Small chucks of rubber shred from spinning tires as a silver four-door Nissan Skyline sets into an apex and drifts across the black asphalt. The driver pulls an e-brake, sets the next corner, and skids into perfect form. From the sidelines the locals stand and watch. Along with hundreds of others, they travel from afar to visit a skid pad that’s located about 25 miles outside of Edmonton, Canada, for a chance to do one thing — Drift.
The Skyline smokes the tires through one the last turn. Low rpms take over, and the grunt of the motor forces the car to slow down. Making its way off the pad, it idles past a group of onlookers that sneak a glimpse of the driver tucked behind the wheel – a young woman named Shelby Crackston.
Since Shelby was young, she’s been engulfed in cars and racing. As a child, one of the only ways she could sleep was to the sound of drag racing. Passed out asleep in her mother’s lap in the local raceway stands, Shelby would gain impromptu photographs from people sitting near by — while the “calm” of thousand horsepower dragsters and funny cars sang a thunderous lullaby.
Growing up, she’s always had an appreciation for muscle cars. She grew up hearing stories from her parents, about street racing back in the day. When she had the chance, on the evenings and weekends, Shelby would work alongside her dad helping with engine pulls and tearing apart old school American V8s in the garage. “V8’s are my comfort zone.” She said.
Later, Shelby began working at a local Nissan dealership. During that time, she discovered two of the managers were involved in the local drift scene. These two sparked her interest enough to attend a local event, but while there, Shelby was hit with a big surprise. Apparently her brother was moonlighting as the crew chief for an “out of province” driver. This surprise was the support Shelby needed to jump in the drift game! So starting out with an old base model Corolla, the adventure began.
At 18 years old Shelby was doing ok during practices, but knew she needed a better car than a Corolla to be serious about competing. “I always had to carry along a spare diff . . . they have a problem with exploding.” She chuckled while saying. But then one day, she discovered a four-door Nissan Skyline GTS4 buried in the front yard of a random house
. . . apparently, the current owner was planning to have the Skyline hauled off and crushed!
Shelby jumped on the opportunity to snatch it, even though the condition was extremely bad – she was determined. After pushing the car in several attempts to start, it finally did — then limped its way back to the home garage.
Like a recluse, Shelby locked herself in the garage and away from society for months. Along with help and advise from a mentor, Shelby tore away at the Skyline as if possessed. She wrenched on it every chance until finally, the Skyline was hitting the local skid pad.
The Skyline started out the season with a few good events, but Shelby knew this car had more. So one practice night she let an experience driver see what the car could really do. Unfortunately pushing those limits was bit too much, and while it was a lot of fun, it left the Skyline with a blown motor.
After a tow home, and restless thoughts, Shelby pulled the entire driveline out that very night. With research and advise from several people, she decided to shoehorn a Chevy LS1 V8 into the Skyline. Scoping out junkyards near and far, she ended up getting a motor out of a trashed ‘98 Camaro in the U.S. and had it shipped to the border. “Pulling that trailer into the garage was like Christmas morning.” She said.
Freshened up with a new top end, Comp Cams camshaft, LS1 oil pan swap, and braided oil lines, Shelby was ready to drop in the V8. But this wasn’t a simple task. Bashing in the firewall and welding up custom headers took place to accommodate the right side steering, starter, and distributor clearance. Once the motor was in, she dove into the wiring. With guidance from someone with experience in a similar swap, in a sprint of three days, the Skyline was alive and running strong enough to hold out through the remainder of season events.
Back at the track was a bit tricky at first. The car had a ton more power and adapting to an entire new driving style was an issue. “During one of the events, 4 different cars all crashed in the same spot.” Shelby said. Unfortunately the Skyline followed suit and ended with the same fate. The front end was trashed, and Shelby was finished for the season. “Thank God the motor was fine.” She thought. Now it was back to the lab. But for this round — she had more time on her hands.
Diving back into the car and with the help of a mentor, she completely repined the wiring harness to run a 2001-2003 Camaro ECM. Next she installed a custom fabricated frontend bash bar, then cleaned up the engine bay and installed a laundry list of mods. By next season, Shelby was back on track — dialing in the Skyline.
Now days Shelby and “Garth” are planning several more events throughout the area, with the possibility of traveling stateside to compete. But meanwhile, she’s working as a full-time mechanic at a local Ford Dealership, while working towards a technical degree at NAIT (North American Institute of Technologies). As far we can see, this Canadian “Bride of Frankenstein” has one hellishly good future.