Kevin Liew was always an automobile enthusiast, even in his younger years. He recalls driving his Mitsubishi Montero while his friends all drove Subaru WRXs. It may seem like an odd car, but what he did with that particular car is what removed all doubt in our minds that he was, in fact, a diehard enthusiast. For most people, simply driving such an “unmodifiable” car would be enough reason to leave it alone, to limit its duties to what it was designed for and nothing more. But this isn’t an article about a car built by just anybody, even when Kevin’s ride was a Montero, he sourced a good chunk of the Jaos catalog and even installed an ARC intake box, making the car his in a much more meaningful way than simply having his name on the title. When Mitsubishi finally released the Lancer Evolution to North America in 2005, Kevin witnessed all his friends sell their WRXs and buy Evos—from the same dealership at that, making for one ecstatic general manager. Kevin was the last of his friends to make the jump into ownership, but at last he was a proud owner of the famed Lancer Evolution.
When living in New York, Kevin was more interested in exterior modifications than making big power—understandable considering that the streets are littered with massive potholes that limit speed much more effectively than any law or sign. This car has been fortified with enough carbon fiber to build a small suspension bridge. Starting at the nose end of the car, a Seibon lip is mounted directly underneath Varis canards and oil cooling guides, as your eyes make their way rearward you will surely notice the (mostly) painted Seibon fenders, Fiber images hood, and Rexspeed mirror covers, all made of carbon fiber. Rexspeed side skirt extensions, side spats, and door pillar covers make sure there is enough carbon fiber visible regardless of your vantage point when admiring this car. A Voltex 1,500mm wing is mounted to a Fiber Images trunk above the Voltex diffuser and exhaust shield made of—you guessed it—carbon fiber. A Japanese model rear bumper and taillights, although subtle, round out the exterior modifications and make for a very well-balanced overall look.
When Kevin decided to move to Georgia, he drove the Evo to his new home, with the engine still in stock form. The car made the 14-hour journey with no issues. It was there that he met the owner of a tuning shop conveniently located across the street from his home at a Formula D event. They soon became friends, and one day when Kevin was hanging out at the shop, he let him take a drive in his car. After making it clear that he meant no offense, the shop owner told Kevin that his car was the slowest Evo he had ever driven. This inspired Kevin to look into modifying the engine. The smooth highways of Georgia were a world of difference to the limiting roads of New York, which would allow him to make use of some more power. An HKS turbo upgrade kit soon called the Evo’s engine bay home; it dyno’d at 457 hp on E85, more than doubling the output when compared to stock. This was a huge upgrade and more than enough for the time being.
Soon, due to incessant invitations from his friends, Kevin made his way to an open track event. The instructor asked him to stow all loose items in his glovebox, which was also where the toggle switch for his ECU tunes was located. In a twist of fate, the action of cramming his glovebox full flipped the toggle switch causing his car to run dangerously rich for a few laps. Upon recognizing that there was something definitely wrong with his car, Kevin drove back to the pits where he found that he had been running on his high boost map with pump gas. He switched the maps and was able to drive home, but the damage had been done. A compression and leakdown test confirmed his fears; his engine was in need of a rebuild. Kevin shared with us that he preferred his cars one of two ways—completely untouched or built to its absolute potential. The engine had to be opened up, so the choice was clear. What followed was a period of nonstop research, reading up on forums, and speaking to as many people as he could. Slowly and deliberately he formulated a plan of attack for his engine build. Kevin enlisted the services of Justin at Batlground to put his engine together. Although a very young mechanic, Justin had some serious experience under his belt having built engines in many of the big power cars around Atlanta. Despite the fact that this would be his first 4G64 build, when Kevin asked if he was confident he could pull it off, Justin answered with a definite “yes”. A month later, Kevin received the call that he had been waiting for, his engine was complete, a 2.4L monster with seemingly endless potential for power.
Kevin shared with us that much of the inspiration for this build came from his close friend and fellow Evo owner, Hurell Lyons. Kevin had heard of Scott of TTP Engineering and his competence as a tuner, so when Hurell personally recommended Scott’s services, Kevin was absolutely set on having Scott tune the car. As soon as the engine was completed, Scott drove up from Orlando and got right to work on the tune using Batlground’s all-wheel-drive chassis dyno. Both Scott and Kevin had their priorities set on a safe tune, with reliability being the first concern and breaking 800 hp a close second. Initially they limited the pulls to 8,000 rpm keeping with the conservative nature of the tuning process—putting down a very impressive 791 hp at 38.9 psi on E85. After considering their options for breaking the goal of 800, they concluded that the internals were more than qualified to safely spin at 8,500 rpm. Setting the rev limiter to allow for 500 more revolutions per minute, the car made its pull. When all was said and done their hard work was rewarded with 803 horses reliable enough to drive daily.
There is no doubt that the Lancer Evolution comes equipped from the factory with a more than competent suspension. Even in stock form, it is responsive, predictable, and designed to favor track days over dropping kids off at school. When you have over 800 hp on tap, however, all that changes. What was once a solid planted car becomes an untamed animal with a mind of its own. Harnessing the ridiculous amount of power becomes an impossible task for the stock suspension and 235 width tires. Kevin addressed this issue as if his life depended on it because, well, it does. Tein Monoflex coilovers were installed in place of the original shocks and springs, stiffening the ride considerably but allowing for the suspension to move at a rate necessary to soak up bumps most efficiently, especially important when these bumps are passing under the car at over 150 mph. A Perrin sway bar in the rear and a Whiteline unit up front assisted by a Perrin Zero Lift kit keeps as much of the 265/35-18 Advan Neovas on the ground as possible and body roll at a minimum.
With a build of this magnitude it is literally impossible for everything to go as planned, and Kevin’s case is no exception to that rule. The first aftermarket wheels to grace this machine were a set of Volk Racing CE28s that Kevin purchased brand new, the finish on one was damaged when tires were being mounted on them—and being a limited edition set, finding a replacement was virtually impossible. Although surely distraught, Kevin accepted the tire shop’s offer to pay for one wheel of his choice. Deciding to go with a set of Advan Racing RG-Ds he purchased a set and sent the bill for one wheel to the shop at fault. When the wheels finally arrived four months later he was understandably weary of where to have tires mounted. After asking around he was referred to a smaller tire shop. In a horrible demonstration of Murphy’s Law, the finish on the RG-Ds was damaged. Discouraged but unwilling to give up on having perfect wheels on his car, Kevin contacted Mackin Industries about a replacement set. Proving that there is a silver lining to every cloud and that it always pays off to buy authentic parts, Mackin offered to send him a brand-new set and go after the tire shop for payment—you really don’t get this kind of customer service from anybody else. The CE28s were later powdercoated a bright orange and are now used as spare and track wheels.
Seven years into ownership of his car, Kevin is happy to say that he is finally content with what his Lancer Evolution has become: a car that can (and is) driven every day while being more than capable of holding its own at the circuit or dragstrip (although Kevin is quick to point out that he has nothing to prove, this is a car that he built for himself to enjoy). The 36-year-old Malaysian native who now calls Suwanee his home confided in us that a custom widebody project and repaint may be in the works for the near future but he definitely plans to enjoy the car as it is for the time being. The long and arduous journey of creating such a monster surely feels like a good memory now as he rolls onto the throttle and unleashes the ungodly amount of power upon the unsuspecting Georgia pavement.