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Big butt: 2003 Mitsubishi Evolution VIII

16 May 2013


Published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 197

If there’s one thing that’s sure to make you feel old, it’s someone like Aucklander Aaron Meekings telling you: “I’ve loved Evos since I was a kid, I always wanted to own one.”

Here at NZPC, we’re pretty damn sure there was no such thing as the Mitsubishi Evo when we were kids, well, in New Zealand anyway … Nonetheless, it’s cool to think there is now a generation of guys (and girls) like Aaron that have grown up with a huge range of awesome Japanese cars on every corner — Skylines, Supras, WRXs, Type Rs and everything in between. Why, then, with all that choice, was it the Evo that captured the young Aaron’s attention?

“I’ve just always loved them ever since I can remember, I can’t really remember what first got me into them,” he tells us. “I started off with a Mivec Lancer as my first car, then when I left school I got a VR-4 Evo 0, then an Evo VI, a VII and now this VIII.”

With plenty of Evolution experience under his belt, when Aaron went looking for an Evo VIII a year and a half ago, he knew exactly what he wanted, and he eventually found the perfect car — an externally stock, but under-the-bonnet heavily modified, crisp, white example. “The previous owner had already put a lot of time and money into the engine side of the car. The motor was forged, running a GT35/40 turbo and a MoTeC ECU, but externally it looked pretty much stock.” Though the car was already tuned, the bay itself was nothing to look at, so the car spent a long time at Quest Fabrication, where the engine bay recieved a big freshen-up — new intake manifold, intercooler piping, breather tanks and more. With the changes, Aaron decided it was best to get the retuned, so he took it to see Glenn Suckling at GDS. “It’s also good to know the figures and how the car delivers its power for yourself,” Aaron adds. Spinning up 328 kilowatts at all four wheels, the engine package is a great balance between power and drivability. “I don’t daily-drive this car — the twin-plate clutch is the one thing that holds it back, but otherwise it behaves really well on the street.” The 328kW (440 horse) at the wheels makes for a very fast car, even if it did take Aaron a little while to get used to: “Compared to my Evo IV, which made 240kW (322hp) at the wheels with a stock turbo and bolt-ons, it feels very different. It’s not what I’d call ‘laggy’ but you definitely have to drive the car differently with all the power being further up the revs.”

When Aaron first started working on the new car, his old Evo VI stuck in his mind for more than just its power delivery. “I always liked the guards on the VI — they just look more aggressive than the other Evos.” For those who don’t know their Lancers, the Evo V and VI had aggressive pumped guards up front and interesting stick-on flares at the back. This got Aaron thinking: “I wanted to go wider front and rear, there were fibreglass parts around but I didn’t want to go down the plastic route — I wanted all steel.” With a rough idea in mind, Aaron went hunting for someone to create the one-off bodywork needed. The search eventually lead Aaron to Auckland-based panel and paint shop GT Refinishers, who had some experience with the subject. Aaron says: “Grant [Walker] at GT had actually already fabricated some steel guards for a CT9 Evo once before, so he was the right choice.” Grant was given a brief that said he needed to stick with — but enhance — the original lines of the car. Up front it was a simple task of massaging the factory arches 30mm wider, but the rear involved a lot of cutting, welding and massaging to give the Evo an extra 40mm each side. The end result is subtle, and, as Aaron says, “If you didn’t know Evos, you might not even notice that this car has been wide-bodied, but that’s how I wanted it.”

Dropped down on a set of aggressive 18×9.5-inch Rota Grids with a basic suspension set-up, the Evo certainly looks menacing on the road, but it’s these two areas that Aaron is not entirely happy with and hopes to improve upon next. “When I first got the wheels, 18×9.5-inch was massive for an Evo, but that now seems pretty common, especially with the Rota Grids. The guards can handle at least another inch in wheel width, so I’m looking to swap wheels to something bigger soon.” On the suspension side of things, although the fairly basic set-up is more than adequate for the street, Aaron has plans to start racing his car both on the strip and the circuit, which will mean an upgrade in the handling department to bring the Mitsi up to scratch.

Though the strip and the circuit await, Aaron built his Evo for the road, so you won’t be seeing any interior pieces coming out or a roll cage going into this car anytime soon. “I’m building this car to be a tough, reliable weekend cruiser — just one that can perform on the track if I want it to,” he says. And that’s the single greatest thing about Evos — they are capable and versatile enough to be both a great street car and a very fast track car at the same time — we can certainly see why Aaron has been into them since he was a kid!

Tuning Menu

Engine: Mitsubishi 4G63T 2000cc four-cylinder
Block: CP forged pistons and rings, Eagle rods and steel crank, ARP main studs, balance shafts removed
Head: Blueprinted, ported and polished, HKS cam gears, HKS 272 cams, HKS valve springs, HKS retainers, HKS head gasket
Intake: Ported and polished intake manifold, Nissan VH45 70mm throttle body, K&N air filter, custom intercooler piping, aftermarket intercooler
Turbo: Garrett GT35/40
BOV: GReddy Type R
Wastegate: TiAL 44mm
Exhaust: Custom stainless manifold, 76mm exhaust system with two resonators
Fuel: Walbro 373kW/500hp fuel pump, Sard fuel pressure regulator, Denso 800cc injectors, HKS fuel rail
Ignition: NGK plugs
ECU: MoTeC M800
Cooling: Alloy race radiator
Other: Custom oil catch can, Speedflow fittings with braided lines
Gearbox: Factory six-speed
Clutch: HKS twin-plate, lightened flywheel
Diff: Factory LSDs

Struts: D2 coilovers
Springs: D2
Other: Hardrace rear camber arms, custom Hardrace rear toe arms
Brakes: (F) Factory Brembo calipers, Znoelli drilled and slotted rotors, Znoelli pads, (R) Factory Brembo calipers, Znoelli drilled and slotted rotors, Znoelli pads

Wheels: 18×9.5 inch Rota Grids
Tyres: 225/40/R18 Bridgestone Potenza RE002

Paint: Mitsubishi White respray
Enhancements: Custom rear widebody (all steel), Evo IX rear bumper, Vortex generator, front guards pumped 30mm, factory front bumper with nose chop and front lip added

Seats: Factory Recaro
Steering wheel: Factory Momo
Instrumentation: Defi gauges
ICE: Sony display head unit, Infinity six-inch speakers at front, Infinity 6×9-inch speakers at rear, Infinity 10-inch sub custom moulded in boot, Earthquake amplifier

Power: 328kW (439hp) at the wheels

Driver Profile

Aaron Meekings 
Age: 21
Location: Auckland
Occupation: Self-employed earthmover
Length of ownership: Two-and-a-half years
Build time: Two-and-a-half years
Thanks: Kyrie at Quest Fabrication, Grant at GT Refinishers, James at Rota Wheels, Glenn Suckling at GDS Motorsport, Ryan at Luxury Sports, Brian at Coast Auto Electrix, Patrick at Rapid Radio, Todd at WSN, my brother Ryan and everyone else that has helped along the way

Words: Peter Kelly  
Photos: Adam Croy