This 1978 Mitsubishi Lancer EL embodies the joy of car ownership

Some things in life are just priceless
by Cuthbert Go | Aug 21, 2016

The problem with our generation today is that we love technology. We throw away old things and buy newer ones that promise to be better and more advanced. It’s the same with cars.

But do you know how many new cars have a keyless entry system? What happens if the transponder suddenly runs out of battery as you’re about to go home from a late-night party? You’ll probably just book an Uber ride and get a fresh battery in the morning.

That’s the problem with all these electronic bits. Things are a lot more complicated. If you have a more basic ride, though, it’s a simpler issue to resolve. So, when you think about it, old items aren’t that bad to have around, after all.

Case in point: Max San Pedro's 1978 Mitsubishi Lancer EL you see here.

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He had held on to it over the years, and when his eldest son Joseph came of age, he passed on the prized car to the boy as a birthday gift. Because the Lancer is al­most four decades old and rusted all over, Max contacted Andrei Torres of Sam’s Autoworx to do the restoration. He had one goal in mind: The car needed to be as close to original spec as can be, and some­thing Joseph will be truly proud of. It sure beats driving something new and common.

This two-door A70 ‘line-type’ Lancer came out in 1976 as a mild revision of the 1973 model with upright L-shaped tail­lights. It sports a very clean horizontal tail­light that sets it apart from the pre-facelift model. The A70 was the first to carry the Lancer nameplate, and it continues to have a cult following up to now.

Underneath the hood is the original 1.6-liter Astron engine that still sounds marvelous. Mated to it is a manual tranny. Some people may be more fa­miliar with the earlier four-speed, with which you still need to push down the shift knob and move it to the first slot in order to engage reverse gear. This par­ticular unit already has the five-speed manual tranny with the reverse gear located where it should be.

The chassis was especially impor­tant to Max—he wanted everything original. No class-A replacements or replica parts allowed. Everything had to be ordered. As added insurance, some of the underbody parts were even powder-coated.

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From the ground up, the new exte­rior paint is as flawless as that of a unit fresh off the assembly line. The green color makes the lines and curves pop, and the low-stance 14-inch Enkei Tur­bina S wheels add even more flair.

When you open the sturdy doors, you are greeted by an all-black interior. The seats and the carpets are all freshly reupholstered, but the cabin retains its old-school coziness and aroma. Every­thing you see is all-original—the dashboard, the gauges, the leather tiller, and even the emblems.

This car is very simple but very functional. Just get in, roll down the windows, and drive. The steering might be heavy and the ride might be on the stiff side, but it won’t really matter. Lancers back in the day were well-known for their rally racing prowess, so driving this car will make you feel good and in control.

Yes, technology does help make life easier, but there are instances when it also complicates things because it makes us distant from the human factor. And that makes bringing this vintage Lancer back to life a good idea. Although the restoration took eight long months to finish, in the end the result speaks for itself.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that inspire the most heartfelt emotions.

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NOTE: This article first appeared in Top Gear Philippines' November 2015 issue.

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PHOTO: Ian Magbanua
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