We check out Sonny Castillo’s tuned Mitsubishi Evo 8. It’s a hardcore track beast we tell you!
Evo is one of those modern motoring buzzwords that rally scene – and, naturally, rally cars have to be homologated. immediately spirits forth images of flame-spitting, extravagantly bewinged saloons ripping through Welsh forests, all anti-lag and wastegate chatter. For a time in the 1990s and early ’00s, Mitsubishi’s Evolution series was pretty much unbeatable. Well, it was if you were an Evo fan anyway. If your proclivities lay across the way in the Subaru camp, you may have something to say about that.
Yes, the Evo versus Impreza rivalry still simmers away today with just as much potency as it did in the days when the JDM turbo nutters ruled the forests. Nowadays, however, sure, Evos do still find their way onto the stages. But you’re more likely to see them in severely modified and road-oriented form, like the carbon-clad colossus we had on the cover a couple of months ago – or, indeed, like Sonny Castillo’s 2003 Evo VIII. That’s the one you’re looking at here. You can hardly imagine it bouncing around the Col de Turini or battling through snow in the hills around Monte Carlo. But there’s no denying that you really wouldn’t want to get too close to it without being wary of imminent attack. It’ll probably take your hand off if you’re not careful. Bloody scary thing.
“I did start looking at Subarus at first,” Sonny admits. “But when I caught a glimpse of this Evo it was love at first sight.” When you bear in mind that it was a bit of a wreck when he took delivery, that really does speak volumes about the forthright aggression these mighty machines exude.
Now, when people talk about an Evo, there really isn’t just one Evo. So let’s clear up a little history first. The model line’s been running for 10 generations, you see. The Lancer Evolution of 1992 was a statement of intent for Mitsubishi’s keenness to win World Rally Championships. The fact it kept evolving (ha, see what they did there?) reflected the changing requirements of the global rally scene – and, naturally, rally cars have to be homologated. That’s why the road-going Evo exists. WRC Evos won four drivers’ titles with Tommi Mäkinen between 1996-99, and claimed the manufacturers’ title in ’98. All in all, Lancer Evolutions won 25 world rallies between ’95 and ’02. So the road car carried a lot of kudos.
Having cut their rallying teeth with the Galant in the late-1980s, Mitsubishi took their knowledge of turbocharging and 4WD tech and shoved it into the 4th-gen Lancer. Knowing that 2,500 road cars would need to be built, they offered both a hardcore RS model and a more luxuriously equipped GSR to broaden appeal. And the 2,500-strong run sold out within three days. The Evo name has been synonymous with brutal, focused motoring ever since.
The Evo VIII is, as the name suggests, the eighth-generation Evo, and by this time they were packing 276bhp as standard, with Brembo brakes, Enkei suspension, and a chassis so intelligent it had a doctorate from Brasenose (possibly). The over-excitable FQ-400, as Top Gear ably demonstrated, could keep up with a Lamborghini Murciélago on track. FQ, as the legend goes, genuinely did stand for ‘F*cking Quick’.
So, where did Sonny’s evil, dark monster originate? “Well, I’ve always been a grease monkey and a tuner guy,” he says. “And when I was in the market for a car to modify, I started looking at reliable all-wheel drive cars. As soon as I saw the Evo, it was decision made. However, when I started really looking at prices it became obvious I wouldn’t be able to afford a new one. So I started hunting around for a few used ones. But then, when I couldn’t get a loan to buy one, I began investigating the really affordable ones – the auction cars.
“And that’s where I found this ’03 Evo VIII. It was very neglected to be honest, and required a hell of a lot of work. Not least because it had a blown engine! But hey, the price was right.”
We know. Unbelievable, isn’t it? This effervescent ball of rage started as a wreck. It’s clear proof to just how badly Sonny wanted an Evo. He was fully prepared to buy the worst one out there and make it awesome. The fact that he’s succeeded is as much testament to his commitment as his skills.
“I’ve got to give credit to B-Spec Tuning for putting the engine together,” he enthuses. And he’s right to be excited about it. It’s an absolute animal. The 2.0-litre 4G63 has been stroked out to 2.3-litres and rocks an AMS custom turbo kit comprising a Precision 62/62 turbo with Tial 40mm wastegate. There’s also a sodding great intercooler, hyper-intelligent fuelling system, some very advanced internals, and all sorts of electronic wizardry governing it all. This car, we’re afraid to say, is much cleverer than you. It’s also a fair bit shoutier, thanks to that full 3-inch Buschur exhaust. “It was tuned by DBW Motorsports at Mustang Dyno, and it’s running 595bhp at the wheels,” he grins. “That’s at 28psi, on 93-octane fuel.” You read that right – even on piss-weak petrol it’s still a terrifying and formidable thing. Just imagine what it’d be like on our 97-ron Shell V-Power.
“The future plan is to fit new injectors and run E85 fuel so I can get the full potential of the turbo,” Sonny explains. “The setup is capable of 900bhp at 40psi. Although I love the current tune. It’s very usable on the road.”
Of course, the car isn’t just about outright horsepower thrills. Sonny’s put quite a lot of effort into making it look really scary too. “Most of the exterior work was done by me,” he says. “The paint job, however, was done by Liberty Classic Coalition of Atlanta – the car was originally Rally Red, but the new colour’s called Black Magic Pearl.” Looks ace, doesn’t it?
Sonny’s certainly ticked a few boxes on the aggression list to really help that paint pop: we’re talking Voltex 1500mm GT wing, all manner of widebody shenanigans, copious canards and flics, carbon-fibre everything… It’s like a who’s-who of JDM tuning options. It might as well be a Time Attack car without the numbers. And that, in fact, is no coincidence.
“Over time, it’s effectively been built for track use,” says Sonny airily, as if it’s all water off a duck’s back. “Well, track days and street racing! I do a lot of shows too, but it’s been built for function more than form.” That’s perhaps the most impressive thing of all – while he’s put all sorts of thought into optimising the aesthetics, he’s willing to lose it all in a heartbeat in the unforgiving Armco of a sun-drenched race track, just for the thrill of clipping a few extra tenths off his personal-best lap times.
The Evo bloodline may be all about rally heritage. But this is a car that’s very much at home on track. A flame-spitting, tyre-shredding bastard that’d rip your face clean off as soon as it looks at yo u. It’s unashamedly angry, downright frightening, and that’s just the way Sonny likes it. He built it up from nothing with his bare hands. He’s earned the right to enjoy a little swagger.
￼TECH SPEC: MITSI EVO
Black Magic Pearl paint; Chargespeed +20mm front wings; JDM rear bumper; Voltex carbon-fibre exhaust shield; Voltex carbon-fibre rear diffuser; Rexpeed carbon-fibre sideskirt extensions; ViS carbon-fibre bootlid; Rexpeed vortex generator; ViS carbon-fibre bonnet; Voltex Cyber front bumper; carbon-fibre front lip and side canards; Voltex Racing widebody kit; sideskirts and rear quarter panels; Voltex straight- mount 1500mm GT wing.
2.3-litre stroker 4G63T; AMS custom turbo kit; Precision 62/62 turbo with Tial 40mm wastegate; AMS 3in front-mount intercooler; CP pistons – 86mm overbore; Eagle rods; ARP studs; Clevite bearings; Eagle cryo-treated crank; fully built head with Cometic gasket and titanium springs and retainers; ARP head studs; HKS 280 cams; HKS adjustable cam gears and belt; Sparktech CDI ignition system; AMS VSR intake manifold; BBK 75mm throttle body; AMS fuel rail; RC 1000cc injectors; Full Blown custom twin pump fuel system; Tial blow-off valve; GReddy Profec 2 boost controller; custom Earls AN fittings, steel braided fuel lines and vacuum lines; Automotive fuel pressure regulator; custom GReddy catch can; Buschur 3in stainless steel exhaust system; Exedy triple carbon disc clutch kit; fully built Sheptrans and transfer case 595whp @28psi on 93-octane, tuned by DBW Motorsports at Mustang Dyno.
9.5x18in ET20 Rays/Volk TE37 SL; 275/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sports; Tanabe Pro fully adjustable race coilovers; Cusco front strut brace; uprated Brembo brakes.
Full Recaro leather interior; Sparco harness bar; Takata 4-point harnesses; HKS turbo timer; Defi 62mm gauges: boost; fuel pressure and exhaust temperature; Defi head-up display; Rexpeed 62mm gauge pod; Rexpeed steering wheel gauge pod; Evo MR carbon-fibre dash inserts; Ralliart cluster gauge; glow lights; Viper Lojack alarm system; Personal steering wheel with Bells Racing quick- release hub; Alpine IVA-D310 with nav integration; Focal components; Polk MOMO 12in subwoofer; Alpine 4 and 2 channel amps.
Words Daniel Bevis Photos Mike Kuhn