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In Full Force

12 April 2021

So it’s an Evo club, and it’s just for locals? Well, this could go one of two ways …

Words and photos: Peter Kelly

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When given this assignment, I have to admit that I approached it with a pinch of trepidation and wariness. I was told to meet up with a local car club — a club that only accepted not just one make of car, but one special version of one particular model, and localized to only one part of the country, nonetheless. What was I walking into? How many quality cars could this Tauranga Evolution club really muster with such specific requirements for membership? Could there really be that many quality Evos floating around this part of the country?

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I got my answer soon after arriving at the disused go-kart track where we’d all agreed to meet. There I was, gracefully wobbling around up on top of a race car trailer, looking through the camera lens at row upon row of very nice Mitsubishi Evolutions of all years, states of build, and colours. For those who appreciate the triple diamond and its undisputed high-water-mark model — what happened, Mitsi? — this is nirvana, smack bang in the middle of New Zealand’s favourite beach city.

As a club, Tauranga Evolution kicked off back in 2015. Club president Bhavish Rathod explains how it all came about: “The idea of the club came after meeting the Auckland Evolution crew at Chrome. The Tauranga region has a big range of Evolution cars, and a few of my close friends have Evos, so a club just seemed to be a sweet idea! From there, friends of friends invited their friends and having accounts on Facebook and Instagram also brought in new members. Now we have a total of 31 cars.” For a localized group specializing in one particular variant of one particular model, those aren’t bad numbers!

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The club is active, pushing to attend all sorts of events throughout the year — from track days to show-and-shines, local meets, and plenty of their own regular low-key club meet-ups. “The club is a close-knit family,” Bhavish tells me. “We all have a strong interest in cars, so it’s a great way to get everyone to work together and discuss their car goals by interacting with other members.”

Each model of Evolution is well represented within the club, and it was great to see so many iconic machines so well looked after. The tough-street style of build seems especially popular — something that’s getting harder and harder to find these days, with many people choosing to either keep mods very light, or go the full business and convert their car to track-only. Big power, plus the aero, handling, and stopping power to match, all topped off with a fresh WOF sticker, seems the order of the day for Tauranga Evolution. Watching the Evos jostling for position during the shoot and taking a few laps around the crumbling track definitely brought a smile — it was all lumpy idles, rasping exhaust notes, and the odd thunk and shudder of a street-driven dogbox.

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Spending an afternoon with the club, its cars and its members, I quickly got a sense that it was more than just a loose affiliation of strangers smashed together simply because they own the same type of car. These people — a surprisingly well-represented mix of sexes, ages, and tastes — all seemed to genuinely enjoy their time together, with light-hearted banter and laughter flying in all directions.

And that’s the real power of cars. Yeah, it’s fun to build them — when everything is going to plan, at least — and they’re definitely fun to thrash. But they also act as a social glue, a reason to bring people together, often people that would otherwise have never met or interacted with one another. Clubs like Tauranga Evolution allow people to utilize their shared love of a car to create a community of mates. It’s a place where they can share in-depth knowledge and insider jokes, event attendances, and late-night motorway pulls, as well as more than a few beverages in the garage when everything’s gone pear-shaped for a member’s project.

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Strong, good-natured, and passionate car clubs like Tauranga Evolution are part of what keeps the scene alive here in New Zealand, and from the brief time I spent hanging out with them on that typically sunny Tauranga afternoon, I’d wholeheartedly recommend anyone with an Evo in the Bay of Plenty hits them up.

A big thanks to Bhavish and the crew for the cruisy afternoon spent in triple diamond, big-boost nirvana.

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This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 288