Hiding inside this carbon-Kevlar muscle car is a dark rotary heart and a whole world of performance possibilities; we check out Axel’s modified Corvette drift car.

Photos by Jamie Bufton

Drifting has come a long way from being the sole preserve of covert Japanese outlaws sneaking out for touge battles after dark. The sport has spread like wildfire across the globe, consuming everything in its path in a fug of dense tyre smoke. Of course, there are drifters and there are good drifters; any fool can kick a clutch and light up the rears, but the true connoisseur has an ingrained knowledge of entry angles, balletic transitions, and all those technical tricks that are earned and learned rather than simply assumed. And as drifting has buttered its influence across the global automotive scene, we’re seeing more and more non-traditional bases used for competition machines built solely for skids; today’s drifting events will find the trad Japanese entrants liberally interspersed with BMWs and various other Euro RWD options, along with Mustangs and all sorts. With enough creativity, any rear-drive performance car can become an impressive drift beast – and that’s precisely what’s happened with the modified Corvette you see here.

Now, as the old saying goes, if you’re gonna be dumb, you’ve gotta be tough. That’s perhaps a little unfair on drifters as there really is nothing dumb about it, but the toughness is inherent – drift builds have to be as solid as a rock where it counts and as replaceable as possible where it matters in order to keep them usable and competitive. The engines, gearboxes, differentials and suspension need to be hewn from granite, and you have to expect that every now and then you’re going to kiss a wall or lose a bumper. So starting with toughness ingrained from the ground up is the key to success – and again, that’s something this modified Corvette keenly demonstrates.

Axel Hildebrand is the man with the know-how; a pro drifter and part of the family-owned Anglo-American Oil Company, this bruising modified Corvette has been built as part-show-stopper, part-technological showcase. With the company being the UK’s official distributor of Sunoco race fuels, Driven racing oils, BMC air filters, Zestino tyres and Sonax Car Care to name just a few brands, this car is perhaps the ultimate marketing tool – although it only takes a couple of minutes of chatting to Axel to realise that this project has been about far more than that. This modified Corvette was born out of passion, built to demonstrate just how spectacular a drift Chevrolet can be. “We built it for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with the potential to use it as a drift car in the future – but for now just to be a big, bold, crazy car,” he explains. “That definitely makes it harder to maintain and so on, but that’s what we went for – it’s unique.”

It certainly is, and there have been no half-measures or corners cut when it comes to the spec. The other-worldly sounds brap-brapping out of that outrageous side-exit exhaust come courtesy of a triple-rotor Mazda 20B, sourced from Pulse Performance Race Engines (the same guys who build engines for the legendary Mad Mike Whiddett). “We knew that if we were going to be using this build with a rotary for drifting, we’d have to be going with the best,” Axel reasons. “It’s had the full PPRE rebuild using all new Mazda components where available.” The motor is bridge-ported, hence the incredible noises and flames, and it’s running a Haltech Nexus R5 ECU mapped by Abbey Motorsport to put out around 800bhp – and that’s just on low boost, there’s potential here for 1,000bhp+. And the really interesting part is the name you see splashed along the doors: “The car runs on Sunoco E85 race fuel – that’s 85% ethanol and we add two-stroke oil for the benefit of the rotary seals,” says Axel. “That gives it the distinctive smell, I think it smells like tequila, it’s pretty pungent!

triple front exit exhaust on modified corvette

Why run E85? Well, it gives you a lot of resistance to detonation so you can tune it and run it with a lot of boost, and it also burns really clean – so if you look inside the exhaust there’s not a single bit of soot, and that’s really good for rotary engines as they’re known for sooting up and getting dirt inside the engines. And yes, it does sound amazing; the side-exit exhaust is the reason for that. It’s there for simplicity, as there’s not really a lot of space and the bottom of a Corvette is totally flat – unlike most cars where you’ve got chassis rails and nice things to protect the exhaust – but more importantly for the sound! And it shoots flames and looks cool.”

Intelligent solutions that fuse usability with visceral pleasure are what really characterise this build. Take the transmission: Corvettes usually have a transaxle and a torque tube, but on this rotary the gearbox is mounted in a more traditional position hanging off the back of the engine. And what a gearbox it is! A Quaife 69G sequential, it’s a proven entity in drifting and, being UK-made, easy to source parts for and service; it’s mated to a Winters quick-change diff out back, again another proven competition setup.

RX-7 engine inside of modified corvette

“This is what you’ll find in all the top-end drift cars,” Axel explains. “Firstly because it’s really strong, and secondly because you can change the ratio really easily. You see it’s got the back cover with all those bolts on it? You just undo those bolts and pull it out, there’s two cogs, you can slide those off and replace them with different gears, it’s very handy. You don’t even have to lose that much oil doing it, you literally just jack it up and change the ratio to suit the track within about five minutes. Otherwise, where you don’t have that like in my other drift car, you have to take the whole differential out and that’s over a two-hour job. So this really lets you dial things in.” None of this custom work is easy, but the point of all of this is that everything is fit for purpose, it’s all been specced and built to make every individual element and component the very best that it can be.

Modified Corvette drifting at Goodwood

You’ve no doubt spotted the bare carbon-Kevlar body, and this isn’t a cunning wrap: the entire body is in fact custom-crafted from carbon-Kevlar by HGK, the dimensions moulded from the Z06 model which is markedly wider than how this 2006 Corvette began its life. This material means you get strength and light weight, but it’s still flexible; it doesn’t shatter like fibreglass, so in the smoky crucible of drifting – where, let’s face it, bumps and knocks happen – the team isn’t having to make running repairs all the time. It’s all draped over a hugely strengthened structure too; the stock back end has been chopped off and replaced with a substantial part of the tube-frame chassis, so if Axel runs the wall a little too aggressively it shouldn’t cause any structural damage.

Stripped interior of Corvette drift car

“We’ve also got the radiator in the back,” he continues. “The reason for this is that space is at a premium at the front, so by putting it in the back you can run a much larger radiator; secondly, when you’re drifting you’re not really getting much airflow at the front, so you need big fans – with a bigger radiator in the back you can run bigger fans for superior cooling. And it also helps with the weight; if you’re taking more stuff away from the front and putting it over the driven wheels it’s great for traction. Drifting isn’t just about spinning the wheels, you want to go fast at the same time. We’ve got the Radium fuel cell back here too, that’s an all-in-one fuel system, 23-litres – so probably a bit too small for this thirsty car! – and there’s a surge tank built in with one lift pump and staggered fuel pumps.

Front wheels on Modified Corvette

The cleverness continues through to the supremely focused cabin, with its custom carbon fibre dash, and full rollcage and fabrication by Colehill Customs. “We’ve got the Haltech ECU system using the Nexus R5, with the PDM built in so all the fuses are integrated into the system, we can keep it all neat,” says Axel. “XDR Motors did this really nice wiring loom for it. The switch panel in roof is all customisable, and the dash screen is fully customisable too so you can have any readouts you choose on there – although obviously when you’re drifting you don’t have any time to look at that! But the Haltech does all the important safety stuff, so if it notices something really bad it can shut the car down before I have time to even spot it. It does data monitoring in-between runs, and we’ve mounted it down there so it’s out of the eyeline.”

Rear 3/4 shot of modified Corvette

This modified Corvette really is a remarkable creation, with innovative solutions and cutting-edge technology everywhere you look. And while it pays tribute to the birth of drifting, with visceral touge runs swimming in its blood, this ultra-modern Corvette is something else: a staggeringly intelligent and future-facing performance machine, with creativity in abundance and a show-winning finish.

Tech Spec: Modified Corvette Drift Car


Mazda 20B triple-rotor, PPRE semi-billet block, Garrett G42-1450 turbo, bridge-ported, BMC carbon dynamic induction, lightened rotors, dry sump system, Walton Motorsport manifold and exhaust system, rear-mounted radiator, Radium fuel cell, Haltech Nexus R5 ECU, mapped by Abbey Motorsport


800bhp (low boost)


Quaife 69G 6-speed sequential gearbox, Winters quick-change differential


BC Racing coilovers, FDF Race Mantis 20-degree+ steering angle kit


Stock Corvette front calipers, Wilwood twin rear calipers, Group-D hydraulic handbrake, Hel Performance braided lines, Tilton pedal box


9.5×18” (front) and 11×18” (rear) Blitz 03 split-rims, 235/40 (f) and 285/35 (r) Zestino Gredge 07R tyres


OMP bucket seats, 6-point harnesses, custom carbon fibre dash, Haltech digi display, wiring by XDR Motors, OMP steering wheel with quick-release, full fire suppression system, carbon doorcards, roof-mounted switch module, Full Throttle battery, rollcage and fabrication by Colehill Customs


HGK carbon-Kevlar Corvette Z06 body, rear clamshell with aerocatches, graphics by Fleet Livery Solutions