Because race car.
When Mitsubishi announced the all new, third generation (3G) Eclipse, we felt a great disturbance in the Force, After more than a decade turning the sport compact scene on its head with one of the sexiest, most revered machines in some 30 years, Mitsubishi replaced the scrappy DSM with a front-wheel drive-only, V6-powered grand tourer. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. To a great many of us, something terrible had happened. The DSM was officially no more. Our Alderan had been destroyed.
The 3G was larger and traded the proven, turbocharged, all-wheel drive platform for a FWD-only, V6. The hottest of hot hatchbacks was replaced with a big, fat, whatchamacallit. It had these ridges down the side; something between Ferrari Testarossa and anything-1990s-Pontiac, and even if you weren’t a dyed-in-the-wool DSMer, it was just, generally speaking, a face only a mother could love.
Largely considered an abomination – even though it was almost 500lbs lighter than its predecessor – the 3G Eclipse was unloved by the enthusiast community. There was minimal aftermarket support for the new engines and, even if you had thousands to spend on a Ripp Mods supercharger kit, you were still limited by front-wheel drive. Two years later, Mitsubishi would bring its world car – the Lancer Evolution – to the United States, and the Eclipse would begin its slow, painful slide into obscurity.
As the years have passed, so has my own, personal, dislike of the 3G. I’ve seen the DSM community evolve, advance, and enter twilight. In fact, I’d say the DSM community is deep in the throes of entropy these days. People want $3000 for slagged-out, ran-when-parked heaps, or $8000 for fully-built, almost mint-condition, 12-second hard parkers. Meanwhile, despite what the mouth-breathing, automotive sycophants have to say, the Eclipse has adapted well to its grand touring slot in the lineup.
And then I came across Tavorious Crocker in a Facebook Mitsubishi group. With just a picture and a couple sentences, he demonstrated something many of us tend to forget. It’s not so much the machine, but how the machine is built and used, which makes the machine noteworthy. You see, he bought his 3G, discovered racing, and has been systematically improving his skills and the car’s capabilities ever since.
There’s something about seeing a track-prepared 3G that brings a big smile to this gearhead’s face. Let me introduce you to Tavorious Crocker.
[bd] Introductions. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, where do you live, what do you do for a living? Is it something you enjoy? Relevant to cars at all?
[tc] Tavorius Crocker. I live in Virginia Beach, VA. I’ve lived here all my life. I’m a respiratory therapist for a Level 1 trauma center. I enjoy this profession because everyday it’s something different. Not really relevant to cars, but co-workers are well aware of my car hobby.
[bd] Tell us a little bit about your collection of Mitsubishis. (I think you have two?) Were either of these your first Mitsubishi? How are they setup? (We’ll get into mods later.)
[tc] Well, I only have one Mitsubishi. The purple one you saw is a friend’s who came into town for my team’s car show (Springfest by Sumospeed). The black 3G is actually my second Mitsubishi. My first was a 1G GST and the motor blew in that in a couple of months. From there, I went to a Mazda MX3, and the block cracked in a year or so. After that, I purchased the black 3G from the Mitsubishi dealership in 2004.
[bd] As a 3G owner, I’m sure you know all about how DSMers feel about them. They’re almost universally hated, yet as time goes by, they seem to be holding their own. Decent aftermarket support, a healthy owner base, a few people actually racing them. I’m curious which came first for you – 3G or racing? (You can understand how the story changes if you were into racing *before* you got into 3G Eclipses.) How did you get into both?
[tc] The 3G came before racing. It was my daily driver, so I did small mods like intake, exhaust and suspension work. I took it to the drag strip once and really saw how slow this car was. Then I met a few guys at a couple meets who did autocrossing. They talked me into bringing the car out there and I had more fun doing this than drag racing. So I started modding the car to handle better.
I met a group of guys who rented out a training facility which had a road course to do practice runs and such. I started competing in the SCCA league for autocross and doing these track rentals, still modding the car along the way as well. One of the drivers who did the track rentals with me also raced in NASA at VIR [Virginia International Raceway] and various other tracks talked me into doing more NASA events.
I researched it a bit and decided I wanted to do time attack events, but in order to those types of events you needed to do HPDE [NASA’s High Performance Driving Events] first and climb up the ranks. So that winter, I got the car ready for HPDE and it was officially the track car. Took it to VIR for my first HPDE and got real good feel for the car.
[bd] Let’s talk about mods. You “started modding the car to handle better” for autocross, then continued to modify as you got more seat time. Tell me about some of those mods. Where did you start? Did you end up replacing mods with others as you gained experience on the track? How did you know what to replace and with what?
[tc] Well, before I started autocrossing, I had Tein springs, KYB struts, and a rear sway bar. When I took the car out for the first time, it had too much body roll and not enough oversteer, so I replaced the springs and struts with coilovers, replaced all my bushings with polyurethane bushings, and installed an underbody chassis brace kit.
With more seat time, I found more areas to improve on and I asked some more experienced guys for advice. I upgraded to a Quaife LSD, and swapped over Evo 8 brake calipers and rotors. I knew I needed the LSD for better traction and cornering, and upgrading the brakes came to mind when I felt the stock brakes weren’t up to stopping the car how I wanted. Later, I decided to build a roll cage for the car. I knew it would stiffen things up and protect me as well. Most of the info on what parts to use I got from 3G Eclipse forums.
After I felt comfortable with the power I had, I decided to supercharged the car. I bought a partial Ripp Mods kit and pieced together the rest of it myself. I ran into multiple issues with it. Belts slipping and shredding, multiple tuning issues.
I was using a Hydra EMS at first. That would randomly shut off. Tech support couldnt figure out the issue so I went back to the stock ECU and ECUFlash with a big map patch. Then a friend and I discovered that patch made the knock sensor not work correctly. Another member on the 3G Eclipse forum had another patch made which worked correctly. By this time, I wanted to get rid of the supercharger and go the turbo route. After weighing out the pros and cons, the turbo option would be better.
[bd] I remember when the 3G came out. All the DSMers hated it. It was bigger, the turbo was replaced with a V6, and there was no AWD option. The styling was kind of polarizing as well. As such, it seemed like the aftermarket was more focused on looks than performance – unless you had a few grand laying around for one of those supercharger kits. What kind of challenges have you run into finding track-rated parts for this car?
[tc] The most challenging things I’ve found have been making things fit in such a tight engine bay; everything being custom made like the hot and cold pipes for the turbo kit. Also, not having a 3G community that’s into tracking their cars has made it more of an experimental type of thing. There’s a select few guys I keep in contact with who do track their 3Gs which helps out some.
[bd] How much road racing do you do compared to autocross these days? How do you adjust the car for one versus the other? Do you like one more than the other? Why or why not?
[tc] I’ve actually tried to get away from autocross and stick to road racing. I haven’t tracked as much these past two years because of issues with the car, but I prefer road racing. Track time is longer, speeds are faster – just seems more worth it in the long run.
Even years ago, when the 3G was still new, few of the 3G guys I knew with supercharger kits did much more than “show” them. It’s refreshing to hear how you’ve progressed. Here’s the last batch of questions. After these, I’ll just need 6-8 high quality pictures to go with the story. They need to be larger than 2500 pixels wide to make sure they don’t pixelate in print. Photographer credit is appreciated.
[bd] If memory serves, the 3G GT V6 was good for mid-200hp out of the box. What’s your car making these days? I’m curious, when you’re on the track, which cars seem to be your most direct competition? Who is consistently surprised by this prepared 3G track weapon?
I haven’t dyno’d it yet, but I’m looking to do that soon with this new turbo. With all the weight I’ve taken out of the car, I’ll be happy with close to 300WHP. Once I feel comfortable with that power and handling, I’ll be looking into going higher.
Most of my direct competition these days would be highly modified Hondas and mildly modified Evos. Due to all the mods I’ve done, it moves me up to those classes. I usually surprise everybody at the track, since the 3G is not your typical choice of a track car and is looked down upon.
[bd] What issues have you been having with the car that’s kept you sidelined in recent years? How are you working through them?
Tuning has been the biggest setback. Hard to find shops to tune this car since they are unfamiliar with the platform. I’ve used an online tuner before, but now that I’ve made it a dedicated track car, I don’t want to risk driving it on the streets for a street tune. I’ve found a couple shops a couple of hours away. I just need to find time from work to trailer it to them for tuning.
[bd] What’s the biggest issue you see facing gearhead culture these days? How would you recommend solving it?
I think the biggest issue these days is people not thinking with an open mind. If it’s not the typical car following the popular trend then it’s ugly or dumb. Solving it would be simple. Even if you dont like it, just respect it and move on.
[bd] What’s next for you and this car? Got any big goals?
Next thing for me is to get back on the track. Too many setbacks. I’m so close to having this car back on the track. Big goals for me would be keep doing HPDEs so I can eventually start competing in time attack events and I also want to compete in the Global Time Attack series on the east coast.
[bd] Anyone in particular you’d like to thank?
There’s actually a few people I would like to thank.
My dad Michael Walker at Superior Autotech for letting me use the shop when I needed it. Danny Domenech at 945 Garage for doing my roll cage and future fabrication. Shawn Ramey at Rameybuilt for all the aluminium welding and parts I order. Greg Almeida at UCS Performance for answering all my 3G Eclipse questions and advice. Cody Lucas at Tx Tuning for all the online tuning of the car. All my teammates from Sumospeed, and my sponsors Mishimoto, Enjuku Racing, and Braille Battery. Without those guys the car wouldnt be where it is today.
. . .
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
As gearheads, a large part of our identities – whether right, wrong, healthy, or not – comes from the vehicles we drive and how we drive them. I think this is a beautiful thing, as it makes it easier for us to identify with and become friends with complete strangers. The downside to this, though, is that we sort of tie our identities to products in which we really have no say. When our OEM of choice decides to retire or radically change a model in which we have so much invested, it can feel like the end of the world. It’s personal. And it can blind us to new opportunities.
For years, years, I’ve gone from hating the 3G Eclipse, to not liking it, to not noticing it, to starting think maybe it’s not all that bad after all. Tavorious shows us how it doesn’t really matter what you drive – so long as you drive it. The value of man and machine isn’t measured in ubiquitous aftermarket support and easy horsepower – it’s measured in determination and desire. To take a generally unloved platform, to learn it, to build it, to race it – that’s a true gearhead in my book.
SO LET ME ASK YOU THIS:
Take the machines completely out of the equation. What makes a person a true gearhead?