8 of Our Favorite Rally Cars From the 2017 Summer Sno*Drift
Atlanta, Michigan's Summer Sno*Drift stage rally in early August was the most action-packed oxymoron of the year. Instead of snot-sicles hanging from our noses during the previous winter Sno*Drift event, sunshine kept everyone’s spirits high — despite the obstacles that the lack of snow presented, such as rocks the size boulders and crater-like dips. A few days worth of rain left the dirt roads soft in some spots and washed out in others, and by the end of each stage, the hard-driven rally cars were digging ruts halfway to Australia.
The entire event represented grassroots rally at its finest, and a wide variety of platforms were selected to battle the terrain. Here are eight standouts:
1. '14 Mitsubishi Mirage R
Take this 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage R5, for instance. Beneath its stout body is a 300-hp Mitsubishi Evo X drivetrain backed by a six-speed sequential gearbox. The AWD system breaks through tough turf like a tiny speed racing bulldozer.
2. '86 Mazda RX-7
Team Minimal Effort Motorsports’ 1986 Mazda RX-7 earned its nickname, the "Franken Wankel," from its array of budget rally modifications. The high-revving rotary made its presence known before it was within our sight range. Being a lightweight RWD, it swept around the disrupted course, nose pointed determinedly upwards during heavy acceleration. Sometimes the cars seem to be having just as much fun as the people who pilot them.
3. '03 Pontiac Vibe
The words “reliable” and “rally car” are rarely paired together in the same sentence, but after running 18 events on the original drivetrain (and counting), this 2003 Pontiac Vibe is an exception. Purchased as a salvage vehicle with 1,600 miles, Doug Gekiere made the necessary repairs and built a competitive steadfast all-terrain machine. It kept up the good vibrations during Summer Sno*Drift 2017 and took 2nd in class with Doug behind the wheel and Matthew Hoffman navigating the terrain.
4. '94 Subaru Legacy
The “Redux” 1994 Subaru Legacy is a familiar sight to the regional Rally America series. Whenever it rounds a corner, adults and children alike exclaim, “It’s the duct tape car!” Grassroots rally is all about having fun and driving hard on a budget, and this little Subie lets the good times roll. Redux has seen its fair share of crashes and rebuilds over the years, but it was nothing that a little duct tape couldn’t fix.
5. '97 Ford Aspire
On first glance, you wouldn’t guess that this 1997 Ford Aspire was rolled by its previous owners. Spencer Sherman spent a year repairing the cosmetic damage, otherwise the vehicle was rally-ready. Instead of the OEM 1.3-liter engine, it is equipped with a Ford Escort BP18 1.8-liter. Ksport rally dampers lighten the blows from brutal terrain. The team’s mechanic, Kyle Von Bergen, raved about how easy the car is to work on. Summer Sno*Drift fulfilled a dream for Spencer and his friend and co-driver Drew Peterson. This was their first time in a competition, and they placed in the top five of their class.
6. '07 Subaru STI
Dirtfish Rally driving school instructor Brenten Kelly is another familiar face at the Rally America Championship Series. He raced his 2007 Subaru STI with co-driver Anthony Vohs. Brenton learned to rally with this platform and knows every piece like the back of his hand. He’s had this particular setup for three years, winning numerous competitions.
The modification that has made the biggest difference is the dogbox transmission and pedal box setup, which makes the car more comfortable and provides better pedal feel. During this year’s Summer Sno*Drift competition, the team dominated the first three stages. A couple miles into the fourth stage, the car spun out in a pit of sand, and the battery was fried. Disappointed but mostly unfazed, Brenten exclaimed, “That’s rally!”
7. '02 Subaru WRX Wagon
The Sneak Attack Rally Team’s car is a case of daily driver gone rally. After three years of ownership, Nathan Usher decided that the 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon’s AWD platform was perfect for dominating the stages. The better the chances of finishing, the more a win is within reach, so Nathan put extra effort into the Bugeye’s reliability, including stripping unnecessary circuits and adding new ones. The Sneak Attack Rally team took 1st place overall for Summer Sno*Drift.
8. '74 Ford Capri
This 1974 Ford Capri turns heads while parked, especially when the hood is up. The sun shined its light down on the Coswoth engine, which is equipped with individual throttle bodies. A peek underneath reveals a Ford 9-inch solid rear axle. There’s a lot more tricks in the build, but we are saving the fine details for a later article. (What a tease!)