James Gilboy

I’ve been waiting a decade for this moment: I bought a 1996 Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT. Sometimes called “the Evo minivan,” it has the legendary turbo 2.0-liter 4G63 engine, five-speed manual, all-wheel drive, and three rows of seats that fold flat. It’s the fast version of the Expo I grew up with, and I’ve wanted one for as long as I’ve known they exist. Now I own one, though my 2,800-mile journey home across the U.S. after buying it could’ve gone a little smoother.

I landed bright and early in Charlotte, NC after a redeye, ready to pick up my Mitsubishi from Hoogie’s Imports—which I’m shouting out for its customer service. The Chariot had relatively high mileage for a Japanese import (97,000 miles) but was supposed to be a one-owner car that’d passed its last inspection. It didn’t have the dealer-option curtains I coveted or perfect paint, but it hadn’t been smoked in. There might’ve never been a chance at another this good, so I wrote the check.

My 1996 Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT at a gas station. James Gilboy

With the tank filled, I hit the highway for Knoxville, TN (barely missing the world’s biggest Buc-ee’s), where I’d pick up my copilot for the 2,800 miles back to Portland, OR. By the end of the first onramp, I realized this was gonna be a long drive.

For starters, its five-speed manual was geared for Japanese highways, so it was spinning 3,000 rpm at 60 mph. It didn’t have cruise control either, and the pedal position wasn’t great for driving without it. As the miles racked up, I noticed the gas gauge took a while to drop. Either the float was sticky, or something was up with the sensor. At least our ill-fated Australia crossing in a Kia EV6 had trained me to convert kph to mph.

1996 Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT stopping for the night in Illinois. James Gilboy

After a torrential rainstorm in Illinois that let me establish the fog lights work, we reached our hotel to rest before what’d be the dullest leg of the drive: Missouri and Kansas. It was a mostly uneventful slog; the car ran fine, rode well, and aside from the 4,000-rpm drone of a four-banger was quiet enough to enjoy an audiobook. The gas mileage seemed to be dipping, but I chalked it up to a headwind and climbing elevation as we neared Colorado. Pulling into my dad’s driveway near Boulder, I realized it might be something worse: Something was scraping.

Inspecting the brakes the next morning, I thought the pads looked thin, and some of the rotors were definitely glazed. It was clear they needed replacing, and soon. That’s bad news in a JDM van when you’re 1,300 miles from home, need to be at work in 48 hours, and can’t fix the problem with a pair of handcuffs—the parts might not exist this side of the Pacific.

1996 Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT rear three-quarter in Colorado. James Gilboy

Luckily for me, Mitsubishi had binged at the parts bin buffet in building this, because the brakes were almost entirely shared with the Eclipse GSX. Parts for those are still everywhere, so with some friends from the 24 Hours of Lemons volunteering their garage, I headed to Autozone. But just a couple blocks away, the pedal went long.

I eased into the parking lot, and waved my hands over the brakes—the left rear was hot, it’d been dragging. I let it cool while I bought parts, then gingerly cruised to my racing friends’ garage where we got the van on a lift.

As it turned out, that corner had gotten down to the metal on one of the pads, but the rest would be okay if they didn’t drag. We re-greased the caliper pins, replaced the rear pads and rotors, and topped up the transfer case after finding evidence of a leak out the rear driveshaft seal. I say we, but Tom Webb of Hangar 13 Racing did most of the work. Though it’s not exceedingly uncommon, I’d never actually seen a drum brake inside a rear rotor before. Thanks once again, Jan and Tom!

Failed rear brakes (left) and an Idaho rest stop (right). James Gilboy

We didn’t get on the road until evening, putting us a day behind schedule. Pushing into the night couldn’t take us any further than Green River, UT, where we struggled to find a room. We faced a long crossing of Utah, Idaho, and Oregon, but this too was uneventful. We cruised down the Columbia River Gorge as the sun set, with the moonroof open and The Night Game playing. After 40-something hours, 2,800 miles, a brake scare, and enough Taco Bell for a lifetime, my Mitsubishi thrummed into the driveway in alongside my Toyota MR2 Turbo.

This will only mark the beginning of our travels together, I hope. I’ve already done of bunch of minor service on it, and there’s plenty more to do—namely replacing the catalytic converted, which finished completely rusting out on the way back from Ikea this week. But after a decade of longing, a Resort Runner GT is finally mine. I think it was destiny. I’ll explain why another time, though—only when I’m done googling “7 bolt 4G63T stock power limit.”

1996 Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT and its stablemate, a 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo. James Gilboy

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com

The post I Bought Mitsubishi’s JDM Evo Minivan and Drove It 2,800 Miles Home. It Only Went a Little Wrong appeared first on The Drive.

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