Aesthetics of Drift

The aesthetic I would like to explore for this post is that of drift cars. Drifting is a driving technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers and slides the car, losing traction but remaining in control, steering the car around a corner. This technique originated in Japan around 1960-70, and was foremost pioneered by Kunimitsu Takahashi, a former motorcycle rider who turned to driving. While Takahashi is referred to as the Father of Drift, drifting was largely popularized by a driver named Keiichi Tsuchiya, also known as the Drift King. In 1987, Tsuchiya worked with many popular car magazines and garages in Japan to create a video highlighting his skills, and as this video become more and more popular, drift aesthetic was born. As drifting culture was born in Japan, and still has it’s roots there, Japanese cars have become the go to for drifting. Takahashi and Tsuchiya both drove cars that have become immensely popular since then, with Keiichi Tsuchiya’s green carbon hooded Toyota AE86 being one of the most well known drift cars in Japan.


From Left to Right – Kunimitsu Takahashi’s Nissan Skyline, Keiichi Tsuchiya’s AE86 in his debut drifting film “Pluspy”, Keiichi Tsuchiya’s legendary AE86 currently

Due to the appearance of Tsuchiya’s AE86 in “Pluspy”, and its widespread availability in Japan, it immediately became popular in the drift community, and its image has been used in many forms of drifting media since. In fact, this car is a large reason for the surge in the popularity of drift aesthetic in the United States, as it was featured in the popular anime “Initial D.” Initial D, as well as “The Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift,” shaped the aesthetic of drifting in the minds of many young Americans such as myself, exposing them to big wings, wide body kits, and eye catching visuals on the sides of the cars. As these movies and shows began to gain popularity, more and more drivers became interested in building their own drift car, and now you can find these style cars at just about any track day or car show.


From Left to Right – The drift aesthetic presented by Initial D, The drift aesthetic presented by Tokyo Drift, a typical drift car one might see at the track in the US

Another development that made drift aesthetic even more popular was the rise of competitive drifting, not only in the United States, but also all over Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Competitive drift cars combine drift aesthetic with the aesthetic of conventional race cars, usually building the look around sponsorships and eye catching patterns, to stand out among their competitors. As a result of this, many companies, such as Rockstar or Monster energy, are often associated with drift cars.

From Left to Right – The Falken Tire s15 drift car, Japanese drift champion Daigo Saito’s Monster sponsored drift car, Ken Block’s Monster sponsored drift car

While the aesthetic of drift has a very wide scope, and there is a big difference between older and modern drift cars, there are still very many recognizable vehicles and styles that help to define the aesthetic. A unique aspect of the drift aesthetic that I like is that even as the aesthetic has evolved and changed, the roots have always remained, and are still relevant today.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • I found this very intriguing, especially since I just recently heard about Inital D and the sport of mountain road drifting in Japan. One of my favorite things this blog touched on was how the aesthetic had changed as it became more popular into the 2000’s, while tying it to the increased diversity in the looks of the car and the functionality of the cars. One thing I wish you had explored is the history of amateur drift racing and how the aesthetic evolved in that environment.

    • Hey Sidd, I’m glad to hear that more and more people are still learning about drifitng! I also like how the aesthetic has changed since it’s conception, which is one of the reasons I decided to write about it. The history of amateur drifting and it’s aesthetic are also super interesting, and I could probably even write another post just about that! I might come back and update the blog with more info on that.

  • Got a good laugh out of me with the Initial D and Simpsons feature. I also wrote about cars and their aesthetics, and its hard to write about the whole scope and also be specific enough. I think you did a great job introducing and talking about the history behind drift. I would have liked to have seen some more examples of drift race competitions.

    • Hey Josh, I’m glad you enjoyed the picture, it got a good laugh out of me as well! I could definitely see why it would be hard to write about the aesthetics of cars in general, as there are so many different aesthetics out there, especially in cars. While I am very interested in drift racing/drift competitions, I actually don’t know all that much about them, and it’s definitely something I’d love to learn more about!


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