Landin Williams got his driver's license more than a decade ago, during The Fast and Furious franchise's explosive early years. He later got hooked on Initial D and spent his evenings goofing off, playing racing games with his friends. Years later, he picked up his first AE86 and went drifting. It all sounds like a familiar story of how many of us got into cars, right? Except Landin's story is anything but ordinary.
Things really got started when the aspiring videographer produced a film back in 2007 in which he recreated a classic Initial D battle sequence—the one where Takumi Fujiwara faces off against Keisuke Takahashi on the backroads of Gunma—using footage from the video game Forza. The folks at Microsoft admired the video and sent Landin an email, which ended up in his junk mail. Weeks later, and just one click away from clearing his spam folder, Landin just so happened to open the email. Initially, he couldn't believe what he was reading, but fast-forward through the red tape and Landin landed a gig as an editor and cinematic director at Turn 10 Studios where he'd be putting together launch trailers, tutorials, and other videos for Forza. Wow!
Landin began working behind the scenes to push the franchise toward drifting with enthusiast-inspired track layouts, cars, modifications, and, of course, the video content to go along with it. Maybe you remember the Fujimi Kaido reveal trailer, which was "a tribute to the mountain passes of Japan." It was the first time drifting was featured front and center in Forza, and this video was directed and edited by Landin back in 2009. Or, more recently, you might have seen the Ken Block vs. Britain Forza 4 Horizon trailer from last year—he edited that as well. Looking through a wider lens, Landin was also a major catalyst for expanding the concept of drifting to the video game. Zooming out further, it's hard to measure the impact video games at large have had on shaping automotive enthusiasts, but there's no doubt the influence is massive. Without Landin, the drifting side of Forza might not look the way it does today.
As time passed, Landin went on to work with 343 Industries on the Halo series and is now the head of post-production at a marketing firm. Not losing sight of his true passion, he continued to film at drift events and cut a number of videos in collaboration with teams and various brands. Hundreds of thousands of video views poured in, but the whole time two things were missing from the equation: being able to drift in real life as well as owning his own drift car.
The AE86 was a natural first choice, and Landin was able to scoop up this '85 Toyota Corolla GT-S as a base. Building a car in a video game is quite different than actually setting one up in real life, so he enlisted the help of friends in the drift community, like Ian Dillon from Factory86, who handled the aesthetics, and Matt Panic, driver for the ShaDynasty drift team, who was instrumental on the mechanical side of things. Local company Xcessive Manufacturing provided its drivetrain and chassis components. The AE86 retains a sense of simplicity, powered by its original 4AGE and styled low and wide, like something you'd see at a grassroots drift event in Japan.
"It took nearly 15 years to get a car and get out and learn to drive," Landin says. Once he got going, he caught on quickly and he credits all the hours logged on video games for his fast progression. "The mechanics and the timing are similar, so I just needed to translate my muscle memory from the controller into making my body do it." When asked about the competitive side of drifting, Landin explains, "I don't care about winning, just about looking cool." He goes on to say that driving tandem with his friends is really where the joy in this is for him, and that he's always seen drifting as "something you do together, not against each other."
Now, drifting has all but consumed Landin as he tries to balance his work life and personal life with his newfound addiction of burning up tires at local tracks with his friends. It's always a bit difficult to find the time and money this automotive hobby requires, but Landin has an answer for that, too: "Drifting takes over your life...but it's good, and if you love it, why not let it?"