Updated: Feb 11
I've been struggling with how I wanted to write this article for a couple weeks now. For the first time in years I dusted off my digital camera to shoot alongside my film camera and I've been struggling to decide whether I wanted to do a separate post for each, or if I should just mesh them all together. The final decision is just toss it all together like a good trail mix.
Also contributing to the delay in posting were changes in work, life, and my own army of shitbox cars. I've attended a few drift events and shows in the past few weeks so expect coverage, along with the first car feature for the site. I also attended 7's Day in NYC and I'm unsure if I'm going to cover it or not. I drove down in my Skyline and was fairly immersed in the event and slacked on taking pictures. Maybe I'll throw in a quicky or a guest spot to cover it since it was such a rad event.
On topic, I flew into Chicago's O'Hare airport which is a terrible place, collected my "midsize pickup" rental which was both the cheapest option and actually a 2 door Wrangler, pounded 6 shots of espresso, and fired my short wheelbase brick west to Wisconsin.
What makes Final Bout special is its purpose. It's more than a grassroots drift day; it's a homage to the VHS tapes we saw years ago that got us into drifting, seeing low and stylish cars with liveries adorned with the brands and tuning shop names we'd only heard of as they slide around the tracks of Japan, it's a love letter to the sport we all love, a template to others how things are done, and it's a meeting point for keep the style alive.
I think this event has been one of the most overwhelming I've attended. After waiting in an enormous line for over an hour to enter while wildly cool spectator cars funneled in, you're just kind of thrown into the middle of the mix...
...and it is a wildly overwhelming mix!
The first cars to greet you were Car Shop React from Toronto, Canada. Their team had a distinct look with their matching liveries and white TE37s.
Of the three, Mike Martino's S15 was my favorite with its Vertex kit and white on white color combination. Everything about it was perfect! I'll forever be jealous of Canada for having a 10 year shorter wait period before they can import cars.
Kevin Phan and Shane Lach of Bosstown made the 20 hour drive from Boston to show the world New England can build a beautiful car with a purpose. I always look forward to seeing both S13 hatches at our local drift events. Between their driving and the cars themselves, it's always a treat.
Also of Bosstown fame is PJ Prendergast and his ex-Sexy Knights FC. After years of his S13 hatch being his drift chassis of choice, he flew to Japan for a drifting-centric trip and bought this FC after enjoying drifting it in Japan. It's still 13b powered as well! I'd love the opportunity to shoot his FC and his S13 together some day.
VS-KFs often look good, but it's rare they look great, and Aaron's S14 looks spectacular on them. The choice of an understated color scheme complemented the GP Sports aero wonderfully. This is one of my favorite S14s and I was so excited to finally see it in person.
Speaking of cars I was excited to see, I was stoked to come across the Gleam NA Miata. I remember seeing videos of this car tearing up Chicago years ago and I've been obsessed with it since.
Where you'd expect to find a 1.6 or 1.8 liter piston engine sat a turbo 13b! I'd love to know what something like this drives like, having an even more compact engine setup slipped into the chassis.
Gleam had quite the team lineup!
It just so happened another favorite S14 of mine was a part of the Gleam fleet.
Next to the S14 was an HCR32 sedan that housed an SR20DET beneath its thick pink flake.
Rounding out the team was this S13 coupe that was driven spectacularly all weekend. I think about 10% of my action shots were of this car.
Bayside brought out the newest cars of the event. Without a doubt, the FRS/BRZ will be the future S chassis, if it's not already. Both examples showed two different ways of styling the ZN6/ZC6 chassis. One of my favorite things about this chassis is the ability to pull off small diameter wheels like the SSR Formula Mesh on the red example. However the more modern styling of the black FRS is classic for this chassis.
This year's Final Bout had some special guests in attendance. Team Sexy Knights from Japan came with their cars to put on a show. These guys have been huge influences in drifting over the years and it was an experience to remember seeing them in person and driving on US soil!
I was beyond obsessed with this ER34 Skyline! Everything about this car was magnificent. Rotating between TE37s and Advan RGs throughout the day which complemented the URAS kit fantastically. His RB25 might have been the best sounding car of the day as well. It looks like it was lifted out of an early 2000s Japanese magazine.
Another car I'm obsessed with was Ilia's FD3S from team Proceed. I especially loved its monochromatic look. He's created the perfect embodiment of the current street style Chicago and the midwest have come to be known for.
Of all the drift teams in attendance, Auto Factory Realize was one of the most cohesive in their styling. Seeing all three cars driving together was rad! That helmet is cool too!
Canada's Serial 9 brought the heat with their lineup of cars, all of which were Japanese imports. Pink is a hard color to pull off, riveted flares as well, and their Altezza looked tremendous! It was shooting fireballs all day, which looked especially dramatic at night!
The bigger brother of the Altezza was this Aristo adorned with Serial 9's over fenders and Veilside Andrews. Toyota's JZS161 chassis has been growing as a drift platform as Serial 9 and others are bringing more support to market for them, including Serial 9's plethora of suspension arms and manual transmission conversion parts.
There was more than one JZS161 in attendance. Unlike Serial 9's car, this was a US market GS400 which came with the 4.0 liter 1UZFE. Compared to many Japanese engines, the 1UZ doesn't have huge aftermarket support, but this one wasn't hindered by that with its Eaton positive displacement supercharger. I didn't get a picture of the bay and I kind of hate myself for that so here's a link to a photo of it. With its black on black color scheme and deep dish Work Meister S1s, I'd totally believe it was a VIP build if I hadn't seen it drifting.
Rounding out the JZS161 trifecta was Proceed's 2JZGTE powered GS300 fed by that chunky single turbo.
Leigh Roto's MK3 Supra from Team Proceed has been a constant evolution over the years resulting in this 1JZGTE machine. I remember seeing videos years ago of it in blue running with the Risky Devils. Seeing it in person do what it was made to do was amazing.
Also of Team Proceed is Simba with his SR20 S13 coupe. Of all the parts on all the cars at this event, Simba was most likely running the rarest. That hood is an Origin Labo creation made from carbon fiber and features The Great Wave of Kanegawa and is one of two ever made, along with a few other designs, including a porn star.
Simba and his S13 have done a lot for the drifting community and he's traveled all over the country to drive. I met Simba, although briefly, at Special Stage East held at Canaan and he was as kind as he was skilled as a driver. Seeing him is always a pleasure
This S13 hatch was a perfect example of a timelessly styled drift car. It'd look equally at home here as it does in a 2000 Option video. Besides the ever so classic bronze, is white the best TE37 color?
Dark Squad brought the heat this year. They had a variety of styles and chassis well represented...
...the A31 Cefiro being one of my favorites of the day. Of all the readily available models available for import from Japan, the A31 is an excellent contender, however there's a surprising lack of them stateside. I was stoked to see such a well executed Cefiro in the flesh.
In addition to that A31, Thomas Antunez also owns this S13 coupe which is both identical and entirely different to his sedan. Both cars sport the same color scheme, but unlike the Cefiro, his S13 sports that super rad dorisha style and he pulls it off perfectly.
This S13 hatch was the most radical looking of all the Dark Squad cars. Sporting that bananas GT look with the most important GT look aero detail of being low and it was stunning!
Ok so maybe all the Dark Squad cars are my favorite Dark Squad car.
Before internet fame, Joshua Maghirang was royalty everywhere it mattered. He's been a huge influence in drifting and US styling for years and I've always looked to him for inspiration. It was amazing pouring over his car in the metal.
Midori green is one of Honda's best kept secrets and this S13 suited it better than some of Honda's best.
The icing on any early 2000s street style build are some period Lambo doors.
The finer details of a build can really change the overall look of a car drastically. These two HRC32 sedans on paper seem quite similar and sport a lot of the same mods, but in the metal they have two very different styles.
Dom Sacco made an excellent case for the Z32 platform with his NA 300ZX. His style was fantastic! I wonder if we'll start to see an uprise in Z32s with the huge rise of 350Zs at drift events and a huge emphasis on 80s and 90s cars since these 300ZXs were the Z's predecessor.
A friend of mine once said the craziest thing about drift kids is their tendency to buy super rare parts and immediately put them in danger. JRWayne (I don't know his real name) is definitely one of those people with his FC and his RE Amemiya bumper. Thankfully it ended the day in tact. I've been obsessed with his car since he finished it a little over a year ago.
The 80s and 90s may be where the majority of drift chassis originate from, but there's some brave people like ShaDynasty drifting disco era cars with the best of them!
Matt Panic's Beams filled Celica engine bay deserves its own highlight. Easily one of the best sounding cars in attendance.
After everyone was setup and got some runs in, all the drivers lined up on the track before the competition runs officially kicked off.
I was about two and a half months late to apply for media due to not knowing if I was even going to attend the event and being a bit of an idiot, however, despite a bit of crowd negotiating, USAIR's main course was quite accessible to viewers even without the media access.
There were even a couple spots you could be uncovered about 10' from the cars. This was immensely helpful with my limited lens collection. It was also super rad being up close and personal to spectate!
This E46 sedan was one of maybe two European cars in attendance and he did a great job representing.
The competition driving was exciting! Despite how perfect many of the cars looked, they drove hard and performed amazingly.
That's not to say they stayed perfect. The corner workers doubled as aero patrol as bumpers and skirts flew from off track excursions and dropping wheels off track!
Serial9's sedan party was an experience with their screaming inline 6s.
One of the cars I was most surprised to see was this first gen CTS-V on Work XT7s. It was one of the most gangster cars out there. I wouldn't be surprised to see more of these out drifting if they get any cheaper. A 6 speed T56 manual was the only option and they already come with a LS6/2. They're like American JZXs. The only drawback I can think of is they come 6 lug which is weird but fixable.
America's representation wasn't limited to just the one Caddy, team Full Clip brought out a C5 Corvette that really tore it up!
This year's competition was a singles comp instead of the usual team competitions. In the end, Rich Whiteman was the winner in his JZX100. Later in the day he proved why he deserved that victory after doing a full lap with his hood up when his latch failed after the second corner.
After the competition runs, I lurked through the vendor area to see what they had for booth cars and what I could buy that'd fit in my carry on. The selection of booth cars was pretty exceptional, featuring a 180SX Type X look S13 on double staggered TE37s and one of the Breaking FD3S!
Of all the cars of the event, the car with the strongest aura was Jake's S14. Losing him sent a shockwave through the US drifting scene that was felt by everyone. Seeing his car in perfect order and on display was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Having his car traveling to events is a wonderful tribute.
As the sun set, and golden hour died down, the late night throw down started to heat up.
I've never shot a night event so it was a steep learning curve. I was stoked to get some decent shots! All digital though since I could do a lot more live experimentation.
It seems like a pain to get right, but Subaru drift cars are such a cool concept and I hope someone develops parts to make it easier. This example's screaming 1JZGTE didn't exactly make for an easy conversion either.
Something about drifting at night makes it even more fun to watch.
The night time matsuri extended all the way to 11pm and just being in the sun and heat all day as a spectator was tiring, I imagine the drivers were all beat! I definitely want to shoot another night event some time. Although I might have been spoiled with this being the first I shot.
The next day all the pressures of competition were off and it was full force party drifting.
My favorite part of the event was seeing the variety of styles on display in vehicle choice, design aesthetic, and driving style. The power figures and chassis modifications were all over the map and the show each driver gave felt personalized. No two drivers attacked the course exactly the same.
The old school Toyota crowd gave an experience their turbo or V8 equipped companions couldn't match; those screaming induction noises! Hearing them coming was all bark and watching them go was an angry buzz.
The best part about day 2 was the tandem trains.
Everyone seemed especially excited for the chance to get door to door with the Sexy Knights guys.
It was so cool seeing drivers I idolized driving together and giving it their all.
I can't handle my love for this S13.
I took a quick break from the on track stuff, mainly to drink water and sit out of the sun for a minute, and took a peek at some of the spectator cars. I definitely suggest giving the parking lots of events like this a scan because there's always cool gems tucked away.
Back in the pits you could see the toll driving all-out takes on a car. Throughout the day cars were filtering in for repairs as parts gave out and the mad dash to replace and repair before the event ended began.
I'll never recover from how cool this ER34 was.
There were so many Japanese market cars in attendance, you almost stopped noticing which side the driver sat on.
This event was an incredible undertaking for everyone involved, drivers and organizers alike. Attendees came from all over the world and drivers from three countries and two continents brought their cars to participate and show what drifting meant to them by building their cars to such a high standard and driving at full attack despite having the money and time they've invested in their cars on the line.
Attending this event was something I'll never forget and an opportunity I'll never give up being in attendance for again.