Motoring history is chock full of examples of head to head rivalry but it can be argued that nothing comes close to the two decade long sparring match that is known in short form as Sti Vs Evo. Since the early part of the 1990s the Subaru Impreza WRX STi and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution have gone toe to toe, starting out as competitors in the World Rally Championship during Japan’s golden era in the 1990s, transitioning to a long lasting rivalry int the high performance sedan market that continued even after both models withdrew from the WRC and was finally brought to a close by Mitsubishi’s decision to stop Evo production this year.
The years in between brought us some of the most iconic performance cars of our generation and ended up defining a whole new category of car for petrolheads to lust after; the ordinary looking four door Japanese saloon that could give supercars a run for their money. The very fact that they were based on ordinary saloon cars also make them excellent for the conversion process and certainly adds to their popularity today. In fact, original spec Evos and STis were quite rare in Sri Lanka but there are far more of them around nowadays because of the relative ease of conversion. More than any other cars, the STis and Evos were what started off the whole conversion craze and they are what keep it at the forefront of car culture here to this day.
Our featured cars hail from the roughly the middle of the STi Vs Evo wars, the early 2000s and represent a time when both models transitioned away somewhat from their raw, rally racer for the road roots & towards becoming slightly more refined and everyday usable performance cars. Don’t get the wrong idea though, the Evolution 7 and Sti 8 featured here can both still throw down with the best of them!
Pubunu’s Lancer Evo 7
The Evolution 7’s debut in 2001 was met with quite a bit of surprise initially because it was so very different to Evos that had gone before. Although the Lancer & the Evo had in fact undergone a complete model change in the mid 1990s during the transition from Generation IV to Generation V most of the changes were under the surface and the overall size and proportions of the cars remained very similar. But by the 2000s, family cars had become taller, wider and squarer, with increased focus on interior room so the base Lancer obviously had to adapt to the times, which meant the Evo did too. So when the all new CT9A platform Evo 7 debuted there was a lot of grumbling in the press that the new car was bigger, heavier and generally less of a bare knuckle boxer than the VI that went before.
However, Mitsubishi had compensated for the weight and size gain with a much stiffer chassis, active center diff, revised front and rear LSDs and revisions to the engine to bump up the torque as well, though power nominally remained at the 280BHP limit that all Japanese performance iron of the time seemed to be limited to. The Active Yaw Control introduced with the previous Evo VI made a return and combined with the active center diff delivered the same glued to the road cornering and electric reflexes that had become an Evo hallmark. A 0-100 KM/H time in the low 5 second range and a top speed when unrestricted of 250 KM/H, combined with shattering mid range acceleration meant that there was very little that could get clear of an Evo 7 on any real world road, and very soon the initial grumbling stopped as everyone realized that the 7 was a proper Evo and was genuinely superior to what had gone before. The Evo 7 proved itself in Group A rallying worldwide as well, though WRC championship success eluded Mitsubishi in the 2000s after the switch away from production based Group A regs to the more bespoke WRC regulations. In the Sri Lankan race scene the Evo 7 made a big impact as well and even today they are still in contention in the top SL-GT category, a testament to the durability of the platform.
When looking at converting a standard CS series lancer to Evo 7 spec, there are a few more challenges thrown up when compared to the previous generations. The 7 had quite a bit more structural welding and bracing added to the basic Lancer while things like thinner glass, aluminium front fenders, a thinner roof panel and different quarter panels all increase the amount of work needed. However, the fundamental principles remain the same as they always have and anyone with experience doing conversions can soon figure it out, which is evidenced by the increasing number of them that are appearing on our roads.
Our featured example is owned by Pubunu Gunaratne, who should be familiar to regular readers of T & T as he and his previous Subaru STi V were featured in our very first issue. Unlike most Evo & STi owners who are fiercely partisan to their chosen brand, Pubunu was always a fan of both Evos and STis and after living with a Subie for quite some time, decided that he wanted to experience life on the three diamonds side of the equation as well. “I heard about this car when it was in the middle of the conversion process, had a look at it and decided that I wanted it so after confirming that I would buy it, I was able to get the conversion finished exactly the way I wanted it to be” He tells us.
The car does not display any major changes from stock but nonetheless is hiding a few significant upgrades. The most notable one is a Mine’s ECU which came with the conversion kit from Japan that enables the engine to run 1.6 bar of boost on the stock turbo and internals without any issue at all. Complementing this is a titanium cat-back exhaust system, while Pubunu has fitted Ohlins adjustable suspension as well to make the car’s reflexes even sharper.
So how does life on the Evo side compare to the Subaru? “Well to be honest the experience is very much the same, the Evo has more low down torque and the initial response feels a bit quicker, and maybe handling is little bit sharper, but I don’t feel that there is a massive difference between the two.”
He does admit however that the maintenance on the Evo is a bit easier due to the inline engine setup and also feels that extracting more power is comparatively easier from the Evo engine than the boxer.
Which of course made us ask whether he has any plans to upgrade the car further; “Well I eventually want to upgrade the ECU with a Motec and I already have an Evo 9 Turbo with me that I want to fit at some point, then maybe internals and so on, the list is endless” was his answer.
“But honestly the car currently runs so nicely and performs so well that I don’t feel the need to mess with it at the moment, so I just enjoy it as often as I can.” Wise words we say!
Razali’s subaru sti 8
Can you better perfection? That is a question that I have always asked myself considering the design orientation that Fuji industries chose when replacing the iconic GC series bodied WRX and STi variants in the early 2000’s and on. The iconic shape of the GC STi’s which cemented the acronym STi into the history books was a hard act to follow – and Subaru really did take a bold step as they dove head first into some rather strong designs which gave us a love or hate feel first, with the affectionately known bug eye and subsequent blob eye – STi version 8. Both of which rolled into production on the all-new GD chassis.
The changes seen with the STi 7 and in the STi 8 weren’t only skin deep, the change in chassis allowed the gurus at Subaru Technica International to improve the structural components of the iconic rally machine as well. Sticking to the well versed formula – Subaru introduced a more robust 6 speed gearbox for the GD chassis STi’s along with Center Diff Control as standard, an option only found in the more hardcore competition spec versions of the previous GC chassis. The suspension saw an upgrade as well with the full array of STi spec bushings and anti roll bars to compensate for the more aggressively tuned chassis – it really did make the GD a very angry street warrior. Another major upgrade was in the braking where Brembo brakes we offered as standard as well.
The big brake upgrade is a dead give away when it comes to performance as well – providing all that “whoa!” was only to compensate for all that “Go!”. The tried and tested EJ20 flat four engine is also present in the STi 8 but with better internals and performance than previous generations. While the JDM cars got their much loved EJ20 – the GD chassis truly become a global giant, as variations of the EJ engine especially in 2.5l guise was also offered in counties such as the UK and America.
Razali Iyne is no stranger to STi’s – as he has previously owned an iconic GC series STi 5. It would seem that natural progression has bought him now to the ownership of this stunning STi 8. Razali’s keen eye for detail and perfection becomes very clear when one considers the quality of his STi 8 conversion – and it says a lot that that is exactly the same impression one got when in the pressence of his prevous STi 5 conversion as well.
“The 05 STi 8 also known as the widetrack blobeye was the model launched just before the sti 9 was released. Subaru included a few sti 9 goodies in this model.” says Razali. This makes the upgrade just a no brainer I suppose – and the wide track does add to the imposing stature of the car.
What is exceptionally appealing about Razali’s STi 8 is that it has been relatively close to how it left the factory. “Car and Engine is pretty much stock with stock vf37 twin scroll turbo” says Razali. He has however invested in a few mods to improve the cars driving feel and tractability – mods such as a HKS induction system, GFB blow off valve, GFB boost controller, Apexi Jazma muffler, Cusco front strut bar, Cusco rear strut bar, D2 street spec coil overs and Stoptech 500deg Brake pads just enough to take the car into a higher degree of street performance.
When one considers the power gains which these cars are known to handle – it is quite refreshing to see a build of a car being carefully thought out and planned for best real world on road performance – without the rush for out right power – and we must commend Razali for that.
He is in no way done however – as he says that “ Future mods’ will be a 3inch turbo back exhaust and an Ecu re-flash”. We say more power to you Razali! Stock rocks and smart upgrades are the call of the day!
Looking at both Pubunu’s and Razali’s cars it really does cement that our thoughts here at T&T are correct. When conceptualizing this issue the question in all our minds was that there are so many good conversions out their in Sri Lanka – some of them are just as good or maybe even better than some of the original cars on offer.
Looking at Razali’s and Pubunu’s cars we are confident that we are right! These cars are a testament to their owners and a future of hope to all petrol heads that if you put your mind to it and put in the time you can own something truly special – conversion or not!
WORDS: Sajiv Weerakoon & Shane Walgama
IMAGES: R2 Studios
A BIG THANK YOU To: Razali Iyne & Pubunu Gunarathna