Before Mitsubishi brought the Lancer Evolution to America in 2003, all we knew about the turbo 2.0L inline-four-powered all-wheel-drive compact was what we absorbed from playing Gran Turismo and watching the occasional random World Rally Championship video. That changed with the Evo VIII, a boxy, somewhat sparse sedan as far as amenities and all the bells and whistles—but man, could that thing scoot. While it didn't exactly come across as a traditional sports car, it soon earned a reputation as an unassuming street assassin right from the dealership, arguably besting (at least on paper) its main market segment rival, Subaru's Impreza WRX STi.
More than a decade and a half later, the Evo remains a hot tuning commodity, if for no other reason than the substantial foundation from which you get to start (and the stoking of a decades-long beef with STI guys). Mitsubishi stopped making Evo 8s in 2005 and entirely killed off the Lancer's performance variant in 2016 with the Evo 10, but even so Evos continue to be fixtures at drag race, time-attack, and other track (and off track—can't forget rally) events. With its four-door functionality and subtle looks, the Evo will forever be the perfect candidate for a sleeper you can daily.
If we had deeper pockets and the time, we'd totally build an Evo (does it count if we built one with a different magazine?). But, as luck would have it, we have friends who wanted to help make this happen for us—in this instance, Motovicity Distribution. Motovicity may not be a household name to many, but that's probably by design, as it doesn't normally deal directly with consumers. However, as a wholesaler, Motovicity does supply your favorite performance parts retailers with some of the most trusted brands in the aftermarket and has been part of this industry since the early 2000s. In fact, if you recognize the brand from anywhere, it's probably from some of the high-profile racing events it currently stages, those being the Never Lift half-mile competition in California and Speed Ring time-attack in Michigan.
Motovicity came to us looking to collaborate on a project together, one that could showcase the breadth of its product portfolio. After kicking around a few ideas, we agreed on the Evo, pretty much for the reasons we've already outlined. The Motovicity crew left it to us to find the right specimen and build up the project car in stages, with the goal of making it comfortable enough for the street but with the ability to turn it up for weekend racing. Seemed easy enough, right?
It didn't start out that way. As it happens, used Evos in California are hard to come by, and the ones that are available come at a premium. We finally got our hands on an Electric Blue Evo 8 but almost immediately had to face a new challenge: Motovicity's Never Lift half-mile in just a few weeks. With this build, we gave ourselves the goals of running both Never Lift and Speed Ring—and the clock was already working against us.
We needed to enlist a project builder who could make some magic happen in short order; that's what we got with Gary Castillo over at Design Craft Fabrication in Huntington Beach, California. Gary has helped us with builds before and his shop is renowned for working with Formula DRIFT programs for champ Daigo Saito and others, as well as other high-caliber competition builds. We tapped Gary to do most of the heavy lifting on this program, and with limited time from the get-go, we decided to opt for a bevy of basic bolt-on upgrades in anticipation of this car's top-speed debut, all of which came from Motovicity.
Keeping the 4G63 engine and its systems cool was a major priority of the first wave of mods, considering the work they faced. A Mishimoto aluminum radiator was installed, as was one of its aluminum fan shrouds, a set of silicone hoses, and a thermostat, while the oiling system was set up with a Mishimoto aluminum oil cooler and Royal Purple filter. A Mishimoto front-mount aluminum intercooler was installed to upgrade charge-cooling efficiency, while a Vibrant MAF-sensor adapter, air filter, and GReddy Performance RS-RACE exhaust help the Evo's turbo inline-four breathe easier.
With track duty on the horizon, Sparco QRT-Carbon competition seats and harnesses addressed cabin safety, and we also sourced one of its Champion steering wheels, locked in place with an NRG Innovations short hub adapter. Outside, we outfitted the car in lightweight 18x9.5 Konig Ampliform wheels in Dark Metallic Graphite shod in appropriately aggressive Toyo R1R summer tires, providing us the grip we'd need for the airstrip (but leaving suspension for stage two of this journey).
On the big day, we got the ol' girl up to nearly 120 mph in the 2,640 feet they gave us at Never Lift, set at the Coalinga Municipal Airport. It was a good bookend to phase one, but we were ready for the next episode.
Gary had weeks to go through a list of upgrades that addressed suspension, brakes, drivetrain, and the Evo's forced induction system—and, by extension, engine management. We will admit at this point we ended up using some parts designed for "off-road use only," meaning after we installed them, our Evo was no longer street legal, which goes against one of the original motivations behind this whole thing. But c'mon, if we had a nickel for every build that started off "street legal," we wouldn't need this crummy gig (we kid!).
The big bad wolf (in more ways than one) of the build is the Forced Performance manifold and turbocharger combo with an FP Green ball-bearing turbo. We also sourced a Forced cast O2 housing while Motovicity supplied a TiALSport 38mm wastegate for the setup. "The [turbo] is the full, Xona Rotor-equipped version, using the TiALSport cast-and-machined turbine housing," Mike Franke from TiALSport explains. "The main reason this unit was supplied was that it's the quickest-responding turbo in that family. That said, if down the line the engine build goals are increased, it can be replaced with no modification to the fitment with a larger unit, but it's pretty potent, at 570 hp worth of flow, with quick response."
On the cool side of the mill, Castillo installed a Skunk2 Pro Series cast-aluminum intake manifold to supplant what came from the factory and outfitted it with a matching S2 throttle body, Aeromotive fuel rail loaded up with GRAMS injectors, and Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator with AEM 3.5-bar MAP sensor. Gary also swapped in an Aeromotive Stealth 340-lph fuel pump in the tank. The Skunk2 parts improve airflow, and with more boost pressure a corresponding increase in fuel is an absolute.
We got our hands on a Mishimoto intercooler pipe kit—which is a set of polished aluminum pipes that aim to smooth out some of the bends versus the OEM system and, again, optimize airflow—to go along with the intercooler. A stainless A'PEXi integration GT downpipe comes with a larger diameter than stock for better flow of exiting gases and a reduction in backpressure.
We expected a pretty good-sized bump in power once everything was tuned, so we had Gary put in a Exedy Hyper twin-disc clutch and flywheel and a Black Flag limited-slip. Royal Purple fluids are used throughout the drive system for an added measure of protection. Additionally, the Konig Ampliforms are secured to the hubs via ARP extended wheel studs, and we slipped some Hawk brake pads into the binders for even more peace of mind. KW came aboard with a set of Clubsport three-way coilovers, which feature dampers that come with adjustable rebound and high- and low-speed compression. From KW's sister outfit, ST Suspensions, we sourced a beefy 25mm-diameter rear stabilizer bar to help mitigate body roll.
The AEM MAP sensor plugged into our Aeromotive FPR mentioned earlier is part of a raft of sensors and modules from the racing electronics maker that we used on the Evo to help facilitate having the car properly tuned before we took it to time-attack. The entire suck-squish-bang-blow symphony is orchestrated by an AEM Infinity Series 5 engine control unit, with vitals monitored via AEM CD-7 digital dash display. To get it tuned, we sought out the 4G63 specialists over at Road Race Engineering, where we met Sam Chaysavang from AEM, who, coincidentally, was an ex-employee of RRE and, more critically, familiar with tuning the venerated Evo powerplant. He opened up the AEM Infinity's immensely powerful suite of features to dial in the powerplant. With the motorsports-grade hardware, he was able to extract an impressive 525 hp at the wheels— approaching double what the car was rated at from the factory.
It was admittedly a big jump in power for our Social Media Manager, Ceso Bagay, who volunteered to drive the Motovicity Evo 8 in both events. He reported going from the bolt-ons in phase one at Never Lift to the new boost and tune of phase two at Speed Ring was a night-and-day difference. The car was definitely capable of a faster time on the track if he was able to get some additional seat time. Nonetheless, everyone involved agrees it was the right choice to go with the Evo 8 platform to illustrate what someone can do with something so potent and tunable, especially when you start simple and have a goal in mind (like two track events). We're sure having multiple cars is nice, but with a clear target and the right plan, one car can be all the car you need—and we think our love child with Motovicity proves it.