The South Sound Speedstars, or South Sound Hit Squad as they’re less affectionately known, are a duo of up-and-coming drivers from Olympia, WA who are out for blood. Meet Erich “E-rich” Hagen with the Cole Trickle special and Dio “Wait, who the f*** is Dortz?” Ortiz with the matching theme, but in red and black. A few weekends ago, Benoit and I headed down to Richie’s Garage/RDE Autosport in Tumwater, WA to hang out with the infamous #SSSpeedstars.
Now, looking at the outside, the two cars seem incredibly similar:
- S13 240SX hatchback? Check.
- 6 cylinder engine? Check.
- White wheels wrapped in whatever tires they can find? Check. (Seriously, someone find these guys a tire sponsor!)
- Big ass Big Country Labs Wing? Check.
- A plethora of stickers, both sponsors and friends? Check.
And taking a look at the drivers, you start to see some similarities as well:
- Muscles? Double check. (The next time you see Dio, ask to see his calf muscle. That shit is ridiculous!)
- Goofy and somehow incredibly endearing? Check.
- All-around great dudes who I am proud to call two of my best friends? Check.
When you take a closer look at both of these cars, you’ll find they are drastically different. Erich’s is powered by a completely stock Toyota VVT-i 1JZ-GTE. The only thing giving Erich’s car more power than the Japanese sport sedans these motors naturally called home, was the tune provided by Portland Speed Industries and the front-mount intercooler provided by Extreme Turbo Systems. Meanwhile, Dio’s car is powered by a Nissan VQ35DE from an Infiniti G35. Dio’s power situation is similar in that the motor is completely stock, assisted only by a tune from Drift Office. Dio is often asked why he didn’t follow Erich in choosing the increasingly popular JZ powerplant. When I asked Erich about it, he replied, “Dio works at a Nissan dealership. What kind of motors do you think he works on all day? If anything goes wrong, he knows exactly why, and how to fix it. It makes sense.”
Erich and Dio met at a drifting event at Bremerton Speedway a few years ago. Dio was driving at the event and when his car broke down, he asked Erich if he could tow it home for him. When Erich arrived at Dio’s house and realized it was literally just around the corner from his own, the best friendship had begun. With the help of Ian Dillon AKA Factory 83, they were able to recruit the parts manager at the dealership Dio worked at. Nissanparts.cc has sponsored both cars ever since.
Both drivers are competing in a drifting series that takes place at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA. Erich is currently sitting in 2nd place (behind a driver I’m sure you’re all familiar with: Ian Fournier) in the Formula Drift Pro-Am series. If Erich can hold on to this position through the last two events, he and the other top 3 drivers will be awarded with Formula Drift Pro Licenses. Dio competes in the Evergreen Drift Grassroots series. In previous years the events would take place on the same day, which honestly got a little hectic at times. This year the two events take place over the course of the whole weekend, with Pro-Am on Saturday and Grassroots on Sunday. This format allows for more time to run each event, which, in my opinion, is much easier on the staff, the drivers, and the fans.
Though Grassroots isn’t as big of a show, there is definitely some stiff competition for Dio and his VQ-powered S13. Dio’s car is easily the most sponsor-decorated car on the Grassroots grid, but it’s not all for show. Dio was top qualifier and placed first in last weekend’s competition. The safety requirements aren’t as strict, and most of the competitors don’t even have cages, forcing the combatants into psuedo-tandems. Think D1 Street Legal. These are guys who drive their cars to and from work every day, and then out to the track to compete against each other once a month.
In the Grassroots cars you’ll find most of the amenities of a daily driver. Carpet, stereo, and interior are usually intact, for the most part. Seen above is Dio’s custom stereo system. How else is he supposed to hear Taylor Swift’s new CD over the absolutely gnarly sound of the VQ35 under the hood?
That brings us to the passenger side Driver/Co-Driver names. Dio likes to think of himself as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. The obsession doesn’t stop there, if you follow Dio on instagram you’ll find yourself swimming in images of Taylor on every #taylortuesday. But now that I think about it, the two do have incredibly similar dating habits…
I met Cole Trickle — I mean Erich — 3 years ago when doing an article for a different auto-blog that I was writing for at the time. His situation was drastically different back then. We were writing a feature on the car he was driving at the time: a BMW E30 powered by a Nissan CA18DET. You heard that right, a Nissan motor powering his BMW! The CA18 would follow Erich to his next car, this Nissan 240SX.
Naturally, the combination of Nissan chassis and Nissan powerplant just got too weird for Erich and he sought the sweet, sweet sound of this VVT-i 1JZ-GTE. Jokes aside, the CA18 was only used because after switching to a more competitive chassis, Erich was low on funds and the motor needed little-to-no work to get the new shell running. When talking to Erich after his first couple of events in the S13, he said, “It’s like I’m cheating. I mean, yeah, I have to relearn how to drive Evergreen, but it’s so much easier!” It just goes to show that while being different and straying from the path will earn you all the internet street cred you could desire, there is a reason the Nissan S-Chassis is the most popular drift platform.
That’s not to say the first year in this new chassis was an easy one. Erich was driving a 250hp four-cylinder turbo against the likes of Rob Primo with his then-600hp 2JZ and Kory Keezer’s unstoppable (literally, have you seen how smashed his car is?) V8 power. He proved to be a definite “No Lift Soldier” all season. With that sort of handicap and those sort of opponents, Erich definitely wasn’t expecting to come out on top. But all that has changed this year.
After getting intimate with the wall at Pro-Am Round 1, Erich decided to change up the exterior appearance of the kit. This D-Max Type 2 body kit is just one of the many elements that I believe makes Erich’s the best looking car competing in Pro-Am this year. Though it is shown here a little bruised and battered from tandeming with the likes of HOONIGAN and Tandem Of Die at Bash To The Future, it still gives off an incredibly aggressive vibe that suits Erich’s driving style incredibly well.
I still think back to hanging out in Erich’s garage with him and Ian in the winter of 2011/12, and sitting in the driver’s seat of the bare and empty shell that this incredible car once was. It’s crazy to think back to when you first saw a car and then think of everything that’s changed about it. It’s the same with people. Erich has grown a lot since I’ve met him, both as a driver and a person. He’s more talented now — on and off the track. He’s been dialing in his line on Evergreen’s 5/8ths bank, and at the same time dialing in his priorities with his program and his career. I’m incredibly proud of him and where he is now, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in the next couple of years.
To me, the best part about these two guys and their respective programs isn’t the driving. It’s what goes on behind the scenes. Plastered all over Erich and Dio’s cars you’ll see quite a few sponsor logos and some “just for fun” stickers. Some of the companies featured on both cars aren’t just companies providing the drivers with a product or a check; sometimes they are friends of the two who just want to help out. Erich and Dio’s main sponsor, Nissanparts.cc is also one of their good friends. Russell Moore single-handedly runs Nissanparts.cc and when he isn’t busy playing dad to his 3 kids, he tries to make time to hang out with our group of friends. Then there’s guys like Gabe Watson AKA Rampage Fabrication and Design — another friend of the group who provided the front diffusers for both cars and the end-plates on Dio’s wing. The list goes on, but the point is that these guys aren’t just driving in a series in order to reach the next level of competition. They’re building friendships with awesome people who just wanna see these two succeed, and with the support and dedication these guys have, I see them doing just that: Succeeding. The sky’s the limit.
Dio’s Parts List:
’03 G35 VQ35DE
Exedy Stage 1 Clutch
Chase Bays Z33 to S13 Clutch Line
350z Intake Pipe
JWT Pop Charger
Megan Adj. FPR
RAMPAGE Custom Exhaust
RawBrokerage one piece Driveshaft
S13 stock welded diff
Flex-a-Lite Dual Fans
Z33 Fly by wire Gas Pedal
Walboro 255LPH Fuel pump w/ Z32 filter
Osiris Uprev Reflashed ECU by DRIFTOFFICE
DORTZ Z33 to S13 Wiring
Godspeed Fabrication Shifter Relocator
Custom Z33 to S13 Solid Motor/Trans Mounts
Fusion Graphix Wrap
Origin 180sx 20mm Front and 30mm Rear Widebody
OEM Type X Complete Front Bumper Assy
RAMPAGE Front and Side Splitters
OEM Type X Tails
Big Country Labs Wing wrapped by Fusion Graphix with Forever Powder Coating sparkly white uprights & RAMPAGE Endplates
Sparco Corsa Seat on Buddy Club Rails
RaceQuip 4pt Harness
Auto Power 4 pt. Roll Cage w/ Custom Godspeed Fabrication Door Bars
Grip Royal Steering wheel
OEM JDM 180sx Type X Cluster
Dakota Digital RPM converter
Baby Monk Bobble Head
Bump in da Trunk
JBL1000 Watt Sub
350z Anniversary and Motegi MR116 Wheels powder coated sparkly white by Forever Powder Coating
Achilles Radial ATR Sport Front Tires
Megan Racing Street Coilovers
Custom Front Knuckles and Adjustable LCA’s
GKTech Offset Rack Spacers
TEIN S14 Inner and Outer Tie Rods
Megan Tension Rods and Rear Toe Rods
STANCE Rear Upper Control Arms
Erich Parts list