Adopting a drift car into the family can be a difficult process. They’re often turned loose on the market in less-than-ideal condition with questionable histories and poor maintenance. A drift car can be a fantastic addition to the family if you keep up with the destructive maintenance needs and have local track space to let them run wild. Getting mine home was an adventure.
I adopted a 2004 Nissan 350Z in peeling Daytona Blue paint from Virginia, with the intent of giving him a loving home and a healthy amount of track time in North Dakota. The dealership that landed him as a trade-in parked him far away from the shiny Mercedes and BMWs, but the runty little Nissan didn’t wait long to be adopted.
I called up my parents and sent them on a test drive the day after the listing appeared online. Despite not having a shift knob or any ground clearance, the brief test drive went okay and money changed hands. The dealership repaired a few things over the next month and the 350Z, affectionately named Blooper, was driven to my parents’ house… and promptly dumped in the side yard by my mother, who claimed there wasn’t enough clearance to tackle their gravel hill driveway.
My girlfriend and I flew to Virginia to drive Blooper home, and the problems started before we left the yard. The driver side window motor was buggy and would drop every time the door opened, then refuse to go back up, even after a reset. The door latches were loose and difficult – sometimes impossible – to open from the outside. After a test drive on some back roads, one tire shredded a belt and needed replacement ASAP, which took an extra day.
We had to adjust our planned route to avoid toll booths because of the buggy window and unreliable door latches on both sides, so we’d go through some beautiful mountain roads instead – a total dream in a 350Z, right? In the shadows of the mountains during sunset we learned that Blooper’s headlights were stuck looking at the ground and threw dim light about 20 feet ahead of the car.
What should’ve been an engaging scenic drive turned into a rollercoaster of dark turns and blind corners through dense trees and mountain edges snaking through construction areas with tight curbs. Hours later we squeaked into Charleston to grab the last hotel room in town and collapse into bed. Blooper found a Miata friend in the parking lot.
The next day we took off bright and early to make up as much distance as we could since night driving was off the table. The daytime cruise towards Illinois was beautiful and went smoothly. The comically loud, melon-launcher sized exhaust created a trombone drone in the cabin that vibrated several plastic panels off, but it paired well with the iPod mode on the aftermarket head unit. The crackling sounds of Fall Out Boy played through Blooper’s lone pair of tweeters brought back memories of another era. The plastic housing where a bass speaker used to be rattled along to the beat.
When a dark thunderstorm rolled in and the late afternoon downpour started, Blooper decided now was a fantastic time to toss the rubber off the wipers in exchange for finally raising the driver window. With half a wiper flailing and headlights looking down like a guilty dog, Blooper cautiously trudged onward. Another anxiety-ridden stretch of the drive landed us in Madison, Wisconsin for the night.
The following morning was our last day to get back to Fargo. Our highway route was toll booth-free with no shadowy mountains and zero storms on the radar, so Blooper could do what he was built for and zoom home. We sank into the perfectly-engineered, slightly-ripped seats and laid down as many miles as we could.
The new tires and classic 2000s jams sent Blooper far north to Minneapolis in the early afternoon. I parked him neatly on a side street and we went to grab pizza and coffee for lunch. Despite the sections of peeling paint, he looked spiffy in Daytona Blue sitting under a tree. One more stretch and we’d be home with the adopted drift car.
After navigating the city roads of Minneapolis to hit I-94 heading east, a noise started. It wasn’t any of the noises we were used to by now – crackling speakers, droning exhaust, rattling panels. This was a meatier, more concerning noise under throttle: a misfire.
Three solid days of driving and countless years of prior neglect had driven Blooper’s bits to breaking. Oil was flooding one of the spark plug wells and getting worse by the hour. The obnoxiously loud Z was loud for the wrong reasons now. ”You’ll be home in your own garage in a few hours! Come on, buddy!”
In affirmation, Blooper dropped the driver window and tried to suck my hat out onto the highway.
Away we went, yet another nervous stint of powering through traffic. Thankfully the final drive was uneventful other than the awful sound of the misfire, and Blooper trundled into Fargo and up the driveway…where the neighborhood heard a metallic BANG as the low hanging exhaust crashed into a raised edge of concrete. At least he could rest in the garage alongside his new siblings, safe and sound after the long journey.
A few weeks later everything was repaired and Blooper finished out the last few events of the 2022 drifting season burning up several sets of tires and meeting lots of other battered, loud drift cars. He has an exciting life up here between resting in the winter and running wild at the local drift track in the summer. The panels still rattle and the music is tinny, but he’s an adopted drift car and gets as many tires and donuts as he wants.