The way that one chooses to build their car – everything from their choice of power plant to each individual part choice – speaks to the builder. In every well-built car I’ve seen, I can always look at the car and think “Wow, your car is so you”. This can especially be said about Keenan Wight’s drift car.
What happens when you take a young man raised on NASCAR, oval tracks and sprint cars, and give him a Japanese chassis to play with? Well, frequent TOPP Drift attendants may recall an 80’s Cressida with a sprint car engine in it – yes, that’s what happens.
The first time I met Keenan I was standing in the infield working media at TOPP Drift and he went off course to my left. His engine overheated and set the grass beneath it on fire. That Cressida may have been pretty danger-zone, but it taught Keenan a lot about what it takes to build a proper drift car. He learned to drift in a scary car that should not have been able to drift. No power steering; too much torque; a horrible suspension setup; an engine that overheated after 1 lap; and no electric starter – now that’s rough. Yet, Keenan made his way around the track in Shannonville, linking corners and making some tire smoke. He made mistakes and bettered his driving skills each lap. After a season of drifting in the death trap Cressida, it was time for Keenan to move on to bigger and better things.
Keenan picked up an S13 coupe shell and immediately cut the front and rear ends off the car. Keenan, a 20 year old auto body shop employee (at the time he started building this car), figured out how to weld at a young age in his grandfather’s workshop. After that, endless possibilities were unlocked as he became a jack of all trades with several other fabrication tools. Keenan has always been quick to learn with his hands.
His time spent learning to weld and fabricate has recently paid off, as he’s now joined forces with Josiah Fallaise of FDF (Fallaise Design and Fabrication) as a full-time fabricator. The two now work together to build some of the highest quality race and drift cars out there.
After acquiring a tube bender and a few lengths of DOM tubing, he got to work on figuring out how to do race car tube work. Starting with the rear end, he quickly got the hang of working with tubes. He then moved onto the front end, and then the hardest part – the roll cage. Keenan studied rule books from Formula Drift and DMCC to ensure his car would be up to spec in all professional leagues for when the time comes.
Along with the chassis tube work, Keenan also used his own skills to lengthen his front lower control arms and achieve a healthy amount of steering angle.
A good, safe chassis – check. Plenty of steering angle – check. Cool wheels that will hold plenty of tire – check. Now it’s time for a big engine: a carbureted Chevy 327. Keenan has always had a love for late model oval track cars, so naturally he built an engine that would normally be seen in one, and then tuned it for drifting. Long tube, equal length headers from CX Racing; home made motor mounts to place the engine low and back towards the firewall; and look at that clutch and flywheel – this thing revs like a street bike!
The transmission paired to this 350hp engine is a 4-speed Muncie built with straight cut gears. 350hp is only a starting point, of course. Keenan can bring the numbers up much higher once he’s fully confident behind the wheel.
Final touches include a stock car inspired dashboard; running the entire chassis through a paint booth and dressing it in vinyl; a hydraulic hand brake; and a cool aero kit (which has yet to be fitted to the car).
When I see this car, it screams “Keenan built this!”. Not many others would build a late model oval track car out of a Japanese chassis and set it up for sliding sideways on pavement. I love seeing personality in car builds and this one has been a lot of fun for me to witness over the off-season. I can’t wait to see what Keenan does with this car as he progresses even further as a driver, now in a more appropriately built car.
Do you have a special part on your car that really speaks to you as the builder? Share it with us in the comments or tag us on Instagram @OverdraftAutoLife, we’d love to see!