Is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution the next big Japanese classic?
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Unless you live under a rock, you'll be aware of the boom that's currently sweeping up prices of Japanese enthusiast cars from the '70s, '80s, and '90s.
Correlation doesn't always equal causation, of course, but it's been fascinating to see how many of these cars have experienced this quantum leap in price and demand just as they become legal to import into the United States. And one such car that's about to become legal in the land of the free is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution II.
The second-gen Evolution a refinement of the first. It was still powered by a turbocharged DOHC '4G63' inline 2.0-litre four linked to a five-speed manual and making 188kW of power and 309Nm of torque — a boost of 6kW over the first-generation.
Like the previous Evo (and indeed all the Evos that came after it), the Evo II leaned heavily into motorsport roots. It sported an advanced all-wheel drive system that brought with it World Rally Championship know-how.
But it was a model that plenty of countries, like America, weren't allowed to have. From the first Evo all the way until the seventh, America was denied Mitsubishi's finest all-wheel drive gravel-thrasher. Other countries meanwhile were able to indulge themselves via grey imports and the like.
But now, with the 25-year rule lifting, the Evo II is legal for American roads. And that's led to a raft of opportunistic import companies — like Top Rank Imports in California — jumping on the bandwagon.
Now, we're not talking anything silly yet. Pricing on these Evos, while higher than what we'd pay in New Zealand, isn't quite in mad '$100k Integra Type R' territory. This clean example, near-factory fresh inside and out with 65,617km on the odometer, is priced at US$24,000. It's a fresh Japanese import Evo II GSR with original decals, 5-spoke OZ wheels, and Recaro bucket seats.
That's approximately $37,400 in New Zealand dollars, or in rough guestimation terms about $5,000–$10,000 more than you'd pay for the same car here.
The other curious thing to consider is that the Evolution is out of production. There are rumours that Mitsubishi are considering either bringing the nameplate back as a model in its SUV line-up, or even potentially bringing back the model in its entirety as an all-wheel drive beast capable of beating supercars.
But, given the messy situation between Mitsubishi and its 'alliance' companies Renault and Nissan, a resource-sapping niche performance car seems unlikely. In the meantime, snap up those clean and well maintained early examples while you can ....