Being First On The Scene With The 2001 Eclipse SpyderWithout a doubt, the fourth generation Mitsubishi Eclipse was one of the most highly anticipated cars of the new millennium-and, once it hit the Mitsubishi showroom floors, one of the most controversial. Flaunting radical new styling cues and a powertrain that was totally redesigned from the ground up, the new Eclipse was one of those rare cars that immediately divide the automotive world at large into two distinct groups: those who love it and those who hate it. Everybody had an opinion on this car, and most people were more than willing to let you know what theirs was.
As far as the automotive press was concerned, the latest incarnation of this compact performance staple took a sustained beating in the pages of several different magazines. Some thought the side striations conjured up unpleasant images of the remarkably unremarkable Pontiac Grand Am, and if I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody whine about the new, naturally aspirated V6 and how, oh gee, they sure do miss the turbo, I wouldn't have to write this article.
Well, time has passed, and it has become strikingly evident that Mitsubishi Motors really doesn't care what all the Eclipse's detractors think. They're still moving the cars off the lots, and the Eclipse did well enough in 2000 to enable full-scale production of an open top version of the car for the 2001 model year. This new Eclipse Spyder is what caught Southern California resident Robert Wilson's eye. He wanted a car that he could build in order to promote his employer, Modern Image Signworks in Huntington Beach, Calif., and the various sponsors he acquired while working on past projects (this is Wilson's second time on the cover of 2NR), but this time your everyday Civic or Integra just wouldn't do. Wilson wanted a car that hadn't seen a whole lot of action in terms of project car build-ups, a new platform on which to work his magic.
"For this project we wanted something that not everybody and his brother was working on," Wilson said. "The Eclipse Spyder gave us the opportunity to do something entirely different."
To this end, Wilson approached the powers that be at Mitsubishi and found that they were more than willing to collaborate on a project with him. He left Mitsubishi's corporate headquarters with a year's lease on a brand new 2001 Spyder; needless to say, it looked different back then.
Ah, where to begin. Despite the fact that the new Eclipse was in Wilson's possession for nine weeks before its first scheduled event, almost every cosmetic aspect of Wilson's car has been altered in some way. Wings West, always one of the first aftermarket forces to make itself known when a new compact platform is born, replaced the front and rear bumpers, skirts and rear wing with custom pieces. A testament to Wings West's experience, this body kit mixes well with the dynamic factory lines imparted by Mitsubishi's design team, without overwhelming them. Once the kit pieces were bolted in place, the Spyder was sent to Car Prep in Fountain Valley, Calif., where the silver factory paint job was replaced with no less than 15 coats of PPG chrome yellow, a color that is sure to get this car noticed at any event it is scheduled to attend.
Underneath the Spyder's glowing yellow panels, a set of custom B&G springs and adjustable Koni struts conspire to lower the car about 2-inches. The stock binders have been upgraded at all corners using slotted and cross-drilled AEM rotors, sized 13.5 inches front and 11.5 inches rear; the factory calipers have been retained. The factory rollers (big 17-inchers on the Eclipse GT) have been replaced by 19x8-inch TSW Pin Drive two-piece forged wheels with a spider-esque 12-spoke pattern. That's only half the story though-Wilson told us these wheels are part of a limited production run, which incorporate a single functional center hex nut and hub adaptor that replaces the five-bolt factory pattern. Super sticky Yokohama AVS Sport rubber, sized 235/35-19, rounds out the running gear.
Because this car is meant to run with the top down, it was necessary to make the interior as appealing as the exterior. The front seats were replaced with Cobra Sidewinder racing buckets and the rear seats were entirely removed to make room for a custom enclosure, which houses the Kenwood amps and crossovers. Audio ambience is reproduced by Kenwood component speakers front and rear and three Kenwood subs housed in a custom fiberglass enclosure, which was molded into the Spyder's rear cargo area. The sound system was designed and installed by Gold Star Audio in Irvine, Calif.
Take a closer look at the interior shots and you'll see the entire dash, door panels, seat backs and center console were smoothed and color matched to the exterior body panels in blinding chrome yellow; this work was executed by Wet Works Garage, Stanton, Calif. Additionally, the door panel inserts, rear side inserts and sunvisors were reupholstered in the soft gray Cobra cloth (regrettably, I'm at a loss as to exactly what to call it, but Wilson informs me it cost about $60 a yard) found on the seats themselves, and was done by Stitchcraft in Westminster, Calif. Other interior items include an STR carbon fiber dash kit (because carbon fiber kicks ass) surrounding an in-dash Kenwood MP3 player unit, a MOMO steering wheel, pedal kit and floor mats and a set of Schroth racing harnesses for safety.
Under the Chrome Yellow hood, the Spyder's 3.0-liter V6 powerplant remains largely untouched as far as hard engine parts are concerned; it retains its stock displacement, internals and valvetrain. An AEM cold air intake and 3-inch Bosal Comelin exhaust augment the mill's air moving capabilities, while a Holley race cell battery and Holley Annihilator ignition collaborate on the engine's power supply. Ignition spark is passed along to the cylinders via a set of blue Vitek wires and matching spark plugs.
Various components within the engine bay, such as the factory-supplied strut tower brace and valve cover, were either chromed or powdercoated in coordinating blue and yellow by Specialized Powdercoating, and various engine bay dress up items like the Billet reservoir caps and coordinated blue lines and hoses were supplied by STR and Hose Techniques, respectively.
Despite the modesty of this Spyder's engine build-up, don't think that Robert Wilson doesn't have a couple performance-oriented tricks up his sleeve; you'd have to be half-braindead to miss the two nitrous tanks, which reside in the footwells of what used to be the back seat, while you were perusing the car's interior. These bottles feed a dual stage wet nitrous system supplied and installed by Nitrous Express, Wichita Falls, Texas.
The single system is comprised of two stand-alone systems that collaborate for about a 100-hp power boost, should the need arise. The first shot, good for about 30 hp, is controlled by a toggle switch located in the car's cockpit, while the second is dependent on a throttle-sensitive micro-switch and boosts the engine's output by a further 70 hp.
When fully operational, the nitrous will boost the Spyder's power levels from an already respectable 200 hp into the 300-hp range-much closer to the level of horsepower and torque achieved by such stoplight studs as the Porsche 996 Carrera.
So there you have it-one fully massaged and fully operational 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, undoubtedly one of the first on the import show circuit. The level of detail this car received (damn that interior is clean) speaks volumes about Wilson's experience in doing this sort of thing. The fact that he confronted corporate Mitsubishi and came away with a brand new car to wrench on should say it all. So far, his Spyder has represented Mitsubishi at the 2000 L.A. Auto show and its very own wheel sponsor, TSW, at the 2000 SEMA show in Vegas; be on the lookout for a surprise appearance at an import show near you.