In 2011 I got really into drifting and Japanese car culture. At the time, I found other motorsports to be stuffy; not enough fun. I was just a kid who was mostly wrong about the other motorsports, but drifting was a microcosm of something unbelievable. This video from Beardlife.com captures every last ounce of it.
Drifting in the late 2000s and early 2010s was a cultural moment. It was the start of the zero care, all style, full-throttle American drift culture that overtook most of the drift world. It still existed in a strange spot in-between counterculture and mainstream, where grassroots drivers in basic cars competed alongside full-blown factory-backed race cars. You could see low, Japanese-style FC RX-7s fighting contemporary Mustangs. Where else would that happen?
Formula Drift’s 2012 season was the year I can definitively say that everything in the scene changed. It was the first year Daigo Saito competed with his nearly 1,000 horsepower 2JZ Lexus SC430 and his aggressive tandem style, changing the field for everybody. We’re used to hearing about 1,000-HP drift cars today, but back then the average power was maybe half that. The mass adoption of JZs and forced-induction V8s hadn’t happened quite yet, so it was still something of an everyman’s sport.
Moving away from the shop talk, the 2012 season also had some of the purest fun energy around it. It was still a bunch of kids who wanted to party and slide cars, and avant garde content creators using the spectacle and energy of drifting to carve careers out for themselves. Beardlife.com may be no more, but it’s only because Hertrech Eugene Jr. ran it and he’s now a staple of the staff at Hoonigan. He was and is a big vector for drift culture to enter the mainstream consciousness.
It was the era of Matt Powers, grassroots wonder, of Rhys Millen and his works Hyundai Genesis, of Jeremy Lowe and his 13B powered FC RX-7, of Pat Goodin and Walker Wilkerson in simple LS-powered 240SXs, and of Bil Baldwin flagging the street of Long Beach. It was a magic one.
Even seeing those old VLEDS LED clipping points and track features threw me right back to 2012. It’s all about remembering what made drifting so great back then, and how it’s evolved to today. It was also the awareness of being part of something that wasn’t quite big yet, but was special enough to be something significant. I knew that hanging around drifting back then would lead me to interesting people, and it certainly did.
Pro drifting is so big; such a machine now. Luckily, you can still experience parts of this old culture in the grassroots corners of drift which are alive and well. There’s still plenty of media people roaming around, searching for great stuff, open access, and generally nice people who are in it for the love. But there’s something a little extra special watching clips from about a decade ago, before it was really on big money’s radar. Enjoy the hard-sliding time-machine clip above.