Updated 12/30/07

EJ's Project Evo

 

2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII

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December 30th, 2007 - 39,895 miles

Wow - time sure has flown since I last posted about the ol' Evo.  Let's see, there were 2 successful track events at Lime Rock Park and Watkins Glen, 2 rather unsuccessful track events at Watkins Glen, a trophy as the "Fastest Non-Corvette" at the King of the Mountain Challenge in Lake George, NY, and a season championship trophy in Street Class for the Mohawk-Hudson SCCA autocross series.

The track season started out pretty good, with the new power of the Evo making for a very fast car.  This translated to a lot of passing of my fellow beginner/novice track students, which when combined with my increased experience meant I got bumped up to intermediate for one event.  What made me most happy about that was not only the sense of progress, but I continued to pass much more than got passed at that level.  Things were looking great, and I was really looking forward to my last 2 events at Watkins Glen, where I figured I'd build upon my early season success and start to hone my skills for either another promotion up the ladder, or at least start getting signed off for some solo time on the track.

Still not sure what led to the mechanical problems, but my Watkins Glen track dates on August 29 & 30 were not fun. Current diagnosis is compressor surge due to cam installation and vacuum changes that affected the dump valve inputs.  The Evo would buck and kick something fierce, especially when under load at steady throttle, like I would use in the Esses between turns 2 & 4.  I figured it was maybe spark plugs or spark plug boots, but the boots were on solid.  I then "tested" the car on the way down to NAPA for new plugs, and promptly blew off the hose at the throttle body, requiring me to coast into their parking lot.  After some momentary panic I regained composure and was able to fix it after purchasing a new hose clamp and a screwdriver.  I had some new NGKs overnighted at a very reasonable price (~$44), and pitched the rest of Day 1.  Day 2 I gave up my first session in order to install the new plugs, but even after putting them in I noticed a "misfire" right around 5800 rpms.  Months later we'd figure out this was the 2-step launch control Dynoflash Al had programmed into the ECU, but invoking itself even if the clutch wasn't depressed.  ????

I had thought I'd addressed the issue when I returned on September 29 & 30 for yet another session, but ultimately had the same problems.  I also added a new problem to the mix, having had a new AMS intercooler installed just before the event - a big mistake.  On my first session out I blew off the hot side coupler from the IC while powering out of the Toe of the Boot (Turn 7).  This led to some firsts and some new-found knowledge to be added to my track experience: where to pull off if the car dies on the track, what to expect when the tow truck shows up, how to sit patiently at Turn 9 while BMWCCA Club Racers do their practice laps before you get towed the rest of the way off the track.

I was all set to pack it in for the remaining day on September 30th, but fellow Patroon CCA member Steve Watson made a magnanimous gesture and offered me the use of his 2000 BMW M Coupe.  Wow - I was very honored that he made the offer, but was plenty nervous about accepting it, so I declined.  But after a few minutes of Steve and others hammering on me, I finally accepted.  What a great car!  It handled well, had more than enough power for the level I wanted to drive at with someone else's very expensive car, and ultimately was a great experience all around.  Poor Steve had to adjust his seat belts each time we switched spots in the car, since he's a bit bigger than I am.  I know it added to his stress level before heading out on track, and yet he was still so gracious about it.  He's a good guy and I'm a fan of his for life.

Adam Hennessy helped diagnose some of the issues.   He used Justin McGrath's laptop and Tactrix cable to reset the 2-step high enough that it no longer interferes with the revs while parked.  And the bucking sensation, which we thought was initially diverter valve flutter, is now thought to be compressor surge caused by picking up signals at less-than-ideal sources for the DV (at least according to Synapse Engineering).

To help solve this, Adam has suggested ordering and installing a Synapse Engineering Synchronic Blow Off Valve (SB001).  Adam is going to use an Evo UICP and weld the included flange to it, and then install it and the valve on my Evo, presumably using the recommended points for vacuum and such.  Keeping my fingers  crossed on that.

While my track days were certainly hexed in the second half of the season, my autocrossing career was assuredly blessed during that same time.  The wonderful thing about my style of autocrossing is that I'm usually doing one of 2 things: coasting, or WOT.  Both of these scenarios did not induce the turbo-killing compressor surge I experienced on the track, and even on the street in daily driving.  The new-found power, combined with my increasingly broken-in Kumho V700 VictoRacer tires, kept me in the hunt at my local events, and provided me a chance to do well outside of there.  My experience at the Devens' SCCA Divisional Tour event in early June showed me that despite the parts I slathered on my Evo, neither it or me were as prepared as we should be to take on national caliber drivers in Street Mod.

Devens National Tour - As it was my first national event, and really my first SCCA event outside of my own local club's schedule, I was not really sure of how anything would work; the schedule, the attitude of the participants, etc.  A group of our local club members went out en masse to participate, so I asked them a lot of questions.  So much so, that DJ, one of my fellow SM competitors and friends from our local club, finally just gave me a smile and said "Relax".  Little does he know that it's impossible for me to relax unless I fully understand what is going to happen in a situation like that. 

I'm happy to say I survived, and I successfully avoided the dreaded "DFL" (Dead F'ing Last), but not by much.  As an excuse, I can offer that it was my first event ever attended of that nature, and that my tires were some of the smallest (thinnest) in the SM class.  It was a thrill to paddock just a few feet from "The Alien" himself, Mark Daddio, and get to watch his Evo preparation.  He's a very approachable guy, and was willing to discuss his setup.  My friend Mike Condict was also in attendance, yet another Evo driver, so we both traded notes about what we were experiencing, and what we thought of Daddio's car and preparation.  We both agreed that his car was probably the benchmark for how to prep an Evo for battle.  Mike C eventually used his observations to purchase a wheel setup similar to Daddio's. Me, not being flush with IPO money like Mike, stuck with my current setup and resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably stick with my 8.5" wheels and 255/40R17 tires for awhile, at least until my bank account can recover from several car and house-related purchases.  What I did take away from the event was a quick discussion with John Winchester, another Evo owner who has some interesting drive line mods on his car.  I'm giving serious consideration to having a GSC 40/60 center diff installed in my car.  Decision time will occur in February sometime.

King Of The Mountain Challenge, Sept. 8, 2007 - This was a very fun event that was held as part of the Adirondack Corvette Club's Adirondack VetteFest. Alright, so maybe it was fun because I beat everyone.  Actually, that was part of it, but also we had a good group of people show up and the Vette club has some good people who put on a decent event.  It was very laid back compared to our events, and yet everyone seemed to be able to police themselves accordingly.  Everyone took their turns when they were supposed to, no one killed too many cones (DJ wasn't there and Tom broke down, so it was no wonder - lol!), and we even got buzzed by a group of A-10 tank killers, which was pretty awesome.  I joked that with the A-10s buzzing us, it was like autocrossing in Fallujah.  Best thing about winning the trophy for fastest non-Vette, is that my time was actually the fastest of any car, and I did it on my street tires.

 

May 27th, 2007 - 33,516 miles

I've been so busy that I haven't been able to keep up with some major happenings.  Since the last installment there was the major installation of parts, a dyno session to tune for those parts, more parts installed during the dyno session, and some use of the changes on the autocross course and race track.

Parts install: I had so many parts to be installed that it required my wife's Passat wagon in order to get them all up to Knight Time Autoworks in Argyle, NY.  Adam H. was going to do the majority of the installation over the course of almost a week, with some time off so that he and Pete Knight could attend a bike show down in the NYC area (they won 1st place w/ their NY Jets-themed bike - congrats!).

The parts broke down to 2 major categories: 1) exhaust, and 2) suspension.  The list included:

What an incredible difference in the car after this work!  The car pulls HARD compared to the stock setup, and power seemed to come on earlier than before.  Adam thought the 10.5 hotside was the biggest reason for this, but I'm not sure.  I'm guessing all the parts that freed up the exhaust are helping out in this regard.  The suspension work has been a bit more subtle, if not disappointing.  Yes, the car rides slightly better than stock, but the big change in grip that I was hoping for just isn't there.  It still pushes pretty hard in the corners. There is a lot of experimenting that I need to do before I consider this a wasted effort, though.  The rear sway bar, the end links, and the struts themselves all are adjustable, and I'll have to set them at their limits to see what effect they have.

March 3rd, 2007 - 31,??? miles

I ran over to Fedex today and picked up my o2 housing fresh from its stay at Jet Hot in Pascagoula, MS.  I had them coat it with Jet Hot 2000 in a blue color.  It looks nice - too bad no one but the installer will really see it.  I shipped off my Perrin downpipe to Jet Hot for the same coating and color last week.  Can't wait to see how that turns out.

I received my Whiteline Roll Center Adjustment kit yesterday from WORKS.  The parts are small but heavy - ball joints and tie-rod ends.  Their eccentric design supposedly helps distribute weight differently on the outside wheel when turning in order to help fend off understeer.  Problem was, once again part of my order arrived damaged.  One of the ball joints had a crushed metal ring on the dust boot, so it was yet another call to WORKS for an RMA #.  Now I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get the replacement order in time for my appointment with KTA in Argyle.  In the meantime, I ended up sending a letter to WORKS:

Dear WORKS,
 
I feel it's necessary to address a problem I've had with every order (2) I've placed with WORKS: damaged products.  I have received 2 packages as part of orders that, while the outside of the box didn't show much damage, the product inside was considerably damaged.  In each instance, it's my firm belief that the damage occurred simply because WORKS didn't package the items properly for shipment.
 
My first order contained a damaged Öhlins strut.  It wasn't until I saw how the struts were packaged by Öhlins when they shipped them back to me after repair that I realized how weak the WORKS packaging was when they were originally sent to me.  In the case of my Öhlins Sport Suspension order, the struts and shocks were simply wrapped with a single layer of bubble wrap that did not cover the entire assembly.  All 4 struts and shocks were placed in a single box, and then the box was loosely filled with foam peanuts.  In the case of Öhlins' packaging, each strut was wrapped in multiple layers of corrugated cardboard, with the cardboard extending beyond the tops and bottoms of the struts - key to protecting the adjustment knob.  Each strut was placed in an individual box that was properly sized for the strut, and then each box was filled full with foam peanuts.  With Öhlins' method of packaging, the struts were incapable of shifting within their box, and each angle of the struts was protected by a thick piece of shock absorbing material.  With WORKS' method, there was inadequate shock absorbing material around the items (the assembled struts & springs were far too heavy for a single layer of bubble wrap), and the items were able to shift within the box and to come in direct contact with the sides of the box and each other.
 
My latest order - Whiteline Roll Center Adjustment kit - came packaged in nothing more than the original retail box -  very thin, low burst strength corrugated cardboard - and had a thin layer of plastic from the shipper's label around it.  It is apparent from the indentations visible on the inside of the cardboard box, the clean cut made in the plastic bag the ball joint was factory-packed in, and the crushed metal ring of the ball joint's dust boot, that something heavy impacted on the top of this package.  With no room to cushion the contents, the force of the blow was directly transferred to the item within.  This item should have been packaged within a larger corrugated shipping box to insulate it from harsh handling.
 
I find WORKS products of high quality, and WORKS' customer support friendly and helpful, but for once I'd like to be able to take possession of an order and not have to have contact with the friendly customer support staff!  ;)   I've talked with Oliver so much I feel like I should send him a Christmas card next year.  I really want to recommend WORKS to other Evo owners, but unfortunately I can't right now due to this problem with inadequate packaging and the damaged merchandise that results from it.
 
I'm hoping WORKS will look into this situation and address it so I can regain confidence in them. 
 
Thanks for listening,
 
EJ

 

February 27th, 2007 - 31,200 miles

I've updated the "Mods" page with all my parts acquired over the winter.  In fact, some are still coming in, and other have been sent out for Jet Hot coating.  Take a stroll through!

February 26th, 2007 - 30,869 miles

I have had a LOT of things going on since I last made an entry in this log.  Problem was, I was sending emails to my driving friends telling them all about what was happening and the various problems I was encountering, instead of listing them here.  So, I'm switching back to this venue, and if they want to follow along they'll have to start reading about it here.

My plans, as stated in the last entry, are to bring the suspension and all its components up to a level that is more in line with a proper Street Prepared flavor.  The stock suspension and, more importantly, the non-R rubber, just wasn't cutting it.

So, right around Halloween, I decided on a plan: I would order some 17x9.5 Enkei RPF-1 wheels from Evasive Motorsports, shod them with some as-yet undetermined R-compound tire, and put some grip in the equation.  I also, after many nights of reading, researching, and smacking myself about the head, I decided to look at some sort of coil-over package with adjustable rebound settings.

There are some very nice, affordable coil-over packages available for the Evo, including the KW Variant 3 and the Bilstein PSS9.  The Bilsteins seem to be a good compromise for street/track, and the KWs seem to be a bit more on the harder side.  However, living in "Salt York State", I was nervous about any suspension piece having threads, since corrosion happens quickly on undercarriage bits.  That's when I noticed WORKS was offering an Öhlins Sport Suspension, which retains the stock suspension form, but upgrades the shocks and struts to adjustable damping, with a WORKS Ride lowering spring. This seemed to be a good upgrade for someone like me who didn't want the hassles of trying to corner balance a coil-over setup.  When WORKS lowered the price on their package, I took that as a sign that I should buy it, so I added some of their camber plates and an adjustable rear anti-sway bar.

In the meantime, my Enkei RPF-1 wheels hadn't shown up, and were essentially overdue, so I put a quick call into Evasive Motorsports.  They surprised me by saying that the order was just being placed and that they should have them in another 2 weeks or so.  By this time, I had realized that I was never going to be able to utilize the width of a 9" wheel, and that a 9" wheel might not even fit given the added bulk that the Öhlins suspension represented (compared to a true coil-over), so I told them I wanted to cancel.  However, they told me I had special ordered these wheels and that a cancellation would subject me to a restock fee.  Nothing could have been further from the truth in my recollection, so I quick did some investigation of Evasive's ordering and cancellation policies.  Right on their website it states that any special order situation will result in an email confirmation for the special order before it's placed.  Ah-hah!  They never emailed me like their policy states, so I kindly pointed this out to them and told them I did not expect to pay a restock fee, either.  I got a stange email in response to my email, stating that they were still trying to order my wheels for me.  At this point, I sent them a very blunt email stating that I didn't understand what the confusion was about, but that I had informed them several days prior that I wanted to cancel my order and this was the last they would hear from me.  I'm assuming they figured out what I wanted, because I did not hear any more from them at that point.

Now, when one door shuts, another opens.  Here I am with an Öhlins suspension on the way, and no wheels to really take advantage of it.  I struggled to research my wheel options, and did not like many of the choices I saw.  I wanted to stay with a 17" wheel in order to keep my tire costs down, but 17" wheels are very limited. Also, from a width perspective, I figured that rather than a 9" width, I'd be better off with an 8.5" width.  This was because an 8" width wheel would pretty much restrict you to a 245/40R17 tire.  Anything 255 or larger will not properly fit on the wheel, will balloon a bit, and will cause the contact patch to digress.  But 8.5" widths were nearly impossible to find.  That is, until I got an email from out of the blue from a buddy of mine who was running RimPRO.com, but has now switched over to selling new wheels from his site www.DForceWheels.com.  He had a friend who was interested in dumping some SSR Competition wheels from his Evo.  He apparently road rashed one pretty good, and it even needed some welding, but the rest were just slightly scratched or otherwise lightly used.  The looks didn't matter too much to me, since these were going to be just for autocrossing, so I expressed interest.  The pics he sent didn't look too bad, but I was concerned about a tire shop accepting the welded wheel for mounting - the weld was right on the outside lip of the wheel.  But when I was told $200 for the set (these wheels go for about $450 each), I was thrilled.

My enthusiasm for these wheels began to dampen just a bit when I found out some other key things about them.

  1. The offset of the wheel (+42mm) is not quite good enough to clear the front Brembos.

  2. This specification of the Competition (or Type C) is no longer available.

These items spawned yet some more issues.  Because of the offset problem in the front, I now needed to add some spacers to the front wheels.  The problem with this is that spacers quite often require longer wheels studs, due to the lack of exposed stud threads once the spacer is in place.  And then, when you start talking about longer wheel studs, they can interfere with the capped lug nuts that are used with the stock wheels.  The stock wheels use an unusual sleeve design rather than a cone design for the seat.  Because of this, I couldn't just get some off-the-shelf lug nuts to replace the capped stock nuts.  So, in order to avoid as many hassles as possible, I decided to go with an H&R Trak+ spacer kit.  The H&R kit was good in several regards:

  1. The kit comes in a 5mm version, providing just enough offset from the Brembos without pushing the outside of the wheels and tires too close to the front fender edges.

  2. The kit comes with studs that are simply 5 mm longer than stock studs, thus accounting for the 5mm spacer without causing problems with the capped stock lug nuts clearing the longer studs.

  3. H&R sells spare studs for the kit, so in case I have lug nuts seize like I did last year after some hot tracking at Watkins Glen, I could have some spares on hand in order to facilitate a fast repair and not have to wait for parts to be ordered.

For a tire choice, it finally came down to really only one choice: Kumho VictoRacer V700.  This was the only autocross tire available in the 255/40R17 size that would allow me to take advantage of the new wheel widths.  While the Kumho Ecsta V710s are considered the best autocross tire, the only size I could get in a 17" was a 245/45 size, which from my reading is a less than optimal size for the Evo, and can in some instances be too tall and rub on the fender liner.  The other 255/40R17 tires I came across were more for track driving and didn't warm up fast enough to be of any value in an autocross situation.  I'm hoping this combo will provide me with enough of a grip increase to make all the effort to run them worth it.

 

October 25th, 2006 - 29,816 miles

What looked like a daunting driving schedule is now a successful season behind me, and I and the Evo both survived. Since I last posted I've done 4 local autocrosses, 1 Boston CCA autocross,  2 track days at Watkins Glen, and 1 track day at Lime Rock.

Autocrosses - I thought I had a chance this year to podium in the Street Prepared category, but as luck would have it, others in the class progressed much further than I did.  I held a slight lead for 3rd place up until the last few events, but despite a seesaw battle with a nicely prepared CRX, I couldn't overcome some of the deficits I accumulated at some of the events.  I ended up missing 3rd by 2 points - 277 to 275 - and will settle for 4th.  Currently I'm using that as motivation to begin a true build-up of the car to participate properly in Street Prepared, and hope to gain enough of a technical edge to allow me to keep improving my driving skills.  My plans currently center on the suspension - custom struts and springs, camber plates, some very wide wheels, some wide R compound rubber, and a professional installation and alignment by Dent Sport Garage. I've begun an email conversation with them, and so far they (Bill W.) seems to be very focused on customer service.

Boston BMWCCA - I was sorry I was only able to make 2 events this year with my friends in the Boston BMWCCA.  The Devens runways always provide a great venue, and the folks that run there are a pretty good group of guys and gals.  The ironic thing is, based on my performance in the 2 events I did attend, I more than likely could have gotten a podium finish if I had done the minimum of 5 events.  Oh well, I'll just chalk it up to the ever present EJ luck.  I'm hoping I can take in more of these events next year.

Watkins Glen - Watkins Glen is by far my favorite driving venue.  The track, at 3.5 miles in length, is never a dull drive, and the course itself presents a challenging but fairly safe place to test my skills.  I attended a 2 day event held by the Genesee Valley Chapter of BMWCCA, at the end of September with my friend, Christo, and we had a great time.  GVC runs one of the best organized events I've been to.  Granted, I haven't been to many others, but even veteran participants I talk to speak very highly of the GVC events.  My instructor was a gentleman by the name of Geoffrey Ring, who drove a very professionally prepared Porsche 911 of some sort.  Rumor had it the vehicle was putting out somewhere between 500-700hp. I believe it was a twin turbo, all-wheel drive model.  I had the chance to ride with Geoff during one of the instructor run groups, and it was the biggest thrill of my life.  This Porsche, with this driver, was unbeatable - we literally passed everything in front of us, and I believe we lapped some of the cars during the 25 minute session.  I was very nervous about getting motion sick, but I managed to survive the entire session. The hour that followed afterwards, well, that was a different story! (but I recovered in time to take my next session).  This event also saw me get signed off to solo on the last run of the day, which quickly became the biggest thrill of my life.  It was exhilarating to drive solo - not having to manage an instructor and thus allowing me to fully concentrate on the driving at hand.  While I had been much slower during the previous runs while attempting to placate the instructor's pleas for smoothness and early braking, I could now brake much later as I was comfortable with.  I'm not sure why the instructor had asked me to brake so early during our runs - whether he was not confident with my skills or the abilities of the Evo's Brembo braking system, I'm not sure.  But the bottom line was he signed me off, and thus I was able to dig deep into my potential like I hadn't since having Geoff Stim - a Spec Miata racer who preached speed - as an instructor.  My solo career nearly suffered a premature ending when the skies opened up and poured rain all over the track.  This happened during the BMW Club Enduro race that took place as part of the activities - an exciting aspect that I hadn't experienced before.  Being that it was a race, several drivers did not take as careful precautions as they should have, and there was a massive 5 car pile-up at the bottom of the chute (turn 6).  This not only delayed our run group, while they cleared up the wreckage, but also gave the chief instructor pause for sending out the Intermediate drivers without instructors to reign them in and help with wet driving strategies.  My instructor had left early so as to get an early start on his ride home to Kingston,  so I was instructor-less and now needing an instructor.  As yet another example of how driving events have transformed me, I became proactive and approached a group of instructors telling them of my dilemma.  One of the instructors volunteered to go out with me, and he liked my driving style so much after 2 laps that he let me pull into the pits, drop him off, and finish out the session solo.  It was pure bliss!

Lime Rock Park - Ahhh! Nothing like preluding the WGI event by driving down to Lime Rock for a day of track time frolicking.  Unfortunately, it rained for a portion of the morning, and thus the morning sessions were simple tiptoeing drills in an attempt to keep the cars out of the tire walls.  This was drilled home to us as 2 cars went off Big Bend as they came out of the turn, within the first 20 minutes of the instructor run group. <will finish later>

June 30th, 2006 - 26,467: (taking a deep breath...)

I've become a total track junkie.  Since last journal entry, I've done 1 day at Lime Rock with Patroon Chapter of BMWCCA, a 2 day event at Watkins Glen with Genesee Valley Chapter of BMWCCA, and another 2 day event at Watkins Glen (WGI) with Patroon Chapter of BMWCCA.  The GVC WGI event in May was so spectacular that it immediately had me fantasizing about attending as many WGI events as I could throughout the rest of the summer, never mind the cost and time needed.  Lime Rock is nice because it is so close to home.  I've stayed overnight the last 2 events I've done down there, but I sleep so lousily each time, it's not worth the cost of a hotel room, so I'm just going to drive down the morning of for the September event coming up.  But Lime Rock is also a fairly small track - a great track for a first-timer, but you'll master it soon.  Track time is always fun, however.  Watkins Glen is on a whole different level.  What a fantastic track!  With it's many turns and elevation changes, it challenges you much more so than Lime Rock.  Besides being twice as long as Lime Rock, it has many more nuances to learn, so the challenge remains time after time. There are also many more passing opportunities than Lime Rock, so that wheel-to-wheel feel is much greater than Lime Rock.  The only down side I found is that it takes more out of the vehicle: it's a bit tougher on tires and brakes, and you'll eat fuel like nowhere else.  I can do a full track day at LRP without a fill-up.  At WGI, I use a half tank in a half day.  Sessions at WGI will put 35-40 miles on a vehicle, and with the Evo getting about 7 miles/gallon from a 14 gallon tank, you need fuel quick.  The most convenient fuel is the track race fuel.  100 octane is nice for a turbo engine, but at $6.50/gal, it's a bit expensive - sort of like driving around Germany like we did last summer.

Brake Pad - my track days required me to find a better brake pad than my stock pads.  The stock pads were certainly adequate, and held up well during an event, but they were worn out after 3 years of use and a track day.  My first choice was Hawk HPS, which supposedly balanced bite with wear characteristics.  My experience had me trying to brake deep at LRP, and by the 3rd time braking at the end of the main straight, the pads glazed and I had to make use of the runoff at the end of the straight.  OK, next brake pad!  I called our OLA sponsors RaceShopper.com, and discussed the situation with them.  They agreed that the Hawk HPS pads were a nice street pad, but were inadequate for high HP track use like an Evo can dole out.  They recommended Hawk HP Plus, or Ferodo DS3000s.  I ended up getting a set of each so that I could do a comparison test of them.  When I switched off the HPS pads, I left the rear HPS pads on since RaceShopper.com said the front pads would be the most important pads in the braking scenario, and the ones that do most of the heavy lifting in braking.  The HP Plus pads performed flawlessly at WGI in May and in June, and their wear has been minimal so far.  I initially thought I'd be switching them out after each track day in order to save them from wearing too quickly, but they hold up very well, and they don't squeal, so I've found them fine for street duty, too.  Now I'm guessing I won't get to use the Ferodo pads until next Spring. My fellow Evo owning friend Mike C. from Boston has been running Ferodo DS3000s, and he found them to be very good in bite, but they do seem to wear faster than my Hawk HP Pluses, but it should be noted that Mike was much more aggressive with his June WGI event than I was (more on that later).

Track Fallout - I went to swap my street/track tires for my autocross tires, and found I had a bound lug nut on each front wheel.  Initially I blamed this on my use of my stepson as a helper the last time I switched tires - he recently got his permit and I thought it would be a great way to teach him what to do if he got a flat, plus it saved me a lot of sweat - but in talking with other track junkies, I've found out that this is a relatively common malady.  I'm guessing it's due to the heat generated by heavy braking.  In order to counter it, I've decided to order a complete set of ARP lug studs from LancerShop.com.  The ARP studs, like the ARP head bolts and connecting rod bolts, are made of a stronger alloy than the stock studs, and hopefully won't be as susceptible to track heat as the stock bolts were.  Wishful thinking? I guess I'll find out.

Autocrossing results - I'm in a battle with the local MoHud group.  My current mods have pushed my car up to B Street Prepared, but unfortunately I don't have all the mods necessary to compete in that class.  Probably the biggest items missing at this point are R-compound tires and suspension tweaks.  Meanwhile, autocrossing with the BMW CCA in Boston was very successful the last time I visited there - I took 1st place in my class.  The great thing about Boston CCA is that they keep R-compounds and non-R competitors separated, so you're competing on a much more level field than SCCA has set up.  Unfortunately, with MoHud dropping  no events this year, it is impossible to compete for a season podium finish and miss an event, so I've had to skip many of the Boston events because they either fall on the day of or the day before a MoHud event.  It has kept my schedule a bit more sane with as many car events as I'm participating in (17 days worth this summer), but I miss my friends out there and the competitive camaraderie that Boston CCA possesses.

April 30th, 2006 - 23,xxx: Lots of stuff.  Where do I begin?....

Pruven Performance: I made 2 appointments in April with Pruven Performance.  One on April 15th and one on April 19th.  Originally, I was going to participate in a dyno day with Dynoflash.com's Al Friedman, but due to a schedule change, he had to postpone those who signed up.  I originally was going to have several items installed on the Evo in order to bolster the reliability of it on the track and autocross course.  A Walbro 255lph uprated fuel pump and ARP connecting rod bolts were the items that were recommended to help prevent an engine failure.  Over the course of the 2 or 3 weeks from when I first made my appointment, I ended up adding in Technafit stainless steel braided brake lines, a brake fluid flush-n-fill, new Hawk HPS brake pads, a set of Defi gauges, including a boost gauge, an EGT gauge, and an oil pressure gauge.  I debated over how to mount them, and finally settled on using an Evo-specific Defi gauge pod that bolts right to the top of the dash.  I arrived down at Pruven Performance, located in Milford, CT and about a 2hr drive from my house, at around 10:00am on Saturday the 15th.  I figured my car would be ready by 4pm, so I scheduled a visit with my sister and her family in Baltimore.  During the course of that Saturday, we also ended up adding turning the rotors to the list of work.  Finally at 9:15pm, I rolled out of Pruven with all my work done. I've got to hand it to Dan Cokic and the Pruven Performance gang - they do pretty good work.  My only complaint was that the put the lug nuts on way too tight, which forced me to go out and purchase a breaker bar in order to switch my wheels over for an autocross.

On April 19th, I once again drove down to Pruven and arrived by around 10:30am.  I had asked about having an HKS Racing Suction intake installed at the last minute.  In addition, Dan had recommended having uprated ARP head bolts installed as another reliability mod.  My dyno session was scheduled for 1pm, so Dan said come down an hour or 2 before to have the mechanical work done beforehand.  Little did I know that I would spend 15 HOURS down there that day.  Because of my intake installation request, Pruven had to juggle some parts issues - they didn't have a complete intake on hand.  What Dan offered up was a hybrid intake - an HKS intake pipe with a Buschur Racing filter.  It was Dan's opinion that this setup up offered the best of the 2: a nicer intake pipe and the better of the 2 filters.  I agreed to it, but since they didn't have a Buschur filter on hand, they offered to install one from another customer's car, allow me to have my car dyno'd with it on, and then at the end of the dyno session they'd reinstall my stock intake and I could order an intake filter when I got home, and then install it when I had all the parts.  However, as the night drew to a close, and me and the other last Evo owner were about to be dyno'd, big Al came in and asked us about our mods.  The young guy who was there waiting with me had a heavily modded Evo MR, but Al expressed concern when the guy said he didn't have a manual boost controller.  Al said the dyno session would be pretty useless without the ability to go above stock boost levels, so he recommended having one installed right then and there.  Uh, this was at 12:30am - you know, after midnight?  Al looked at me, and I knew what was coming.  I had anticipated waiting until my warranty was up in November before playing with boost levels higher than stock, but with Al looking at me, I decided to go for broke (almost literally, at least from a wallet standpoint) and had them install a manual boost controller on mine, too.  Al recommends Forge products, so I'm now the owner of a nice silver Forge RS boost controller.  The good thing about this is that my car dyno'd at 278HP at the wheels with the intake, MBC, and ECU reflashed.  The bad news - well, it actually helped me get out of there sooner - was that with the MBC installed, the stock air intake couldn't be reinstalled.  So Dan decided the best thing was to let me take my installed hybrid intake home, and he'd explain to some poor customer the next morning where their air filter went to.  I got back on the road around 2:30am, and pulled into my driveway at 5:15am.  The only thing that kept me awake on that trip were the sights and sounds of all my new parts: the intake making a loud sucking sound as the turbo kicked in, the loud "whoosh" sound of the stock blow-off valve now prominent with the hybrid intake in place, and the Defi boost gauge showing my boost pressure peaking at around 25psi.  I decided to kick the MBC down a few notches after that!

With the MBC and intake now in place, my SCCA Solo class has gone from A Stock up to B Street Prepared.  The bad thing about this is that puts me into some very heavy competition who knows how to maxiimize their suspensions.  My suspension is still stock, and I'm not even running R compound tires yet, so I'm way behind the 8 ball competitively.  Our first autocross of the season was held today, Sunday the 30th, up at Adirondack Community College (ACC), and I got my butt handed to me by the competition.  BSP got bumped up with E Mod, which has a ringer of a driver and his new VW Franken Rabbit ripping of FTDs.  Great.  I broke it to the wife when she asked how I did today that I'd need to spend some more money in order to get competitive.  I have to hand it to her - I never saw her flinch at that comment.

 

February 27th, 2006 - 21,979: Picking up where I left off with several stories from the last post...

Exedy Clutch Inspection Results - I ended up getting a phone call early one evening from Bernie at Exedy in Michigan.  He had with him a Japanese engineer who had helped examine the clutch and diagnose the problems with it.  They found several issues, all of which most likely explain the problems I was experiencing with it:

  1. Burrs - Burrs were found on the splines of one of the discs.  This is typically caused by not properly supporting and fitting the transmission when reinstalling it.

  2. Friction pad grease contamination - dark spots on a portion of the friction surface of the clutch disc indicated that there was grease contamination of the friction pad on one of the discs.  This will cause the disc to slip when engaging, causing uneven engagement.

  3. Oxidation - there were signs of oxidation on some of the splines on the discs, which indicated that not enough grease was applied to the drive shaft at the time of installation.  It could also be an indication that the grease that was used was not of the proper grade in order to endure the high temperatures it would encounter in the clutch assembly.

Bernie stated that all 3 things pointed at one thing - installer error.  The installer needs to be careful when installing the clutch and when reinstalling the transmission as to not damage the splines on the clutch discs.  There are multiple warnings about this in the installation documents, especially about not angling the transmission when mating it up to the clutch assembly.  The friction pad grease contamination problem indicates that the installer either got grease on the friction pad when applying grease to the driveshaft, applied too much grease to the shaft and splines, or used a low heat grease that quickly melted and spun off onto the friction pads during use.  Because of the detection of oxidation on some of the splines, Bernie ruled out too much grease on the splines, and thus settled on either a low heat grease having been used or direct grease contamination of the friction pad.  And finally, due to the existence of some oxidation on the splines, it was an indication that the splines did not have enough grease applied to them, causing the metal to be come bare and oxidize.  This would also cause the discs to not slide freely as they would need to for proper disengagement of the clutch, and thus cause clutch drag.

Bernie then asked me who was the person who performed the installation, and I believe he was half expecting me to admit that I was the installer, since the issues indicated an amateur job.  I then revealed to him that my Mitsubishi dealer had in fact performed the installation.  Bernie said he wasn't surprised at the problems since the level of mechanical abilities possessed by Mitsubishi service can be a crapshoot.  He then suggested that I would have been much better off having the job done by a shop well versed in Lancer Evolution work, such as Pruven Performance in Milford, CT.  I guess I would have been better off if I had just gone with my gut instinct and taken the car down to Turbo Trix to begin with.  Oh well, live and learn... and drop $3,500 in clutches and installs in 7 months.

The good news is that Bernie gives my Exedy Twin Disc clutch a very clean bill of health.  Exedy said there was minimal wear to the discs (1 disc showed virtually no wear, and the other disc had 0.1mm of wear), the splines are easily filed to remove the burrs, and the oxidation is inconsequential.  To put an even further good vibe on my customer service experience, they included a new clutch release bearing, and alignment tool, and a free CD with movies on it covering clutch operation, installs, and other information.  The cost of all this? Free - a grand gesture on Exedy's part since they pretty much bore no responsibility in the matter.  I now plan on formally presenting this report to Otto Mangino Mitsubishi and see how they react.  While I don't hold out hope that they'll step up and cover my expenses, I figure at the least they'll be aware of the reasons I gave them such low marks in the JD Powers survey I filled out shortly after my clutch problems showed up (and which they pointedly remarked on to me during a later service appointment that they had seen my low marks from my survey responses!)

Speaking of that "later service appointment", just before my inspection expired at the end of December 2005, my 'Service Engine Soon' light came on.  Otto Mangino - yes, I still take my car there for maintenance - diagnosed it as a faulty EGR valve.  They replaced the valve, but the SES came back within 30 minutes of driving the vehicle.  I then had to make another appointment, during which time they managed to break the bracket on my EGR solenoid.  They ordered a new solenoid for me, and scheduled a third appointment.  On my third visit they replaced the broken EGR solenoid, and finally successfully addressed the SES light. 

Whew... I'll have to wait for yet another entry before I can get to finish the Lime Rock stories...

December 17th, 2005 - 21,228: Wow, a lot has happened since I was last able to post in the journal here.  I'll tackle each issue in a separate paragraph:

EVO replacement search: My enthusiasm for finding a respectable EVO replacement vehicle got a good dose of reality when I finally began to realize that there really IS NO other vehicle like the EVO.  No other car I've looked at has the same attributes of a) gobs of power, b) AWD, c) 4 doors and able to carry 4 adults comfortably, and d) under $31,000.  Each vehicle I've looked at as a possible candidate has had a compromise in at least 1, if not more, of those categories.  On top of that, rumors began to fly wildly about upcoming models of various offerings that might make holding off on this decision a wise thing to do.  Audi was supposedly bringing their 3.2L V6 Quattro A3 to the states, but finding good information on its specs was near impossible as of late October.  There are many rumors in the Honda camp saying that Acura will finally bring the JDM RSX Type-R over in order to help differentiate the RSX from the newly debuted '06 Civic Si.  Speaking of the Si, I'm still waiting to get a look at it since it is scheduled for a December 2005 debut.  Many magazines have spoken glowingly of it, but I've got to admit that the performance specs still don't thrill me to the point where I'm ready to return to the Honda camp.  I've even considered factoring in a turbo or supercharger kit for the Si or a TSX, but you're still talking a FWD car instead of an AWD drivetrain, and all the disadvantages that a FWD brings to the track and autocross circuit.  So I began to look at ways to address the clutch problems with the EVO.  My decision at this point is that the EVO is a fine car as long as the clutch is working.  The only nagging issue left with it is its poor side impact rating. I love the EVO, but I'm not sure I want to risk my life just to drive it.

Exedy clutch: My clutch problems returned at the end of the summer, around the beginning of September.  Not nearly as bad as before, but I began to experience some minor clutch dragging, and once again had some engagement difficulties every once in awhile (especially the 4th-to-3rd downshift).  I held my breath on this when I signed up for the Halloween track day at Lime Rock Park (more on that later), and fortunately the clutch didn't give me any problems until AFTER I was off the track and on my way home.  Finally, in an attempt to quell the overwhelming urge to purchase a new car, I decided to tackle the clutch problem head-on, and made an appointment with Turbo Trix in Edison, NJ, to have them look at the clutch and fix/replace it, as needed.  While I had gotten a good referral for them from a buddy who owns an EVO in the Albany area and had them tune and dyno his ride, I wasn't as thrilled with them as I would like to be.  I got the distinct feeling that there was not a lot of effort on their part to diagnose what had gone wrong on the Exedy clutch, but at this point I was so desperate to get the problem solved that I readily agreed to their plan of "most likely" replacing the Exedy with an ACT clutch.  The one issue we ran into is that I did not have my own stock flywheel with me (the Exedy uses a smaller diameter flywheel that comes with the twin disc clutch kit), and neither did they have any Fidanza or ACT flywheels in stock.  Luckily they were able to scrounge up a stock EVO flywheel around the shop, and we agreed that I would ship my flywheel down to them once I got back - sort of like a core exchange.  Pulling out of the shop and after having done a few sessions of shifting the gears, I wasn't sure I had made the right decision.  There was a definite shudder when slipping the clutch, and I figured I had just agreed to let them install some abused and warped flywheel from one of their heavily drag raced project cars into my baby, and I was going to send them my pristine flywheel on top of that.  However, after several weeks of use, the shuddering has become much less pronounced, and I'm guessing that the ACT clutch simply needed some break-in before the action of it got smoother.  There's still some shudder to it, but it is very livable, and is a HUGE improvement over the Exedy clutch.

Speaking of the Exedy clutch, I had decided to clean the clutch up, do my best to verify that it was in good condition, and to then attempt to recoup some of my original $1300 investment in it by selling it on eBay or EvoM.net.  It was a mess in terms of a fine black dust that covered most of the parts - the cerametallic material that makes up the pads, I believe - but I eventually got it shined up rather nicely.  In retrospect, this is what I should have done with the clutch as soon as I got it from LogicPerformance.com - take it apart and learn what makes it tick.  It was a bit intimidating at first, as Turbo Trix did not necessarily reassemble the clutch kit as it should have been.  I took the Japanese language installation guide, complete with diagrams, along with the English language supplement, and attempted to reassemble the clutch.  Next up was to attempt to discover how much pad material was left so that I could properly represent the condition of the clutch during a sale.  I contacted Exedy USA and was put in touch with a gentleman by the name of Bernie Solomon.  Bernie has been very helpful and I'm truly impressed with the level of customer service that I'm receiving.  I've got to believe that they are giving a customer exactly the level of service that a $1300 part would warrant.  I had emailed Bernie asking about the thickness of the clutch pads when new - I had been too intimidated by the purple twin disc gem to even begin to break it open - so as to measure how much material had been used up so far in its short 4K mile run in my EVO.  Bernie explained that the disc measures 4mm new and they recommend replacement when it reaches 3mm (replacement of the 2 discs will run you about $550 just for the parts, according to Jeff Hill of Turbo Trix, and thus his recommendation to go with the ACT clutch which will run about $160 for a replacement clutch).  I was a bit disturbed to hear these measurements, as I was finding just over 1mm of pad material on each side of each disc.  I tried to get a clarification of the measurement method from Bernie, but instead he asked me to call him so he could fully understand what problems I was having.  In the course of our phone conversation, Bernie dropped a bunch of info on me (Exedy makes the stock EVO clutch - I know, not exactly a bragging point given how weak it is, but in all likelihood that's Mitsubishi's spec requested and not Exedy's), including that the 4mm/3mm measurement should be the FULL width of the clutch disc, not just the pad material - whew!  When I measured my discs this way, they measured just a fraction below 4mm - thus nearly new and much more reasonable for 4K of gentle wear.  Bernie was also concerned about my tale of ongoing clutch dragging and engagement issues, and said almost all of the problems they've run into with customers have stemmed from poor installation techniques, and NOT the Exedy equipment itself.  Improperly torqued bolts, clutch plates installed backwards, nicks put into the driveshaft splines or the disc teeth from improper handling, or even some dropped clutches during installation that ended up bending or otherwise nicking pieces that affected their function (Jeff Hill had claimed he had started recommending ACT over Exedy due to overheating & warping issues with them - but I've got to assume this is in drag racing situations).  Bernie then offered to issue a ship ticket for my clutch, to have it shipped to Exedy in Michigan, where he would have one of the Japanese Exedy engineers (Kevin Fujioka) inspect my clutch and see if it had suffered any problems mechanically.  I was thrilled to have this offer made, and accepted it.  UPS came to my door and took the clutch, and it is now on its way to Michigan.  I figure that at the very least, if I don't keep the Exedy, I can gain a lot of credibility in my sale to be able to say that it has been inspected by the manufacturer and certified as being in good condition.  This offer from Bernie and Exedy has really changed my opinion of the company.  I can't say that I will buy their products from now on, but I certainly have good things to say about their customer service.  I think where the Exedy product falls short is in the installation process.  It is apparently more complicated than a regular single disc clutch, and thus opens the user up to many more installation-related problems than another clutch such as the ACT would.  Not entirely the fault of Exedy, but if the twin disc doesn't bring appreciable benefits to the table to outweigh the complication factor of it, then why bother?  And why bother paying $1300 for a product when a $750 product (ACT clutch & Fidanza flywheel) will perform just as good?  It's probably a question that only a long-term test could answer, and I don't see anyone stepping up in the tuner world to settle that one.  In the meantime, look for the results of my Exedy inspection to be posted on this site as soon as I hear back from Exedy on it.

Patroon BMW CCA Chapter, track day at Lime Rock Park, 10/28/05: I can't believe I waited so long to do my first track day.  After hearing about how much fun it is, and then participating in One Lap this past Spring, I finally lost my apprehension over going and decided to jump.  Our local BMW CCA chapter, of which I'm a member, sponsored the track day, and being familiar with some of their members thru SCCA autocross events, I figured I would have enough friends at the event to answer all the stupid rookie questions that I would naturally come up with.  (More details to appear here soon...)

July 21st, 2005 - 17,720 mi: With the EVO clutch really acting up, I put my car search into high gear.  I stopped by Infiniti of Latham and test drove a sweet 2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe.  The car drove nicely, but suffered from 2 fatal flaws: not enough headroom for the driver (even worse for rear passengers), and an impossibly small trunk.  It had power readily on tap, but with my head banging on the sunroof trim and the rearview mirror blocking 40% of my vision out the windshield, I decided it just wasn't to be.  I then stopped in at Langan Audi and checked out the new A3.  What a great looking practical car!  The vehicle has only 1 downside - it currently only comes with FWD.  What is really intriguing about it is the automatic transmission with DSG - basically F1-style paddle shifters.  What with the EVO making me cringe with every shift, the thought of a vehicle that handles the clutching for you, but still gives you the joy of controlling the shift points was very interesting.  The A3 is a 5 door, and could be considered a small wagon, but has a very sporting style and image.  A 2.0 liter turbocharged engine rated at 200HP should give it plenty of guts, and while it is relatively small on the outside, the interior is very spacious and usable.  The salesman says the Quattro AWD will be available next year, but only with the 3.2 liter V6 engine.  With all those additions, I would expect the price for the Quattro model to climb well north of the $30K price for the current FWD model.

I ended up making an appointment with Turbotrix, down in NJ, to troubleshoot the Exedy clutch installation on 7/25.  In the meantime, I had signed up for an autocross with the Boston BMWCCA group on 7/16.  Boston BMW CCA are very strict this year with sign-ups and no-shows, so I didn't have much of an option for not showing up this time around, having ducked out last time due to clutch failure.  So I went, and I'm glad I did.  While stuck north of Boston on I-495 N in weekend traffic, the clutch was dragging and sticking like a monster.  After about 15 minutes of clutch suffering, the clutch suddenly stopped giving me trouble.  I was thrilled!  I contacted Turbotrix about this and they said as long as it was working fine, then there was nothing to look at. I guess I saved myself about $400. 

The big plus to all of this is that I'm back to being an EVO fan.  Almost every car I looked at was a real compromise compared to the EVO.  The RSX doesn't have the room or the power, the G35 didn't have the room or the headroom, and the A3 didn't have the power or the handling (although I'm going to try to sneak in a test drive tomorrow just to check it out!).

Speaking of the autocross, it ended up being my first one of the year, and it showed.  I started out very slow - probably a bit hesitant to push the EVO while not being sure of the clutch - but once the clutch proved it was handling the work just fine then I got into it.  I ended up placing 5th out of 10 in my class, which I was a bit disappointed with.

July 4th, 2005 - ???? mi: I have an appointment tomorrow at Otto Mangino Mitsubishi to have them check out the clutch and possible misfire problem.  I tried to recreate the misfire issue this weekend ( cruise about 55mph, then floor it and listen/feel as the boost comes on above 4K RPM), but I couldn't get it to do it again.  Figures, but the clutch still needs to be looked at - it still doesn't disengage completely every time when coming out of 2nd or 3rd gear.  A few weeks ago my Uncle was taking a long hard look at the EVO and noticed that my left rear brake rotor has grooves in it, while the other 3 have a mirror finish. I did notice some grinding noises this past Spring, but figured it was just some grit in the pads.  I'm wondering if the noise and that rotor are related.  I'll have to mention it to the dealer and see what they say.  With all these issues cropping up, I'm really starting to get annoyed by the EVO.  It's great when it works, but if it doesn't then I'm not a happy camper.  I took the wife over to the Acura dealer and showed her a new RSX Type-S that I'd be willing to switch to, if this car continues to have problems.  She seemed agreeable to it - mostly because she has always hated the EVO and would love to see it gone.  I'm hoping Otto Mangino can get things right quickly and get the car back to where it should be.  If not, I may be going back to my old "EJHonda" user ID very soon...

June 29th, 2005 - 16,882 mi: I've installed the Iridiums (NGK Iridium IX) and initially they did seem to help the slight idle misfiring, but after a few days I decided that the situation wasn't much better.  I went thru a rigorous testing procedure of trying the stock ignition wires on the car again to see if I could isolate the Magnecor ignition wires as a problem, but this didn't change anything, either.

I ended up choosing an Exedy cerametallic twin disc clutch for my stock clutch replacement, and after interviewing several area shops I chose Otto Mangino Mitsubishi for the installation. Why, you might ask, after they gave me complete nonsensical answers when inquiring about camber adjustment? (See my Sept 28th, 2004 entry). When calling around, I found that a) there are very few garages that work on Mitsubishis in the Albany NY area, and b) Otto Mangino was the only place that claimed to have some experience in replacing EVO clutches.  Otto Mangino had no problems using after-market parts, so I decided they would be the best bet in this situation.

I posted on EvolutionM.net I was looking for pricing on an Exedy clutch and was contacted by LogicPerformance.com, who offered a very good price, but added they'd beat the lowest price that anyone else offered.  I ended up getting the Exedy clutch and an ACT release bearing for $1,385 shipped.  Logic Performance was nice enough to offer the release bearing at $35 additional, stating that I'd pay at least $50 for a stock release bearing, which is recommended to be replaced anytime a clutch replacement is done.  It should be noted that the Exedy kit also includes a new flywheel, which is a must as the Exedy clutch is much smaller than the stock clutch.  Also note, that any time a clutch is replaced it is recommended that the flywheel be replaced, too.  This ensures that any imperfections in the old flywheel won't cause uneven wear on the new clutch.

When I made my installation appointment with Otto Mangino Mitsubishi, I decided to have them throw on the Borla cat-back exhaust I had purchased last October.  It made sense since they'd have the stock exhaust off as part of the clutch installation.  The clutch and exhaust install took about 7.5 hrs and set me back around $695.  It was an expensive day for having done a season's worth of 5K RPM clutch launches.  The Exedy clutch seemed to hold the edge in wear over the ACT clutch, although both clutches get very good comments from users.  I'm hoping that the $600 premium the Exedy clutch carried translates into longer life.

The Exedy clutch lived up to its billing on the Daikin web site: it is noisy beyond what a normal clutch would be.  Best I can figure is the twin discs must rattle around loose when the clutch is disengaged.  You'll hear the noise at start-up, and especially at shifts above 2500 RPMs.  I recommend shifting high up (around 4K RPM or higher) in order to keep shifts smooth.  The Exedy kit includes the flywheel, and I'm guessing that the Exedy flywheel isn't as heavy as the stock clutch (although the stock clutch seems to be very close in weight to the Exedy clutch kit), and thus it loses RPMs a bit faster than the stock flywheel.

Exedy/Daikin recommends a 600 mile break-in for the clutch before aggressive clutch activity is enjoyed.  I managed to put those miles on within about 3-4 weeks.  It was difficult not to shift aggressively with the new sound of my Borla cat-back exhaust.  The Borla exhaust is much deeper than the stock exhaust, and makes steady progressive noise as soon as the throttle is pressed.  It can be droning on the highway, but I like my vehicle with a bit of a hard edge to it.  It does nothing, however, to enhance the vehicle's "family sedan" quotient.  The Borla, accompanied by the more ragged shifting, has now made this EVO a near race-like vehicle when combined with the rough ride.

The bad news comes this past Friday, June 24th, when I finally hit the 600 mile break-in goal and was now ready to start using it a bit harder.  I noticed that there was a sensation at times when coasting to a stop that the car was still engaged in a gear, even though the clutch was depressed.  I've experienced this in 2nd and 3rd gears, but it isn't consistent.  From this I'm assuming that the clutch may not be disengaging all the way - the big question is why not.  Also, during the break-in period, the clutch picked up an additional noise, a slight harmonic ring when attempting to feather the clutch for smooth start from a stand-still, and also when downshifting.  It sounds like a metal-on-metal sound.  The installation instructions said that various parts were to be coated with a high temperature grease, and I'm wondering if Otto Mangino followed this part, or if it wasn't part of a normal stock clutch install, skipped it.

Beyond those issues, I also noticed that if I'm in 5th gear, cruising in the range of 55mph or slower, and then floor the throttle, the car will begin a small but very noticeable bucking when the RPMs build beyond 3500 RPMs.  It is difficult to tell whether this is an engine misfire or if it is part of the drive train.  I was able to get it to do this in 4th gear, too, but not in any lower gears.

The car has an appointment at Otto Mangino Mitsubishi for a check-up on these symptoms.  I'm hoping that both issues can be found quickly and righted without much effort.  It has now been nearly 4 months since the car has worked right, and I'm beginning to get a bit frustrated by the ongoing issues.  Without the ability to make use of the power, the EVO is simply a rough riding, gas guzzling econobox sedan that offers nothing.  This has already prompted me to start making contingency plans for the event the problems are difficult to solve or if they become recurring issues.  I'm thinking my next step would be to approach a known EVO garage, like Pruven Performance or Turbo Trix.  Problem is, both of these places are 3hrs away from me and would very likely require an overnight stay in order to allow them time to work on my car.  That's not practical, but might be acceptable once.  The other option would be to - GASP! - trade away the EVO for a more practical and more reliable ride.  My first instinct would be an Acura RSX Type-S, or maybe a TSX.  I'd lose a lot - power, AWD - but I'd gain Honda reliability and a much plusher vehicle that might make the family less likely to cringe when getting into it.  My BMW friend has pointed out that BMW dealers are offering $7K price reductions off the old 3 Series vehicles now that the new 3 Series cars are out, but BMW doesn't have a stellar record when it comes to reliability, either.  Besides, BMWs are pretty pricey unless you go used, which may also be an option despite which way I went, to keep the overall costs down if I have to do the unthinkable.  Stay tuned.

I recently installed my Schroth Rallye 4 harness that I purchased off eBay.  The installation was not bad, using information on EvolutionM.net.  Too bad I haven't had a working vehicle to autocross in since I installed it. 

May 23rd, 2005 - 15,945 mi: I changed my plugs this past April, and decided to go with cheaper NGK plugs over the stock NGK Iridiums.  I figured it made sense since I was planning on going with a 6 month schedule for changing out the plugs, but the idle has not been the same since the change. I've pulled the plugs twice to check the gapping, but everything has checked out.  Not sure what at this point is causing the odd idle.  In the meantime, I've ordered another set of Iridiums to see if it resolves the issue.

On the way out to Boston this past weekend for my first post-One Lap autocross event, I noticed some odd noise and motion sensations when flooring the gas.  Doing some quick experimentation showed that the clutch is slipping when the turbo kicks in - not good!  With less than 16K miles on the car, I'm disappointed that the stock clutch has worn out so quickly.  However, I'm assuming that the hard launches I've done autocrossing have caused the early demise of the clutch.  I'm weighing going with either an ACT or Exedy Twin Disc clutch.  I'm leaning towards an Exedy Twin Disc, but they are almost a grand more than the ACT.  I'm hoping the twin disc setup will provide a bit more endurance over the stock and ACT clutches.  I'm now trying to track down the cheapest dealer for Exedy clutches, and have to figure out where to have the clutch installed.  After being told by the dealer that my car's suspension had no camber adjustment method, I've lost total faith in them for performing any complicated mechanical repairs.

November 29th, 2004 - 11,518 miles: I had called Vishnu Tuning 2 weeks ago and arranged for a reflashing of my stock ECU in order to address the gas mileage I get with the car during the winter.  In talking with the dealer about this issue last winter, they suggested getting a reflash of the ECU from a reputable tuner, and also suggested putting on some quality intake and exhaust components, suggesting that the results would be anywhere from an extra 2-4 mpg.  The little side benefit to all of this is that you might pick up some extra ponies - perhaps as much as 15-20 HP.  Right now I'm trying to stay in the A Stock class for SCCA autocrossing, but may cross over into E Street Prepared classing depending on how much money I end up spending on the EVO and whether my reflash makes the car noticeably faster or not.  Technically, any ECU changes should bump me up to a Street Prepared class, but since my reflash is so mild I'm rationalizing it as not necessarily in the spirit of a true performance upgrade.  However, if the seat dyno says differently, I'll turn myself in on a class change.  In the meantime, I've posted a new write-up of how to remove the ECU.  It's pretty simple, but the pics make it a no-brainer, and when I wrench, I really  appreciate no-brainers!

I've also put an order in for new plug wires (Magnecor 8.5MM) and some new spark plugs.  I've got a bit of a cold stumble that gets noticeably worse in the winter, and I'm guessing that it might be due to a rich issue at start up, so hopefully the ECU flash will resolve that to a certain degree.  Depending on how rich it has been running, I figure the plugs might have some fouling at this point, so I'll change them over as soon as I try out the new ECU, which I anticipate receiving by Friday 12/3.

November 12th, 2004 - 11,005 miles: We finished up all the driving event seasons recently.  BMW CCA ended 10/24, Mo-Hud SCCA finished 10/3.  I held off my closest competitor, a Mazda Miata driver, and took 2nd place in the Stock class.  I never came close to beating the gentleman that took 1st place for the season, a Honda S2000 driver.  SCCA is going to rectify the inequities of the S2000 sitting in B Stock, and will be moving it to A Stock next season.  In the Boston BMW CCA Autocross series, I ended up taking a 2nd place in Class G (all stock) at the last event, and 5th place for the season.  My weakness during the course of the season was a habit of not being aggressive enough early in the runs.  Boston BMW CCA scores events slightly different than Mo-Hud SCCA.  CCA takes the fastest time from the morning runs and your fastest time from your afternoon runs, and then averages those 2 times.  The average is then PAXed (multiplied by a percentage based on your class).  Mo-Hud is simply your fastest run of all your runs, and then that time is PAXed.  So with Mo-Hud events, you can take your time learning the course and then try to bust out a fast time later in your runs.  With the CCA scoring method, you need to hit a fast time within 2 to 3 runs so that your average is as low as possible.  My times would typically be 3 or 4 seconds slower in the morning than in the afternoon, which killed my average. Around the last 3 events of the year, I was able to close the gap between the morning and afternoon sessions, and it did wonders for my finishing position.

The grim reality of living in the Northeast has hit in an annual ritual - putting on snow tires.  The bad news is that it signals the loss of warm weather which I so desperately crave.  The good news is that the snow tires make the ride just a bit softer with their more flexible sidewalls and squirmier tread blocks.  Just remember that when approaching corners aggressively! The confidence inspiring Yokohama A046s are replaced with a much scarier, unsettled tire feel when cornering at speed.

Back in the summer when I put my eBay stock rims on, I noticed that my actual stock rims had a casting defect in one of them.  Upon taking them off for the season, I was able to track down the rim that has the defect - an appearance of bumpy metal near the inside rim lip - and will be contacting my dealership soon to see if they will agree to replace it under warranty.

I've noticed a bit of an ignition stumble under slight gas when first starting in the cold weather.  This occurred when I had the car brand new, but it appears to be a bit worse this year - probably

September 28th, 2004 - 9,364 miles: I participated this past weekend in the 7th round of the 2004 Boston BMW CCA Autocross season, placing 5th amongst the 17 entrants of class 'G', which is basically CCA's non-BMW stock class on street rubber.  I was very happy with this result for several reasons: of the 4 drivers ahead of me, at least 1 is of national SCCA champion caliber, and the others are very good drivers as well.  I believe I had the 2nd fastest raw time of the day in the stock class.  CCA uses SCCA PAX values to help even the field amongst the different stock classes.  The surprising thing to me was, if I took those times I laid down in stock class and had competed in class 'I', which is the Street Prepared SCCA classes, I would have taken 1st place by a wide margin.  I believe the EVO goes into E Street Prepared as the next step when modifications are performed, so it would be a good place compete.  However, knowing the talent pool is so deep in stock makes any type of victory there that much sweeter.

This weekend we have our season-ending event in the Mohawk-Hudson SCCA Solo II championship, up at Adirondack Community College.  The college has a pretty nice parking lot, unencumbered with obstacles, but the pavement tends to be quite slick, and has many gentle rolls in it which can upset handling at speed.  I currently hold a slim 2 point lead for 2nd place over the 3rd place competitor.  1st place is a whopping 70 points out ahead of both of us, so he's secured his spot.  In order to keep my 2nd place position, I simply have to beat the 3rd place guy, even if that meant I took next-to-last and the 3rd place guy takes last.  Our point leads over the other competitors is sufficient to make it unlikely that anyone else will break into the medals.  While running out in Boston, we have at least 3 other competitors running EVOs - 2 other 2003 EVOs, and a 2004 EVO RS.  One of the gentleman is a very friendly guy, and we've traded strategies and car setup info during the season.  We typically ride shotgun during each other's competition runs - we BOTH agree that the car feels much better balanced out on course with a person in the passenger seat than it does driving alone.  During one of my rides, I noticed that this gentleman's EVO seemed to carve the corners and bring the tail around a bit better than my car, despite the fact that his original stock tires are just about all used up, compared to my just-beginning-to-get-chewed tires.  He attributes his car's lack of understeer to his home alignment to increase front negative camber.  Supposedly, by positioning a cam bolt 180 degrees from the factory setting (here's a pic) you adjust the camber from -1 degree to -2 degrees.  When this is done, you may have also affected toe settings, so it's important to check them.  My friend did some simple (read "crude") measurements using a plumb bob, some pieces of plywood that he pressed against the wheel and then chalked the position on his garage floor, and a measuring tape to check that distance at the back of the lines was the same as the front distance - that would be 0 toe, while back distance < front distance between lines would be "toe out", and back distance > front distance between lines would be "toe in".  Toe out and in will quickly chew up tires, as the tires are resisting the direction that the car is travelling to varying degrees.  Zero toe means the tires are offering the least amount of rolling resistance possible.  Slight toe in might be advantageous to have on a track car, since it helps the outside front wheel turn in quicker during a turn, but as stated before, tire wear is greatly accelerated.  I was nervous about making such an important change to my currently rock-steady steering EVO, so I attempted to enlist the help of my local Mitsubishi dealership in making the change.  I had an oil change appointment anyway, so I figured it would be a good time to talk to them.  I told the service manager what I wanted, and he said he'd talk to the technician who had just come back from EVO service training.  Well, send the guy back to school, because he simply didn't know what he was talking about.  The service manager and technician both came out to tell me how it was impossible to make camber adjustments to the EVO without drilling out and elongating various suspension components, and that this required precise machinery and wasn't recommended.  I knew better, so I mentioned that it should just require the 180 degree twist of the camber bolt.  The technician then decided to proclaim that there was only one Mitsubishi model that posesses an offset bolt as I described - one of their SUV models.  I figured if they didn't know this stuff, then I didn't want them attempting it anyway, so I didn't argue.  I now have an appointment scheduled with a performance alignment shop recommended by a fellow local SCCA member.  I'm taking a printout of the EVO service manual just in case the guy isn't exactly familiar with EVOs, but since he's a performance guy, he's sure to understand what I'm looking for and will otherwise be competent.

A few weeks back I finally decided it was time to bust out the stock Enkei wheels and Yokohama Advan A046 tires that I purchased off of eBay.  My original stock wheels/tires were starting to show some tread wear issues from the constant autocrossing that I've been fortunate enough to do this summer, so I figured it was worth the effort to put the newer tread in for some around-town usage and break them in.  The eBay Enkeis/Yokos seem fine, although there seemed to be a bit of wheel shake, like you were traveling over slightly bumpy pavement, at certain speeds.  A balancing issue, perhaps?  Not sure, but it isn't bad enough to pursue yet.  While I had the original stock wheels off, I decided to clean them up and put a coat of wax on them.  It's amazing how dirty they get - between the brake dust, bits of race rubber, and normal every day junk that collects on them (I've had flies splattered on the lip of the rim - how that happened is beyond me and I've never seen that on any other rims I've run) they get quite dirty.  While polishihg them, I discovered a defect in the edge of one of the rims, along the backside of the wheel.  It appears that when these things were cast, there was some air bubble in the mold that never got pushed out.  This leads me to believe I've got a weak spot in the rim. It hasn't caused any problems yet, but why take a chance?  So I've got to contact the dealer for another warranty item.  I'm curious if my autocrossing will come up at all during the discussion.  If it was a bent rim, I could understand the subject being broached, but since this is clearly a manufacturing issue, autocrossing should never enter into it.  I'll let you know what they say.

A quick note on my recalled Gross Vehicle Weight sticker - my dealership STILL hasn't been able to get one to perform the work.  Luckily this isn't a big deal.

July 11th, 2004 - 6,201 miles: Just came back from a Boston BMWCCA Test and Tune event.  Lots of fun on those concrete runways out at Ayer, MA.  We did a modified autocross course (pretty much the 'yellow' course with 2 very minor tweaks to it).  They also set up several autocrossing exercises on the 'orange' course runways, with some slaloms and figure 8s thrown in.  The atmosphere was a bit more relaxed than the normal competition events, and people took the opportunity to swap rides in each other vehicles.  I let a guy with a V8 Camaro take my car out while I tried his vehicle.  The Camaro was just too big and too numb to have much fun in.  Sure, there's gobs of power available, but the platform just doesn't give you the opportunity to have fun with it.  I'll keep the EVO, thank you very much.

July 7th, 2004 - 5,909 miles:  I've been racking up a lot of miles on the car with various summer driving trips to, uhh, somewhere.  According to recent articles in Car & Driver and Auto Week, Mitsubishi has started to deny basic warranty claims if you participate in ANY type of automotive competition - autocrossing included.  The Auto Week story references a father and son duo who ran into the Mitsubishi Warranty police when the son had his engine lose 2 connecting rods and subsequently damaged the turbo.  Mitsubishi supposedly already had the car on a restricted warranty watch due to discovery of the car owner or driver listed in the results of an autocross competition's web site!  The dad is now on the hook for about $7,000 worth of engine repairs simply because the son drove the car in ONE (1) autocross competition.  So now the push is on to try to make sure that all EVO owners hide their participation in autocrossing as best they can.  Stories abound of people participating under pseudonyms and removing their license plates when doing track days so that spies can't publish photos of their participation and prove that they have voided the warranty.  Mitsubishi isn't the worst of the bunch - how about Subaru, which gives out a membership to SCCA and even provides you with a pamphlet describing how to participate in an autocross? What Subaru fails to point out is that your participation in the events they are promoting will take you off of warranty.  Some WRX owners/conspiracy theorists are claiming its an evil plan by Subaru to duck culpability for known transmission problems.  It doesn't seem so far fetched a theory to me.  How better to stretch a thin profit line than to wriggle out of warranty obligations?

Any way, if I was autocrossing, I'd tell you that I've gone out to Boston several times and have steadily climbed up the ladder, but still have trouble breaking into the top 5 in my class.  The driving talent is very deep out there, and these guys are good.  It'll take more than machinery to go up to the next level.  If I was autocrossing, which I'm not.

I recently found out that my 2nd place finish in the local autocross (which I really didn't participate in) has been adjusted to a 3rd place - some G Stock Neon supposedly had a better pax'd result than mine.  I missed the last local autocross held up at Adirondack Community College, so the next one I'd go to if I did that sort of thing will be in August.  The next Boston autocross, if I did that, will be July 25th.

My Perrin oil catch can install went pretty smoothly.  I didn't even have to remove any parts to get at the hoses.  I'll post photos and some tips later on.  I haven't noticed any oil caught since I installed it about a month or so ago.  I'll probably open it up just to check at the summer's end.  Someone online recommended putting a pad or other type of media to help catch oil drops that may be suspended in the air stream.  You'd have to make sure that whatever you put in there won't break up and get sucked into the intake, but it seems to make some sense.

I recently had my oil changed at 4,500 miles.  My oil last got changed at 1,000 miles, and since I autocross regularly (just kidding, Mitsubishi!) I figured I'd go with an aggressive maintenance schedule.  I also had the transmission fluid changed, and had requested the differentials be changed too, but the dealership didn't have the fluids to change them, so I'm waiting to hear back when they get them in.  If I had the  tools (a 24mm socket) then I'd just change it myself, but since it was in, I figured what the heck.  The oil change and tranny change cost around $100.

I recently got a recall notice from Mitsubishi - for the sticker that attaches to the driver's door frame listing the GVWR and weight capacities, of all things.  When I called the dealer, following the instructions in the notice, they hadn't heard about it and asked that I read the letter to them.  They supposedly were ordering the sticker, which has to be installed by the dealer, and would set me up with an appointment when it comes in.  Their big joke - "it doesn't sound like it will require much lift time, will it."

This evening I installed the Xpel headlight protectors that I purchased last month.  They were a pretty simple install - very similar tactics to installing window film, which I've done a few times, so it was no biggie.  They did require quite a bit of squeegeeing at the bend of the lamp lens where it transitions to the turn signal.  The film kept popping up at the top and bottom edge of the film.  I did trim a bit of excess film where it wasn't centered perfectly on the lens.  The film is cut to perfectly overlay the lens, so it's difficult to center it perfectly horizontally.  Total install time was about 30 minutes.  The great thing about the EVO is where it says in the install instructions to heat up the film with a blow dryer, you just have to lay the film on the hood opening and the engine heat will do the rest!

May 18th, 2004 - 3,762 miles: I attended my first local autocross with the Mohawk Hudson SCCA this past weekend, and took 2nd place in the bump group made up of A stock, B stock, A Street Prepared, and B Street Prepared.  I lost out to a long time member (nice guy) with an S2000 on Kumho race rubber.  I'll have to see the final results when they're published to pass on the details.  This was my first ever podium, so I was thrilled.  A small, tight, technical course on the parking lot of Fulton Montgomery Community College's parking lots, I wasn't sure if the EVO really held an advantage here or not, since it's strength seems to be power and not turn-in.  However, there did appear to be a lot of novices in attendance, so I'll have to view the competition listed in the results to gauge how well I really did compared to all others.  Met a lot of very nice people - Frank with the Integra Type R, Hung with the Infiniti G35 - and renewed acquaintances with some others.  Was glad to see my friend Joe Sell, and even prouder to see him take first place in STS in his older Civic Si hatchback.  I'm psyched up to try playing with some tire pressures and getting serious in the local scene once again.  I'm sure my Boston BMW CCA experiences have helped me come along in my driving.

On May 8th, I traveled out to Boston to participate in the 2nd autocross of the year with Boston BMW CCA.  These courses are still finding all the weaknesses in my skills, and I also find it difficult to memorize the courses well enough so that I can look ahead.  The drivers here are top notch, so I find it very helpful competing against them and picking their brains when I can.  Any podiums here will be hard fought and honestly earned.  I finished 9th out of 20 drivers in my class (G - consists of SCCA stock classes on non-R compound tires).

May 3rd, 2004 - 3,000 miles: Man, these frequent trips to Boston are starting to add up!  I had an autocross school on Saturday, May 1st, so I drove out once again and stayed in the area with an old friend from high school.  The autocross school was a great way to get some extra seat time in a non-competitive environment, while getting some great pointers from some veteran drivers.  My biggest surprise - getting placed in the "expert" group - wasn't the whole reason I was there because I'm NOT an expert?  That put me in the tutelage of some of the best drivers in the Boston BMWCCA chapter.  Also interesting were the comments that I received on the car from the instructors.  "Great car" was the most often heard comment of the day.  We did threshold braking, figure 8, decreasing radius, and slalom exercises.  There were 3 groups of students - novice, intermediate, and expert - and we moved between the exercises like you used to in gym class when we were doing gymnastics on various pieces of equipment.  There was one other EVO there, but he was in the novice class so we didn't get to hang out too much.  Most interesting car of the day - to me at least - a silver Acura NSX.  There was also some sort of Porsche rocket there that sounded just phenomenal at WOT, along with the usual mix of M3s, WRXs, and even a 7th gen Accord sedan.  The afternoon was spent doing a shortened version of the competition "yellow" autocross course.  We wrapped things up by 4:30pm and headed out after a long day of driving.

My visit to Otto Mangino Mitsubishi's garage for the intercooler problems turned out to be a short, albeit embarrassing, trip.  The mechanic showed me that the "leak" I experienced was simply the reservoir bottle being filled too much.  Now the problem is that the overflow valve is set to kick in when the bottle is only about 70% full, so you really can't fill it up - an oddity that even the mechanic couldn't explain as to why Mitsubishi did it that way, but he was well aware of it.  The squirters also began working just fine.  To show me, the mechanic squirted them while I looked in at the intercooler to see the action.  Unfortunately for me, the day was very windy, so I got a nice stinging eyeful of washer fluid when he zapped them.  But the trip wasn't all to waste.  I visited briefly with my sales guy and shared my opinions and takes on the EVO so far.  His recommendation to the poor gas mileage?  Modifications!  Interesting, coming from the dealership, but I like to think that Otto Mangino is one of the more progressive dealerships in Mitsubishi's stable.  Justin the sales guy recommends an intake and cat-back exhaust to free up about 3-4 mpg (a down pipe is even more helpful), and then also either an AFC or piggyback ECU controller to help lean out the fuel mixture.  He stated, as I know I've read elsewhere, that Mitsubishi makes the vehicle run way too rich in order to protect from warranty claims on detonated 4G63 blocks.  So now I've got an official directive to add some parts to the car, and all in the name of the environment.  Hey, it's just a side benefit that you can gain 20 - 130 HP by doing this!

MPG - stills bounces around in the 16 -19 mpg range for commuting, and around 25 - 26 mpg for highway driving.  It's interesting that the small amount of miles that are done for autocrossing end up dragging the mileage down for the highway trip out to Ayer, MA from 26 mpg to 20 mpg.

I've got a part still waiting to be installed - a Perrin oil catch can.  This item mounts on the passenger side strut tower and ends up splicing in between the crank case breather and the intake pipe.  The idea is that it should be snagging all the oil that spits out of the crank case during engine use and keeps it from getting sucked into the intake tract, where it can either insulate the intercooler and cause it to become less efficient, or can be sucked into the combustion chambers, where it doesn't burn well and fouls the plugs.  Some guys online have said it's a waste and never catches anything, and other guys are saying they're getting an inch of oily liquid out of it every other month.  We'll report back on the install and whether it seems to perform a function or not.

April 20th, 2004 - 2,323 miles: The car continues to be a joy at this point.  The boost is intoxicating and begs for use. Street challenges continue to mount.  The latest challenge came from a very nice BMW M coupe that had the NY custom plate "WANARACE".  I was on Everett Road in Albany coming back from the in-laws when I got passed and revved on at a stop light.  We both went charging up the hill until the entrance to I-90, where I needed to split off.  I maintained my half-to-full car length lead, but in all fairness to the guy, I jumped on the race first.  A smile and a wave was traded between us as I took the EVO, with a compliment of 4 passengers, home.

My first autocross of the season took place on 4/18/04, and it was a learning experience.  The morning runs were exciting, but I seemed to still have some push similar to what the old Accord exhibited.  Based on my times, a fellow competitor told me the car was capable of much better times and that I should ask an instructor to go out with me in the car.  I did one better, and asked an instructor to drive the car to show me what it was capable of.  He proceeded to rip off a run that was at least 5 seconds faster than my best run to date, and that was being gentle on the launch.  He then sat with me as I attempted to duplicate what I had experienced observing his run.  He pointed out several things that made immediate gains: keep both hands on the wheel (I was fond of hanging on the shift knob), don't lift off the throttle to slow down, use the brake (I learned to use the brake with the Accord late last year but forgot that this year), and to keep looking as far ahead as possible (I kept studying the approaching gate and dealt with it rather than planning my position for the next several gates).  I ended up shaving 4 seconds off of my best time and had some new things to start reinforcing during my daily drives (like keeping both hands on the wheel and stop holding that shift knob all the time).  He also suggested learning to left foot brake, which is simple with an automatic, but can be kind of scary with a clutch pedal involved.  I was so impressed with the help I got in that 20 minutes that I ended up signing up for the Boston BMW CCA autocross school.  Interestingly enough, I was the only EVO in attendance.  At the end of last season there were 2 EVOs that were showing up.  I'm not sure what happened to them, but my guess is they found out that the car doesn't just guarantee you autox success, and so they got discouraged and gave up.  I hope not, because that would be great to compare against the same cars, but that's my guess.

During the autocross, I decided to make use of the intercooler sprayer.  Not that I thought it would add a lot to the equation, but if you've got it you might as well use it.  I pressed the button several times but never saw any fluid appear.  A quick check of the intercooler reservoir showed there was some fluid in it, but it did look low.  Getting home from work this evening I added some water to the intercooler reservoir, and as I topped it off, I heard water leaking, and noticed it appeared to be coming right out of the bottom of the reservoir bottle.  The area the bottle is in is very tight, so I can't really investigate it too well.  I've made another appointment at my dealer and hopefully it will be something easy, like a loose hose or something.

Gas mileage continues to be lousy.  My trip to Ayer, MA this past weekend yielded an average of 20.2 MPG, but as my buddy Christo pointed out, that included the autocrossing mileage (8 miles - 1 mile per run - they have nice, long courses!) and idling to cool down the oil.  To test out that theory, I then filled up again as soon as I got home, and the mileage, with just straight highway driving, showed 26.7 MPG. Finally!

March 15th, 2004 - 1,353 miles: The car is doing pretty good so far.  I've noticed a faint musty smell, which I've read others experiencing.  Seems to be from the A/C condensation in the HVAC system.  Not exactly a great endorsement of quality, but it isn't bad at this point.  The "visibility" factor of the car has started to accumulate some incidents recently.  One evening on the way to make a deposit at a 24HR ATM, I pulled up alongside a Nissan pickup, who decided they were going to attempt to leave me in the dust at a stop sign.  I heard the tires squeal on the pickup and I just launched.  I don't think they got more than half a car length along side me before I was gone.  I felt stupid, but your reactions just take over when behind the wheel of this car.  I've had several other people attempt to dog me or rev on me - a WRX on an entrance ramp that went from 2 lanes to 1, and some unknown vehicle while my wife was driving the EVO around the day of its service appointment.  I also picked up my first speeding ticket... ever.  On Saturday the 13th, I was cruising along I-890 westbound, going way faster than any other traffic on the stretch of road (mistake # 1).  I wasn't paying much attention to how fast I was going (mistake # 2), and when the lanes expanded from 2 to 3, I noticed a load of cars merging onto the highway from an entrance ramp, so I pulled out into the newly formed 3rd lane and passed a minivan that was in front of me, with no one in front of me in that lane (mistake # 3).  Being unfamiliar with that stretch of highway (mistake # 4), this portion of the highway offers a left hand corner that drops down, not allowing one to see very far out in front.  The trooper sat WAY off the side of the road, and as soon as I noticed him moving up to the road, I said to my wife "He's got me".  Sure enough, he came right up on my tail and hit the lights.  I now had the pack of merging traffic sitting on my right side, without much option of moving through the pack to pull over quickly.  I was able to pull over, but apparently not soon enough for the trooper, who decided to hit the sirens, too.  He was a young guy (funny how they all seem that way now that I'm 40), and was very pleasant - much more so than my 2 previous stints with troopers.  He asked me if I knew what the speed limit was in that area - I didn't but guessed either 65 or 55, he informed it was 55, and that he clocked me at 75.  Ooops.  He wrote the ticket up quickly and waited for me to merge out into traffic, which was a bear since I had come to a stop at the end of an entrance ramp.  I've handed the ticket to a lawyer and hope that my clean driving record works in getting a reduction.  The lawyer is going to use as my excuse the miserably small speedometer on the EVO that DOESN'T allow for quick checks of your speed. 

BMW CCA autocross season starts up in April, with the first event on April 18th.  I've registered for the event.  This will be interesting since I have no real experience with the car on an autocross course of any kind, or of any type with the ADVAN tires on.

Speaking of ADVANs, I don't know when I'll get a chance to get them back on - they're predicting 7"-10" of snow here by late tomorrow evening.

February 26th, 2004 - 1,022 miles: Got the car back from Otto Mangino Mitsubishi of Clifton Park, NY (I noticed they still have two '03 EVO's, a red and a silver!).  They had diagnosed an oil leak from the oil pan, so they removed the pan and resealed it.  They also changed the Mobil One oil at this time due to the pan work, so I got my 1K oil change for free!  They replaced the driver's side rear view mirror due to visual distortion all along the top edges.  All items were covered under warranty.

February 20th, 2004 - Yesterday, while running home from work at lunchtime, I popped the garage door open and didn't pull in,  but just jumped out to run into the house quickly.  While walking across the garage floor, I noticed about a dozen drops of oil in my usual parking spot, about the size of a quarter, of various ages.  I called Otto Mangino Mitsubishi that afternoon and they let me come in this morning for a quick check up.  Otto Mangino verified that I had a small oil leak, apparently from the gasket on the oil pan.  They'll need to order special gasket material to reseal the oil pan.  I also had them order me a new driver's side mirror to replace the mirror face I currently have, which shows some signs of visual distortion all along the top edge and corners of it.  Mileage is about 920 miles currently.

February 5th, 2004 - I've now gone over the 630 mile mark, and gas mileage has gone up a bit, to 18mpg.  Surprising, considering all the hard-charging driving I've done lately, but the recent milder weather had to help some.  I'm starting to get itchy looking at all the parts available for this beast, and I keep going to the Vishnu Tuning website and drooling over the Stage upgrades available.  I've got a feeling I'll be swapping in a K&N air filter soon - it's a no-brainer; easy upgrade.  The other real need that I've found on this vehicle is a gauge upgrade.  The stock speedometer and tach are woefully small.  The tach takes center stage in the instrument cluster, and the speedo ends up being a smaller gauge off to the left of the tach.  I'm looking at some Defi gauges, which look very nice, but I'm unsure on where to mount them and what setup to get.  The VSD Basis display, with a Heads Up Display (HUD) feature, seems to be very attractive.  For everyday driving, you can set it up to show speed in the numeric display and the tach as a progressive graph.  For autocross/track use, the display unit has other modes to choose from, including a numeric tach and speedo as the progressive graph, or you can choose the tach to be displayed as both numeric and graph.  Real nice - except that Defi cautions to cover the display unit from high heat.  Oh, you mean like the kind of heat you would get on a nice, black dash, where the display unit needs to be mounted?  I'm trying to imagine if I'd eventually get sick of throwing a white t-shirt over the display unit every time I parked the car.  I'd also like to get a boost gauge - very puzzling why a boost gauge isn't included in the stock gauges. RMR makes a nice carbon fiber gauge pod that mounts to the top of the steering wheel column that holds a single gauge - not the best place for a boost gauge, but better than those kits that mount gauges over in the center console.  In my opinion, the center console-mounted gauges  just provide more show than go.

January 26th, 2004 - I've just gone over the 500 mile mark, and gas mileage is back down around 16.3mpg.  I recently confessed to my BMW car-fanatic friend at work that I had only put about 400 miles on the EVO so far.  'Why aren't you out driving it at every opportunity?' was his response.  Hmmm, good point.  So this evening, after having gotten all worked up watching a copy of "Mischief 3000" from Teckademics.com, I decided to go out and play, with the excuse of needing to deposit a check.  I went out on some back roads around here, and did some standing start launches up to 3rd gear and about 70mph.  I think I had a 4 wheel spin going on one of the launches, so I backed that one off, not wanting to hurt the snow tires.  I also started touching the 7K red line on several shifts.  Once I got off the back roads and on the main road to the ATM, I had a Trans Am chase me down and line up with me at a red light.  He was trying to get my attention, revving and jerking up to the line.  I decided to play along, and blasted off at the green.  I don't know if he decided to bail once he saw I had something, or if he was just jerking me around, but he hit his left turn signal and turned off shortly after the green light.  Just as well - that area crawls with local cops a lot of times.

January 20th, 2004 - Filled 'er up last night, and gas mileage has risen to 17 mpg.  Probably a combo of warmer weather and my attempt to really stay off the turbo.  I was back on boost by Tuesday morning, though. This vehicle is still bringing a smile to my face.  Current driving impressions include a noticeable grind shifting from 2nd to 3rd - not loud, but you can feel it through the stick.  Also, rough Albany streets continue to bring a very bouncy ride to the EVO.  I literally have troubles keeping steady pressure on the accelerator when hitting minor street imperfections - so you might as well just floor it, right?  My son has announced that I should have purchased a car that "included a suspension in the purchase price".  I guess the gleam of "2 Fast 2 Furious" has worn off already.  Some mornings, backing out of the garage, something needs to "break loose" before the car begins to move.  It can be a little disconcerting, almost like you're running over something before it moves.  Not sure if it's the e-brake or what.  I washed the car for the first time, and it seems to come clean pretty easily.  Watch the brakes after you pull out of the car wash!  They were almost non-existent during the first application, and I had to stand on them pretty good just slowing down from 30 mph to a stop at a traffic light.  The ignition key inserts MUCH easier now - must have just needed to be broken in.

January 14th, 2004 - The snow tires arrived on January 8th and I put them on immediately.  17x7.5 ASA KA3's with Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22's sized 235/45HR17.  They've got plastic centering rings, which I'm not thrilled with, but they do the job.  After mounting them, I took the EVO up the road to the local church parking lot, and did a couple of donuts in the snow-covered parking lot.  They are worlds better than the ADVANs.  I can now bump up the aggressiveness of my winter driving safely.

Speaking of winter driving, I've been taking it pretty easy on the car due to the break-in period.  I've got about 290 miles on the car, so I'm approaching the magic "300" mark, at which time I believe I can begin to go over 5,000 rpm.  It's quite tough to keep this car UNDER 5K rpms, due to the short gearing.  You end up rowing thru the gears pretty quickly, and I find I spend most of my time in either 4th or 5th gear, even in city driving.  The gears certainly do their best to keep you in the sweet spot of the power band, but they're hell on gas mileage.  My big average so far? 16.3mpg!  I can't blame it on aggressive driving, so I'm going to blame it on the sub-zero cold we've experienced in upstate NY and the short drives (about 5-10 miles) I'm taking most of the time.  I feel kind of hypocritical ranting about the poor gas mileage of SUVs now.

January 6th, 2004 - It snowed again today for a short-but-fierce squall in the afternoon.  The snow flash-froze in spots on the roads.  With The Wife needing to be somewhere at the same time as my weekly volleyball game, I had to take the EVO out in the snow.  With the stories of totaled EVOs due to snow still echoing in my head, I proceeded cautiously through the streets of Albany.  The trip was rather uneventful, until just a block before where I park.  It was then that I hit some small snow in 2 intersections as I turned, and discovered that the vehicle just headed where it wanted to regardless of where the steering wheel was pointed.  Luckily the one intersection was a 'T', so as I slid out into the middle of it, waiting until I came to a full stop in order to bring the car back around and point it back to where I needed to go, I avoided the vehicles that sat at the light waiting to go, watching me and staring in disbelief that someone could be so terrible a driver in the snow.  I was EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS on the way back home.   The Blizzak LM-22's on ASA rims (since they're for winter driving, I didn't care what the weight of them is) from the Tire Rack are due in tomorrow.  I'll then be able to drive into work and not have to carpool with The Wife... 

January 2nd, 2004 - It snowed this morning, and my winter wheel & tire package from The Tire Rack hasn't arrived yet, so my visions of running errands with a turbo-charged flair took it on the chin. New Year's Eve I took the family over to our friends' house - the usual New Years Eve routine - in the EVO.  We had 8pm reservations at the local Hibachi Steak House in Glenmont, so I gave the couple's wife a ride over and the couple's husband a ride back.  Needless to say, I broke the Mitsubishi break-in rules a little bit (I did wait until the engine was warmed up, but I kind of hit about 5400 rpm when showing off the acceleration).

The Kid has decided he likes the EVO, but of course he wasn't sold until he had it pointed out to him that the feature car in 2 Fast 2 Furious was an EVO (albeit a "not available in the US" EVO VII) - now he thinks it's great!  The DVD movie came with the EVO, so we cheated a bit and wrapped it up as a late present for The Kid.  Now that he's hooked, him and The Mom have gone out to pick up the first Fast and Furious movie, which I thought was a much better film than the second one.

Likes and Dislikes so far - love the power!  Don't like the way the key goes into the ignition - it feels like you've got to find just the right angle before it will enter the ignition easily.  I also find the headlight beam pattern very odd - unlike regular head lights that the beam slowly fades out in front of you, the EVO's beams have a sharp and distinct cut-off, and not that far out from the vehicle itself.  If I was driving at speed at night I would find that a bit discomforting.

December 24th, 2003 - I wake up, stumble out of bed, and get dressed for a 9am appointment to pick up my new 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO from Otto (now Mangino) Mitsubishi in Clifton Park, NY.  It's a miserable day: rainy, foggy, and cold - but luckily not cold enough to snow.  From everything I've read on the EVO boards, the standard Yokohama ADVAN tires are worthless in the snow.  I sign the obligatory paperwork, and then get introduced to Tony Mangino, the owner of the dealership.  He seems like a real nice guy, and gives me a little friendly advice about getting some snow tires for the EVO (I'd already ordered a package from The Tire Rack), and to represent the EVO community well by acting responsibly in the vehicle.  A quick hand shake, and then my sales guy Justin and I go out into the pouring rain to get a walk-thru on the vehicle.  I've read countless articles about it, so I'm pretty up to speed on the major components, and luckily the rest of the components are laid out in a rather common sense perspective.  I've just traded in my 1999 Honda Accord EX sedan, and a lot of the buttons and placement of controls seems to be similar.  Justin gives his speech, and then leaves me to savor my new vehicle.  I stare out at the world, but notice that the windows have fogged up terribly.  I put my new found skills to use and turn on the defrosters. Within 20 seconds, the windows are clearing nicely (much quicker than my Accord would have!) and I'm ready to pull out.  Honestly, I was almost afraid to put this beauty on the road with the nasty weather and traffic.  The posts debating the best way to break the EVO in keep re-running in my head; "Drain the syn oil and fill with conventional oil" versus the "Drive with the syn oil - Mits knows best" argument, and the "follow the Mits instructions" versus the "drive it like you plan on driving it" schools being chief among them. 

So I get out on the Northway and start heading south.  It's foggier than crap, and I'm cruising along at 55mph, noticing that the rpms run up high even in 5th gear at that point.  I admit it - I'm not very disciplined.  After 2 minutes of driving in the right lane, and even getting passed by an S-10 work truck, I pull out, hit the left lane, and run it up to 70mph.  I then rule the road for the rest of the drive back to Bethlehem.  Since the dealership was so kind as to give me a 1/4 tank of gas - it looked like it was south of that, even - I pulled in and filled it up w/ 93 octane.  The gas bill will be higher, but it's easy to fool yourself since the tank only holds 14 gallons.  We'll have to see how far that will take me on a pilgrimage to Fort Devens in Ayer, MA.   Anyway, I make it home and put it in the garage.  As I walk into the house, I take one look over my shoulder and stare at it for a second.  Who would have thought that it would actually end up here when I test drove one back in July?

 


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