Welcome back to Part 3 of our Mitsubishi Mirage build. This time, we've done a fix for the issues we caused to worsen during the last part, which I didn't mention.
The fenders rubbed. Badly. And, it had been 24,000 km and we had never done an alignment. It was time to fix all of that at once.
I'll make no secret of it. Many people have asked me why I have bothered with trying to make a Mitsubishi Mirage cool. Why bother? I have a goal for the car. I want it to serve a purpose - to show how a simple, pared back car can make a good track car platform, even though I won't be using the Mirage on track for anything more than leading the lead-follow exercises that are 60 km/h or so, that open the track days I organize. However, I want to demonstrate how you can make even the most unlikely of cars can be sporty, fun cars, if they're lightweight, small, nimble and prepared, even slightly.
In our case, the car would be deemed to be "too tall to be safe" so the decision to lower it came naturally. Also, the OEM suspension was far too soft and rolly, I just hated it. So, I had to lower it on the stiffer suspension. That's where the Godspeed Mono SS coilovers came in. So, I installed them, and then the tires started rubbing. The fender lip was rubbing on the tire. It was bad enough that the rubber was coming off of the tires. I had to roll the fenders. So, I booked a fender rolling and alignment with Will from P-Z Tuning. The result was that the rubbing almost entirely stopped.
Almost. I still had some rubbing under extreme cornering loads. So, I stiffened the coilover damping until it would stop rubbing.
It's here when the realization happened; I had made the car as exciting as I could with the available modifications (limited as they are so far.) We still have more plans. But for now, I should mention that this car has, on the one "test" corner that I tried it out on, an apex speed that is higher than any of my other cars. The car outhandles my 2005 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS, 2011 Subaru WRX, 2003 Civic EP3 track car (although, this was in its road-legal spec which was far more toned-down than it is now (in its full race car spec.)) An apex speed of 82 km/h on 195 wide tires with a UTQG treadwear rating of 500. versus 81 km/h on a car (Civic EP3) that was probably 700 pounds heavier, on 235 wide tires with a UTQG treadwear rating of 200.
Yes, the ride height did automatically increase camber on the front, so yes, the 195 wide tires will wear out quicker than normal in daily driver use. I'm okay with that. The tradeoff with the camber is that the car handles much better. The rear, being a torsion beam rear suspension, did not suffer from the same problem, so the rear camber isn't as bad. The end result is that the vehicle handles very well... And we're just getting started.
To say that I love the Mirage is an understatement. It's the pinnacle of efficiency to use less tires, less brakes, and less fuel for the same fun.
So, that's a brief update. We would love to bring you the next update, but it may take some time.
They're off the backorder! They're on the car!
It has been a long wait for the coilovers but it's over. But, before this, let's start by discussing why I chose the Mirage again, and what the ultimate goal is.
The 2022 Mitsubishi Mirage I chose to get is the manual transmission equipped "ES" trim level, as that's the only trim level available with the manual transmission. However, it keeps the weight low and the enjoyment high (for the manual transmission).
The main draw of the Mirage is the low cost - environmentally and financially. The main idea of creating a sporty Mitsubishi Mirage is to make a car feel sporty and fun without too much cost, and to prove that it can be sustainable (financially and environmentally) into the future. Taking a car with less than 80 horsepower (74) and making it sporty and fun to drive is a challenge in itself. However, this challenge is proving to be possible. If we set the goal to make it possible to create a rewarding, fun driving experience with a $15,000 car that can be driven to and from work, can get groceries, and can still be pleasurable to drive on mountain roads or on track if you're so inclined, this should be easily possible, right?
Yes, you may think to yourself, as a reader, that there are more fun cars that can be purchased for $15,000, and you would technically be right. Pre-owned cars are a great value. However, it goes against the idea of proving that it can be sustainable - the production of new cars is continuous, therefore the supply of sporty cars, or cars that can be made to be at least somewhat sporty, is rather important for long term sustainability of our passion. Supporting even the most unlikely of "sporty" cars as a way to show that the market still appreciates small, lightweight cars without too many electronic gadgets (at least I've got Bluetooth?) is a good way to show auto manufacturers that the passion for fun-to-drive, satisfying cars still exists. Plus, starting with a car that was never described as sporty or spritely in a single automotive journalist's review of it proves something even more important; that any car can be made to be quite fun.
.Before the coilovers had come in, I was invited to a navigational rally (more of a challenge of navigation than a rally) in the Charlevoix countryside of Québec. The event itself ended up being cancelled, after I had already planned out the trip and dedicated myself to going. I knew that I wanted to drive the little Mirage through the steep, sharp inclines of the Québec countryside, where the speed limits are higher, the roads are narrower, and the curves are sharper. There's also a natural beauty to the region, and the roads in general, not to mention the smell of the saltwater and whale spotting that I wanted to attempt to get in, in my life. When I got my Mirage, I remarked about how having a hyper-affordable car like this Mirage would grant me a certain freedom to go wherever, do whatever, and go on longer road trips, whether it be to race tracks or to natural areas that I've wanted to see. During this road trip, I got to see both. For this reason, I nicknamed the Mirage "Saoirse" - an Irish Gaelic name meaning "freedom."
The thing is, though; the Mirage exceeded my expectations for what I was expecting in terms of handling performance and the way that it handled all of the road trip. The route I took through Québec was breathtakingly stunning, and included the best roads that I had ever driven, not just in a scenic sense, but also in a "sporty, spirited driving" sense. The Mirage and I covered about 4000 km in 4 days (6000 km in 6 days if you count the Ontario portions). Averaging about 10 hours of driving, per day, at an average speed of about 100 km/h, the Mirage never skipped a beat. It was absolutely difficult to overtake slower vehicles on the 4th day, when every single passing zone seemed to be steeply uphill and it was impossible to gain speed, but I never thought that I would find such pleasure in a drive with an average of 5.6L/100 km of fuel efficiency, as on that trip. On some roads just outside of Mont Tremblant, I was getting as low as 9L/100 km while carving an attempt at a racing line (to keep up with the flow of traffic in my slightly underpowered Mirage on roads that I had never seen before) out of the never-ending braking zones as the roads snaked through the most dense, lush forest that the entire Tremblant region had to offer, and on the drive from Saint-Didace Québec to Pont Rouge, I was averaging 4L/100 km. All of this, while the car was rather heavily loaded with camping gear, clothes, supplies, and whatever else I might have needed to bring with. Oil, spares, fluids, etc. were never needed but were a welcome "just-in-case" item list to have with me, as well as first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and whatever else you might need for being up to 300 km. away from the nearest village (as I was when I was in the Réserve faunique des Laurentides) with limited cell signal and moose, bear, rockslides, and avalanche warning signs as your primary concern.
To say that 4 days in the solitary wilderness of the more extreme reaches of Québec was unnerving would be an understatement. Doing that in a car I didn't trust would be something that I would never do.
All told? That was a life-changing experience. The only thing that could have made it better? Coilovers... Which, speaking of...
Upon arriving home, I received my Godspeed MonoSS coilovers. The weekend following the road trip, I had another road trip, this time back up to Calabogie to drive in the season finale double header of Lucky Dog Racing Canada's championship. That was super fun, but it meant that I didn't want to tear apart the Mirage and install coilovers on it as I may have needed the Mirage to drive to Calabogie.
I ended up carpooling with my dad as he wanted to be there for the big day, as well as possibly hit up some of the best cycling trails in Ontario (since he's a mountain biker), so we didn't end up bringing the Mirage after all. All the better, as someone was there to help take care of me when I ended up getting violently ill with an ear infection with complications that were beginning to cause, surprisingly, kidney failure from dehydration and malnutrition and ended up in the hospital, the day after the race. The ear infection had nothing to do with the racing, and the racing had nothing to do with the ear infection. But, it did mean that I lost a good half-month of time from October 1st until October 15th as I recovered. Happy 29th birthday to me!
So, skip forward to about then, when we finally got the coilovers in and, well, they rubbed badly.
The 16x7" wheels with 195/55R16 tires are just a bit too much for the car at this ride height with this (unknown) offset, (I think it's +42?) but Will from P-Z Tuning rolled the fenders in. That was yesterday. Last night, I got to drive the Mirage and it has already got me saying that the modifications and hassle have been worth it. It's incredibly fun already. I cannot wait for the last two or three things that I want to do to make it even more sporty.
The coilovers woke up the handling; the wallowing, soft, mediocre attempt at preventing body roll is gone. The car is now responsive, nimble, and agile. The added front camber from lowering the car makes outright cornering grip higher, while the suspension is stiff enough to actually change directions when asked. It does feel like a tradeoff, vs stability, but the car is currently and always has been more than stable enough.
If anyone knows of any front and rear sway bars that fit the Mirage, please let me know. I'm definitely going to be in the market. Then, we will put on the 17" wheels that I have already sourced out and we will have a very, very cool Mitsubishi Mirage.
Falcon Autosport authors are a team of track day organizers and motorsports enthusiasts in general. Drew drives a 2003 Honda Civic EP3 with 17 previous owners and 320,000+ km.