Foot to the floor, Tim Wallace charges toward the turn, building as much speed as a Two-Valve 4.6-liter will allow. He flicks the wheel, flicks the e-brake and stands on the gas again as the tires blaze a billowing trail. Drifting is the ultimate automotive ballet, and it doesn’t require a six-figure machine. Tim created his 1996 Mustang tire slayer for just five grand.
In the local events I run I’ve been able to maintain respectable proximity with 400-plus-horsepower cars on a regular basis. — Tim Wallace, Best Damn Shop Around
“I purchased this car a little over two years ago from a salvage auction here in North Georgia. It had a large dent in the driver-side quarter panel and that was enough for the car to be considered a total loss,” Tim said. “I simply cut out the quarter panel roughly half an inch from the edge around the entire perimeter, got another quarter panel cut it at the very edge and simply riveted the new one on top of the cut out quarter, easy and simple. It was a bone-stock car right down to the OEM intake and air box.”
Starting with a rough project that he scored for only $880, Tim set out to turn it into a slideways SN-95 designed to compete against a host of import drifters and a growing number of Mustang challenges. Of course, it didn’t hurt that his business is fixing cars and building drifters.
“My shop specializes in collision repair and drift car fabrication and prep,” Tim explained. “I’ve been in the business for 12-plus years and had my own shop, the Best Damn Shop Around, for seven years.”
While you might be used to seeing the high-end builds sliding around the Formula Drift circuit, there was a method to his budget mission. Competing on the local circuit means there aren’t piles of sponsorship dough, and you have to fix the car if you crash it.
“My friends and I all have super-nice, high-horsepower drift cars that we drive fairly cautiously due to the investment that we have in them. We all decided to build another car, but keep it low-buck and high-fun! The common drift car is the 240SX but with the current high demand and popularity the prices of those have skyrocketed so we looked around to find a cost-effective alternative,” Tim explained. “This car was purchased for $880 running and driving out the door, which is much cheaper then a 240SX rolling shell. An SN-95 is probably the least popular of the Mustangs, but they hold a special place in my heart because my father worked at a local Ford dealership in the mid-to-late ’90s and I vividly remember the cars and wanting one very badly every time I visited him at work!”
Turning the dream car of his youth into a competitive drifter on the cheap was no bolt-on affair. Tim had to put his own elbow grease and acumen into the build to take it from beater to import-eater.
“The biggest challenge of building a Mustang into a drift car is the lack of drift specific aftermarket parts. Most of the parts on my car I either fabricated myself or repurposed from the road-racing world,” Tim said. “The cars themselves are getting older and have a lot of miles on them now — mine having over 250,000 — and they tend to be worn out or have been worked on by multiple shade-tree mechanics that have done subpar repairs.”
Prepping it for competition meant adding a new clutch, modding the 8.8-inch rearend, and customizing the suspension to allow for the enhanced steering angles required in drifting.
“It took a few events and a ton of research and modification to the suspension and steering where I was happy and comfortable but this car is by far the most fun of any car I have drifted. I was a driving instructor and had the opportunity to drive plethora of other chassis, including GTOs, 350Zs, Skylines, Camaros, MR2s, S2000s, and many more, but the Dynamics of an SN-95 with a properly set up suspension and this particular car’s horsepower-to-gear-to-weight ratio is a ball to drive. It leaves a smile on my face every time I get out of the car. I’ve driven much faster cars, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of driving at 100-percent throttle through multiple turns wall-to-wall and door-to-door!”
That feeling is why he is head over heels for the tire-slaying action of drifting. He campaigns the car in numerous iTrack Motorsports events around the Gainesville, Georgia, area and loves every minute of it.
“Drifting is my preferred motorsport,” Tim said. “I have been drifting in the Southeast for over 12 years in almost every level from grassroots practice days to Pro-Am competitions. After trying many other motorsports from drag racing to road racing to go-karts to off-roading I find drifting to be the most exhilarating, challenging, and fulfilling for me. The level of camaraderie and sportsmanship in drifting is second none that I’ve seen.”
Seeing how much fun he has, you might be wondering what it’s like to wheel an SN-95 drifter. Event though the non-PI Two-Valve 4.6-liter engine is anemic by today’s standards, it creates enough steam for Tim to compete with more powerful, but high-strung imports on the drift scene.
1996 Drift Mustang Mods
Block: Stock 4.6-liter
Crankshaft: Stock 4.6-liter
Rods: Stock 4.6-liter
Pistons: Stock 4.6-liter
Camshafts: Stock 4.6-liter
Cylinder Heads: Stock, non-PI 4.6-liter Two-Valve
Intake: Stock 4.6-liter
Power Adder: n/a
Fuel System: Stock
Exhaust: Stock manifolds w/ high-flow X-pipe, Flowmaster Super 40 mufflers, and shotgunned tailpipes
Transmission: Stock T-45 five-speed manual w/ Clutch Specialties drift-specific clutch
Rearend: Stock 8.8-inch w/ welded differential, 3.55 gears, and stock axles
Engine Management: Stock
K-member: Modified stock
A-arms: Custom extended and clearanced
Springs: 8,000 in-lb
Wheels: Square Racing, 17×9-inch
Springs: 6,000 in-lb
Brakes: Stock caliper w/ Hawk HP plus pads, a Wilwood 5/8-pass-through master cylinder, and custom mechanism for the e-brake
Wheels: Square Racing, 17×9-inch
Sounds like a great time to us, and kudos to Tim for giving a forsaken SN-95 a second chance as a drift machine.