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Unfinished Business

15 September 2022

We check out Pete Hopping’s VR-4, known as ‘IN4WAR’‘ 440KW at the wheels of stroked T04Z-packing triple diamond fury!

Words: Warren Sare, Photos: Glen McNamara

Yeah, bro, she’s pretty much finished now — well, apart from the dogbox that my lovely missus is going to say yes to after she reads this,” Pete Hoppings laughs. We guess, dear readers, that we’d better hope Mrs Hopping is as kind as Pete says — either that, or the only dogbox he will be getting is one to reside in.

Let’s go back to the start of Pete’s journey with modified cars, so that this particular story starts to make a little more sense. It turns out that Pete has always been a fan of the E39A shape of the VR-4, despite the fact that they’re as aerodynamic as a brick and he has to jump on the brakes a little earlier than the Evo boys when attending any of his favoured track cruising days. You see, a VR-4 was 16-year-old Pete’s very first car, which he acquired off a mate as soon as he got his licence. While that first car met an unfortunate end, as many do while young drivers work out their limits, it planted the seed for what has become a bit of a love affair with Mitsubishi’s first rally weapon.

As with a lot of the owners who grace the pages of this magazine, as funds permitted over the years, Pete worked his way through a steady stream of all the JDM turbo weapons found cruising the streets of New Zealand and transported magically to Mexico once the sun went down. Evos, WRXs, all shapes of VR-4, and even a dirty ol’ BA Falcon have made their way through the Hopping garage. But it was always the E39A VR-4 shape that held a special place in Pete’s heart, so when it came time to build and fasteners used throughout, as the engine works to keep up with the airflow of the Garrett T04Z turbo sitting on a Sinco manifold. There is a club link here, as this is the former ‘E4TDST’ drag car turbo that did a single-digit pass.

Extensive head-porting work has been done and fitted is a set of Crower 276-degree cams and adjustable cam gears, along with a Supertech valvetrain for reliability, while the car drinks a steady diet of Gull 98-octane via a larger fuel rail feeding 1400c injectors. This is an engine that just wants to breathe, with a customised intake and piping, and, with Brett from Dynopower on the job and setting up the Link ECU, this set-up is good for 440kW at a relatively moderate 22psi. The build and run-in were completed just three days before Pete’s wedding and made for a pretty nice present.

Given the turbo size, there’s more available — but just remember what Pete wanted to begin with. At the moment, he’s just hoping that his modified Evo III gearbox will hold up to spirited driving while noting that the VR-4 carries a bit more muscle than a Lancer. A lightened 5.35kg flywheel and four-puck button clutch also call the drivetrain home, but with Pete’s heavy right Red Band gumboot and a whole collection of 18-inch wheels to choose from, it may be something special, there was only one choice. Rough as, bro — she was just a bare shell with paint that was so far gone it got stuck in the sandpaper,” Pete explains of how IN4WAR started its life.

Picked up from the depths of suburban Auckland for the sum total of $500, not much is known about the chassis other than it was a bare shell and was a genuine VR-4. However, stripped bare by a few willing hands, the chassis was brought back to life. It was always destined to receive something hearty, as Mike from M Tech Autos had been putting together a solid two-litre engine package to power this build. This was quickly sent off to long-running workshop Speedfactor for piping work and whatever it needed to get it up running. It seems that a little more than up-and-running was achieved, though, as with 380kW at all four wheels on the dyno, Pete was a happy man — for a while, at least. He won a few tacos and burritos, but when you exist in a world filled with 10-second cars, there’s always room for more hot sauce.

We know — it sounds as if we just referenced that movie which started it all, but in this case I’m talking about the 10-second cars that call Untamed Motorsport (UMF) home. Pete is a foundation member and the current club president and, with multiple Night Speed Drag Wars champions and cars with 10-second timeslips always around, the decision to go to a 2.3-litre stroker motor was pretty easy. “I went in and said, ‘Go hard!’” says Pete of the engine build plan, and go hard they did, cramming the engine full of top-end components. Wossner pistons and Manley H-beam rods are attached to an Eagle 100mm stroker crankshaft with ARP studs sooner rather than later that replacement is called for.

IN4WAR isn’t all about the go, though, with a custom red mix from the Mitsubishi family applied to the entire car and a couple of different bumper and skirt combos that seem to get changed at almost every event. We guess you have the spare time to do that when you get up at 4am to milk the cows. Currently, the combo features 18×8-inch Wolf wheels wrapped in 215-wide rubber, which do their best to hold on as corners are attacked.

Knowing that the car was destined to do events and be driven, the handling side of things hasn’t gone unattended. Ultra Racing front, fender, and rear strut braces have been fitted, along with XYZ adjustable suspension to keep the car tracking where it’s meant to. A later model Evo III has donated its brake calipers and a set of slotted rotors, while semi-race compound pads now call the E39A home.

Inside, the cabin has been kept functional, with the main focus for the driver being the Ecliptech shift light as well as, amusingly enough, the factory 100kph ‘chime’, which is on pretty much constantly when the car is in motion. Think back now to your first car, and imagine what you would have done if you had the chance to do it again — Pete had that chance, and he certainly didn’t let it slip by!

This article originally appeared in NZPC issue No. 296