The job is to drive, review and complain about new cars. I love the job. In fact, it’s not a job, it’s passion mixed in with sitting in front a of computer seven days a week over 50+ hours, travelling 18 hours to stay somewhere for 24 hours, drive a car, then travel back for 18 hours, in other words, a regular gig.
While it all sounds wonderful, sometimes the best part of job requires a 25-minute drive for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a piece of automotive lore. Truth be told, these rarified moments are some of the major highlights of my career. I’ve driven many old Volkswagens, Porsches, Mazdas, Hondas and this time, a pristine 1993 Mitsubishi Lancer GSR Evolution with 87,000 km on the clock. Yes, an EVO 1.
The car you see in the horrible pictures belong to a brother-from-another-mother, colleague and friend of mine, Vinnie. He wisely purchased the black 1993 EVO1 in the second half of the last decade when the flood gates opened, if only for a short while, to the importation of Japanese Domestic Market cars. The fact that the EVO1 was now 15 years old also made available for importation.
In 2008, Vinnie decided to buy himself a toy and a car that ticked all the right boxes: fast, agile, compact, sexy, simple and a living legend. Without digging deep into why this car was so hot, suffice it to say that after only a few years of production, Mitsubishi entered the World Rallye Championship (WRC) and began killing the competition with the likes of Tommi Mäkinen behind the wheel.
Every subsequent EVOLUTION of the original Lancer GSR got better, faster and made the original car that much more attractive.
The Lancer GSR EVO1 is powered by a turbocharged and intercooled 4G63T 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. This is same basic engine that powered all generation of the EVO save for the EVO X. In this guise, the mill produced some 250-horsepower and 227 lb.-ft. of torque at 3000 rpm and although these numbers seem low compared to the VW Golf R’s 288-horsepower and 280 torques, for example, this car weighed only 1,200kg, compared to the Golf’s 1,500kg.
The weight story comes up any time an old car is driven. The advent of countless crash-safety gadgets and stronger structures are the main culprits to added girth and no matter how sophisticated the technology behind the drive has become, nothing can truly overcome the burden of many hundreds of extra kilograms.
Before I go on with the driving impressions, I want to tell you a little more about this specific EVO1. The wheels are custom Quium 16×7 forged aluminum rallies shod with BFGoodrich KDW 205/50R16 tires. The suspension features coilovers from Standard and the exhaust is a custom made 3-inch stainless steel cat-back with Vibrant black twin tailpipes.
Other notable improvements include Hawk pads at all corners, Volvo S40 front discs from Brembo, stainless steel braided brake lines and finally an ACT clutch and flywheel setup.
Looks stock, goes like a dream
The beauty with this car’s mods is that the EVO essentially looks stock but from the moment the ignition key is turned, everyone knows it’s special. To drive it is to be reminded how JDM once nearly owned it all and, unfortunately, how Mitsubishi has completely lost its way. The latter point is a topic for much future discussion, maybe…
The suspension and tire combination are probably, in part at least, responsible for the perfect steering feel. Assistance is easy and perfectly well-adjusted at once, with immediate linear response – a true joy to rediscover such an unfiltered direct feeling.
The ACT clutch is light, requiring minimal effort while the shifter’s throws are longer than expected – this is perhaps the only item I would address if she were mine. Pedals are perfectly positioned for the old heel&toe, a necessary maneuver in this car.
Getting underway is wonderful, effortless and ecstasy-inducing. The small-ish turbocharger spools up quickly negating all forms of lag. Boost comes up fast enough to require quick shifting with a mild throttle-blip between upshifts to keep everything going along smooth. Acceleration is brisk with an accompanying exhaust note that brings me back to my more youthful years of tuning cars, the old way.
Good coilovers FTW
The ride is outstandingly good, too. Here we a have an older “softer” chassis that is not overly burdened by weight so the dampers and springs can perform their job. These coilovers, much like the H&Rs on my old VW Jetta, strike a lovely compromise between not punishing on regular roads and excellent handling at the limit.
Vinnie’s tracked the EVO1 numerous times and reports that it remains predictable so long as the limits are understood. Here too, the GSR’s viscous limited slip rear differential comes in handy putting the available power to good use. Once more, the EVO1’s relative featherweight does not overwhelm the brakes – the Hawk pads are a must upgrade if this car is to be tracked.
One of the greats
If anything, after my time behind the wheel of this 1993 Mitsubishi Lancer GSR Evolution, I was sad. Sad, because my bro Vinnie’s putting the car up for sale on BaT shortly. Sad because I can’t afford it. Sad, because every time I drive an older car, mine included, I’m reminded that we can’t go back to the way cars were. I am happy however to have finally driven it.
This incomparable Lancer GSR Evolution is a snapshot of 90s JDM automotive greatness at its absolute pinnacle.