By on March 8, 2011

Letting go is hard. You can delete all traces of a former love from your life, cut contact, stop looking at old pictures, resolve to hit the gym and move on to something better, but the memories will always linger. You realize that what existed was good, but what the future holds is better… but the moments where you reflect that maybe the bliss ended too prematurely still manage to haunt you, no matter how much you occupy yourself with new thrills and diversions.

I had just landed at home after the introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, three days in San Diego, where I was granted a stay of execution from the brutal Midwest winters of home. The governor hadn’t just ordered more time for appeal, but clemency in the form of short sleeves, small block V8s and a memorable blast through the canyons. Chasing down the other journos along the canyon roads and desert badlands parallel to the Mexican border was the kind of memorable driving experience that sticks with you. I dreaded a return to the grey winters and ever present slush, but I longed to be with my then girlfriend, a constant companion via Blackberry Messenger through most of my press trips.

When I landed, I knew there would be a message from her waiting, and she had asked me if I would like to come see her at college, about 80 miles away. The late hour and jet lag compelled me to go home and rest, in spite of how much I missed her company, so I offered up an alternative. “Wait until next week – I’ve got a car that really needs to stretch its legs on the open road.” That meant nothing to her, but the promise of a visit was enough.

The car I had so eagerly awaited was the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, a car that remained out of reach to North American consumers for so many years, but never failed to live up to its promise once it arrived as the EVO VIII. The lady who is no longer a part of my life was at a similar distance. We had known each other for years, were briefly intimate and parted ways amicably. Three years later, we were together exclusively, and she did not disappoint. We were in constant contact during the intermittent period, and came to know the details of each other’s lives to the point where our relationship felt like we had been together far longer than its brief tenure.

After a near-decade run, the EVO is slated to be killed off, a too short timeframe for such a fantastic machine. The outcry of despair from the EVO’s internet cheer squad will seem silly to the many who snarl “well if you want it to live on, go and buy one.” The EVO is a car designed to appeal to 21 year olds but is priced for someone double that age. On top of that, the usurious insurance rates and tank-a-day dino juice habit make running costs prohibitive for anyone who doesn’t have sponsorship from the First Parental Bank of Indulged Children.

That does not diminish the enthusiasm that this car deserves. It really is a superlative machine, with steering as precise as a chronometer-spec watch movement, turbocharged grunt in the entire rev range, a dual-clutch gearbox that behaves as close to a manual as you can get without having three pedals, and driving dynamics that lead you to believe that the car pivots around an axis mounted squarely in between the front and rear seats.

Sure, the interior trim is appallingly crude, the trunk can barely hold a carry-on suitcase and a Bell helmet bag and the car’s bumpstops seem to be made of granite, but who hasn’t overlooked glaring flaws at one time or another because the visceral thrills provided manage to cloud the left side of one’s brain?

The girl and I set out for her college residence with clear roads and light traffic, but it only took 10 minutes for us to hit yet another biblical dumping of snow, causing traffic to crawl to a snail’s pace. No matter – the EVO was able to dart around the hordes of paralyzed SUVs and incompetent compact drivers, to the point where I was able to remove my heavy Canada Goose parka without incident while maneuvering around a meandering Durango piloted by the world’s most panicky and indecisive motorist.

A brief stop at Starbucks was precluded by the necessary donuts in a freshly blanketed strip mall parking lot, and the girl sat motionless as I grinned with glee, making the car’s tail dance to and fro around a lone lamp post. “You could never understand what I’m feeling right now”, I said, as I counter-steered effortlessly, and for a moment I flashed back to our second date, another blizzard more severe than this when I drove her home in a purple Toyota Avalon. Cruising home on the freeway, I was making constant steering corrections as the Avalon clawed for grip, and new Civic started to wag its tail in the distance ahead, launching itself into a shotput-like trajectory straight towards us.  Stopping was not an option, so I kept on the accelerator and moved right as the Civic’s rear bumper just missed the front of our car, coming to a miraculous stop right before it would have smashed the guard rail. The usually fair skin on her hands turned white as printer paper against the navy blue of her Longchamp purse, but once the Civic was out of sight, they were again clasped in mine as we drove home at a slightly slower pace. We continued talking as if nothing had happened, but the incident burned in both of our minds.

To her credit, she didn’t complain for another 10 minutes, when I pulled into another parking lot sideways after a masterful Scandinavian flick, the EVO flattering my mediocre driving skills as she frantically cried “OK I’M NAUSEOUS”. Ladies, to a guy trying to show off his car control skills, this is the way to say demonstrate immense affection without the requisite freak-out about commitment and “needing space”.

The rest of the weekend was not as sweet as the drive up. I had planned to go to a track day the following day and pop in to say goodbye after I had finished my lapping in all its hazardous glory. It emerged that during our weekend, an old flame, who never managed to consummate his relationship with my girlfriend, had caused her to question how she felt about us. In a moment of torment and confusion, I left before any tears could be shed by either party or any proper resolution could be reached. My Blackberry rang in a frenzy with messages from her as I scorched through traffic on the highway home. The EVO was due back the next day, and I was determined to enjoy every last moment, knowing that there could be no extension of my time with the car or with her.

A Lancer Ralliart and a Cadillac CTS Coupe followed, and like the women that followed in the weeks after, they were enjoyable but empty, a simulacrum of something that transcended the familiar but fleeting pleasure that most other cars and women, the two passions of my life, had given me. I saw the girl once more and drove her home in the Ralliart, and while everything was familiar, the dopamine jolt that was once present was gone, and the Ralliart’s restrained nature, the missing extra edge that the EVO served up plentifully, mirrored the way we were free to hold hands and barely squeak out thoughts of remorse and hidden longing, but not kiss or share what lurked deep beneath the surface.

To trot out another lame parallel, having constant access to press cars is similar to a revolving door of women eager to sleep with you. After a while, the different shapes and skin tones become a mélange of femininity, in the way that most cars become an indistinguishable representation of just how far the automobile has come. But the EVO stood out in its single-minded approach to performance, despite all its shortcomings, the EVO demands you accept it for exactly what it is and makes no excuses for its warts.

We all try and let the world see us for who we want to be, from the Facebook profile of us battling it out on track, to the pretensions of having sophisticated tastes on a low five-figure  salary, or adopting a gruff and curmudgeonly attitude to mask our deepest insecurities. The Evo is a welcome respite from the masks we employ, a refuge from the branding and lifestyle tactics employed by automotive marketing machines. One could easily buy a top-spec BMW 335i or another luxury marque and be treated to middling cappuccinos, a loaner car during service appointments and the prestige of telling friends that you drive a “beemer”. If you buy an EVO, you will be purchasing a car from a company that may not be around in a couple years, where the showrooms are shabby and the sales staff’s shirts and ties come from the same Men’s Warehouse box. Your associates won’t even know what an EVO is, just that you’re driving a car that has a comically large wing and red brake calipers.

Doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing, and it would be easy to indulge your baser instincts with a status symbol, but the honesty of the EVO is what makes it a truly standout product, and Mitsubishi’s decision to kill it fundamentally sound. The company’s upcoming lineup of electric vehicles and renewed mainstream products will put them in a position to be financially sound during a tumultuous economic period, and we should respect their integrity as they double down on the products need to ensure mainstream survival.

That doesn’t mean we can’t mourn the EVO, remember the joy it gave us and resolve to move on – even if we occasionally creep its Facebook page and scroll through pictures of happier times, and gloss over its manifold defects. But you can’t love a person without being charmed by the idiosyncratic flaws that separate them from the ones you passed over – or could have had.

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22 Comments on “Letting Go Of EVO...”


  • avatar
    thestigsamericancousin

    This was probably one of the best editorials I have ever read. It was deep and an amazing read. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • avatar
    jimbowski

    This is a Baruth reader approved story.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      A Baruth writer approved one as well. I’ve known Derek for a few years now and I think he is growing up to be the perfect antidote to the Richard Truesdells and John Voelckers of the world.

  • avatar

    Amazing and hauntingly familiar piece.
     
    Bravo.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but I’m jaded.
     
    Every single time I read one of these car/woman things, it just seems tired.
     
    I think it just goes that from the first time you read one, you are impressed by the genre –once–; -and then less and less as time goes by.
     
    The ONLY thing that makes it better, is when it’s necessarily or energetically different from the standard trope. -THAT makes you notice.
     
    Jack gets near that territory every once in awhile.
     
    Not asking for Quentin Tarantino;
    But perhaps there is a way to write the first draft of one of these completely straight and pat.
    -THEN go back and in the 2d, chop it all up, throw it in the air, see how it lands, thread-switch, introduce polar bears, lasers, Russians and pastries with names that sound like bodily functions or anatomical descriptors, etc.
     
    Then you’d have your story.
     
    My intent is not to be acerbic,
     
    but there has Got to be a “Memento”, “Rashomon” or “Reservoir Dogs” for the “One-that-got-away-who-had-hips-like-a-Charger” nostalgiapuke-genre.
     
    Oh, well…

  • avatar
    epsilonkore

    This article reads like one of my favorite quotes “To days to come; All my love to long ago”.
    I couldnt agree more.

  • avatar
    spatula6554

    Great editorial, great car…honestly a tough decision for Mitsubishi but it seems like it is a decision that had to be made.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    What kind of guts does it take for the Three Diamond company to walk away from this car?   Just like Bogey walking away from Ilse in “Casablanca.” ….

    “We’ll always have Paris.”

    So, raise a glass to the EVO, and hope that the passion that the Mitsu engineers put into the EVO finds its way into whatever electric/hybrid vehicle they end up producing.

    Cheers, mate…..and to the EVO:  “Here’s looking at you kind!”

  • avatar
    itsgotvtakyo

    Great writing kid, keep it up.
     

  • avatar
    Ethan Gaines

    I started with a sip of my vino as I began to read this, now I’m at the bottom of the bottle, and the page. I’m not the most masculine man, so I can admit I am weeping over past loves, and cars long gone. It may be the wine more than me talking here, but this has moved a portion of my soul. It reminds me of Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage/ode to the impending death of the sports car. Just moving. Thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      2ronnies1cup

      Friend, you need to learn to read faster or drink slower…

      But I know exactly what you mean – some times of our lives are coloured and scented by a particular woman, just as they are by a particular car. For those who don’t nod their heads in rueful recognition, you have my pity.

      The French say: ‘A little heartbreak makes a fine spice for life’. And I’ll drink to that.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    The EVO is one of those cars that lives for the track, and does well there (mostly thanks to enthusiast howling every time Mitsubishi tried to civilize EVO a little).
    Trouble is, our road system’s not smooth shiny tracks with acres of space to dance this car in.  Instead roads are rutted, potholed, and otherwise badly maintained while full of mediocre drivers, an increasing number being distracted by their phones and entertainment systems.  Also, insurance companies take a dim view of street racing, be it legal or otherwise.
    Fortunately, there are other driver oriented cars to choose from.

  • avatar

    To trot out another lame parallel, having constant access to press cars is similar to a revolving door of women eager to sleep with you.
     
    I don’t know about that. I’ve had access to press cars but never a revolving door of women eager to sleep with me so I have no way of saying if it’s similar or not. I will say that I’ve never had a woman dropped off on Monday morning all freshly washed and ready to go, have my way with her for a week, then leave her at the curb, ridden hard and put away wet, as another freshly powdered ingenue gets dropped off for my pleasure.

  • avatar
    Travis

    Exceptional writing on a touchy subject. Thank you.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Great writing, regardless of the genre…

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Brilliant writing.  Brought back many similar college memories for me.
    I’m not sure if Mitsu will survive the sea change that is their new business model.  I’m inclined to side with Mr. Ford on this topic (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/bill-ford-sounds-ev-retreat/).  They should keep the EVO as their halo model.  Just make it a “hybrid” to appease the powers that be.
     

  • avatar
    alterboy21

    Great story.  Reminds me of my first girl, a 1991 Galant VR4 (the predecessor to the EVO). I was with the GVR4 for 5 wonderful years where I learned to love cars.  Unfortunately I had to give her up when I went back to school.

    Since the GVR4s were individually numbered, last year in a moment of longing, I Googled her and found an update.  She was on her 4th owner and was now pimped out and in disrepair.  She was better left as a memory.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Slight correction: the Evo XIII, not the IX, was the first version available here in the US.  I know, because I drove one for five years.  And like that hot girlfriend you had when you were young and innocent, the Evo will be fondly remembered as one of the all time great iconic performance cars.
     
    It’s a crude vehicle.  A Viagra the size of a hockey puck couldn’t make the suspension more stiff, the transmission whined, the carpet resembled mouse fur, the paint made Earl Scheib seem luxurious, and the interior (other than the superb Recaro seats and Momo steering wheel) was sub-rental market.  But who cared when the performance was so raw, so pure?  For those who love driving just for the sake of driving — without status or the pretense of luxury — the Evo delivered as few other cars ever have.
     
    I’m sad to see it go, but as George Harrison said, all things must pass.

    • 0 avatar

      Er…that ought to be VIII (EVO 8) not XIII (EVO 13).
      I’ve been around Evo’s for the better part of a decade now; I had an EVO VIII fly at me while working an autoX course at Ft. Knox, then another working a course at River Downs in Northern KY.  Both times, the drivers lost it, and both times, they kept their feet in it–awesome to see all that power and technology trying to defy the laws of physics, the front tires biting right to the bitter end.
      Like the RX-8, though, no one can afford to run these beasts, and they’re fragile.  I did have the privilege of driving an EVO X, and it was a beast.  RIP, EVO.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Oops!  Yes, a typo.  Evo VIII.  I see the main story has been corrected.

  • avatar

    fabulous editorial.
     
    Does this mean the snobbier-than-thou British magazine of the same namesake will die as well?  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve heard of that magazine. Never read it, though. Live and let live.
       
      MMC’s decision to shelve the Evo is condemned for the simple reason it represents the loss of performance potential to the everyman, further distancing the haves from the have-nots, and for the even simpler reason it reminds us of our own existence, as enthusiasts, on the fringes of automotive relevance.
       
      I, for one, welcome the new iMiEV descendant which will serve as my primary mode of transportation. If it helps me afford the $15/gallon premium for the GVR4 on the weekends, I’ll have yet another reason to remain a firm Mitsubishi supporter.
       
      File this story under “Corporate responsibility to society.”


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