The Mitsubishi Lancer box-type is a 1980s icon. Its unmistakable shape, famous reliability, affordable maintenance cost, and general ease of use made it the car to own back in the day. Yeah, there weren’t so many choices back then, anyway, but we are sure glad that the box-type was one of them. You can’t deny the cool factor of this model.
To this day, diehard collectors and old-school enthusiasts would love to have one, if only to stir up the memories of days gone by. And for many, the box-type was an excellent platform for personalization and modification. It wasn’t the fastest car out there, but it bridged the gap between old and new--at least when it came to cars on the Philippine market at the time--and symbolized an evolution. We pretty much almost got the whole Lancer lineup, from the basic SL to the top-of-the-line GT.
The ever-elusive EX Turbo, however, was only available abroad. Those in the know dreamed about it, and numerous EX replicas were made, albeit without the vital components--the all-important turbocharger and intercooler package, and limited-slip differential at the rear.
The EX Turbo was the true sports sedan of the global lineup, and was famous for having a turbocharged 1.8-liter motor under the hood. It also had unique bumpers and interior trim, a ‘turbo’ light at the rear (which lit up when the turbo spooled up), and a marking on the front chin in an inverted ‘turbo’ script that was meant to be read by the driver in front through his rearview mirror, thus warning him to move aside and give way to the boosted monster.
The EX Turbo also saw action in the international rally circuit, with varying levels of success. Yep, it was the car that dreams were made of. If you already owned a box-type, you were one step closer the EX. You were part of that family, and made you proud.
Andrew Arago is one such fan, and he had vowed to own an EX Turbo one day. His pride and joy that you see here is the realization of that dream. Okay, it didn’t quite roll off the factory floor as an EX Turbo, but it is 100% one, through and through. The giveaway is the LHD layout. The EX Turbo was only available in RHD. It may not be an original, but it was born out of love. And it is as close to the real thing as you could possibly get.
The base is an all-original GT body, with all the EX parts shipped in from Japan. "I fell in love with my aunt’s box-type," recalls Andrew. "I used to be the one who cleaned it before. There were no car washes back then! Eventually, the car became my dream car, and when the time came for me to build one, EX na ang gusto ko." This car competed in the 2011 Trans Sport Show after it was completed.
Everything is from an EX Turbo, including the seatbelts, hood, fenders, panels, engine, turbocharger, intercooler, suspension, transmission, differential, stereo, signal lights, headlights, and even the floor mats. Bringing all the parts into the Philippines in one go was the cheapest way to ship in the items. Even the strut brace is a genuine Ralliart piece, when most you see on cars nowadays are Cusco. "It’s about the engineering tag for all the parts," says Andrew. "That’s what I’m after." The car performs well, and it gets driven on the weekends, usually going to Batangas to avoid the traffic.
Andrew’s favorite cars are all old-schoolers: a 1978 Toyota Cressida wagon, this EX Turbo, and a 1989 Isuzu single-cab pickup. But this white Lancer is definitely a show-stopping beauty. "Nothing beats luma," declares Andrew. We agree. Good luck trying to build an EX for yourself.
NOTE: This article first appeared in Top Gear Philippines' April 2016 issue.