Drifting in the late '90s and early '00s remained largely unchanged in its spirit, despite the establishment and growth of organized competition. Many famous drifters were known for their unique driving style, but it was the individual styling of their cars that was a competition in and of itself. Before the days when drivers had a team behind them, before companies started pouring sponsorship dollars into the development of cars, most competition entries consisted of one man and one machine. Often the cars were the drivers' personal creations. These were not cars that had been intended only for competition—these cars were an expression of the owner's personality. It was during this era that Derrick Pompeo, or D.Pomps as his friends call him, discovered drifting and the cars that defined the culture surrounding it.
Born and raised in Mukilteo, Washington, 25 miles north of Seattle, the teenager would often travel to the Uwajimaya Japanese Market to buy Option and Drift Tengoku magazines. Though he couldn't read them, he would study the photos for hours. From the information he gathered, Derrick knew that he wanted an S13 years before he was eligible to drive. When he turned 15, he decided that he didn't technically need a license to own a car, just to drive it legally. So he picked up a bone-stock, automatic 240SX fastback listed for sale by the original owner, complete with the all-but-useless single cam 12-valve KA24E. The car was straight and drove, which was more than enough for Derrick. He couldn't wait to realize the vision he had developed from studying drift cars of Japan and apply it to his new personal project car.
Coilovers, a set of SSR Vienna wheels, and Kouki late-model 180SX bumpers and side skirts were ordered as quickly as the 15-year-old could save up enough money. Unfortunately, when the car finally took shape, the engine let go. A blessing in disguise without a doubt, as this event pushed Derrick to source a far more suitable powerplant—but in the moment, there were few things more heartbreaking than blowing your first engine. Making the best of an unfortunate situation, Derrick decided to forgo swapping in another KA24E and rebuilt a KA24DE (with dual overhead cams) in preparation for the addition of a turbo. It doesn't take much for the iron block KA to handle moderate boost levels, so a rebuild to OEM specs was deemed sufficient with an upgraded head gasket. Upon completion, the 2.4L was dropped into the car along with a ball-bearing T28 turbo. Derrick sorted out the wiring, plumbed the intercooler and exhaust, and it started up like new.
The story about how the car got tuned is quite an interesting one. A local drifter asked Derrick's sister out on a date. Derrick had known of the date's connection to Garage Autohero—a highly regarded shop in the area that only took in customers by referral. So while the date didn't turn out the way his sister wanted, Derrick was able to seize the opportunity and ask for an introduction to Autohero. The rest was history. Thanks, Sis!
Following a successful tune at Garage Autohero, the turbocharged KA was finally running properly in the car that Derrick had painstakingly assembled. All that was left to do was drive it. Over the next five years, Derrick developed his drifting skills on the street, and with no shortage of mountain roads and industrial areas at his disposal, he learned quickly. As he developed his own driving style, the S13 also evolved—the Kouki bumpers and skirts were replaced with a full BN Sports Type II kit and over-fenders. At the same time, the Viennas were resized to fit the wider body. He also went through a few more engines—blowing the KA that he rebuilt, then a couple of SRs. During this time, Derrick frequented Garage Autohero—going to the owner for parts, advice, and just to hang out. The two became friends (and were even neighbors for a couple of years), and Garage Autohero became an integral part in the creation of this S13. When Derrick was 22, he finally got popped for drifting on the street and made the decision to lay low for a while. He spent this time revamping the car to its current form, including the BN Type IV aero, which replaced its predecessor and the Garson Deep Ryugi wheels. Derrick definitely has a soft spot for these particular wheels, owning no less than 10 (two fronts and eight rears). Under the hood is a fully built SR20DET/SR20VE hybrid engine with more than 600 hp on tap—a long way from the little KA that could.
Though this car is continuously changing and always looks like it was just completed; this is no coincidence, especially considering how Derrick drives it. After every track outing, Derrick, who is a painter by trade, goes over the entire car, repairing any chips or cracks, making sure it is in perfect shape for the next event. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that this S13 is his first car, but Derrick tells us he has too much respect for the car for it to be at any less than its best at any given time. We can't help but be impressed by the level of commitment Derrick has to this S13 and what it represents—the perfectly executed period-correct styling combined with his own twist. If we had to choose one car to show the originators of drifting back in Japan what America has done with their creation decades later, we might just forgo the technological marvels we call drift cars today and simply show them D.Pomp's S13.