A Formula D car is never cheap to run. The obvious consumable is only one part of the cost equation. A great deal of strain on the powertrain must be considered, as well as the greater complexity of a machine designed to perform at the limits of its abilities for a very short span of time while a drift is in process.
When huge audiences gather and expect to be impressed, the exorbitant cost of running one is justified. However, drifters need their seat time and big marques like their drivers to showcase their vehicles at car shows and other promotional events, so for these reasons they often employ a demo car, as Vaughn Gittin Jr. calls the toned-down version of the 1,400-horsepower Formula D-spec S550.
There are a few key differences between the all-out Formula D drift machine and the cost-effective demo drifters Ford Performance has built for Gittin Jr, Chelsea DeNofa, and newcomer Adam LZ. During demonstration runs, these cars usually run under 60 mph, so the cars are designed to oversteer readily. The full-bore Formula D cars, by comparison, typically use a “tighter” setup—they’re made to understeer slightly, thus requiring more provocation to go sideways. This sort of balance helps when they are supposed to slide at a 100 mph.
These demo drift cars run around city streets, short tracks, and parking lots, which do not require the quad-digit power to pull off. The demo car’s engine still makes plenty of poke, about 750 horsepower, but its milder nature means it doesn’t have to be rebuilt so frequently, nor does it abuse the tires as much.
The demo car is powered by a centrifugal Vortech supercharged Aluminator with forged internals. Though the centrifugal blower runs cooler than the factory Roots-style unit, the motor requires more assistance to stay chilled—mainly a larger radiator and a larger fan. Running an ethanol-based X85 drops temperatures a little more. That fuel also allows for impressive gains with a little more boost pressure.
With a tweak of a switch, it can ramp that power up to 950, which is then sent through a Ford Performance TREMEC T56 Magnum gearbox before it reaches a Driveshaft Shop 9″ rear. Simple, robust, and more than powerful enough for crowd pleasing.
A stripped interior and plenty of lightweight bodywork gets the Mustang down to a respectable 3,000 pounds. The kit is comprised of Mustang RTR Spec 5-D widebody with their carbon fiber body panels, chin spoiler, rocker splitters, and grilles with integrated lighting
While the demo car’s weight must be considered, it’s not as crucial as it is with the competition version. This is evident in the location of certain heavy ancillaries. With the demo version, the battery and radiator are kept in their factory positions. The Formula D drift car requires a little more traction and must allow for quick repairs in the event of a front-end collision, so most of the competition car’s cooling system and its other heavy extras are often mounted near the rear axle.
Thanks to these changes, the demo drift cars cost roughly one-fifth of what it requires to get a Formula D car out on track. The demo car also requires half the staff. Still, to those unaware of the cost and complexity of running a modern Formula D team, the demo car seems just as impressive.