We know it’s tough to remember what life was like before these past few recessionary years, but let’s give it a shot: People had things like jobs and money. Gas ran about $2.25 a gallon for the good stuff, and we bitched that it was too expensive. Carmakers built fast cars, hundreds of aftermarket tuning companies built thousands of parts to make them faster, and we enjoyed the fruits of each with reckless abandon. Hell, played your cards right and you could’ve done it for free or actually gotten paid to do it, while traveling the country, thanks to NHRA-backed sport compact racing competitions and shows like Hot Import Nights attracting big-dollar corporate sponsors vying to get on board with one of the nation’s fastest-growing youth movements. And the girls . . . ah, the girls. Wherever the aforementioned were, you can be sure the girls were too. Yes, life was pretty damn good.
Maryland native Joe Kim and his EVO VIII seen here got a good piece of that movement. It might come as a mild shock for such a clean, contemporary ride, but the two have been seen together like this for the better part of a decade. Right around the time some of you were figuring out that the Lambo doors and Altezza taillights on your Accord really weren’t that cool, the blue/purple-flip DuPont Blazzberry-coated full Voltex aero on Joe’s (and Bride/Defi/Cusco interior in it) were winning him shows as far off as Chicago, Boston, and Miami. What’s even more shocking: He drove the car to nearly all of them, with over 530 whp on tap and a suspension to star in a time-attacker’s wet dream.
Don’t think it all fell out of thin air, though. Joe came from more humble beginnings. The first car he built was actually a ’94 Accord. “My parents bought it for me to get around in,” he says. “I dumped nearly everything I earned into it.” It might have been a little ricey by today’s standards, but it—and a strong proposal for the EVO—was good enough to help Joe get his foot in the right doors the next time around.
A few years older, more experienced, better connected, and making some of that 2005 money, we see Joe behind the wheel of the mildly modified EVO he always wanted. And he was content with it. For a while. A Third Place win at a local show was all it took for Joe to lust First, and he set out to rebuild his EVO with two goals in mind: a Best of Show win at a national event, and 500 whp. His first stop: Atlantic Motorsports in Gaithersburg, MD. Yes, there are two AMSs that specialize in EVO tuning, and while a considerably smaller operation than their unrelated counterparts in the Midwest, AMS Tuning (as it’s known among their clientele) can build show/street/race machines every bit as potent. As Joe made the dough, Cory Peterson and the AMS Tuning crew made the EVO go, installing and tuning nearly every performance part on the car, including a Full-Race GT35R turbo system and HKS Hypermax/Cusco suspension. “The 530-plus whp tune was really only for a high-boost glory number,” Joe says. “Cory tuned it for about 450 whp for daily driving on pump gas. Four years and nearly 60,000 miles, and we’ve never had a problem.”
The exterior was a different story altogether. Joe knew his EVO’s build would be performance-oriented from the start. With its minimal in-car entertainment and complete lack of custom enclosures, he also knew he needed something “special” on the outside to recoup the judges’ attention. When he imported the complete Voltex kit his EVO now flexes, it was only the second the company had ever shipped to the States. And you can be sure the color-changing hue it’s coated has never been seen elsewhere. “It’s a custom blue basecoat covered with DuPont Purple Chromalusion,” Joe says. “It’s a propriety mix from Gary Best Kustumz.” Translation: The formula was written down on paper, handed to Joe, and never recorded elsewhere.
But possibly the most elite of the car’s qualities is the crowd it rolls with: Team Emotion, the East Coast’s most exclusive and winning import car club. In the two years Joe and his crew hit those big-name national shows together, he earned over 50 individual awards, and contributed to over 20 “Best Team” honors. But Joe never got the Best of Show he’d set his sights on—the price to pay for being too far ahead of the curve.
“Those were good days,” he reflected, toward the tail end of our interview. Today even more experienced, established, and content than when he first bought the EVO, he still owns it and drives it regularly, showing it only occasionally. When asked what’s next, “I don’t know,” he says, pensively. “I want to get it out on track once or twice, to see what it can do . . . but as much as I love it, I’m ready for something new. I’d like to find a good owner for it and get into something more refined that I won’t be as tempted to mess with. Maybe an IS F.” It is true what they say about the good ol’ days: They’re gone for good. But there’s nothing wrong with reliving them a little, is there? “But I’ll probably mess with that, too!” he says.
Behind the Build
Silver Spring, MD
Kim Joe Slice
Building JDM cars, golf
To build something that would stand out and turn heads for good reasons.
’03 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII
Output: 200+ bhp
Engine HKS intake, 280 camshafts, adjustable cam gears, SSQV blow-off valve, twin-power ignition; AMS intake manifold; A’pexi N1 exhaust, AVC-R boost controller; Helix high-flow catalytic converter; Full-Race GT35R turbo, manifold; Tial wastegate; APR head studs; ARC front-mount intercooler, Atlantic Motorsports custom intercooler piping, fuel rail; Blitz radiator; Samco radiator hoses; Cusco oil catch can; Precision 1,000cc/min fuel injectors; Sard fuel pressure regulator; AEM EMS engine management, tuned by Atlantic Motorsports; Monster Sport spark plug cover; Ralliart oil cap; Stillway engine damper
Driveline Exedy twin-plate clutch, flywheel
Suspension HKS Hypermax RS coilovers; Cusco carbon-fiber front strut tower bar, six-point rollcage, front and rear sway bars, lower and upper arm braces
Wheels/tires 18x10 +5mm offset Rays Engineering Gram Lights 57 Pro wheels; 265/35-18 Dunlop Direzza tires
Brakes Endless two-piece slotted front rotors, six-piston front calipers; Brembo drilled/slotted rear rotors; Earl’s stainless steel braided brake lines
Exterior Voltex front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, carbon-fiber front canards, rear diffuser, 1,500mm GT rear wing; JDM EVO headlights, taillights, window visors; Perrin Shorty antenna; Garage HRS wide front fenders, rear over-fenders; DuPont Blazzberry Blue paint, applied by Gary Best Kustumz
Interior Bride XAX front seats, black gradient-wrapped rear seats, door panels; Takata harnesses; Defi gauge pod, gauges (boost, oil pressure, water temperature, fuel level, tach); Greddy turbo timer; MOMO Race steering wheel; Night Pager flip-up hub; ARC shift knob; Ralliart pedals, push start button, gauge cluster; A’pexi AVC-R boost controller
Gratitude Team Emotion, Gary Best Kustumz, Peter Doan, Atlantic Motorsports, Bethany Em, Dunlop, Tommy Kustoms, Fizz Autosports