In 2003, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII landed in America and quickly became a favorite among track enthusiasts, journalists and virtually anyone with an inkling of an appetite for JDM cars. Making 276 all-wheel-drive horsepower from its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, the Evo VIII battled head-to-head against the Subaru WRX STI for over a decade; however, for those that followed the Evo since its birth, it had been a long time coming.
In 1992, Mitsubishi buffs began their infatuation with the Evo I, which remarkably shared the same DNA until the vehicle's demise in 2016 with the Evo X. All Evos were equipped with a turbocharged four cylinder, all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission. The Evo gained many of its fan boys thanks to legendary driver Tommi Makinen who claimed several WRC victories in the Evo, most notably four championships between 1996 and 1999. While many folks geek out over the Evo's heritage in rally, it's also regarded as one of the best road-going sport sedans in history, and why Rowie Landicho of Los Angeles has invested so much time, money and energy into completing the JDM car of his dreams in this 1998 Lancer Evolution V.
Rowie's Evo debuted at the Toyo Tires Treadpass at the SEMA show last year while also making a quick cameo at our 2020 Toyo Tires Calendar Launch in Anaheim. Since then, the pandemic hit and Rowie didn't have many opportunities to show off his car. Quite honestly, it's not the type of vehicle you'd take to a Krispy Kreme meet or go for a cruise along the California coast. While "registered", this is still a right-hand-drive Evo V that's loud to the eyes and ears. It carries a complete track-spec theme with nothing but components to elevate its already stellar handling and performance package. Highlights include its Comp Turbo upgrade that's capable of 500+hp, extremely stiff, adjustable Fortune Auto suspension, as well as the stripped interior with a Cusco 10-point rollcage and rare Ralliart edition Recaros. The car's biggest draw is a comprehensive widebody kit developed by Varis. Not just for looks, the front bumper is designed to improve downforce and allow more venting for the front-mount intercooler. Brake vents are also included as well as an under diffuser to reduce drag at high speed. The fenders allow for a wider track width, which enable Rowie to run 295-series Toyo R888R rubber all-around (for reference, the stock tire spec on the Evo V is 225/45R17).
Rowie's Evo is a car you'd expect to see chasing down R32 GT-Rs and Mazda RX-7s at Tsukuba Circuit; however, it calls downtown Los Angeles home, which makes it super cool, but also risky. Rowie plans to shakedown his car at a local track in the coming months, but for now, we'll just relish in these gorgeous snaps by photographer V, and appreciate just how dope this Evo V is—a car that was never destined for American eyes to see.
INTERVIEW WITH ROWIE LANDICHO
What's up Rowie! Our first real introduction to you was at the 2017 Show Car Shootout where you clocked the fastest lap time in your Evo X. Tell us a little bit more about your history with Evos and what happened to that car?
Growing up in the Philippines, I always saw this Evo III parked across the street from our house on my way to school. I wasn't sure if it was real at that time, but I remember reading "Evolution III" on the side skirt. As my love for motorsports grew, the Evo always stuck with me and I knew I wanted to learn more about it. When my family and I moved to California, my dad acquired an Evo X and he started hanging out with Evo guys, later rebuilding an OG Mitsubishi group called, "Team Emperor". Yes, just like the Evo guys from Initial D; but they're not bad guys! Haha! Fast forward a few years later, my dad sold his Evo and got an E46 M3 which is his dream car and I was able to acquire a brand new 2014 Evo X, which I later built as a SEMA display vehicle for Spec-D. That vehicle linked me to all the amazing brands and friends in the industry that I have today. Sadly, I had to part out that car and sell it to acquire the Evo V.
To you, what's so special about the Evo V compared to other generations?
I like how the Evo V has a wider wheelbase than the Evo IV and has a better-looking kit than the Evo VI. Another plus is that is has the same 4G63 motor as the newer Evos, but in a lighter chassis.
The Evo V was obviously never sold in the States so how'd you get your hands on one? In what kind of condition? And, is it street legal?!
I was linked to the previous owner by a friend. The car was in terrible shape and had been sitting for four years when I managed a deal with the previous owner. He was going to restore the car, but lost motivation and just bought a brand-new Final Edition Evo X instead. It was imported way back when California laws were easy on right-hand-drive vehicles. Yes, it's currently street legal.
So, let's talk about the build... What was the overall goal?
I've always been a fan of time attack and have been following the trend of aerodynamics on WTAC vehicles. When I acquired the V, I knew I wanted to run the wildest kit available for it—the Varis Asso widebody kit. The initial goal was to work on the stock body and eventually evolve from there, but mid-2019 when SEMA talks were circulating, I was given a chance to debut a new look at the Toyo Tires Treadpass with the help of Stan Chen, Allen Lugue and Jonny Grunwald.
The Varis widebody isn't the easiest kit to get, right?
Surprisingly the kit is still available for purchase through Varis and is made to order. Rough ETA is around four-to-six months but Jonny at TRMNLracing was able to expedite my kit and it arrived in two months for SEMA. I fitted and installed the kit myself and didn't run into any fitment issues as expected from Varis' quality products.
Can you elaborate more on some of the more hard-to-find JDM parts and what makes them so unique?
The rarest part I was able to acquire is the Recaro Ralliart RS-G in red—the only pair known to exist in the U.S. I'm a huge fan of rare and discontinued parts so I started collecting ARC and Ralliart parts for the Evo V even before I physically picked up the car from the previous owner. It took me a full year to collect most of the ARC parts available for the Evo V platform including a full titanium exhaust, titanium strut bar, front mount intercooler, columnar titanium shift knob and the list goes on. My Evo X also had the rarest parts available for the CZ4A platform; it's only right to do it all over again for the new build.
Biggest obstacles to overcome?
I'd say it's the lack of specific Evo V right-hand-drive parts available in the U.S. Even though the Evo IV through Evo IX share the similar chassis, I still had to source small parts overseas and that took some time. Plus, the shipping fees suck!
Having won our Show Car Shootout, it's clear you weren't building a show car... What were some of the key upgrades to improve the Evo V's performance, and how does it drive compared to your Evo X?
With my Evo X, I ran the stock turbo tuned on E85 and OE Brembo brakes during the shootout. For the new build, I knew I wanted to upgrade the parts that I wasn't able to upgrade with my Evo X. Comp Turbo supported me with their turbo kit and Project Mu with their four-pot big brake kit with Club Racer pads. I know the Evo V will handle a lot better than the X, I just need to shift faster with my left hand. Hah! I guess I'll know the answer after my first track day!
Glad to hear a track day is still on the horizon! How did it feel to finally have it completed after SEMA? Do you feel a lot of car guys know what it is?
The first drive on the L.A. streets was really nerve-wracking. My ride height was too low, and the right-hand-drive made it difficult to make left hand turns. But after seeing people's initial reactions when I pulled up, it made all the difference. I was beside my car answering questions and I realized most of the people have an idea on what the car is. I guess that's the power of the Initial D series!
I've heard that you're a bit of a wheel whore. Which set of wheels do you like best on the project?
Since SEMA, I already swapped to my fourth set of wheels, starting from CE28 Club Racer 2 Black Edition, TE37V MARK-II, Advan GT, and Advan RG-D2. I'd say it's a tie between the CEs and the GTs.
And we'll have more of your Evo V with a second photoshoot on alternate wheels from Renz Dimaandal soon... What's next for the car?
I'm planning on getting custom upper and lower intercooler pipes before finishing the tune and bringing it to the track to test it out. It's currently tuned with the stock turbo and dual map E85 at 340hp, 310 lb-ft of torque. It was tuned on Dyno Dynamics which is the lowest reading dyno in California. The turbo supplied by Comp Turbo is rated to produce 550+ hp, but I'm only aiming around 400-450hp since it's a street build.
Word on the street is there might be another project car in the works?
Yes, it's a car that I've been dreaming of since I sold my Evo X and was actually the first option followed by the Evo V. I'll give you a hint... It's also a Mitsubishi and it's also right-hand-drive. We'll see what the future holds! Maybe SEMA 2021...