TUNED MITSUBISHI EVO VIII’S

This pair of used-and abused Evo VIII monsters, built by Aussie tuning house Step Up Automotive, put together a very good argument for this humble Mitsubishi model being the very best all-rounder that money can buy…

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Compromise. A part of life that’s sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. It’s the reason you might find yourself living slap bang in the middle of where you and your other half’s workplaces are, for instance, and why you might not be able to bust your entire annual salary on computer games (no matter how much you’d secretly love to).
It’s also the reason there are so many different types of car out there, too; each one slightly adjusting its priorities to match potential buyers’ needs at the cost of another less important aspect on the list of requirements.

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But what about if you tried to create a car that really does do it all? One that would offer up daily driver-friendly levels of practicality whilst demolishing the competition when you let it loose at your local race track, for example? It’s taken us a trek to the other side of the planet, but by gosh, we think we might just have found two motors that fit the bill. Say hello, then, to this duo of hugely tuned Evo VIIIs here. Prepared by Australian firm Step Up Automotive that’s based on the lovely Gold Coast of the country, they both feature a raft of wild upgrades that help them get close to ticking all the boxes.

Let’s start with Tina’s striking silver example first. The wife of Step Up Automotive’s main mechanic, Rod, and former service manager at the firm herself, her GSR-spec’d saloon not only serves as her main source of transportation, but also gets taken to the circuit most weekends to compete in white-knuckle motorsport events (that it normally does rather well in, it probably goes without saying).

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“We’ve had stuff like Falcons with built V8 engines and Holden Geminis in the past, but imported the Evo over back in 2008 as a car that offered performance but also brought lower running costs with it,” Tina recalls, the 2-litre four-pot in this car promising to be a lot lighter on those tax and registration bills the country is known for being pretty stern on.

Already aware of the great potential of these rally-bred machines, work soon started between Tina and Rod to ramp up the performance of their latest turbocharged acquisition. What followed has been a ten-year love affair that’s seen the car’s performance elevated beyond recognition, with plenty of blown gearboxes and shredded differentials reported along the way. Because, let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a proper car build without some niggles, would it?

Now offering up a scintillating 545bhp to the wheels when cranked to its most lairy boost setting and filled up with E80 gas, these killer figures have been achieved thanks to an engine that promises to be stronger than Popeye if its impressive spec is anything to go by. Starting with a JDM-spec version of the celebrated 4G63 motor, Step Up Automotive has since completely refreshed the internals, with parts like Carrillo con rods, Teflon-coated pistons and a polished and fully re-worked head boasting Cosworth cams now all featuring under the lid, offering unending levels of strength and reliability as a result.

It’s then up to one of Forced Performance’s JB ‘Red’ turbochargers (that feature far more efficient ‘hybrid’ internals encased in a stock turbo housing) to supply the boost, while a monster fuelling system is now controlled by a trick Emtron ECU that packs more brains than the International Space Station, with functions like launch control and multiple boost settings to all be dialled in to boot. “When the turbo hits boost at around 4000rpm, it feels like the car is pulling your face off until the redline at 7800rpm!” Tina grins. “It’s also been absolutely faultless since we finished it two-and-a-half years ago so is obviously reliable, too.”

Transmitting all of that power comes courtesy of a stronger five-speed ‘box that replaces the car’s standard six-speed offering. It’s then sent to the front and rear axles by a sturdy Quaife transfer case, with the car’s clever active diff control tweaked to offer the most effective power delivery physically possible.

With the car competing in the street-level drag series at the local Willow Bank Raceway in the hands of both Tina and Rod, the Evo’s also a frequent entry to the women-only ‘Powder Puff Happy Laps’ racing series at Queensland Raceway in the hands of its extremely proud owner here. All before it’s put back on road-legal tyres and driven home again in blissful refinement, of course.

But it’s not all about performance, with Ralliart body enhancements and a set of gleaming RAYS Volk Racing alloys giving the car a serious street-cruiser vibe that it’s hard not to love at first glance. We told you this is one car that’s really covered all bases!

Tina’s VIII isn’t the only Evo that’s been through Rod’s workshop in the last few years with such an ambitious brief attached to it. Because car parts importer Tane Richardson, the owner of that equally-as-sumptuous grey MR-spec’d Evo here, could be found entering Step Up Automotive’s HQ around the same time with an equally as ambition list of requirements attached to it.

“As soon as I bought the car around a year ago, I knew I had to modify it to my tastes right away,” Tane explains. Something of an Evo nut, he’s also got two heavily modified Evo IIIs on his fleet, as well as a Proton Satria that he singlehandedly performed a 4G63 engine conversion on a couple of years back!

With the fabled ‘MR’ badge on the back of his latest purchase, Tane was already onto a winner, with the car boasting parts like Bilstein coilovers and an aluminium roof from the word go. But these bits have all paled in comparison to what has been achieved since…

With an even more crazy version of Forced Performance’s turbocharger already ordered up than even the one found on Tina’s car – a ‘Black’-series affair that features a much larger compressor wheel and is the weapon of choice for many championship-winning drag car builds, Rod and the Step Up team were going to have their work cut out when it came to fully forging the JDM-spec engine that Tane dropped off to them to start the build.

It’s why seriously lairy 280-degree Kelford Cams camshafts feature in the ported head, while the bored block itself now houses oversized Wiseco pistons and Manley H-beam con rods, pieced together with some of the sturdiest bearings and bolts that money can buy. Boasting a similar Emtron ECU, the team was eventually able to dial in 605bhp to the wheels on the rollers when the car was filled with E85 fuel, with a more ‘sensible’ boost setting that promises 383bhp available when filling up on pump fuel.

Going one step further with the gearbox, too, Tane soon snapped up one of Sheptrans’ fully rebuilt ‘Ultimate Ratio’ cog shifters that utilises longer first and fourth gears to make full use of the boost on tap throughout the rev range. Tied into a more aggressive Wavetrac front diff, power delivery is now off the scale in terms of its effectiveness.

It’s not just the 600bhp flying to all four wheels that we love about Tane’s creation, though. With its tasty WORK splits and squat ride height on some of BC Racing’s finest coilovers, this stealthy grey stunner also offers up show-stopping levels of aesthetic goodness from the outside, whilst staying reserved enough to never hint at what chaos is ensuing under those rippling curves. With its full Alcantara interior, too, it acts as much more of a comfortable cruiser than you might expect from a car that can nail a single-figure quarter mile run.

Sure, a Ford C-Max might offer up slightly more comfort during a long-distance run and a Toyota Prius is bound to yield much better MPG, but we really can’t think of many cars out there that cover quite as many bases as these two Mitsubishis, especially for those of you that’re partial to a bit of performance along the way. Just remember to take a leaf out of Tina and Tane’s books before you snap up your next boring family car…