Twin Hellcat-Swapped BMWs Are Set To Invade Formula Drift

10 min read

Twin Hellcat-Swapped BMWs Are Set To Invade Formula Drift

10 min read

It’s no secret that drifting is currently one of the fastest-growing forms of motorsport in the United States. But as is the case with many popular disciplines, as the competition heats up, many teams are less willing to venture off the beaten path with their programs. And that tends to lead to a field of cars with a lot of commonality, and less interesting racing in general.

Chad Gobbell and Daniel Barnes are looking to buck that trend this season. Hailing from Oak Hills, California, they’re the force behind United We Slide, a company the pair established to chronicle their drifting and fabricating exploits. After spending some time in grassroots-level drifting, the duo is looking to step up to Formula Drift Pro Am, an extension series which provides a ladder for drivers to move up the ranks into professional competition.

Twin hellcat BMWs

The BMW E92s that are destined for Hellcat-powered glory.

Gobbell and Barnes had a build strategy sorted out for this season, but a recently-implemented update to the class rules derailed the initial plan, leaving them wondering what their next move might be. Now, as the season starts to take shape, the two are working on a pair of nearly identical E92 BMWs that will be motivated by Hellcat power. It’s the first time that the boosted 6.2-liter Hemi V8 will see use in Formula Drift competition, but we doubt it will be the last.

“I’ve always been a big Mopar guy – back in high school, I was always the one tearing around in old muscle cars,” says Gobbell. “Over the years I built a few of them, and then I got into the off-roading scene.” After putting together a 1986 Dodge Ram and a few Jeeps, he decided to shift his attention to European performance. “Eventually I realized that I needed to get a proper daily driver – something I wouldn’t want to modify. That’s when I bought my first BMW… and you see where that ended up!”

Years later, Gobbell and Barnes were invited to attend a drifting exhibition event that would set them on their current trajectory. “After going to that event, I knew I needed to get into this scene,” Barnes tells us. “So I immediately began looking for a car to build.” Although he also turned his attention to BMWs, Barnes’ automotive interests ultimately leaned more toward Japanese hardware as a result of riding around in his older brother’s FC Mazda RX-7 while he was growing up. “So in 2019, I got an FC of my own that I had planned to build for competitive drifting. But as time went on with that build, I discovered that the RX-7 isn’t really an ideal option for it.”

Around that same time, Gobbell was working on a twin turbo Viper V10-powered E36 BMW build that was also facing some headwinds. “We just didn’t realize how expensive both of those build paths were going to be. We’ve always liked to go against the grain and be unique, but there’s a reason why everyone runs the LS,” Chad says with a laugh.

Then, after rule changes were handed down from Pro Am series officials while the team was in midst of completing their respective projects, Gobbell and Barnes were left in a lurch. “Part of the change was related to the ECU, and I suddenly didn’t have a good solution for the Viper engine in the configuration I had planned to run,” he explains. “It was kind of the last straw for that plan.”

In an effort to bring costs down and support each other in the garage and at the track, they found a pair of nearly identical E92 BMW donor cars to build. While LS power was the obvious engine choice, Gobbell and Barnes started considering what other options they had to keep the costs reasonable while taking a build path less traveled.

Hellcat BMW front suspension

The Wisefab hardware provides these cars with the suspension geometry and steering angle required to meet the unique demands of drifting competition.

“After we started budgeting everything, we realized that the Hellcat motor was actually a viable option,” Gobbell says. “It makes a bunch of power, it’s affordable, and for me, it allows me to blend my love of BMWs with my love of Mopars.” Both cars are still being put together as of the time of this writing, but the team has the strategy for the projects already mapped out.

“Holley’s Terminator X standalone ECU was a big factor in the decision to go with Hellcat power,” Gobbell notes. “It’s a company we’ve known and I’ve trusted since my drag racing days, and the simplicity of the design makes this system incredibly easy to work with.”

While doing research to see if the Hellcat idea was feasible, the team also discovered that Quick Time offers an off-the-shelf bellhousing that’s compatible with the Hemi and the Muncie-style bolt pattern of the G-Force four-speed dog box manual transmissions’ they’re planning to use. “Having a custom bellhousing built would likely have been a much more time consuming process,” he points out.

Riding on Wisefab suspension with Feal coilovers, the team wants to stick to the plan of keeping the E92 builds fairly simple, but there’s at least one mod that the Hellcats are destined to receive. “Its got to have a nice, choppy cam in it,” Gobbell says.

In the meantime the cars are being prepped for the roll cages, which are to be built by Rome Charpentier, a close friend of the team and one of the Formula Drift series’ pro drivers. “Rome has been our inspiration through a lot of this,” Barnes says. “We’re always working on stuff together, and he’s helped us move into competitive drifting.

The plan is to hit some drifting shootouts and other exhibition events later this year once the cars are completed this spring, along with a few Pro Am events as the calendar gets finalized and schedules allow.

“Who knows, this kind of setup might catch on,” Barnes says. “Part of the thought process was that, if we started doing this, it might inspire other people to go that route as well. The engines make good power from the factory, so it’s not something where we have to chase that down. And when we budgeted out the LS engines to make this level of power, it turned out that the Hellcat engines have actually become a much cheaper alternative.”


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