A bit like the U.S., the tuner scene in Australia is one divided by cylinder count. A clash of forced induction imports versus domestic V-8 muscle cars and that old saying that there's no replacement for displacement. But Michael Baghdadi reckons he's found just the right way to cure a lack of engine capacity—and he's out to fight his corner.
If you're on the high-boost, low-displacement end of the scene, then Michael is a name that needs no introduction in Australia. Based just outside Sydney, he's the "Mick" behind Micks Motorsport—one of the country's go-to workshops for seriously quick imports—and he's not a guy who's worried about pushing the limits of mechanical parts. Case in point: all 1,400 bhp of Australia's fastest SR20, and the S15 drag car it's fitted to, rolled out from behind these shutters and onto the start line of a 200-mph quarter-mile run not so long ago. These guys don't take half measures.
Hard-wearing, heavily turbocharged four-bangers might be a specialty, but that didn't stop Michael's own project from becoming a challenge. In Australia, quarter-mile events don't come much more challenging than the Motive DVD Drag Battle—an invite-only, spectator-free weekend held on the rough asphalt of Cootamundra Airfield's runway. Quick cars here don't only need huge amounts of power, but they need to be able to deliver it on a road-like surface, and they have to be street legal.
Upping the ante even further, this car had to be turned around in a month to make it to the event at all: "Competition at Coota is really strong, there's nowhere else like it," Michael tells us. "But that doesn't put me off—I wanted to show what we were capable of, and competing against the best in the business is what made me want to do it. The aim was to go for as much power as possible and to aim for a time in the 8s."
Unsurprisingly, this would mean a serious amount of boost to get the Evo up among the country's quickest cars. Not that you'd know it with the hood down, but the seed of this car's unnaturally fast pace comes from the huge GTX45 turbo neatly packaged in behind the grille and mounted between the tangled pipework of a Pure Fab manifold and titanium exhaust. The only giveaway is the Plazaman intercooler, 100mm thick and crammed in behind the bumper. It's no sleeper, but it's not shouting about the weapons-grade performance underneath, either.
Reliable four-figure horsepower is a specialty here, so the engine behind that turbo is no less impressive. A Nitto stroker kit with a forged billet steel crank, Manley rods, and high-compression CP pistons takes the 4G63 up to 2.2L, while, up top, AJE Engineering ported the head and readied it for 1mm larger valves, run off a Kelford cam. It's capable of violent straight-line pace, and there's a custom-made surge tank behind the headlight to keep the eight injectors supplied with fuel at full throttle, each one fixed into a billet Plazaman intake manifold and controlled by an in-house map on the Haltech ECU.
So far, so good: "We ran it at between 950 and 1,000 bhp for the Cootamundra quarter-mile, then 1,150 bhp at the wheels once we'd tested it a few times," Michael explains. "It will bog down if you don't have enough rpm, but we've had it over 155 mph during testing, so we're happy with how it's performing."
Not to mention the right bits to put that power to the tires. The oversized gear shifter links up to a five-speed Samsonas sequential transmission up front, its longer gears making better use of the larger-capacity engine it's bolted up to. Taking no chances with reliability, double-tempered Driveshaft Shop shafts with a billet inner mean there's no weak point when the front and rear limited-slip differentials are grabbing at the road surface, while the NPC twin-plate clutch gets the unenviable task of linking rampant four-banger with the rest of the driveline.
It's only part of the package, though. Competing at Cootamundra limits cars to road-legal tires, so there's no ultra-soft drag rubber tucked under the Mitsubishi's four corners. Instead, the forged 17-inch RAYS wheels are wrapped in DOT-marked Mickey Thompson strip-ready tires, which means the Evo can be driven from the workshop to the start line without taking a second set of rims. GReddy adjustable coilovers with solid top mounts mean final adjustments can be made trackside.
"The cool thing with this car is it looks standard," says Michael, nodding to the open driver-side window. "The 'cage is built so all the boys can jump in, and we can use it like a normal road car. It isn't difficult to drive normally, either; you could drive it every day with no problems, then take it to the track on weekends and surprise a lot of people with it."
Of course, it's not just transmission whine that you'd notice inside. The standard instruments are gone, and there's no audio gear to be found—a more useful Racepak cluster gives a more detailed view of what's happening on the other side of the bulkhead than anything Mitsubishi ever fitted at the factory. And while there's room for a full set of passengers, the parachute—not required for Cootamundra—and a large bottle of nitrous bolted into the 'cage in the rear probably dent its ability to swallow luggage.
Right out of the box, Michael's Evo was the second fastest four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive car at its first Motive DVD Drag Battle, with a trap speed up among the fastest GT-Rs. It's been devastatingly quick in Australia's growing roll racing scene, too, winning the Flying 500 at last year's World Time Attack Challenge in Sydney. A ballistic 158 mph at 9.4 seconds, despite grip issues leaving it snatching at the surface.
A learning process then? "We're going to fit a billet block and looking to push the boost up to 78 psi with a 100-bhp nitrous shot, which should give us 1,380 bhp," Michael smiles. "Then we'll be back next year to show what this can really do."
This may be enough to make even the hardened enthusiasts of big-capacity engines sit up and take notice. Micks Motorsport may have made a career out of pushing the limits of boosted four-cylinder engines, but the plans under way for this car's return to the strip suggest this Sydney-based workshop isn't done yet.