I was immediately intrigued yet perplexed. About a year ago I was sitting at my desk watching a video of this dune buggy-like thing doing some fatty burnouts and donuts in an empty parking lot. I wasn't too sure what it was because there was a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on its passenger seat. Could it be something out of a Mad Max movie? After some digging, I discovered the beast was kept inside Speed Warhouse in Pennsylvania, and it was in fact inspired by Mad Max's post-apocalyptic theme; however, it had no intentions of making it on the big screen, or being used for the military or off-road purposes for that matter. It was simply an artistic creation by longtime drift enthusiast Mike Perez. So when I was finally brought face to face with the monster last year, I knew I had found something special. Behind the scraps of rusted metal and bent tubing were Japanese parts, and the machine's sole purpose was to be an instrument of tire-shredding mayhem known as the "DeathKart."
Now let's rewind the tapes and talk about the origins of the DeathKart. "I started driving and fooling around with cars when I was 16, which quickly developed into drifting thanks to a few forum and Internet searches," Mike began. "I got my hands on an S13 with an SR and ran that thing into everything, really finding my limitations. From that point, I never stopped and just kept trying to progress as much as I could, even in the smallest increments."
What's that you say? Yes, the DeathKart started life as a CA18-powered 240 just like the ones you see in pbskids every month! The original DeathKart was the car Mike learned how to drift in, which later became part of a renowned drift club in '09. Mike continued, "My S13 was originally a Gentlemen Street Club car, where my roots were developed and lead me to where I am today. Over its lifetime, the car got the full treatment—all garage fab stuff and full suspension. The chassis has had numerous motors in it: KA, SR, CA, RB, even an LS for a week, and then finally a 1J, where it won my heart."
JZ engines and the S-chassis, while not members of the same family, have been married together in many great builds throughout our industry. The 1J's turbocharged 2.5L is the baby brother of the 2JZ and a perfect fit for Mike, as it's much more affordable to get spare parts for. To amp up the power, Mike threw in a Precision 6262 turbo, more aggressive cams, beefier injectors and fuel pump, plus an AEM Infinity to make sure things like fuel, boost, and timing were happy. In the end, the 1J put down 550-and-some-odd horsepower, more than enough juice to break the rear tires loose in a high-speed drift, especially once Mike stripped his Nissan down into the thing you see today. But we learned the choice to create the DeathKart wasn't at all planned. "Shortly after its 'no issues' completion, I crested a blind turn following the boys in tandem when the passenger side's A-pillar and door structure met a spun 180-degree vehicle. With my new Mk4 Supra project in the works, I started to dismantle the S13 and part it out. I began taking things like the doors and quarter-panels off, then started driving it around without the majority of its parts on. It clicked," Mike revealed.
And so the 240 blossomed into DeathKart. At its core, it was still the 1J-powered, tire-shredding S13 Mike had piloted for years, but the exterior transformed into whatever he liked and felt. It's something you can't buy and something you can't really plan. "The fun part about DeathKart is it's rela. It allows you to just do things and execute in whatever fashion that's available. Sometimes the crude way or mistakes add more character." Spoken like a true artist. There was no tried-and-true method used to design the DeathKart. Mike just let his imagination run wild. He made trips to the local junkyard to pick up scrap metal and started affi things wherever he deemed fitting. He'd add and bend tubes the same way. And it didn't matter if it was imperfect or rusted, it just had to work for him.
The DeathKart joins a portfolio of builds that makes Speed Warhouse one of the most talked about shops today. You might remember a pair of 2J-swapped cars featured previously in pbskids—a '74 Mercedes and 1,000+hp '75 Celica. They're also regulars at Texas Mile, having taken their Celica down the half-mile strip as well as a turbocharged V-10-powered Supra nicknamed "Vipra," which, as you're reading this, will donate that same V-10 motor to the DeathKart. Like Mike said, you can just do things in whatever fashion to the DeathKart, so why not 850+hp of tire-shredding mayhem next.