter how far you progress, it’s crucial to take the occasional look back and reminisce on how you got here. And like Mad Mike, don’t forget to have a little bit – or a whopping great dollop – of fun along the way.