As a native son of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, I always appreciate a finely built northwest car. Although I currently live elsewhere, I am no stranger to a little rain, which makes for beautiful scenery but is also a bit of an annoyance when trying to photograph a car. Typically, I try to avoid shooting in the rain, but it's not always something I can do, especially when timing is critical. This is the case with Rob Kothenbeutel and his Evo IX. You see, Rob and I had been trying to meet up for quite some time before circumstances finally lined up and we were able to meet in Portland, OR, halfway between my current digs in Southern California and his home in Washington.
When I was discussing with Rob how to best shoot his car, I was worried that he wouldn't want to take the car in the rain, but Rob is not afraid to actually use his car. After all, as Rob puts it, "The car was built in the rain." We spent the next few hours driving around Portland, shooting the car on various streets. Seeing as Rob's Evo is a true street performer with track roots, I thought this would be a fun way to show the car in an environment where it actually lives.
Rob first took possession of his IX five years ago, in stock form as you might guess. Ever since he was a kid, Rob had wanted a Lancer Evo. "I saw Jackie Chan in the movie called Who Am I, where [Chan] was tearing around the streets in a '98 Evo IV," Rob says. "The Evo is also a great platform to build off; it's tried and proven, and remains one of the fastest cars at Tsukuba circuit."
The track-inspired build starts off with a full body treatment courtesy of Varis Japan with the Version 09 kit, including a very rare set of extended carbon-fiber side sills. The Lexus White exterior paint is accented by a nice array of carbon-fiber parts, most immediately noticeable being the Seibon doorskins. Rob credits Bel-Kirk Body Shop for making the entire body treatment fit so well, widening the rear fenders flawlessly, and laying down a beautiful paintjob, complete with red pinstripe accents on the hood and rear wing. The red theme is carried onto the wheels, a set of Advan RSDs sized at 18x10 with a +25mm offset all around. Falken RT615K 265/35R18 tires help keep Rob connected during spirited driving sessions, and a massive Endless big-brake kit allows him to dive deep into corners, or stop quickly when Fido from next door runs into the street unexpectedly. Cornering duties are further aided by a set of Tein Flex coilovers paired with a Whiteline front sway bar and endlinks, as well as a Perrin bar in the rear. The Evo IX is a very well-balanced car to start with, so these relatively simple modifications go nicely with the street-track theme of the car. Bottom line, it's functional.
Inside the IX, you are greeted again by red accents and track-inspired style as far as the eye can see. A custom-finished Autopower rollcage is in place for safety (and style) purposes, and the full Bride treatment has been given to the front and rear, with Maziora-backed Gias stealing the spotlight. Rob has installed a custom-fit wideband AFR gauge into the stock cluster. A pair of Defi gauges mounted on the steering console provides pertinent information without being obnoxiously placed, and a Sparco steering wheel is right at home in Rob's hands.
A track-inspired build would be nothing if it was purely aesthetic, but don't worry, Rob's IX has plenty of actual punch to back up all the fast-looking parts. Good for about 590 all-wheel horsepower, the Evo sports a stroked and punched out 2.4L 4G64, fully built of course, and force-fed by a Forced Performance ball bearing "Black" twin-scroll turbocharger. A JM Fabrications-coated manifold expels hot gases through a 3-inch Tomei exhaust, and the note the IX puts out is simply amazing. The smell of E85 fuel is unmistakable as well. I'm not ashamed to admit that I personally love that smell; it reminds me of race cars. Rob is fortunate that in his area E85 is actually pretty easy to come by. A Nitrous Express kit is in place for additional power, not that it's really lacking in that department to begin with. Since the time of our photo shoot, Rob has upgraded the turbo setup further, in hopes of making more smooth power for next season when he plans to track the car.
While it's all nice and good to list all the parts on a car, the thing that is most interesting is how they come together and affect how the car drives. I've spent a fair amount of seat time in a stock Evo IX, so I know what these incredibly fun cars are capable of. Unfortunately due to the weather, and due to the fact that we were literally in the middle of downtown Portland, Rob and I were not able to really flog his car around too hard. But I can say that it handles nicely in wet conditions, especially considering the Falken rubber is not designed for wet performance by any stretch of the imagination. I can only assume the levels of grip in the dry would be excellent, and on top of it all, the ride comfort is quite bearable. The power delivery is linear, with a small amount of lag down low, but nothing the top end doesn't make up for. When asked when the car would find its way to a track, Rob had two main reasons why it hasn't already. The first reason being that the car is never "done" in his mind, which is something we can all relate to. Second is the fear of an off-track excursion causing damage to the rare and expensive body parts, which we can also understand. But Rob is definitely interested in putting in some work with the car next season, and we're glad to hear that. The overall build quality is top notch. Rob didn't hold back any punches here with this beautiful Evo, so it would be a shame to not put it to use.