If I told you to picture a small Japanese car with insanely high mileage, what pops into your head? Like a well-used Honda Civic sedan or late-’90s Toyota Corolla plodding along in a slow yet unyielding manner, much like a Buick Park Avenue Ultra owner backing over a flexible bollard. A rally-bred, turbocharged, four-wheel-drive, street-legal distillation of the Tasmanian Devil’s attitude is about as far from the image of a doggedly determined econobox as David Tracy is from his Valiant Ute, yet Chris Schuttera has put more than 300,000 miles on his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII.
So who is Chris Schuttera? He’s one of us, both an Autopian user by the screen name of evoCS, and an industrial designer currently focusing on automotive and transportation work. Check out his Instagram, @tuscan_render, for some incredible sketches. Based in sunny Southern California, he’s a die-hard fan of the Tuscan Red Verithin pencil, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that his Evo is also red. It’s hard to find a good Evo VIII these days, so we’ll have to jump back to 2005 when this Evo was being traded in with just 12,000 miles on the clock. A Mitsubishi technician was upgrading to a 2005 MR model, and Chris just had to have this slice of turbocharged heaven. Now that’s a poster car if ever I’ve seen one. Chris quickly put his Evo to work as a daily driver for this 60-mile round-trip commute, racking up the miles in record order.
Keeping such a highly-strung car reliable requires a fairly strict maintenance schedule, so Chris has absolutely done things right. He changes the oil every 5,000 miles with Mobil 1 10W30 synthetic and says it doesn’t burn much between changes, even with its advanced mileage. Nissan VQ35DE owners must be punching the air right now. If there’s any weak point on the Evo VIII, it’s the transfer case. Thankfully, Chris is on it with the maintenance. “For the driveline, I adhered to the shorter service interval of 10K (the longer being 15K),” said Chris. “If you’re building a big power Evo or one that sees a tone of track time, beefing the t-case up is a very good idea.” Quite right, most North American drivers should be on a severe service schedule and Chris knows what he’s doing.
Granted, Chris’ ownership experience hasn’t been perfectly smooth sailing. One of the big items he’s had to replace is the turbocharger, swapped out with a low-mileage used unit from a stock Evo VIII. Another point of trouble was the head gasket. A Blackstone oil analysis around the 200,000 mile mark found elevated levels of sodium and potassium in the oil. Coupled with disappearing coolant, it marked time to pull the head. Mercifully, Chris was able to catch this failure early, and took the opportunity to get some light head work done, a minor valve job and stronger head studs. The third major item, the gearbox, was actually replaced under warranty. Evo five-speed manual gearboxes normally sound like a coin machine trying to sort a bucket of pebbles, but some 2003 cars had a fifth gear so noisy, it would set off the knock sensor. Hey, free is free, right?
Of course, it’s hard to own a performance car for more than 300,000 miles and not get bitten by the mod bug, but Chris has focused on tasteful little tweaks that elevate his Evo’s performance without sacrificing reliability. A turboback exhaust unlocked some lovely noise and horsepower, a stouter blow-off valve replaced the plastic factory part, a set of stock Evolution MR Bilstein dampers sort out the ride, a coil-on-plug kit simplifies maintenance, and a mild ECU tune ties it all together. In terms of brakes and rolling stock, Chris goes pretty hard in the paint. “I usually go with Ferodo DS2500 pads,” he said. Fair play, DS2500s are a superb fast road and trackday pad. In terms of tires, the situation’s been a bit tricky. The factory-spec Yokohama Advan A046 hasn’t been available in North America for quite some time and it takes a properly heroic tire to live up to the A046’s gumball sticky, scalpel-sharp nature. Chris said that “Tires have been a mixed bag, but I’ve liked Dunlop’s Direzza Star Specs and Falken’s RT615K for that same street/track ability. I don’t get to track the car much, but I like to have the ability to be able to without having separate tires and brake pads to do so.” Hitting the occasional trackday in an Evo? Now that’s what I call culture.
In fact, one of Chris’ favorite moments with his Evo has been on track. Chris reminisced, “The ONE time I’ve ever had a perfect four-wheel-drift was in the car at Willow Springs. I was following a friend, who was also an instructor, and he really had me getting so much from the car. I only managed it on one lap, but it was through turn nine, which made me feel like a superhero in the moment.” Honestly, I get it. Perfect four-wheel-drifts are absolutely magical, an almost indescribable sense of harmony between driver and car. You know the first time you felt scissors glide through wrapping paper as a kid? Multiply that feeling by a thousand.
Nowadays, Chris works from home but still enjoys exercising the Evo whenever he gets the chance. He brought his children home from the hospital in the car, indulged in a few epic trackdays, took a bucket-list drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Laguna Seca for an ALMS race, and enjoyed opening up the taps whenever conditions permitted. Chris mused, “There have been countless other drives on local roads, some when my kids were younger and they’d ask to go on the “curvy woad” which was a nice little jaunt not far from our place. They’d be in their little Recaro kid seats (because of course!) gigging as we wound our way along that route. Honestly, I’ve probably warped their minds on what a “normal” car is.”
With about 320,000 miles on the Evo’s clock, the memories it’s built for Chris are indelible. The apexes clipped, the special sensations tingling up through the controls, the symphony of heel-toe downshifts under a million stars. Chris’ Evo is more than just an epic car. It’s a family heirloom and a true testament to care and enjoyment in equal measures. It’s proof that with a whole lot of love and proper treatment, a great car may just last forever. What would you do for eternal bliss?
All photos courtesy of Chris Schuttera