1969 Mustang RTR-X – Slideways

The infamous ’69 that Stars in your kid’s favorite video game is as real as it gets.

Picture this: You’re a racer, which means you’re a control freak, yet you agree to ride shotgun in a high-powered, ungodly expensive ’69 Mustang that’s rocketing at triple-digit speeds toward a sweeping, 180-degree turn designed for airplanes taxiing at 5 mph, and the driver isn’t braking. You’re waiting for it, but it just isn’t happening. Deeper, deeper. The unmuffled exhaust is wailing, and the digital tachometer rips past 7,000 rpm as the car accelerates hard in Fourth gear. You are way past the point of no return, where mortal men would’ve already downshifted, smoked the brakes, or just bailed out the door and eaten asphalt. Just as you’re about to scream like a little girl and punch the jackass behind the wheel to wake him from his daze, he grabs a handful of E-brake and pitches the ‘Stang completely sideways, shuffling his hands and feet faster than you thought possible, and accelerates through the corner instead of safely slowing down.

Asphalt and rubber debris fly off the front tire through the open window, smacking you square in the helmet, and you can’t help but imagine the muscle car violently landing on its lid after the tires grab a rut during this aggressive sideways slam-dance. But the gut-wrenching flip never materializes. The ’69 just keeps on power sliding around the turn, leaving a smoke trail that John Force would be proud of, and exiting the corner nearly as fast as it entered. This was our introduction to drifting and to a car that darts between classic, custom, and import styles.

Vaughn Gittin Jr. had only seen that corner once before. He spent maybe 90 seconds warming up the Falken Azenis tires and didn’t hesitate when negotiating the dead end of that airport taxiway. Now that’s confidence. Confidence in his equipment and in his ability to control a car that is altogether too nice for this sort of mayhem. And that’s what drifting looks like to a newbie. Pure, unadulterated mayhem. From the outside looking in this is about loose cars doing burnouts in parking lots. Wrong. This sport is less Furious and more Bullitt than you’d think, and it’s gone mainstream with the Formula Drift Series, which Jr. owned in 2010 as its champion.

Forget all that. Let’s talk about the car. It’s badass, and you might never get a ride in person, but you can drive Jr. ‘s ’69, which is called the RTR-X (Read To Rock-X), in the new Need for Speed Shift 2 Unleashed video game. It’s way close to the real thing. The real thing is not a poseur, faux-touring trailer queen with an identity crisis, either. Jr. earns a living competing in drift racing events and built the RTR-X to lure suckers like us into the seat and into his world. It works both mechanically and psychologically. Even if you hate the neon-green accents and fender flares, one ride will make you question your car’s performance and start looking at this one for inspiration.

The chassis and coilover suspension are dialed for high-speed maneuverability and massive amounts of grip. The powertrain is a high-revving combination of Kinsler-injected Coyote crate engine power mated to a six-speed from a Boss 302R1. It flat-out rips, but the real fun comes from an Art Morrison front clip that delivers 50-plus degrees of steering angle and dual-caliper rear brakes that work independently to initiate the sideways action. The performance level will impress even the most jaded open track-day hero.

The aesthetics are pretty good, too, if you can wrap your dome around Dearborn metal ramrodded with European styling and a side of Asian flavor. Rather than cut up a classic, a Dynacorn reproduction body was massaged with traditional lead filler instead of plastic, and steel was used to create the rear spoiler and NACA ducts. The heavily modified sheetmetal is dead straight and covered in show-quality graphics that were picked via an Internet forum (SpeedHunters.com) fan survey. It’s a high-end piece that most owners would cringe at the thought of wheeling in anger. Not Jr.

We witnessed him hammer the RTR-X with unrelenting force in the worst possible place for a car with a show-quality shell. Jr. drifted it at a defunct airfield, which hasn’t seen the good side of a street sweeper in years. It’s potholed, rutted, and covered in more loose rubble than the parking lot of the Boar’s Nest. In short, it’s hard on cars that are driven delicately, let alone ones pitched sideways with the tires hucking rocks at the quarter-panels. Love it or hate it, but you’ve got to respect a car that is driven like that.