This Legendary Mitsubishi Evo VIII Owner Got His Car To 300,000 Miles

Chris Evo 1

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.

Chris odometer

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.

Chris Evo 6

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?

Chris Evo 5

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.

Chris Evo 2

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.

Chris Evo 7

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

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23 Responses

  1. There are three approaches to getting high miles. The first is to treat the car like crap and keep replacing things that break. That’s how my mom’s old lemon of an XC90 made it to 250ish k. It had just started to get reliable then it got crunched.
    The second approach is to give it an unremarkable amount of attention and have it just refuse to break. That’s how my dad’s 02 Tundra is now 500 miles shy of 300k.
    The third approach is to be careful about maintenance and preemptively replace parts to avoid larger areas of damage. That’s clearly what we’ve got here and is definitely the most impressive way to rack up the miles. Possibly the most fun too.

  2. Nice work, Chris. Goes to show what can be accomplished with diligent maintenance and a willingness to shoulder the occasional repair. I guarantee it’s been cheaper to keep this excellent machine looking and running well than it would’ve been to trade it in for the new hotness every five or six years. It’s not just a car at this point, it’s a relationship. Plus, it’s much better for the environment to maintain than to replace—that’s right, you’re saving the planet by dailying an Evo.

  3. When I read his comment in a previous article, I thought, “They should talk to him and give us the full story. I bet they will.”

    I was right and I’m glad I was. This is how you symbiotically create content and connect with your audience. You guys get it.

  4. THIS is GOLD.
    Most of us can’t have a dedicated track-car, so having a daily that is actually fun on-track is an aspiration That he commuted in it & thrills the kids with it is just icing on that tasty Evo cake.

    I stumbled backwards into a stock ‘02 WRX for $3k a couple years back, and I’m hoping to get some serious mileage on it before any repairs in the vicinity of the original price. Well, that’s if I don’t stuff it backwards into a hedge on my weekend explorations of Forest Service roads. Click on my ‘nym to see it in what I consider it’s natural environment (snow on the Blue Ridge Parkway ). Oh, that ‘nym is from my tags. I’m gonna try getting FLICKIT past Va DMV next year.

    So, according to my younger car-friends, he & I should be natural enemies. Pshaw! We’re all just turning chemical ( or electrical! ) energy into noise and giggles-I ain’t tribal.

    1. Preach. I call my Z4 a “traily”. It takes me to work every day but on some weekend I slap some Pagid pads and let some pressure out of the tyres for a track day.

      It’s been a labour of love (especially regarding the brakes) but the old gal hasn’t let me down. I’d love having a dedicated track car but it’s not doable while living in a flat.

    2. Don’t listen to those folks! One of my neighbors has a very nicely done WRX and he and I get along great. The cars really are kind of like “brothers from a different mother” and I dig both.

      1. Oh, I don’t. One of them has a ‘14 Lancer, and I love the various pics we have of his red & my blue iterations of awd sedans on gravel access roads in the mountains/ cheerfully dripping mud at a gas station afterwards.

        I’m as likely to compliment someone on a clean S10 or well-kitted XJ as I am a fellow RooHead in their wrx. I learned to drive (mostly) in a Super Beetle, then my parents bought a Rabbit. The air- vs water-cooled wars in the VW community around here drove me away from organized events back in the ‘80s, so I tend to appreciate ALL vehicles the owner has put time & love into even if it’s not something I would own.

        Everyone has their own use-case, and, if it prompts a chortle when you give ‘er beans, then Good On Ya!

  5. I appreciate the comments and for the good folks here to show interest in my lovable rally buggy! I plan to keep as long as possible. If it hits 500K, I’ll be sure to le it be known. I’ve got a small laundry list of things to look into. I need to check out the bushings and see which ones are in need of replacement (likely all of them? A good chance, but the car still drives well, so?). I do think the motor mounts could stand to be changed out. The other thing would be a compression and leak down test to see how the internals are. Like I said, the car still drives well and pulls strongly, but at over 300K, I figure an engine rebuild is probably closer rather than further away.

    I see some low mile Evos starting to go for sizeable money out there. I know my car won’t be like that, but I don’t care. I bought it to drive it. That’s what it was built for and it has delivered tremendously. There has never been a time when I haven’t looked forward to driving it.

    1. Those Recaro car seats are great – we had one for the daughter when she was little. She was the only one in our old Rondo (a surprisingly good car) who felt like a race car driver.

      Speaking of great – more stories like this please!

    1. A BMW V12 into 200k is a worthy story. You have my utmost respect keeping that glorious machine going. I love the 850, even though I cannot fit in it very well at all. BMW seemed to design a big car with a very small interior for, well, reasons.

  6. I got my 1992 BMW 525i/5 to 312k miles before I totaled it. That was on the original motor, which had never been opened up past the usual valve cover gasket maintenance. It consumed a bit of oil but I tracked it constantly, and the last track day I ran with it was Streets of Willow, so this article made me smile, and also made me a little sad at the same time :/

    Fortunately, I have my car’s nearly identical twin which I transferred everything over to. It’s a 1991 525i/5 with 251k miles, so I’ve got a bit of driving to do before I get to 300k again!

    1. You’ll be at 300k before you know it!
      And I love Streets of Willow, such a fun track without the serious pucker factor of “big” Willow. That moment I described of getting turn 9 just right was a hell of a high, but Streets hits just as much.

  7. Wow that’s inspiring. I’ve been feeling like I’m too pragmatic and poor for a fun car/daily driver, but I really want to get out of this old Corolla. Nice to see that fun and reliable aren’t mutually exclusive. Gobless.

  8. 94 Accord. 345,000 miles. Learned the hard way to get dealer parts, at least for ball joints and ball joint related products. It’s weird to think of restoring it, because I have been repeatedly for 7 years and 125,000 miles. It’s ugly and I keep it that way. Drives like near new though. I’m going to bankrupt AutoZone with their “lifetime of replacing parts” warranty. Driveshafts, control arms, whenever I take off a wheel I replace all that stuff. My point is it’s nice to get so comfortable with one car that you can take it apart in your sleep. Mine is just a front wheel drive shitbox, but one of the best front wheel drive shitboxes ever produced. I’m not comparing it to the Evo specifically, but rather my experience with hanging on to one car for a while…I totally get it.

  9. That’s awesome. I’m glad he has had a chance to enjoy it for so many years and I’m even more glad it isn’t super modified and doesn’t look beat to shit like the Evo VIIIs I see from time to time. Good on you, Chris! May it give you many more years of pleasure.

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