The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was an all-wheel-drive, rally-bred weapon that was first born in the early 1990s. They’re prized for their power and handling, and that makes them expensive things. Plenty of humble front-wheel-drive Lancers would end up getting tarted up with Evo bodykits to try and mimic the appearance of Mitsubishi’s rally halo car. Now imagine someone took one of those cars, ripped out its heart, and turned it into a rear-wheel-drive drift beast instead.
That’s exactly what Mike Lake did. He was the proud owner of a front-wheel-drive Lancer with all the shouty bodywork and a turbo kit to boot. After it was stolen, it was recovered with the engine sadly destroyed. It was the perfect impetus to not only re-engine the Lancer, but to give it a completely reworked drivetrain as well. The goal was to build a rear-wheel-drive Lancer capable of executing some lurid slides. It’s not an Evo, nor is it based on one, but it’s a turbo and it absolutely looks the part.
In place of the turbocharged Mitsubishi 4G93 engine, the Lancer got a Nissan CA18DET engine. This makes sense, as it’s built for rear-wheel-drive applications out of the box, with plenty of easy transmission options. It’s often seen as the lesser cousin of the famous SR20DET, as both engines shipped in various models of the Nissan Silvia. By virtue of its unloved status, the CA18DET ended up as a cheaper engine on the used market, which then conversely made it appealing as a low-cost turbo powerplant.
The Lancer was stripped down, with its engine yanked and put out to pasture. The fuel tank was similarly removed, as it was sitting right in the way of where the driveshaft needed to go. The front-wheel-drive subframe was also removed entirely and the frame rails were cut away to make way for the new layout up front.
Lake then set about creating new frame custom rails and welded in a front subframe from a Nissan Silvia. This made the job of mounting the CA18DET engine relatively easy compared to trying to make a front-wheel-drive subframe work with extensive modifications.
The Lancer body was never designed to have a traditional rear-wheel-drive setup. It was designed for engines mounted in an east-west configuration with a gearbox on the side, after all. That meant there was precious little room for the gearbox in the middle of the car.
Lake got around this by cutting a tunnel into the middle of the car and fabricating his own sheet metal to tie everything back together. Cardboard templates and plenty of cutting were required to help create a cosy home for the gearbox, but it all came together.
Garden-variety Lancers also lacked any real provision to install a differential at the rear. Lake elected to weld in a rear subframe from a Mazda Miata to get around this problem. It was chosen for being a simple rectangular subframe that could readily be fitted to the car with some box section rails welded to the Lancer’s body. While stock Miata differentials aren’t the best for handling super high power figures, plenty of upgrade routes are available if Lake needs to fit something beefier down the track. Out back, a custom racing fuel cell was fitted in the trunk to replace the stock unit that was turfed earlier on in the build.
A set of coilovers for an S13 Silvia were fitted, with the adjustability being a boon on an oddball build like this. Only light drilling was required to modify the rear suspension tophats to mount, but the front presented a greater challenge. The top of the front shock towers were cut out, with Lake welding in new plates specifically designed to mount his new coilovers properly.
Final mods included a new radiator and a huge front-mounted intercooler, as is fitting for any ’90s JDM build. It’s tucked behind a devastatingly gorgeous bodykit styled after the Evo 5, complete with giant bumper-mounted round fog lights. The car also got a basic half-cage for added protection and stiffness on track. The lairy bodywork was given a striking yellow paintjob in a DIY paint booth Lake whipped up with tarpaulins. The results are far better than you’d expect for something done with a $50 spray gun.
With everything buttoned up, the car hit the dyno and delivered a healthy 255 horsepower at the rear wheels on 12 PSI of boost. That’s a pretty solid figure for a lightly-tuned CA18DET, and more than enough for a basic drift build. Lake demonstrated this ably by throwing down some sweet slides at the LZ Word Tour event at Calder Park in October.
The build may have started with a car that was picked up for just $1000, but the overall project was a costly affair. Between sourcing multiple subframes, the engine, and all the bits and pieces like brake lines and electronics, the bills stacked up fast. Regardless, thanks to his own skillset and doing a lot of the hard fabrication in-house, Lake was able to get the project done for just $17,954. That’s not a bad sum for a turbo DIY drift build, let alone one that involves an entire drivetrain swap and paintjob, too. Amazingly, start-to-finish, the whole build came together in less than 9 months.
Overall, Lake made the project look easy. A few welds here, drop in a few brackets there, and it all came together. Ultimately, though, the fact that the build came together so well and so smoothly is a testament to his own skill and years of experience. This build should serve as an inspiration to anyone wanting to do something equally as daring. Lake has showed the world how to do a complete rear-wheel-drive conversion that works well and doesn’t break the bank. That’s worthy of applause.
(All images screencaps from YouTube)