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Nissan 180SX - Cat Fight

Screeching, Clawing, Scraping - The Night Minx Gives Us A Lesson In The Drift. Class Is In Session.

Richard S. Chang
Jun 1, 2001
Photographer: Wes Allison

How about over there?” No good, not enough space. “How about over there?” Nope, security cameras. “What about that parking lot?” No dice—too many cars and people. It’s doesn’t take me long to learn that it’s tough finding good real estate in the middle of Tokyo.

I’m in a car with star snapper Wesley, along with Kent and Norio from Endless USA. Behind us is one of the wildest Nissan 180SXs I’ve ever seen. It’s not a show car, and it’s not a race car. It’s a drifter. Each time I look back, its style (which is essential to its purpose) stares right back at me. The purple-blue pearl paint on the C-West front bumper is tattooed with nicks and dents, and a long roll call fills the left side of the windshield with mismatched type. Very, very cool.

Cooler still is the startling fact that (and are you ready for this?) there’s a girl behind the wheel. A very cute girl. Her name is Maki, and she’s the real deal. In true drift form, tools and spare tires fill up the back seat of her 180. There’s a painful dent in her Bee*Racing exhaust, and she favors weathered PanaSports over flashy Volks. Hmm, a girl drifter—now that’s more rad than a girl that can quote Star Wars.

We’ve been on the hunt for good drift space for the better part of an hour to do this feature. I worry that Maki might be getting a bit bored, but when we hit a U-turn, I hear a loud screeching behind us. I turn around, half-expecting an accident, but instead see the 180 spit smoke out its rear tires. Its back end shoots around the apex and sets the car straight in its path. This is how a seasoned drifter turns corners. I make a mental note to practice these things when I get back to L.A.

Our last dash effort is a parking lot around an indoor snowboard park. It’s a Monday, and the lot is empty. No security cameras, no cars, no snowboarders. We get out of the car, and Wes goes straight to work. Maki, who speaks as much English as I do Japanese, filters through Wes’s instructions, paying more attention to his hand gestures than his words. She retreats to her car and fires up the engine.

The turbocharged SR20DET rumbles to life, and Maki brings it quickly up the gears. She guides the 180 into an arc around a lamppost and kicks the tail out in a vicious powerslide. If people close by can’t see what’s going on, they must be able to hear it. The tires scream as if in pain, which is probably the case. Poor tires—I don’t think I’d sound any more melodic if my backside was being dragged along rough asphalt at 30 mph.

“This is da kine,” Wes says over the torturous tire noise and the machine gun bursts coming from his rapid-fire shutter. Wes doesn’t break out “da kine” for just anything. That’s pretty sacred ground we’re treading on. When he says “da kine”, I know that he’s got something pretty damn serious going on inside his viewfinder. It’s the Wesley Allison equivalent of two thumbs up.

Meanwhile, I notice that Maki isn’t even pushing it. As she drifts beautifully through her arc, she’s also watching Wes for instructions. Wes circles his finger in the air and on cue, Maki steers the car straight and loops back behind us for another go. Again, she pulls an amazingly effortless (albeit hideously noisy) drift. And seconds later, the din stops. We’re done.

Maki parks her car and gets out with a demure smile. Despite her interest and skill in a sport that is very male dominated, she is very much a girl. A quick peek inside her car proves it. Assorted toy cartoon figures with strings hang from her bright lavender cell phone holder, which must be part of a kit because there’s also a matching cigarette box holder, pen holder, and air freshener holder.

Since cell phones are far too expensive for all the communication that goes on among the girls in her drift club (yes, there’s more of them—rejoice), there’s a CB radio at her side. Three gauges are positioned just above her stereo head unit, and skewed off to the side from that is a TV monitor. I’m not lying. Maki’s interior is better furnished than most girls’ bedrooms. All that’s missing is the Jack Wagner poster.

With an SR20DET, a Trust intercooler, and a custom Cockpit Totsuka intake manifold under the hood, Maki’s 180 is a serious car. But, it is not meant for serious things. It was built for fun. And it’s all about fun. Just like the girl who drives it.

By Richard S. Chang
84 Articles

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