How To Build A 600HP, Daily-Driven Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition
Photography by Robb Pritchard
For the last fifteen years, this Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition (a fine car in standard form) has been incrementally upgraded to its current incarnation as a 600bhp daily driver. In the rolling hills of southern England, I took a closer look at this formidable four-door.
Lee Egan has always liked accessible performance cars. In his youth a Nissan Silvia Turbo and a BMW 325 were his choices, and for a few years he had a Vauxhall Vectra SRi that his parents had entrusted to him after his sister passed away. “That car just meant too much for me to be able to drive it how I wanted to drive,” he says, but when a friend offered to look after it for him, Lee decided to put the money he got for it into the car he really wanted. “Rallying had an irresistible lure twenty years ago, and I wanted a Subaru Impreza. But the first one I went to see was parked next to a Mitsubishi Evo, and for me, visually, the Evo was in a different league. I was a fan from that moment.”
But Lee didn’t just buy the first one he found; after some thorough internet research, he decided that he’d settle for no less than the top spec version, a Passion Red Tommi Mäkinen Edition. Just 2500 examples were made for the 2000 model year to celebrate Mäkinen’s fourth straight WRC drivers’ championship win, which in the pre-Loeb days was an unprecedented accomplishment.
Upgrades specific to the Tommi Mäkinen Edition (TME) included a more responsive titanium turbocharger, some suspension fettling, more aggressive aero, WRC-style wheels, and some unique interior touches such as the embroidered Recaro bucket seats. Although it wasn’t so far removed from the still pretty spectacular standard Evo VI, it was a lot more exclusive.
When Lee found his example—a Japanese import with a full service history and just 25,000 miles on the clock—it was love at first sight all over again. “The importer had a showroom of exotic cars on display, but they were just background because all I could see was the Evo!”
For two years, it was his pride and joy and his daily driver… but finding out that it was underpowered compared to his friend’s cars was the impetus for him to start on the long road of modifications that have led to its current iteration with more than double its original output. “I was at a Rolling Road meeting with the local Mitsubishi Lancer Register in the English town of Tewksbury,” Lee recalls. “All my friends had a run on the machine and were seeing power results of 310-315bhp … but when it was my turn, I only got 299.5. Maybe it sounds a bit daft, but I was really disappointed!”
The first things on the power-hungry shopping list were a performance fuel pump, AVCR boost controller, and a Ecu-tek remap, which altogether gave a 65bhp boost to the Evo. “It was a different car straight away… but once you start changing things, it can be a little hard to stop,” Lee says, smiling and shrugging. He began chasing the numbers almost obsessively from that point, or as he puts it: “If you have 300bhp, you want 400. And if you have 400…”
More than just a quest for raw power, Lee’s vision for his car coalesced into the decision to build the most enjoyable daily driver he could imagine. A car that could be thoroughly enjoyed on the road, and that with just a change of wheels and a suspension adjustment, could be turned into a true animal on the track.
But with a young family to look after, just opening the catalogue and buying anything he wanted wasn’t an option. So, Lee decided that the parts with the best performance to pennies ratio were an Evo IX-sourced turbo, HKS downpipe, a set of higher-lift HKS 272 camshafts, and an upgrade to pistons and rods with higher tensile strength. “The first would thing to worry about breaking in an Evo engine are the con rods. They are lighter, and maybe less rotational weight produces more power… but they look like sparrow legs!” At this stage in the build, another trip to the dyno gave a readout of 390bhp. “It was a nice improvement… but 390 was tantalizingly close to 400!”
At the outset of this quest for more, Lee made a point to keep all the original parts he had removed from the car, as he knew that one day the TMEs would be collectors’ items. But the pile of boxes began to grow bigger, and rather early on in this long journey, he realized he’d neither never sell the car, nor convert it back to standard, and so Lee sold everything off cheap to people in the Mitsubishi Owner’s Club.
A couple of years later, Lee coaxed another 100bhp out of the four-cylinder mill thanks to a bulk buy from Full-Race that included a new turbocharger, inlet manifold, wastegate, and downpipe. It all arrived from America with a nice little letter from Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise asking for an extra $600, but now Lee had a really spectacular car… although he knew that with just one more trip to the workshop, he could have the Evo of his dreams.
Enlarging the engine’s capacity from two liters to a 2.2-liter, plus a Magnus inlet manifold, new intercooler, and a Link G4 ECU should have given him over 600bhp, the magic number he would stop at, as increasing the power any more would involve upgrading many things through the transmission system. “The mapper phoned with both good and bad news. The bad news was that it wasn’t 600bhp, and I thought it would be just a little short of the magic number once more. But then he said the good news was that it was 603.2! And that was with boost reduced from 1.9bar to 1.75 bar.”
Whenever it wasn’t workshop, the Evo was still Lee’s daily driver, and although it’s nice to start and finish your working day with a drive in such a car, one of the highlights of Lee’s ownership is the trip he took with some likeminded Evo enthusiasts to the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. “The Nürburgring has over a hundred corners, and as well as most of them being blind, they all seem to look like all the others!” Lee also recalls that before he went out for his laps, he was seeing a good amount of the cars that went out earlier being brought back to the paddock on a flatbed. He was understandably a little nervous to take his pride and joy out on such a formidable circuit, but not enough to turn back. “And added to everything else is all the supercars that come up behind you with closing speeds of 50- 60 miles an hour!” An “experience” is how he describes it in summary.
But then he went to Spa. Sweeping corners that you can both see and learn pretty easily, wide run-offs, long straights, and the exhilaration of taking Eau Rouge at speed was much more enjoyable to Lee than sweating it out in the Eifels’ elevations, and he still smiles as he recalls the memory. “Down the Kemmel Straight at 155mph, the car confidently stuck to the road… It was such a superb feeling. And I knew then that I finally had it where I wanted it.”
One thing that has changed over the years is that the ultimate boy racer-mobile has matured into a much sought-after collector’s car, and not many are seen on the roads any more, much less modified to the extent Lee’s is. So, wanting to take more care of the car with its value and rarity on the rise, Lee doesn’t do track days with it anymore. “I don’t want to offend anyone, but it makes me nervous to be on track with people who don’t have so much experience.”
A nice compromise he’s found over the last six years are charity drive days with the local stroke advocacy association, where Lee gets to take the paying public for hot laps around the famous Castle Combe circuit. This way, he gets in a day of hard driving, only shares the track with likeminded people in fairly equal machinery, and the association raises funds for a very worthy cause. He notes that, in recent years, more people want to go in the Evo than they do in some more exotic cars such as the typical lineup of the latest Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes supercars… And rightfully so.
Lee would like to thank John at FCM Motorsport whose expertise, advice and attention to detail have made this car what it is today.