Now that Formula Drift has kicked off the 2023 season in the U.S. at Long Beach, California, it’s time to see how this year is treating other countries in terms of high-tier drifting competitions. And for today we’ll be focusing on Thailand. The country’s uber-rich car culture has seen drifting exploding in the last couple of years, with the DC (Drift Competition) series enjoying new heights in 2023.
Given the country, you would imagine that the JDM car scene in Thailand allows drifting enthusiasts to easily get their hands on icons such as the Nissan Silvia, Z, Skyline (GT-R), the Toyota AE86 and Supra, or the Honda S2000. Alas, Thai car lovers have to deal with massive vehicle importation taxes that can climb up to 80%, so the gems mentioned above are present, but they’re rarer than expected.
Of course, this hasn’t deterred the creative and determined aficionados of Thailand from having their cake and eating it. The solution? Apparently, they’ve learned to build the go-to budget drift car of the country, namely the first-gen Nissan Cefiro, into replicas of gods such as the R34 Nissan GT-R and the second-gen Nissan 300ZX (Z32).
Of course, gifting a Cefiro with a full-carbon body is also a proper solution to be competitive while standing out. Plus, there are a lot of these Nissans around that have been modded to hell/heaven and back, despite keeping a somewhat low profile visually speaking.
What is the first-generation Nissan Cefiro?
Built exclusively in Japan—but also exported—between 1988 and 1993, the first-generation Nissan Cefiro (A31) is a sedan that came in RWD or AWD form. The styling is largely uninspiring, but, once you check out the tech details of the four-door, you’ll probably be impressed—and we’re talking about the stock model here.
You see, the Cefiro shared its gearbox, engines and rear suspension with the R32 Skyline, albeit sporting a longer wheelbase via its Laurel-shared chassis. While it mirrored the carmaker’s luxury sedans (Cedric, Gloria) in size (4.69m/184.6 in long), this was a regular model, albeit slotted above the Skyline.
And we haven’t even gotten to the list of available hardware. Drivers will appreciate the HICAS four-wheel steering, electronically adjustable dampers and the ATTESA E-TS system that 4WD versions shared with the Skyline GT-R. The most notable engines include the RB20DET 2.0L turbocharged straight-six and the RB25DE 2.5L straight-six.
And while the Cefiro wasn’t built in Thailand until its second generation, these OG cars have been in the country for decades and are still present in large numbers.
How Thailand’s drifting scene has evolved in the past couple of years
We get the chance to take a look at Thailand’s diverse and exuberant car culture via YouTuber CB Media. Chad Burdette, to use his real name, moved from the U.S. to Thailand in 2015, and he’s been keeping us connected to the country’s automotive habits ever since—here’s an 1,200 hp Ford Ranger drift truck from the country.
For the record, Thailand’s DC 2023 drifting series has had its opening round on April 1-2 at the Pathumthani Speedway, which Chad describes as one massive parking lot with on-site speed shops, one of which is a rotary specialist.
Round 2 is scheduled for June 17-18 in the Ratchaburi Province, while the contestants will return to the Pathumthani Speedway for Round 3 (September 9-10) and Round 4 (December 16-17).
Now, the YouTuber attended the qualifying day for Round 1 and it’s all show in the YouTube clip below. And while this means we don’t get to see those sweet tandem drift battles of the actual stage, as Formula Drift 2023’s Long Beach round has taught us, a lot can happen during this initial part (including the crash of Adam LZ’s all-new 2024 Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD).
For instance, you should also be prepared to see a RWD-converted EG-gen Honda Civic with a Toyota 3UZ-FE V8 turbocharged to 600 hp doing its slip angle thing. And while we’re on this topic, the second part of the clip brings forth a VTEC-only meet. Of course, that doesn’t mean the even was limited to Hondas—by the way, have you seen this Honda-swapped Ferrari 308 in America?
Meanwhile, here’s a montage of older Drift Competition footage, as shown on the series’ Instagram account-the article continues below.
Toyota’s UZ V8 is Thailand’s equivalent of the LS swap
Toyota’s UZ V8 has apparently become Thailand’s equivalent of the LS swap. These engines come in large numbers and are affordable, especially given what they offer. That’s because they’re tuning-friendly and, with built internals and turbocharging, the Japanese V8s can hit 1,000 hp.
As Chad puts it, back in 2015 2JZs were easier to grab. However, with drift cars and other types of builds having evolved aggressively in Thailand, many of these legendary Toyota straight-sixes have already been snatched, with some of them even getting blown in the process. So they’re more expensive in 2023, hence the rise of the Toyota UZ V8.
Compared to the Formula Drift cars, the contraptions seen in Thailand’s Drift Competition series appear quite similar, from the dedicated suspension setups and wide-angle steering kits, to the 1,000+ hp engines, sequential transmissions, rear-mounted cooling hardware, carbon fiber body parts and lexan windows.
However, if we look past the vehicles, one major difference in terms of the stages themselves is that Thailand welcomes grid girls to its events. And, if you wish to see ladies drifting, make sure to check out the details at the 6:11 timestamp.
Of course, Thailand also has other sideways series. For one, there’s Underground Drift, whose 2023 season kicked off in March. And we found at least one participant who also takes part in the DC Drift Competition, namely Boondharik Mahawongse. He manhandles the freshly-build Mk IV Supra that will also treat you to some 2JZ awesomeness in the clip below.