You could tell Matt Field was tired — working 14 hours a day and seven days a week can do that to you. But he wasn’t sleepy, an important distinction.
In fact, for as drained as he might have been, the always-excitable Formula Drift Pro driver seemed more excited than ever. His eyes lit up as he showed us how his shop space has doubled since our last visit, and explained how his team would be fielding two cars for the new FD season, with Pat Goodin competing in Matt’s once-retired S14. Another Pro-spec car was in the shop as well, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.
Matt’s story behind the wheel really starts off with his dad, an off-road racer. With a bit of racer coursing through his veins, Matt was eight years old when he first drove a quarter midget. By the time his 15th birthday rolled around, Matt was comfortably having a blast thrashing around sideways in an off-road truck with over 600hp.
Although, like many of us, Matt wound up burning time on a skateboard for most of his teenage years. And it was at a skatepark where Matt got his first taste of drifting.
He was skating in Milpitas, California when his friend said something along the lines of, ‘Hey man, my friend is gonna come drift around the parking lot.’ This meant nothing to Matt at the time, but when a red S13 coupe rolled up and started doing donuts and sliding around the lot, Matt’s “mind exploded.” He was instantly hooked.
Although he’s quick to say he was fortunate to be in a driver’s seat from a young age thanks to his family — as well as that he’s extremely grateful for all of the sponsor support he now receives — it’s very clear that Matt has truly earned the place he’s at now. He has worked tremendously hard behind the scenes for the progress we all see from the outside, just like anyone else would have to. It’s extremely inspiring, as it means that really anyone can work their way to the position Matt’s in now – it just takes a pinch of good luck and an immense amount of willpower.
Currently, the short of it is that drifting is Matt Field’s life. Not an extremely profound statement, and probably not all that surprising, either. But there’s no better way to summarize the weeks on end that Matt goes without a day off to continue to realize his ever-growing dreams.
When Sara and I stopped by Matt’s shop, the Drift Cave — which is operated with his business partner Daniel Chow, who is also Matt’s spotter in FD — in January last year, the workspace ended after the black Corvette you see here (more on Z06 FD Pro car in a moment). But due to a recent series of fortunate events, Matt was able to rent the back half of the shop, and knock out the separating wall.
The extra space means more room for more projects, which also means Matt has been able to add a few members to the Drift Cave team. The shop now includes foreman Andy Ochoa, head fabricator Don Powers, and techs Ryan Field and Ashton Redberg.
In this newly acquired shop space, Matt and Daniel have also been able to start fresh in a sense, applying lessons learned for a more streamlined setup. Still, Matt says he has tons of work to get everything where he needs it to be, not to mention the fact that he wants to paint the old half to match, which will require moving everything back and forth.
All in good time, though, as he has bigger fish to fry with the FD season looming ever closer.
In the corner of the new side of the shop, Matt’s been able to upgrade himself to a proper office, too.
Beyond the typical things you’ll find in an office, Matt’s decorated the space with a lot of cool items he’s picked up throughout his drifting career. The Falken Tire skateboard deck, and the custom Hot Wheels made by Jamie Greenwood are nice touches, but the trophies are really what dominate the space here. It’s not a bad problem to have.
To keep pace with the additional projects in the shop, Drift Cave has picked up new equipment to work alongside their old tools, bringing more processes in-house.
More important than the workshop hardware, Matt’s been careful to select the additional hands working in the shop. In particular, he mentioned a tech who has been working with Drift Cave for some months now. Their relationship started while Drift Cave worked on Ashton Redberg’s 350Z, but the owner was eager to help out to help with the build’s budget. Matt insisted that’s not how it worked, as you might expect. But one afternoon, Ashton was finally able to prove himself with a grinder — the most important tool Matt says he owns, and one which is a good way to test someone’s abilities. Immediately, Ashton looked like a really good fit for Drift Cave.
Beyond the extra help, Matt tells us he’s really stoked about Ashton’s progress on his 350Z and can’t wait to see it killing some tires.
That story paints a deeper picture of Drift Cave and Matt Field, though. This is a shop that will work on everything from top-level drift cars to small jobs that a grassroots enthusiast needs done. Matt laughs, saying it often doesn’t even make sense to pay someone at the shop to do these little jobs, meaning he’s the one who gets stuck with this kind of piecemeal dirty work.
But the beauty of it is that Matt remembers being a kid living paycheck to paycheck, desperately trying to invest in his car. Those days weren’t so long ago, either. He knows exactly what it’s like to be in that place, and whenever physically possible he’ll do what he can to help a beginner enthusiast get his car ready to shred.The Pro Cars
Of course, the cars that Matt Field and Drift Cave are known for are the ones that play on Formula Drift’s big stage.
One such car that hasn’t yet seen the limelight is João Barion‘s new-to-the-field Z06 Corvette. The Brazilian driver made a name for himself getting sideways in a bonkers ’60s fastback Mustang and has petitioned for — and received — his Pro license to compete in Formula Drift.
Rather than investing heavily in the 50-year-old Ford to compete at the top level here in the US, Barion opted to build this Z06 Corvette in short order. While his team completed all of the work they were able to do — leaving as many systems as possible near-stock — Drift Cave stepped in to handle the more intense fabrication work.
Then there’s Matt’s good ol’ S14. When this car comes out of retirement for the 2019 season it will become the oldest car competing in Formula Drift at the top level. The idea of Pat Goodin driving the car started out as a joke after Pat got some seat time at LS Fest last year, but over time Matt realized that there’s no reason that this couldn’t be a reality, and Pat jumped on board.
When we stopped by a couple weeks back, the drivetrain was out of the car getting some machine work done. It’s since been completed — and tuned to an apparently conservative 985rwhp/900ft-lb for reliability — and testing has taken place with the new-to-Pat Nissan.
The elephant in the room was Matt’s C6 Corvette, which debuted at Long Beach last year.
It’s safe to say this is the build that Matt is most excited about. After all, this car is the reason that Matt does everything he does, day in and day out.
Over the off-season, a number of upgrades have been made to keep the car competitive. One piece in particular that Matt pointed out were the new Parts Shop Max toe control rear knuckles. You can see the parts that allow for extra adjustability (and quickly) out of focus in the left corner of the above shot. Since these photos were taken Matt has buttoned up the car and been out for some testing, reporting that the new parts feel great.
The 7.0L party piece remains up front in the form of an LS-based engine which will surely be making over 1,000hp again this year in a detuned state thanks to a Vortech supercharger, nitrous oxide, and countless upgrades at CBM Motorsports. I have to say, the Falken-themed scalloped valve covers look damn good, too.
This is a car that is 100% business, made possible only by countless hours in the shop. In recent days Matt has been busy testing and buttoning up the loose ends, and all that’s left to do now is pop on the freshly-painted bodywork from No End Customs and load the cars up in the hauler for the Long Beach season opener this coming weekend.
Sara and I left at around 9:00pm on a Sunday night, but it looked like Matt was just getting ready to dive into the next project on his Corvette. The off-season is more frantic here than the rest of the year, but the crunch time is coming to an end. Matt says once the FD cars are on the road business can soon return to a normal pace at Drift Cave.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but both Matt Field and Drift Cave have come a very long way since they got started, seeming to exponentially explode in the previous year.
But something tells me this only the beginning…
Trevor Yale Ryan