Meet Team Slide Squad. You won't find Slide Squad at NIRA or Import Showoff or Hot Import Nights. Co-founders Dave Scholz and Mark Hutchinson live for the drift, and where you'll find them most weekends is at a wide mountain turnout high above Los Angeles. While Mark drifts the more conventional 240SX, Dave has chosen a front-wheel-drive Honda as his poison. The two agreed to enlighten us on the secrets of the drift and the reason behind the Army drab paint and show us where it all happens.
Rich: What is drift style?
Mark:"Drift style is pretty much tough style. It's not having an extravagant $5,000 paint job or crazy VeilSide body kits. It's basically a little chin spoiler on the front of your car with stock body parts and side skirts and a wing that comes really low off the back. And some cheap old rims you got used somewhere. Piecing together of used parts, making your own type of jalopy almost."
Dave: Cause you're always getting different parts anyway. And you're always going through different sets of tires, you're always breaking things. Everything comes together totally randomly. It's not like everything came together at one time. If something breaks, you have to get another one. If that doesn't fit, you have to get a zip tie.
Mark: You bash your fender, you get another one. If it's a different color, who cares? You put it on anyway. It doesn't really matter. It's tough style. An '89 240SX isn't a Ferrari, so it doesn't really matter.
Rich: How did you get into drifting in the first place?
Dave: From reading Option magazine and watching videos. At the end of the video would be the cool drifting part of the video. It's something you can actually do, as opposed to the high-speed cars and things like that. It's not like you can go out to the track everyday and set your car to do that. You can't really do that realistically. Plus, I always thought the style was funny. All that crazy stuff.
Rich: So the essence of drift is?
Dave: It's totally nonsense;the whole thing behind it. Nothing about it is serious. You're just getting your car sideways and going all around. The whole thing is that you're trying to go as crazy as possible. That's why it's so funny. It's not serious at all. It's not like drag racing, where people are serious about this or that. [Drifting] is nothing. You're literally doing nothing except getting your car sideways. That's why its so cool.
Rich: What about the competitions?
Dave: They're basically judged on style. How crazy you go. Whether you go completely off into the dirt. Or if you lose a bumper while you're going. Things like that.
Rich: You score points for losing parts?
Dave: Yeah, probably, yeah. If you lose a bumper and go through the dirt, they'll probably be laughing more and saying, "That's cool, let's give him more points."
Rich: How about you, Mark, what's the essence of drift for you?
Mark: Kind of what Dave said, kind of nonsense. At the same time, it's a challenge. It's not like drag racing, where you're going straight and shifting through the gears, which is pretty boring. Drifting requires a lot more skill. It's more of a rush to get your car sideways and be on the edge of control and keeping it on the road and not crashing. It's a real rush. That's my best description of it.
Rich: What attracted you to it?
Mark: The main thing is that it looks so cool. When we saw the Option videos and those guys doing it on there, we thought that it would be cool to try, but we had crappy cars at the time, so through the years, we built our cars up how we would see theirs in Japan, with the same kind of parts, and we would also try our own style. And it works for us.
Rich: Did drifting get you into building your cars, or did you have built cars beforehand?
Mark: I've had a few Mustangs with superchargers and all that. I got kind of tired of that scene. It's just drag racing, and I got worn out on that, I guess. I like the quality of Japanese cars better, the looks and the performance. More modern. They're a lot more fun and cooler. People make fun of them a lot, but the fact is, they don't know what the potential of them is, as far as drag racing and drifting.
Rich: Dave, what's behind the Army drab?
Dave: The main guy in Japan for FF Drifting, Hata Keyama, had two camouflage cars, and I saw that about two years ago, and I thought that encapsulated the whole idea of total nonsense. So I wanted to be completely nonsensical and decided to do that. Yes. So basically, I bit their style.
Rich: What about the netting in the trunk?
Dave: That was something that I just happened to come across. It wasn't even the original intention to have Army stuff. I just happened to paint it camouflage, and then I happened to come across that. My friend happened to have it.
Rich: You're an odd man out for drifting in a Honda.
Dave: I don't like having a Honda, personally. I don't like it at all. I don't like the front-wheel drive. The thing is, I only like four-door sedans with straight-six turbos. I mean, that's it. There's not even any other cars that I look at and say, Yeah, I want that. I would actually want a '90 A31 Cefiro by Nissan more than I would want a Porsche. That's really how it is.
Rich: So, why the Honda?
Dave: Yeah, yeah. I'm just going to bring it to Japan, sell it to a lowrider shop, let them make a lowrider out of it, and use the money to buy a Cefiro or a four-door Skyline.
Rich: What's it like drifting a front-wheel drive?
Dave: It's definitely harder, and you can't keep it going as long. You can't go as fast. So there's that part to it, which is kind of disappointing because you want to keep the drift going. You don't want to waste your tires like you do with front-wheel drive;it's a joke. Basically, if you go drifting once, you better have two spares with you because you're not going home on those tires. They would be so flat-spotted that you'd get a headache or you'd pass out.
Rich: Does that come from a bad experience?
Dave:No, but I've popped mass tires. Like 20 tires at this point. I go through tires all the time.
Rich: How often do you go drifting?
Mark: Dave goes every week, but usually not for drifting, just more for Touge, which is grip style. And I don't go quite as much as him, but whenever we can we go out.
Rich: You say you learned how to drift out on construction sites. We don't recommend that.
Dave: No, but I learned to do everything there, like Choku-Dori and turns, everything. I learned every single thing on construction sites.
Mark: Anywhere where there wouldn't be cops.
Dave: And I don't want to be doing it around other cars or anywhere I'd be endangering [someone]. That's not my point.
Rich: That's why you chose to be around big trucks and bulldozers.
Dave: Exactly, and nails and piles of wood and stuff. [He laughs.]
Rich: You guys are throwing out a bunch of Japanese terms. Obviously, the heritage is strictly Japanese.
Dave: There's nothing here. There's not even the slightest bit of a drift scene. Since we've started, Mark and I have only met a couple of other people who are into it or even know what it is, for that matter. Basically, a lot of people have seen it, and they've seen the whole thing in Option, and they kind of understand the concept behind it, and they go, Yeah, that's pretty cool. But there's a lot more to it, obviously.
Rich: Can you go through some of these Japanese terms for me?
Dave: Touge literally means mountain pass in Japanese. And those are the mountain roads that people go to, they just kind of call it Touge runs. Drifters will show up. And/or grippers. In Japan, they call it grip racing or drift, pretty much. Those are the two classes to be in.
Rich: What other terms?
Mark: Choku-Dori. Straight-line drifting. It's like going back and forth in a straight line.
Dave: Once you start getting your car sideways in one direction, just whip it back the other direction. Just keep going. It doesn't need to be on curves. People do it on drift tracks. They'll do it on the straights. You'll see them going back and forth before they go into the actual turn. So it's just kind of continuing the drift constantly, and they do it on the straight part. And most people pretty much think that's the coolest part. They aren't into the turns as they are into seeing people go down the straights. Because people go way close to the walls. And if it's a Touge run, they'll go way close to the galleries, which are the little areas by turns where people hang out on the sides and watch everybody go driving up.
Rich: What are drift competitions in Japan like?
Dave: We weren't into drifting as much as we are into it now when we went to our first Tokyo Auto Salon in 1998. I took a little trip to Kobe, and we went to this mountain called Rokko Mountain, and I didn't know at that point that it was a total famous drift spot where a lot of people went. And I knew nothing about it except that we were going to a restaurant. And I happened to see all these cars going by. So we went to the top where they were actually going and stayed from 10 p.m. till the sun came up, watching cars going, just drifting. Seeing it in person made it. Ever since that day, I haven't been to any other type of racing other than drifting.
Rich: Who came up with Slide Squad?
Mark: Both of us.
Dave: We were trying to think of funny names. At first, we were going to copy the Japanese by making a total nonsense horrible English thing, like Masters of Such Drift. Mark was coming up with cool ideas, like medieval things, like Slide Magician or Slide Sorcerers. And my car was already kind of camouflage, so I was thinking Squad. And it just kind of came together: Slide Squad. It turns out that's a pretty cool name, I think, it's funny.
Rich: You guys have a Web site. There's a lot of Japanese links. What is the point of Slide Squad? Is there a point?
Mark: Basically, to have fun.
Dave: My whole goal for anything is nonsense.
Mark: It's just excitement. You see a nice, cool car that's all drift style, you get excited. You go, "Oh man, that's pretty cool."