Now that drifting is finally being recognized as top-notch motorsport on an international level, we can enjoy even more of the treats offered by the resourceful slip angle realm, which is a constant source of wacky builds. And the freshest of the lot is Japanese drifting legend Daigo Saito’s Dodge Challenger, which has renounced its V8 and is currently in the project of getting a 2JZ.
The Japanese drifter, who competes both in his native country and the U.S., has transformed his Fat Five Racing shop from a personal location to one that also builds cars for others, as this also-2JZ-infused Toyota GR86 done for Formula Drift Japan independent racer Yukio Matsui shows.
Famous for drift builds like a Lamborghini Murcielago (the factory V12 is still in), Saito has a long list of vehicles lying around the shop and this Mopar is one of them.
The enthusiast bought the car from American pro drifter Samuel Hubinette in 2012. And with the latter having used in competition in 2010 and 2011, it came to Saito already prepared for slip angle shenanigans.
In fact, you can see the Japanese athlete sliding the big brute around Ebisu, a circuit that has sadly closed its gates to drifters last year, in the YouTube video at the bottom of the story. The action took place in 2013 and back then the vehicle still had its V8, while riding on smaller wheels.
In fact, Hubinette took to the comments section of the clip to deliver a few impressions on how such a large and scale-unfriendly beast behaves in battle.
“This is my old Formula Drift car that I competed with during 2010 and 2011. The car is very capable to do well with. I qualified 1st place at Irwindale during the last competition 2011. But yes it is too heavy to keep up with the small cars in tighter corners during tandem,” the American drifter wrote.
This reminds us of the 1968 Dodge Challenger drift car we discussed last month, which you might know thanks to Netflix’s Hyperdrive show.
Saito is currently preparing the 2JZ Challenger for tire-smoking action
Following prolonged hibernation, Saito is now bringing the Dodge back under the spotlights, having recently posted a couple of pictures of the car on Instagram.
And, after some teasing that showcased the Dodge sans motor (Kiwi drifter Mad Mike, who is building a five-rotor engine, used the opportunity to suggest a Wankel project in the comments section of the Insta post), we now get to see the Challenger with the infamous Toyota 3.0L straight-six in the engine bay. And we expect to see the 2JZ in the drifting-usual spec, which should involve a large turbo pushing the engine to around 1,000 hp.
As per pro drifting tradition, there’s a fuel cell at the back, lightweight composite windows, and a stripped cabin to shed off some of that weight. Of course, features like a hydraulic handbrake and wide-angle steering are there to allow the driver to kick it sideways, which we hope Saito will do soon.
However, it’s not clear if this 2JZ-swapped Challenger will be used in competition or is set to become a “leisure car” like Saito’s Dodge NASCAR V8-powered classic Nissan Skyline Hakosuka (talk about a role reversal).
Of course, there’s always room for more with Daigo Saito. For instance, back in the day he also acquired a Dodge Viper GTS-R, but the project has yet to emerge from the shadows.