Written by Aaron McKenzie, Photography by Clark Aegerter
Mar 3, 2023
Spend a few minutes with Zoe Kuball and her automotive tastes will quickly become clear. Whether it’s her Instagram handle (@thewhiteevo), her “Daily Dose of Adrenaline” hoodie (which she designed and which features line drawings of two Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions) or, most notably, the two white Lancer Evolutions – known in car circles simply as “Evos” – parked in her garage, Kuball’s passion is no mystery.
The signs were all there from the beginning, too: in retrospect, Zoe Kuball was exactly the kid you’d expect to grow up to own two Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.
“I used to play with Barbie cars more than the Barbie dolls,” says Kuball, “And I would go to my brother's friends’ houses just to play with their Hot Wheels.”
Growing up in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Kuball got to experience a wide swath of American car culture up and down the East Coast. Though not typically known as an automotive hotbed, Mechanicsburg is only a few hours away by car from New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. A car-obsessed kid, Kuball absorbed it all. As a college student studying automotive technology, she spent her younger years swapping K-series Honda VTEC engines into her Civics and even worked a stint at a local Honda dealer in Pennsylvania. One day in 2014, however, a friend offered to sell her his 2003 Mitsubishi Evo VIII (Evo generations, of which there were ten, are commonly denoted by Roman numerals).
“I bought it from him and that was game over,” recalls Kuball. “The Evo game was all I wanted to do from then on.”
Mitsubishi first introduced the Lancer Evolution line in 1992 to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC), giving the cars a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, DOHC engine and all-wheel-drive system from their Galant VR-4 predecessors. The Evos quickly became known for their precise handling, powerful engines, and sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems, making them a favorite among young enthusiasts and rally racing fans. In 1996, an Evo III brought Mitsubishi its first WRC title at the hands of Tommi Mäkinen, Mäkinen then went on to win the same title in the following three years as well, securing the Evo’s place in motorsports history in the process and leading Car and Driver to remark, in 2015, that “the Mitsubishi Evo is not a car – it’s a weapon.”
It was not until 2003, however, that Mitsubishi finally made this weapon available in the United States, spurred by the success Subaru’s STI models that had hit American shores three years earlier. Over the next decade, the Evo became a common sight on American roads and secured its place in American pop culture when an Evo VII (that’s the 2001-2002 model) made an appearance in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) and when an Evo IX (2005-2006) appeared in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006). By 2014, however, Mitsubishi was hemorrhaging cash and announced that the company would cease production of the Evo X after the 2015 model year as the brand refocused its efforts on crossovers and electric vehicles, bringing an end to the brand’s time as a high-performance carmaker (a legacy that, in addition to the Evo, also includes such models as the Starion, the 3000 GT, and the Eclipse). Since October 2016, Mitsubishi has been one-third owned by Nissan, leaving Evo enthusiasts to jostle for an ever-shrinking pool of their beloved rally fighters.
In December 2020, six years after buying her first Evo, Kuball bought her 1996 Evo 4, which Kuball found via Instagram in Canada. Due to the “25 Year Rule” against importing cars that were never federalized for sale in the United States, however, she had to wait almost a year before she could bring the car home to Utah, where she now resides. Not only did this process land Kuball a car she’d always dreamed of owning, it also gave her an education in how to source cars that aren’t readily available (or available at all in any kind of desirable condition) in the United States.
“A lot of these older Evos are still going for cheaper outside of the US,” says Kuball. “Granted, the prices in these countries jumped a lot once they realized what Americans are willing to pay for them, even if a lot of Americans aren't willing to import them. But in importing my Evo 4 from Canada, I realized how easy it is.”
Evo ownership has also been an education for Kuball, albeit not in the ways she expected.
“There's this negative connotation about Evos being unreliable, which I a thousand percent disagree with,” says Kuball. “My Evos have always been reliable, and when things have broken it’s been because of people, not because of the car itself – because of shops not taking their time to do something right, or not paying attention to details, or just not knowing the specifics of an Evo.”
And as someone who drives her cars hard (rally-crossing them in the dirt and pushing them through the scenic canyons near her Salt Lake City home) and who wrenches on them as well, Kuball knows her Evos’ engines in intimate detail. She thus speaks from experience when she says that these are not overly quirky cars.
“I've taken apart the engine on the Evo VIII,” she says. “I stripped the block, put the block back together, put the transmission together, and did my own clutch and installed the turbo. There’s not really anything in there that doesn’t make sense or that’s too complicated. Honestly, even if you’re new to the Evo world, they're so easy to work on. Everything's open and when done right, they’re so reliable.”
Kuball is helped in all of this by a community that, she says, is refreshingly helpful.
“Everyone with Evos is always super open,” she says. “No one ever says, ‘Oh, that's my modification, I'm not going to tell you how to do that.’ It’s more like, ‘Here’s how you do it. Let me get you in contact with this person.’ The culture is what I really enjoy, just meeting all these people and being able to share parts with other owners around the world when I need them.”
Desire, it is said, is insatiable: when one wish is satisfied, another immediately steps up to take its place. Kuball, however, may have solved for this, at least where her cars are concerned.
“When people ask me, ‘what's your dream car?,’ I always say, ‘I own it. It's my Evo 8," she says. “Sure, there are other cars that might be cool to have, but if I had all the money in the world, I'd have a big garage and a fleet of Evos, so I'm good. I'm just an Evo enthusiast through and through."
And if you need proof of this, just look at Kuball’s hoodie or, better yet, in her garage.
Clark Aegerter is a lifestyle and fashion photographer based in Salt Lake City with an eye for capturing the spirit of the outdoors.
Aaron McKenzie is a Los Angeles based writer, photographer, and producer with an eye for all things automotive. You can see more from him by checking out his Instagram (@aaronwmckenzie).
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