Text and Photos by Steve Temple

Action photos by Ted7.com 

Decades before drifting became popular among tuner-car enthusiasts, it was a standard practice for racers. The fast way around the track was usually sideways, with all four tires slipping and sliding as the driver counter-steered. Sorta like in the movie CARS, where actor Paul Newman’s character “Doc” told Lightning McQueen, “Turn right to go left.” While it sounds contradictory, the phrase actually makes sense. That’s because the tail is out after initially turning left, and in order not to spin, the car has to steer to the right, into the skid, to keep a controlled line through the course. 

Of course, in the Sixties they didn’t call it drifting. Throttle steering or power sliding, as they described it back then, was a necessity because the chassis designs were too flexible for hard cornering. But those old V8 war chariots were loaded with weapons-grade torque, so it was easy to hang out the rear end on a sharp turn by abruptly lifting the throttle and trail-braking, and then gunning it to line up the car for the proper exit. “Power is your friend” was the drivers’ motto. It also made for some hairy action at the apexes. 

That technique was one that famed racer Bob Bondurant became well known for when driving for Carroll Shelby. “When I used to race Cobras, drifting was the only way you could drive the car,” Bondurant admitted. “Every Cobra driver drifted.” 

Years later, when Bondurant added a drifting class to his renowned highperformance driving school, he often to referred back to the “slip-and-slide” era of racing, and pointed out that he’d been drifting decades before it became a tuner-car phenom. 

I once had the opportunity to attend Bondurant’s drifting school, and struggled to master the basic practice exercises. But once I got on the track, everything came together, partly out of both frustration and embarrassment, and I was able to break loose the rear tires with wild abandon. It was a memorable and highly satisfying experience. 

I also recall once taking my then-publisher/boss out in a Superformance Cobra on the Bondurant paddock area to show off my drifting technique. As we slid sideways around a circle, feathering the throttle and boiling smoke off the tires, I looked over at him in the passenger seat with a big grin, saying, “Ain’t this fun?!” The queasy look on his face indicated otherwise for him, but I still managed to keep my job as editor anyway. 

Which leads us to another Superformance Cobra, one specifically built for drifting by Vlado Jancev of V’s Automotive, who also handles a number of other projects and drivetrain installs for this manufacturer. 

He started out with a stock Superformance MKIII Cobra replica as base, but the chassis was fitted with special drift-style hydraulic E-brakes. Pulling on the hand lever is a quick way to initiate the drift, both to unweight the rear tires and then control the drift (a device not available to Bondurant back in the day).

For extra help in breaking loose the tire grip, under the hood is a Ford Racing Aluminator 5.0L Coyote that can chase down a “beep-beep roadrunner” in short order. Pumping out 530 hp, it’s fitted with a Borla 8-Stack fuel injection with air horns that are visible through a special clear plexiglass hood scoop to display the impressive setup. 

According to Borla, those barrel throttles pack the airflow equivalent of much larger, conventional throttle plates, and are specifically for engines with four valves per cylinder and oval intake port engines, such as found on the new Ford Coyote 5.0. 

At WOT, there are no parasitic airflow losses, Borla claims, as on a conventional throttle shaft and plate arrangement, and airspeed is enhanced by the relatively small cross section of the barrel itself (aka, the Venturi effect). Combined with Borla’s short, 18-degree manifold, which matches the port angle in the cylinder head, this throttle design optimizes Ford’s new engine.

Besides the hot mill under the see-through hood and the e-brake, Jancev modified the factory setup in several other ways. He put more angle in the steering system by installing custom Wilwood spindles and Detroit Speed’s rack and pinion with power assist. This quick-steer system is geared differently as well, so one turn of the thickly padded rim provides two turns of the front tires. 

“The shorter the wheelbase the faster the steering you need,” Jancev explains. He also added fully adjustable coil-over shocks and longer lower control arms in front for more steering angle and negative camber. All told, it has an extra 10 degrees of turning, which helps greatly with handling at speed, as every degree can make a difference. 

Since braking is as important as hard acceleration for a controlled drift, there are six-piston calipers in the front, and four-pistons in the rear, in addition to the four-piston caliper for a separate e-brake. 

Driver Pablo Cabrera described the method he used when taking SEMA attendees for thrill rides in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center (where these action shots were taken). Once he’s up to speed, he taps the front brakes to unweight the chassis, hits the e-brake to lock them up and jolt the rear, initiating the drift, and then he gets right back on the throttle. Since he gets on the power hard, Jancev beefed up the Tremec TKO 600 six-speed transmission and installed short-ratio gears and a twin-disc clutch. 

The Toyo tires differ slightly from front to rear, depending on the track. “You need good tires for traction up front, and the back ones can’t be too hard, otherwise the rear will come around too fast.” He says that when set up for drifting rather than the street, using different tires and shocks, the car is difficult to drive and twitchy. 

“You’ve really got a manhandle the car,” he admits. “It’s a different thing trying to keep the car straight—a real handful.” During a slide, he says the main thing is not to over rotate. 

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You have to drive the car ahead of the way it turns, anticipate with a lot of throttle manipulation

– Vlado Jancev of V’s Automotive

“It’s a matter of milliseconds,” he points out. “You have to drive the car ahead of the way it turns, anticipate with a lot of throttle manipulation. I use the hand brake to control the car and my left foot on brake, with both feet on the pedals.” 

We spent some time behind the wheel on the street, prowling around for a suitable area to do some drifting, and the throttle response can make you delirious. This surge of power is utterly addictive, and in the curves, when manipulating the pedals and e-brake and wheel, it’s like juggling a bowling ball, porcelain lamp and chainsaw all at the same time, while doing a tap dance and whistling a tune too. All told, it’s one hot mess—and we wouldn’t change a thing. 

Whatta blast! 

Cabrera says that his ride-along passengers for the SEMA demo rides had similar reactions. “Everybody was high-fives, telling me it was the best minute of their lives,” he laughs. “The looks on their faces said it all.” 

SOURCES:

Superformance http://www. superformance.com V’s Automotive http://www.vsperformance.com