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7 Sick Grassroots Drift Builds From Jimmy Up Matsuri

Spring is without a doubt my favorite time of the year. It has longer days, the cold winter months are in the rearview mirror, summer sun is ahead, and of course, it means the return of motorsports season! Formula D is right around the corner, and as much as I can’t wait to check out everyone’s new 1,000+ hp, V8-powered, current-model pro-drift chassis at the Streets of Long Beach season opener, I think I had just about as much fun checking out some of the lesser-known pro-am and purely recreational builds at this year’s Jimmy Up Matsuri.

Jimmy Up Matsuri FC3S Mazda RX-7 convertible drifting

Returning to Willow Springs for its second year, this time to the Horse Thief Mile track on a much nicer day than last year's event at Balcony, the Jimmy Up Matsuri looks poised to take over as SoCal’s official spring break of bash-style drifting. No 1000+ hp current-model pro builds here (yet), just a ton of your favorite timeless drift chassis powered by a huge crop of your favorite engines, all modified in stylish, fun drifting tradition. SR20s, 4AGEs, 2JZs, S54s and more. Yes, even some of those V8s.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Auto Factory Realize R32 Nissan Skyline S13 Nissan 240SX tandem drift

Without going into too much detail about the event itself, let’s just say it was a smash hit, and all 75 or so drivers who traveled from as far away as NorCal, Las Vegas and Arizona got better than eight hours to shred tires around Horse Thief Mile, however the heck they wanted, alongside whoever else was down to do it (like Matt Powers, who shredded fresh Nitto rubber all day long). Now, here are the eight above-average-Joe cars that impressed us the most.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Nitto Tire Matt Powers S14 NIssan 240SX tandem drift

1. Mack Cruz’s 2JZ-Powered FC3S Mazda RX-7

This one might just be my personal favorite car of the event. First, because I like FCs, and even more so when they look as good as Mack’s.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Mac Cruz blue nuisance FC3S Mazda RX-7

Second, because when you pop the hood, there’s the real payoff: a big single-turbo 2ZJ-GTE Toyota inline-six, modified just enough to get rowdy, but not throw a tantrum when you do something it doesn’t like.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Mac Cruz FC3S Mazda RX-7 2JZ-GTE engine bay

Inside is a proper six-point pro-am competition cage with a Sparco wheel and seat, Status belts, a trio of vital gauges, a hydraulic hand brake, a few words of encouragement and not much else. The whole thing rides comfortably on Parts Shop MAX coilovers and suspension components.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Mack Cruz FC3S Mazda RX-7 can't resist killin shit sticker

Mack and the rest of his color-matching Nuisance quartet killed it all day long, attesting to the simple yet solid recipe this FC embodies. Take a peek at the gallery below for more tire slaying action from Mack and the boys.

2.George Krapivko’s S54 M3-Swapped E46 BMW

In many regards, the S54 is BMW’s 2JZ-GE. Inline-six, cast-iron block, DOHC, variable valve timing, etc. Sure, the 2JZ-GTE is king, but we’ve seen our share of built, 1,000hp S54s, and even in naturally aspirated trim, the 2JZ-GE and S54 are strong, reliable engines that stand up to abuse better than most could ask for.

Jimmy Up Matsuri George Krapivko S54 swapped E46 BMW 330i drifting

Hence, the reason a hotly tuned (by 22RPD Tuning) E46 BMW M3’s S54 engine now resides in the bay of George’s Sacramento, California-based E46 330i. The remainder of George’s build is similarly basic like Mack’s: rollover protection, a widened and lowered stance, 391 rear end and Power by Max steering angle kit. Inside, it's got just the basics like a requisite hand brake, Momo/OMP/NRG safety gear and it’s off to the races. Er…drift bash. You get it.

Jimmy Up Matsuri George Krapivko S54 swapped E46 BMW 330i engine bay

3. Jay Kubota’s SR20DET-Powered S13 Nissan 240SX

Remember when an SR20DET in an S13 fastback was the standard drift car recipe? Driving Line remembers. That’s part of the reason we fell in love with Jay’s car at first sight. But mostly it was because of its period-correct modifications inside and out. The Shine Auto “Sexy Style Kit,” with Stage 21, D-Max and G-Corp aero is what you see first.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Jay Kubota S13 Nissan 240SX fastback exterior

Pop the hood and you see the real gem: an S13 blacktop SR20DET engine, built to the hilt with Tomei/Crillo/BC goodness, force-fed with a Garrett GT2871R turbocharger and managed with a gool ‘ol Apex Power FC. You see those DMax coilovers poking up through the strut towers, but rest assured, there’s a whole lot more where those come from.  

Jimmy Up Matsuri Jay Kubota S13 Nissan 240SX fastback blacktop SR20DET engine swap

Inside, the proper treatment continues with checkered floor mats, Defi gauges, a Power FC controller, a Final Konnexion wheel, a bolt-in rollcage and even a factory hand brake (cool, in its own way). A car this clean might not get driven, let alone drifted, if our name was on the title. Fortunately for all of you, it’s not.  

Jimmy Up Matsuri Jay Kubota S13 Nissan 240SX fastback interior

4. Max Fougeres’ 1JZ Lexus SC300

OK, back to JZ-land. Another one of our favorite cars of the day had to be Max’s Phoenix, Arizona-based badass SC. Before there was the 2JZ-GTE there was the 1JZ-GTE, a 2.5L turbocharged six almost as capable and legendary as its successor. Toyota decided not to ship U.S.-market Lexus SC300s with one, but they did with their JDM brother the Toyota Soarer. Well, Max righted that wrong in his car and further enhanced its output with a Tomei 8280 turbo, a bunch of custom fab work and Apex Power FC engine management.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Max Fougeres 1JZ-GTE Lexus SC300 drifting

SCs are long cars, but Max’s is flared a bit with KBD front bumper and rep Vertex Ridge fenders aero kit, with fat Work wheels and tires to match. Now it’s just…big. But a beautiful big! It has one of the biggest hand brakes in the game, along with a roll-cage painted in its exterior bronze hues, and a sort-of-brown flocked dash. Brown-esque. Whatever. It’s a solid total package drift machine.  

Jimmy Up Matsuri Max Fougeres 1JZ-GTE Lexus SC300 interior

5. David Lim’s Lexus IS300

Like the USDM SC300, Toyota did the sensible thing and kept the Lexus IS300 (Toyota Altezza in Japan) naturally aspirated with a 2JZ-GE underhood. Good thing David is a drift derelict and decided to throw caution to the wind in his car by importing and installing a turbocharged 2JZ-GTE variant from a JDM Toyota Aristo.

Jimmy Up Matsuri David Lim Lexus IS300 front exterior

While his engine is mostly stock (retaining its factory turbos), it’s got no problem turning out high-wheel-speed drifts and laying down thick smoke with his team Hammer Time buds.

Jimmy Up Matsuri David Lim 2JZ-GTE Lexus IS300 engine bay

Its exterior Fineline Tuning kit (a BN Sports rep) is funky and different, but inside things are all business: a Sparco wheel and driver’s seat, a couple of gauges and plenty of Willow Springs dirt (you’d probably want to push this car a little too hard if you had it, too). It’s not everyday you get to see a luxury grocery-getter busting tandem drifts while making Supra noises, but when you do, those are usually good days.

Jimmy Up Matsuri David Lim Lexus IS300 dirty interior

6. Meliton Villamore’s 2JZ-Powered S14 Nissan 240SX

We profiled Meliton’s car last year but it deserves to be looked at again for being one of the cleanest, most effective pro-am drift builds around. Its 2JZ-GTE engine and single turbo upgrade, gusseted rollcage, extreme weight reduction, exterior aero and full interior/exterior color change (love the bass boat!) could all add up to a winning “track-prepped” show car, but Meliton decided to go straight to the track and give it hell!

Jimmy Up Matsuri Meliton Villamor 2JZ-GTE S14 Nissan 240SX drifting

Mechanically it’s much the same as it was at the start of the Top Drift season last year, with the exception of showing more battle scars. So why the profile again? Simply, if you’re going to build a fun, effective, bulletproof drift car, this is a damn good way to do it.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Meliton Villamor 2JZ-GTE S14 Nissan 240SX engine bay

7. Parts Shop MAX C7 Chevrolet “DriftVette” Corvette

OK, OK…yes, you’re right. At first glance there’s nothing “am” or even “drift” about a stock C7 Corvette. “Who does this guy think he is,” right?! Well, seeing how this is a development car for the born-in-Japan Parts Shop MAX, and that they’ve been supplying the drifting community with high-quality suspension components for more than a decade, we hope you'll see our point.   

Jimmy Up Matsuri Parts Shop MAX #DriftVette C7 Chevrolet Corvette

Looking stock, aside from its signature dark silver paint over bronze wheels (you like those Rotiforms, huh?), it’s got one of the most thorough C7 suspensions in the game, centered around a four-corner Parts Shop MAX coilover setup. Underhood is—surprise!—its stock GM LS V8 engine, with some bolt-on upgrades like the bronzed Atomic Airforce intake system.

Jimmy Up Matsuri Parts Shop MAX #DriftVette C7 Chevrolet Corvette engine

But just look at that thing slide. This is what it did pretty much all day, without a hitch. Sure, it’s not as glorious as a 4A-GE-powered Hachi Roku, but in either case, I think we can all appreciate building/driving a car this serious in a manner completely inconsistent with its original intent. After all, isn’t that what drifting is about?

Jimmy Up Matsuri Parts Shop MAX #DriftVette C7 Chevrolet Corvette drifting

The Road Ahead

With their second-annual Matsuri being such a success, we have to expect next year’s event to be even bigger and better. Follow Jimmy Up across your social channels for more drifting goodness all year long, and stay with Driving Line for more of everything.

Jimmy Up Matsuri AE86 Toyota Corolla rear drift

Flip through the gallery below for more drifting action from Jimmy Up Matsuri.

Amateur drifting is chock-full of young talent with awesome builds. Here are our top 7.

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