Decades In the Making: The Evo That Almost Got Away
Make yourself some coffee or a light snack folks, this car’s got quite the story
The Lancer Evolution has long since been a sought-after model on local soil. Being sold in very limited numbers through Mitsubishi dealers, some of its earlier iterations like the Evo V have since held – nay, appreciated in value – over the years. Thanks to its raw, uncompromising performance, four doors, and healthy aftermarket support, the ‘local’ left hand drive LanEvo V has reached cult status as a performance saloon. This particular Evo however has more value than list price, as its current owner may have taken almost two decades to be able to finally enjoy ownership.
If you know your who’s who in Manila’s aftermarket industry, Carlos Gono should be no stranger to you. Being one of the proprietors behind Autoplus Sportzentrium, he has since helped raised the bar for Philippine high performance builds through their iconic shop along EDSA. Long before we’ve been into Japanese imports and performance parts, the man has been tinkering with them already. To give you an idea of how long, let’s just say he was able to actually get a brand new Evo V from the dealership back in 1999. On top of that, he already had a Mine’s turbo kit waiting for it too.
Much as that arrangement was a perfect way to welcome the new Evo, Gono’s time with his new Mine’s Evo V was short lived thanks to a speeding Civic T-Boning it on the expressway only three months later. With much reluctance, that brand new Evo V was written off – but then it came with a silver lining.
Around the same time Gono had his Evo V, his partner Manuel Go also had another Evo V in RS trim. Stripped out, roll down windows, black door trim and mirrors, and no radio, the Evo V RS was meant to be taken out of the dealership and straight into motorsport. Perhaps around the time they were starting Autoplus, they built the Evo V with a plethora of Japanese parts we may have only heard of a few years later. Everything from a DAMD front bumper, Monster Sport and HKS Kansai exterior bits, a built motor with JUN, HKS, and Phoenix Power goodies, and a magnesium set of RAYS TE37s went into the Evo with the intent of getting everything they can out of its 4G63T. At the time they were building his partner’s Evo, I can only imagine the envy of Carlos Gono not being able to build his own Evo alongside it - especially after that Evo clocked a 10.76 second quarter mile run back in 2001.
The time when they messed with Japanese imports have long since passed, and now the boys from Autoplus have graduated into rarer and faster exotics. Despite the Evo V being quite humbled by their current lineup of vehicles, it’s still a car that would always be at the back of Gono’s mind. Good thing then, because the Evo V RS his partner once had was put up for sale. And rather than let it go to someone who won’t appreciate it, Carlos Gono finally picked up the Evo decades later. The Evo V RS you see here is that exact car – but then where did all those crazy parts go?
After all its hard years as a full-on racecar, the Evo V has now been ‘sent to retirement’ by instead making it a mildly modified street car – the proper way to enjoy cars like these. The exterior was brought back to true RS spec with the black mirrors and the closed-off fog lamp covers on the stock bumper. The door handles however were matched to body color to maintain a streamlined look. The Monster Sport hood and the HKS Kansai CF Spoiler Plane remain from its previous setup, but the magnesium RAYS TE37s were unfortunately sold off meaning it’ll have to do with a standard set of bronze TE37s for now.
Since this particular car was stripped out and is now being brought back up to street spec, sourcing interior bits to put every bit and bob back in place has become quite the challenge. In fact Carlos Gono’s son, Luis, tells us sourcing parts for the Evo has become a bonding exercise between him and his dad. “My dad and I get pretty obsessed when it comes to things like this, so for hours everyday we would scour the internet and buy anything brand new that we could find for this car,” Luis tells us, “It kind of became a way my dad and I bonded, I’d just email him a list of parts I found, and he’d make the call on which ones we needed.” Luis confesses that the Evo V is still missing the proper rear seats, and that any leads to a fresh set would be much appreciated.
Much like the rest of the car, the 4G63 sitting under the bonnet is now pretty much stock apart from a few bolt-ons. Flanked by an FP Red Turbocharger, the LanEvo now makes 365 whp and around 330 wtq – properly potent for a car that’s used regularly on Manila’s streets. Pair that with a chassis that’s roughly 200-300kg lighter than your average VA WRX and the Evo V presents a true unadulterated AWD experience – raw power, sheer grip and all.
Speaking of simplicity, the Evo V RS is as bare bones as you can get. No radio, no power locks, roll down windows, and it wouldn’t have had A/C too – but that was probably put back in there in the interest of survival in our tropic climate. Compared to the AWD cars we’ve become accustomed to lately, the lack of simple creature comforts in this car is something that would need getting accustomed to for the average WRX owner for sure.
Considering the company this Evo V has to sit with amongst the current lineup of Autoplus vehicles, this white Lancer tells a humbling story of just how much a car can make an impact on someone’s life. It looks to be the kind of car that leaves a lasting impression, one that no high-end exotics can replicate despite having more power or being much more rare. This goes to show then that cars do have more value beyond resale for some people, and perhaps we too also have that one car in our minds or – if you’re lucky – in your garage. I know I do.
Words by Aurick Go
Photos by Jaime Miguel Echavez