An American Drift Car That Beats With A Japanese Heart, In Europe

These days, it takes something rather special for a drift car to stand out amongst its peers. After all, drifting is not just about performance on track; the cars are an extension of their owner’s personality.

Bodykits, lowered stance, wide wheels; these changes are all largely cosmetic in the first instance, with performance benefits (if any) secondary.

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The days of only Japanese cars being found at a drift event are long gone. BMWs have taken the crown as the most affordable drift chassis, and with S-bodies and Chasers becoming more and more expensive, what other alternatives are there? If you’re in America, you’re in luck. A plethora of rear-wheel drive, manual cars can be had, the Chevrolet Corvette being one of them.

The Corvette chassis has risen in popularity amongst drifters in recent years, and it’s not hard to understand why. A lightweight, fine-handling chassis and stout powerplant that can take plenty of abuse adds up to a hugely capable base.

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All of these reasons above saw the C6 Corvette at the top of the list when Axel Hillebrand was looking to build a new car, specifically for high-profile demo events such as Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the car made its debut last year.

I took the opportunity to check out the car at Autosport International a couple of weeks ago.

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Opting for a base C6 chassis over the higher-performance Z06 variant had its advantages above being a lot cheaper to start with. Firstly, the chassis is steel as opposed to aluminium, making the fitting of a roll cage far easier to weld. The wider bodywork of a Z06 wasn’t deemed advantageous either, as all exterior panels have been removed and replaced with an HGK Z06 kit.

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The logic behind using Kevlar as opposed to FRP (fibreglass-reinforced plastic) is a lighter, stronger and more flexible kit which is resistant to cracking when receiving knocks and taps. Perfect for drifting then.

Another huge advantage of the base model Corvette over the Z06 is the option of a targa body shell, meaning you can have an open-air cockpit once a few latches are released. There are no issues with tyre smoke ingress or a hot cabin in this car.

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When the car first fired up at Goodwood FOS, the engine note was not what I had expected. Gone was the lopey idle and bass-heavy tone of the pushrod LS, instead replaced with the high strung, raspy buzz synonymous with rotary engines, hence the name: Rotavette.

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Throughout the build, Axel was adamant that a ‘do it once, do it right’ approach was exercised. This meant dealing with the companies who either offer the best products or the best service in their respective fields. The engine was no exception, with PPRE (Pulse Performance Race Engineering) in New Zealand handing the build half a world away.

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The engine is a semi-billet, bridge-ported three-rotor 20B, force fed by a Garrett G42-1450 turbocharger and lubricated by a dry sump system. The intake and exhaust are made by Walton Motorsport and all fittings throughout the car are HEL AN with braided lines where possible.

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Rotaries are notoriously thirsty engines, and a 20B with a huge turbo is definitely no exception. Twin 1,500cc injectors per rotor are fed Sunoco E85R by four Walbro 450lph fuel pumps – three in the swirl pot and a fourth feeding it inside the Radium fuel cell (which shares space with the large rear-mounted radiator).

All this amounts to 800 horsepower on low boost, with a potential for well over 1,000 horsepower on high boost once the car has run a few more events.

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The rest of the drivetrain is no less impressive. A Quaife 69G 6-speed sequential gearbox sends power through a Direct Clutch Services dual-plate clutch to the Winters Performance quick-change rear end, allowing for easy differential ratio adjustments depending on the track.

Further adding to the Japanese influence are Blitz 03 wheels. These wheels have become super-sought-after in recent times, with asking prices into the many thousands of dollars now. These have been rebuilt to perfectly fit the arches, running Zestino tyres in 235/35R18 front and 265/35R18 rear.

The rest of the handling package comprises of BC Racing coilovers with FDF Mega Mantis steering components for the extra angle drifting requires.

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Inside, very little from the C6 road car remains. A comprehensive cage fabricated by Axel’s friend Robert Hare at Colehill Customs encapsulates the cabin, with OMP seats and YES harnesses securing the driver and passenger.

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The electronics package is covered by a Haltech dash, Nexus R5 ECU/PDM and CAN dash panel.

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Axel and his two friends George and Rob might have taken the road less travelled with this build, but they’ve created something unique that not only looks good, it has the performance to back it up. For a fresh build car to run without major issues speaks volumes to the methodical planning and execution employed.

Going full circle back to my original statement of having to be something special to stand out, if this doesn’t meet the criteria, I’m not sure what would.

Chaydon Ford
Instagram: chaycore

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This is awesome.


Nice car! The tyre sizes surprised me @ 265 for the rears, I was expecting 305-section at least


Most series in the uk and Europe have a 265 or 285 maximum tyre size as anything bigger and the cost goes through the roof.


All of the sudden I now have an obsession over the C6 Corvette and now I want one
Rob Dahm is going to love this one


I wish the C8 had more simpler shape and line like the C6


I presume the entire body is carbon fiber? Looks super nice in that green. Nice to see another rotary on the circuit


Read the article, it mentions the body.


Carbon Kevlar, the green is the natural colour of the Kevlar


That car is so pretty, and that last pic is so good of the car


Also the first pic is really good for just looking at the car in general.

[DJ NADJIB - Beatz]

c6 vette has a timeless design, that fitment tho perfect stance like a show car.


the 20B is significantly more compact and lighter than the original engine so this improves steering and handling, not to mention braking performance. Likely the first corvette to have a triple rotor transplant.


Aluminium block naturally aspirated LS1 and LS2 are actually lighter than a 20B turbo when you include everything. The LS is also a very compact, short engine (tbh all smaller V8s are - they're the length of an inline 4 after all), so it's good for weight distribution. Admittedly you'd likely turbocharge the LS to make the power these guys claim so that's some added weight but not night and day difference.

This car is cool for being unique but it kinda does the opposite of taking the best of both worlds, which in this case would be the great handling chasis of the RX-7 and the reliable power and torque of the LS.


I disagree. I lift weight a few times a week in the gym. Me and my spotter (fellow gym member) could lift 20B but NOT the LS so I am not sure what your statement was based on. Perhaps Chaydon could clarify. Human strength is a good enough indicator of weight.


My statement is based on fact as opposed to some "trust me bro" made up gym stories about lifting 350kg engines. An iron block 20B including turbo and peripherals is heavier than an n/a alu block LS, period. You're saying you could lift a 350kg fully dressed 20B but could not a 220kg LS? Lol. To make it worse, a lot of that extra fat in the 20B is in front of the axle (peripherals) as opposed to the very compact LS, so it will make handling worse. You're sonfusing the 20B with the 2-rotor 13B, which is indeed light and small.


Read my comment carefully! Me and one other person! It was 20B 3 rotors. My spotter is an ex college lineman and I played safety in college. Yes both of us lifted the 20B and it was NOT 350 kg (770 lbs).


You're trying to argue against facts. I don't care who your imaginary spotter is or if you happened to have some stripped bare block lying around the gym randomly haha (bare blocks don't make cars move, you know). I know you're lying about this so you can stop already. Facts don't care about your feelings. I'm not speculating. I don't "think", I KNOW that a fully dressed, ready to run 20B turbo weighs around 350kg. A fully dressed, ready to run LS is around 220kg. It's not disputable. It's been checked, confirmed and documented a thousand times over. Your opinions have zero effect on reality. Go be a fanboy somewhere else. The 20B is a heavy pig and everyone in the rx community knows this.


I think someone got their engine mixed


I wanna hear it scream


The only thing i didn't like in the story build up:"A lightweight, fine-handling chassis and stout powerplant that can take plenty of abuse adds up to a hugely capable base" and then the LS far gone and a rotary found its place.
A fabulous car in all its aspects.
I have to add that HGK never fails to amaze me.