The 3g is the redheaded stepchild of the venerable Eclipse lineup, a car that helped define the early import tuning scene. Flashback to 1999; renderings, clay concepts and rolling prototypes of the then-new 2000 model-year Eclipse were all over the place. The third-generation Eclipse had a swooping silhouette, a wider stance and aggressive washboard side moldings that separated it from the crowd visually; a good thing. It was also separated from its vengeful 4G63 turbo-four powerplant; a bad thing-terminally bad.
We attended the press launch for the 3g in 1999 and could hardly believe our eyes, a V6 in an Eclipse. What the ...? Never overly vocal at these events, we were quick to raise our hands during the Q&A session to ask, "Where's the 4G63?" The smooth-talking PR guy bragged about how the car was going upscale with a V6 and how turbo models only accounted for 15 percent of 2g Eclipse sales anyway. We fired back saying you invited us, and a number of other performance tuning magazines here today, and we can assure you that the turbo Eclipse accounts for 99.9 percent of the cars [Eclipses] we feature. We added from where we were sitting the new Eclipse looked to be going up and out of our market. He brushed off our comments. It turns out we were right, as we have featured maybe three 3g Eclipses in the six years since that fateful day. Even being a featured car in "2 Fast 2 Furious" did little to move the needle.
However, every once in a while a car comes along that realigns expectation and opens the door to the next level. Straight up, Russ Sanderlin of Casselberry, Florida drives the car Mitsubishi should have built in the first place.
Sanderlin bought his 2002 GT on December 5th, 2001 but the car's first defining moment came at the tail end of a New Year's Eve party when he surfed to club3g.com on the Net. From there a cascade of customization was put into motion as he immersed himself into the 3g world.
"I learned the hard way that naturally-aspirated modifications were more expensive than they were worth," says Sanderlin. "I bought every one that I could buy: RPW headers, AEM CAI, MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust, Magnecor wires, DENSO Iridium plugs and an A'PEXi Super AFC to tune it all. My car ran a 16.3-second quarter-mile stock and after the mods it went 15.4, which is still pretty pitiful, even for an automatic. That's when I laid the groundwork for forced induction. In retrospect, I spent just as much money on a basic turbo kit as I did on all those N/A modifications."
Coming home from work one day in the summer of '03 Sanderlin says he learned how dumb it was to rotate worn tires front-to-back on a FWD car. "I was cruising down the highway, performed a casual lane change and ended up bouncing off the guardrail with my tail end."
While the car was in the shop, a body kit was added to the mix. The car currently runs an eclectic combination of a Shine Street full body kit, Shine Street wing, a Grillecraft front grille, Depo Black projector headlights, TYC blackout taillights and clear corners. All the paint and body magic was pulled off by Excel Paint & Body in Maitland, Florida.
In the autumn of '03 Sanderlin and another club3g member set off on a pilgrimage for boost-to Iowa of all places. Their "field of dreams" was Chris Clough's shop. "Chris, who mentored under Corky Bell at BEGI, had created a powerful and effective turbo kit for the Eclipse GT," relates Sanderlin. "Although he shut his operation down shortly after our trip, our 5.8-psi, non-intercooled kits were awesome and after getting the word out on the Net they were a success. A total of about 30 kits were produced. They were really good. In my N/A days I would be at the strip all the time trying to grab an extra tenth with one bolt-on or another. With boost, I rolled up and went 14.1 at 102 mph on the first pass with no intercooler, no big-plenum intake and no turbo-ready exhaust.
The hard parts in the Clough-based turbo kit include a Precision Turbo & Engine T3/T04E hybrid turbo with a .63 A/R on the hot side and a .60 A/R on the compressor side, a TiAL Sports 38mm external wastegate, TurboXS bypass valve and a custom 31-inch front-mount intercooler. "I purchased the FMIC months before I figured out how to, or who would, install it," says Sanderlin. "The unusually wide opening in front bumper of the 3g screamed for an intercooler in there. Donny Eley of Tampa, who does 3g turbo kits now, handled the install and I wanted the piping to go over the top of the engine. It's fully one-off." The Mitsu also runs 440cc injectors; a Proflow Design throttle body; a GTS plenum and a 2g Eclipse GS-T GReddy stainless exhaust system, which requires very minor hanger tweaks to fit the 3g V6.
The tuning solution is a GReddy e-manage programmed by Angel Robles at Auto Tuner in Oviedo, Florida. Sanderlin reports the 6G72 V6 eagerly pumps out the power with a smooth 12.0:1 air/fuel ratio.
The suspension is enhanced with four-way adjustable KYB ABX struts teamed with Eibach Pro Kit lowering coils. A Suspension Techniques anti-sway bar keeps the nose planted while a Road/Race strut tower brace further resists chassis flex.
Sanderlin upped braking power with Power Slot rotors and EBC Greenstuff pads. Heading into the 2004 show season Sanderlin stepped up to the plate and invested in his dream wheels: Volk Racing's GT-7 in the exceedingly rare chrome silver finish. The glistening GT-7s are wrapped by Nitto NT555 rubber in the 235/40-18 variety.
Sanderlin scored well in 2004, netting a third in Best Mitsubishi at the Turner Bash Daytona show, a second in Best Mitsubishi at a Battle of the Imports event and Car of the Month honors on club3g.com.
Mainstream performance cars have many pipelines of information and exposure but the more cultish the car, the fewer the outlets that are available. The Internet is their savior. Datsun 510 freaks have dimequarterly.com, lustful Lexus owners click on clublexus.com and for the 3g there's club3g.com. Well, Sanderlin's passion for the 3g inspired him to create club3gfl.com, a Florida outlet for club3g.com. "The members of club3gfl.com are well-known for paving the way for using turbochargers on 3g V6 Eclipses and we plan to keep performance as a key component of our community.
Like we said at the top, with the 3g Eclipse it seemed that Mitsubishi was turning its back on performance by scrapping the turbo 4G63 and going V6. Russ Sanderlin has shown that you can have it all-a V6 and boost. No doubt, this is how the Diamond Star guys should have done it.