Roanoke Drifting In Jappalachia

It is a fine thing when conditions lead to continuity. This particular continuity is also an automotive conundrum in several ways considering the current condition of the existence of the automobile.


The trend that has taken hold, especially here in these United States, is the popularity of the SUV, the crossover variations of five door hatches, the automatic transmission and front wheel drive. All of these would point to a humorless and drab driving culture of A to B with a soccer game or a grocery store on the agenda. The days of fun behind the wheel are drying up.

Or are they…?

There are a handful of new rear drives out there. Of those, fewer still have a manual transmission. This leads to the continuity of cars of the past being rebuilt and re-born by people who seek the slides and the sideways. Yes, America, drifting may be the saving grace of the manual, rear wheel drive car.

On a warm Wednesday tucked in the back corner of an industrial park I was there to bear witness to a mixture of car cultures. The recipe was a good mix of classic British “Top Gear”, American Motor Trend “Roadkill” and a heavy helping of the Japanese origins of drifting. The cars were budget sourced from the pre-owned market and rapidly made “drivable” over the past several days. Now they were here in this slightly barren environment to be compared on a mapped rally / drifting course by (can you guess…?) the same “tame” racing driver.

For the sake of a little background… This group of guys have a mission which is building on their combination of talents. What is the mission…? Loosely defined it is a mixture of Japan’s origin culture of drifting and the extreme styling of it with the back roads mountain attitude of American muscle cars. They call it “Jappalachia”. There have been trips to Japan with driving study in the origins of the legendary Daigo Saito drifting style. Japan is distinguished as the genesis of drifting even as the sport has expanded worlwide. The “Jappalachia” handle has been vetted during these visits with positive approvals.

The drift is no stranger to these men. A recent visit to NASA Haltech Hyperfest at Virginia International Raceway had a Nissan going tandem on the drift pad competition.

On this Wednesday, they have two cars ready to take on the course. These are not their “pro builds” but side projects for the practice and fun of it. One is a late ’80s Corvette and the other is a Nissan 240sx (’89…? ’90…? give or take…) Both of them had less than “garage kept” history. Both put up sideways and dusty shows. I think the Corvette took the time even with bottom scrapes, fuel delivery issues and a lost ass bumper. It was also driven after the 240 so one could say the previous lap in the Nissan gave a nudge of “practice” to the ‘Vette.

The “real” cars involved…? These guys are looking ahead to extreme builds in their shop. They are working up another C4 series Corvette and a 3rd generation Ford Mustang. The cars are being treated as homage to the extreme Kaido or Bosozoku style of Japanese drift builds. Big fenders, shovel forward in front of the wheels and wide body wings over the back. These are American muscle cars treated with anime angles. Engines are being built. Chassis and suspensions are being tuned and going into place. A rough timeline has turns on the calendar for the newly re-opened Southampton Speedway later this year as that track is running a drift schedule. This is Jappalachia.

Connections…? Roanoke, Charlottesville, Japan, backgrounds in design, mechanics, fabrication, travel… They have formed a friendship from chance encounters, childhood history and love of fun in cars.

The “tame” racing driver…? 2016 F4 Champion / 2021 EFO F3 Champion – Cameron Das, visiting from the UK with friends connected through common and crossed paths. His 2016 F4 is in the Jappalachia shop.

2016 USA F4 Champion, Cameron Das, with the season winning car in the Jappalachia shop

Das is currently doing a social media series of video showcases of kart racing and tracks.
Cameron Das: YouTube Instagram
Tay Whiteside – Lift Arc Studios
Gresh Chapman (Instagram):
Jackson Walker
Connor Shupe

Visit the Jappalachia Website

Photos – A visit to Jappalachia – Industrial Drifting

*The dog is “Pickles” – an Alaskan Malamute. He’s a sweetheart in a sweet spot.