This is Erin Sanford’s MK2 GTi drift car. It’s RWD, running a turbocharged Nissan KA24. Here’s the backstory on how it came to be.
The GTi actually belonged to me & my dad…
At that point, it was still a regular FWD 16v GTi. And before us, a Georgia Tech student owned it. Bless his heart, I don’t think he excelled at driving the same way he excelled with scholastics, because the car had been crunched/damaged behind both doors as if he kept hitting parking poles on campus… like the waist-high yellow ones you see protecting gas pumps or a drive-thru. (You can still see the damage in the pics.)
Things went from bad to worse, because inevitably, the GTi had engine failure. It was sitting at a shop racking up storage fees, and kid’s dad just wanted it out of his life & wallet. He gave the car to us, and my dad & I had the totally genius idea to cut it up & put the engine in the rear. A mid-engine, RWD, GTi… shoooot we’d have it knocked out over the weekend. As you can imagine, the project stalled lol.
A couple years go by, and me & Erin Sanford are mountain bike buddies, riding together at least a couple times per week.
When you’re riding bikes, you get plenty of time to talk about crazy ideas. Erin was looking for a new drift project since his previous S13 drift car had transformed into a gnarly time attack car. And I was looking for someone with a trailer to move my ’72 Plymouth Duster across town. So Erin picked up my Duster with his trailer, drug it across town to where the GTi sat, dumped the Duster, loaded the GTi… and had himself a new project!
The fact that the GTi had been cut-up didn’t bother Erin… because he wanted to make a RWD drift car out of it.
His plan – was to build the drift GTi on a budget in his garage, be crafty, and keep it in the sweet-spot both horsepower & durability-wise. Luckily – he’s mechanically inclined, calculated, disciplined, armed with the right tools… and he already had a Nissan KA24 engine/trans sitting at the house.
The MK2 GTi is using the 240sx KA engine & transmission, with S13 subframes in both front & rear.
Since it’s got S13 subframes, Erin’s able to use readily-available S13 suspension parts, brakes, etc. Basically everything under the car is an S13 240sx. And, I was surprised by this, but apparently the wheelbase of an S13 and MK2 GTi are almost identical.
The mission for the project was to do it as cheaply as possible.
Obviously a lot of the one-off parts & personal touches were fabricated by Erin. He swapped from square-to-round headlights & added the larger late-model bumper just because it’s cool. And as far as the turbocharger & bolt-ons go, most of it is admittedly just cheap stuff… eBay stuff, Amazon Prime stuff, ching-chong stuff, laying around stuff, etc. The point was to keep it inexpensive, get it running, shake it down, find the weak links… and then replace parts as required.
But oddly enough, this GTi is holding together miraculously well.
It’s like… it really just wants to have fun & be a drift car. Well – and Erin built it, that’s probably a lot of the reason right there. Erin says the key to a happy KA-T is the tune. Give it plenty of fuel, and be easy on ignition timing down low. He says that if you produce too much torque down low, you’re ramping up cylinder pressures big time… and that’s when you bend/break rods. Also – Erin says that running too small of a turbo brings on boost too quickly, and the same issues can occur… along with high intake temperatures that cause knock. A well-tuned KA won’t last forever, but it’s the difference between having a few years of fun on a stock engine, or going boom immediately.
Now that Caffeine & Octane runs Lanier Raceplex (across the street from Road Atlanta)…
They’re holding Friday Night drift events practically every Friday throughout the year… and you’ll find Erin & his GTi out there pretty regularly. It’s really given local drivers a great place to get routine, consistent seat time… and lots of it! Also, make sure you check out the short video we did on this car!
MK2 GTi Drift Car
Stock S14 KA24DE
S14 5-speed transmission
Fidanza aluminum flywheel & ACT clutch (came with engine)
Koyo 240sx radiator
eBay turbo/manifold/front mount intercooler/blowoff valve
Blitz 740cc side feed injectors
Megasquirt MSPNP2 ecu on modified stock S14 engine harness
14point7 wideband & gauge
Southwest Speed manual pedal assembly
Wilwood dual master cylinders
Wilwood clutch master cylinder
Switch-pros 9100 power distribution
small Amazon AGM battery
Modified eBay 12-gallon fuel cell
Walbro 255 external pump with custom lines
TEIN HE coilovers
stock s13 uprights with GK Tech bolt on angle adapters
adjustable tension rods, traction rods, & toe/camber arms
Written by Wooley
Also check out this clean OEM+ MK2 HERE