Bringing a Japanese tribute to a Finnish legend home in a cruel Aussie summer

Melb6TME 730You know those slow summer Thursday afternoons, the ones that just drag on. It’s too hot, your mind is somewhere else and you’re looking for something, anything, to spice the day up. And then, like a gift from the God’s, it comes. A phone call from friend David. “I’ve just bought an Evo 6.5 Tommi Makinen Edition in Melbourne”, he says. “Wanna fly over and drive it back with me?” ‘Sure! When, next week?” “No, how about tomorrow?”.

Melb6TME 704After calling in a few favors at work to enable an early escape, we’re suddenly making a very bumpy and turbulent early afternoon descent into Melbourne. Right in the middle of the biggest and baddest heatwave we’ve had for a long time, the rising heat is making mincemeat of our plane, and has me seriously hoping that the air conditioning works in this Evo. David’s bought the car sight unseen, and has no idea.

Melb6TME 705We have very limited time for our trip; we’re hoping to be over and back within 12 hours, so we scramble through the airport and into the first taxi we find. Sensing our rush, the driver proceeds to speed at rapid pace down the highway, displaying some fine performance driving techniques in the process. I grab the camera out to get a few shots of his hand placement on the wheel, and he deduces that because I’m taking photos of the highway we must be tourists. He then proceeds to give us a guided tour of our route, pointing out highlights such as various residential blocks, a closed hospital and a soccer field.

Melb6TME 706Speed racer must have been going too fast because the taxi soon expired in a spluttering cough, leaving us stranded on the side of the highway.

Melb6TME 707Fear not, for it was a simple problem. In the 41deg+ heat the LPG regulator was struggling to deliver enough gas, and a quick drowning with water saw us back speeding/spluttering down the road once more.

Melb6TME 710Melb6TME 712We soon arrived at Bespoke Motors, the import/compliance agency that had sold David the Evo. Their showroom was the ultimate mancave filled with sports cars, a games/lounge area, kitchen, hoist, gym and a full DJ mixing table with drumkit. Other than the oppressive heat, you cold have lived in this place!

Melb6TME 708A lot of of their stock comprised of nondescript Japanese imports, however there were a few gems to be found such as this KCP10 Skyline GTR Hakosuka replica, fresh off the boat from Japan.

Melb6TME 714This converted right hand drive Delorean lurked up the back of the warehouse, undergoing a stalled recommissioning program. It was a little rough around the edges, but it was hard not to marvel at that stainless steel bodywork.

Melb6TME 709But there, in the middle of a sea of black and silver imports, sat David’s new gleaming red TME. This was the first time he had laid eyes on the car, and thankfully was not disappointed.

Melb6TME 711This example was exactly what David was looking for – a clean, unmodified, unmolested example that he can slowly make perfect and enjoy on weekends. These late 90’s Japanese performance cars are a special breed, with just enough technical wizardry to make them properly quick, but still old enough to provide basic driving thrills.

Melb6TME 715The Evolution 6 Tommi Makinen Edition was launched in 1999 to celebrate Tommi Makinen’s four WRC drivers championship victories for Mitsubishi. It’s changed enough over the stock Evo 6 that it is known as the Evo 6.5, and is in theory the closest factory road car you can get to a WRC rally car (with the exception of the limited run Impreza 22B, perhaps). Other than the paint scheme mimicking the rally car and the special Recaro seats, the TME has a redesigned front bumper, white 17″ Enkei wheels, a front upper strut brace, lowered ride height to tarmac specs, a quicker steering rack and a titanium turbo that spools up much faster.

Melb6TME 716Good original cars like these, especially examples of limited editions like the Tommi Makinen, are surefire future classics. Most of them have either been raced, rallied, crashed or modified beyond recognition, so the few original examples left will be real rarities. Other than adding the factory option sticker and stripe kit, David plans to keep his TME exactly as it is.

Melb6TME 717The TME was pushed out into the hot sunshine, and after signing the paperwork David sat in it for the first time.

Melb6TME 718The slow roll down the long driveway and out onto the Victorian roads wasn’t just the first time David drove his new car, but the first time he’s ever driven an Evo 6!

Melb6TME 720There was sadly no time to spend sampling Melbourne’s delights, and before we knew it we were heading over the Bolte Bridge, leaving the city skyline framed in that big bi-plane spoiler in the mirror. David couldn’t quite believe that he was actually behind the wheel of his very own TME.

Melb6TME 719As we left the city the sky was becoming increasingly smokey, but that wasn’t our primary concern. We’d heard rumors of how these older Evo’s have quite an appetite for 98 Octane, and the rate of consumption was somewhat alarming.

Melb6TME 721On the outskirts of suburbia we stopped to fill the tank, and encountered a fresh problem we hadn’t expected. Because the TME is newly complied and hasn’t yet been registered, it has no license plates and we were driving on a transport permit. Our story didn’t fly with the service station attendant who was convinced that we’d removed the plates in an attempt to steal a tankful and was considering reporting us. After much pleading he authorised the pump, but didn’t take his eyes off us once.

Melb6TME 722Not far down the road toward Ballarat, we started to notice the smoke in the air. We of course knew about the Victorian bushfires, but for some reason the penny never dropped until it was too late. The Grampians were ablaze, and the main highway was due to take us right through the middle of it.

Melb6TME 723After contacting a few people back home and a friend living in Ararat, we determined that Western Highway was in fact closed between Ballarat and Horsham meaning we suddenly had to find another route for about half of the journey.

Melb6TME 724We chose a route that took us north of the fire, through Avoca and then turning down toward Horsham at St Arnaud. The new route would add around 200km to the trip and at this point we had no phone coverage, meaning we didn’t actually know if the roads we were planning on taking were open or not.

Melb6TME 727We stopped at the Pyrenees Pub to ask about road closures and found most of the occupants swelling outside, marveling at the smokey, fiery sunset that was happening. I wish I had my proper camera gear with me and the time to make use of it, because it was downright spectacular. But we had to keep moving.

Melb6TME 728The scariest part of the Grampians bushfire is that the heat was creating its own weather system, producing lightning strikes and devastating wind that was fanning the fire. It was hard to capture in a photograph, but for over an hour we were driving through some truly apocalyptic conditions. The trees were blowing a gale, the car was constantly being pelted with leaves and twigs and the trucks in front were swaying all over the road. It got to the point where we were fully expecting a branch to blow into the car, however we were also aware that the fire was traveling towards us so it was best for us to just keep going.

Melb6TME 729It was almost dark when we turned toward Horsham at St Arnaud, and we were getting so close to the fire that visibility was minimal and we could see a deep orange glow just off to our left. By this stage family back home were checking updates for us and I got the following message: ‘Don’t take the St Arnaud to Horsham Road, CFA says it’s closed. Keep going on the Sunraysia Highway’. Too late, we were already smack bang in the middle of the supposedly closed road when the message came in, and I believe we were one of the last cars through.

Melb6TME 732Once the smoke had cleared, we stopped to quickly stretch our legs. An inspection of the front revealed the grille and intercooler mesh was full of leaves and twigs from the windy conditions.

Melb6TME 734We made it to Horsham at 1130pm, over five hours after leaving Melbourne, and stopped for a late Maccas dinner. It seems almost every car in Horsham on a Friday night is a Commodore or Falcon, lowered over 19″ chrome wheels with personalised rego plates and being driven by young guys in hoodies and baseball caps. The Evo was practically invisible to them.

Melb6TME 736We pushed on into the night, and it was here that the TME was proving itself as a comfortable long distance cruiser. Much more will be written about the TME in more detail in a future story, but we found it to have ample power (of course), comfortable Recaro seats, a ride that is not too harsh or jarring, good air conditioning and none of the annoying droning from a loud exhaust. We were expecting a bumpy, uncomfortable ride home but it was far from that.

Melb6TME 737Our journey into South Australia was just as eventful. We witnessed the bright orange glow of more bushfires near Bordertown and Keith, the spectacular (and frankly terrifying, given the conditions) lightning show blanketing the state that night, and a pelting rain storm.

Melb6TME 738By the time we arrived home and stopped to say hello to some friends, it was past 330am. But what a trip! What was mooted as a quick duck over to collect a car turned into a proper adventure. And as we all know, adventures involving interesting cars are the best kind.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles.

Melb6TME 713– Another TME that had just landed off the boat from Japan, with the optional sticker kit. David’s car will soon be retrofitted with this option and the extra fog lights on the boot lid will be added.

Melb6TME 725Melb6TME 726Melb6TME 735

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6 Comments

  1. Tom Gilbert January 29, 2014 Reply

    Great blog..

  2. ahheadlock January 30, 2014 Reply

    i drove my evo 9 back from vic with no plates, and the thing that surprised me most was that i didn't get stopped once by the police. However, every time i do it in some unobtrusive car with all the right rego - i end up being tailed by a highway patrol car for 10km. Go figure.

    • Andrew Coles February 3, 2014 Reply

      Weird, hey! I guess they figure that people don't do dodgy stuff in obvious, lairy cars with big wings. Certainly surprised us...

  3. Andy Braker February 2, 2014 Reply

    Nice update Andrew! Yeah with CP9A evo's, the fuel gauge can read all over the place! It'll be on 3/4.. then 1/4.. then 2/3.. then 3/4 again! Can be a bit scary when you first take them on long trips. Not sure if that's the issue you guys had though. I look forward to seeing it in the flesh! Make sure to pass my details to David if he has any questions or worries about stuff (I have some special tools if he is planning timing belt changes etc too, also with recommendation for evo mechanics for the bigger jobs or what brand/type fluids to use for what).

    I also wish David the very best luck keeping it stock!! I literally thought I would never need any more power and was happy with my stock setup too :P

    • Andrew Coles February 3, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Andy! Yeah I think that may have been the cause of our fuel concerns. We 'burnt' through about 1/4 tank crossing the Melbourne CBD and it had us worried, but it turned out to not be as bad as we thought. Still no Prius, but not too bad. And yes, he is quite resolute on keeping it stock but I guess we'll just see how that goes :)

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