Model, Text and Photos by: James L. Ravelo II
"The team Mitsubishi Ralliart reigned supreme in the World Rally Championships from 1996 to 1999 with their four consecutive drivers' titles earned with the exceptional skill of Tommi Makinen, plus the constructors' title in 1998. However, the tables turned in 1997 with the introduction of new World Rally regulations. The new, pure World Rally Cars are allowed a wider range of modification (engine change, turbo installation, and power train modification permitted) then Group-A cars and allowed European makers to stray from their market molds and enter machines with turbo 4WD. While Mitsubishi's Group-A Lancer Evolution was able to compete on even ground with the new suped-up machines of the pure World Rally competition, Mitsubishi decided to do a little extra modification of its own with their unveiling of a new World Rally Car in round 11, Sanremo 2001. Although it was named after and looked like the "Lancer Evolution", the Lancer Evolution VII WRC was based on the 4-door compact sedan "Lancer Cedia." The 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, differential with active control locking system, and other mechanics developed in Group-A were improved. McPherson strut with coil spring suspension was given longer stroke for gravel driving. By mounting engine towards the back, front to rear weight balance was imrpoved to 55:45. In the 2002 season, Mitsubishi entrusted their new machine to veteran F. Delecour and hot-shot A. McRae. Round 9, the Finland Rally, saw the debut of the Lancer Evolution WRC2, literally an evolved version of the Evolution VII." - manual text
The kit comes in 17 parts - 7 runners (in white, black, clear color, red, or chrome plated), the body, a tire bag, polycap bag, two wet-transfer decal sheets, a metal transfer sticker sheet, a tire decal sheet, a masking seal sheet, mesh, and the manual. Assembly dictates the use of styrene cement for some parts and of course, painting which is best recommended done as the building process proceeds.
The fold-out manual is done in typical Tamiya style. It's printed in black and white, featuring a picture of the completed kit and a short description of the car (in English, German, French and Japanese) in front, required and/or recommended tools and paints to use on the second page, and also detailed step-by-step building instructions on the second page, and painting, metal transfer sticker, decal application and tire decal application, and an aftermarket service card at the last page. Too bad though the aftermarket service card is only for Japanese use. One amusing note about the manual is the addition of pictures of big-head characters in Mitsubishi driving suits that give out tips. One gripe about the manual is an inconsistency regarding the bonnet mesh. The picture of the completed kit shows a white-colored bonnet mesh, while the decal application guide shows a black-colored mesh. Oh well...
Unlike the previous generation of Lancer Evolution kits (Lancer Evolution V WRC, VI GSR and VI WRC) which had the front and rear bumpers molded separately, the body is now molded in one piece. Details are as sharp as can be expected from Tamiya, down to the two intake holes between the grille and intercooler intake, even to the rivets on the side of the body and front bumper, and the rear bonnet latches. Some parts of the body though would require the drilling of small holes for certain parts to go in. The rear wing is made up of three pieces - the two red side parts (from a separate parts runner) and the white upper part (from another separate parts runner). I don't know if it's just me or the way the rear wing was made, but I had difficulty in putting it together, as the guide holes on the inside of the wing's side parts were too small to be of any help in attaching them to the upper part of the rear wing, especially if you messed up on the first attempt and left some melted plastic on the guide holes.
Also attached later on as separate parts are the 5 (!) antennas, the 4 door handles, the two-piece roof scoop (it would've been better if it was made up of one piece to eliminate unsightly seam lines), roof-mounted TV camera, the bonnet locking clips (chrome plated), the side mirrors, mesh, "engine and air intake" detail underneath the bonnet, headlight/grille and taillamps, and the glass areas (it has a reduced area on the passenger's side to make room for the separate area with circular holes which is not longer just a wet-transfer decal). Because of the design of the Lancer Evolution's door sides' beltline, care should be taken when applying the wet transfer decals as the beltline's raised and recessed areas might trap air bubbles underneath it. I got through that problem by painting the recessed area of the beltline white (to ensure even if i tear the decal a bit, which did happen, it'd still be white underneath), then putting on the decals and pushing out the air trapped inside.
The headlight/grille part is quite different from before, as without it, you can't attach the body securely to the chassis as the rear of the headlight/grill part contains the guide hole to secure the guide peg of the chassis. The Mitsubishi logo on the grill is attached onto the black panel on the headlight/grill part, and it'd require a metal transfer sticker. The taillamps are what I feel to be the most innovative part of the kit. Each taillamp is composed of three parts - the chrome plated backplate, a clear red cover plate, and a clear cover plate. Thus, it needs no painting at all, but once the taillamp assembly is completed, it is quite difficult to insert over the taillamp hole. However, it still mounts flush to the body, so there's no problem in that area.
The wet transfer decals apply without a problem, although one exception was the driver's side decal. After soaking it for the required time, it wouldn't come off the decal sheet backing. Turning over the decal sheet backing, I noticed a white spot on it, which led me to hypothesize it was some sort of adhesive that had accidentally gotten onto the decal sheet, which while dry wasn't obvious, became visible after wetting. Anyway, after contacting Tamiya's customer service where I explained to them the nature of the problem and supplied them with pictures of the problem, they sent the replacement decal sheets (both sheet "a" and "b" although the problem part was from sheet "a") through air mail and I got it three weeks later, and included in the package was a listing of new items for spring 2003, a small poster of the Vought F4U-1A Corsair (sold as the 1/48 scale Aircraft series no. 70), and a poster/data sheet of the 1/10th scale R/C High Performance Racing Car Ferrari F2001.
One big foul-up on my part happened when i accidentally broke the rear part of the one-piece glass area in half while trimming off the excess plastic. While I contacted Tamiya about purchasing a replacement one-piece glass area (and the runner it was attached to), I have yet to receieve their reply, which made me think that they might have interpreted my purchase request as a replacement request. Anyway, unable to wait any longer as the last time I saw this kit from local stores (specifically, the branches of Tamiya's Philippine distributor, Lil's Hobby Shop) was December 2002 and the next time I saw this kit (and bought it to make sure I won't be having a problem later on in buying one) was late February 2003 and I couldn't resist finishing it quickly after the delay in acquiring the replacement decal sheets, I decided to improvise. After cutting off the broken rear glass area, I glued together the broken rear glass area, then got some thin clear plastic from the cover of a computer mouse box. Using hot (not necessarily boiling) water to melt the clear plastic a bit, I put it over the damaged part, then molded it into the correct shape. After that, it just needed painting and the required wet-transfer decals, and was attached to the body, with no obvious difference at all.
The parts are molded in white, black or clear plastic, and they would require detail painting to enhance realism. The suspension components are very nicely detailed and represented, although using accurately painted front and rear suspension protective covers would hide most of the details. Easily remedied though if the clear plastic molded suspension protective covers are left unpainted to show details of the suspension. One thing that I don't like though about the covers is that one of them, specifically the diffuser which would cover the area beneath the front bumper, requires that you glue it to the bottom of the front bumper, this making you unable to open up the kit again unless you break the diffuser (and hopefully not some parts of the bumper) off and reattach it later on, ad nauseam.
Being a curbside kit, this doesn't have an engine but the visible portions of the engine underneath the car is represented accurately (but would be later on covered up by the diffusers). A nicely detailed radiator (with fans) and intercooler, plus the oil cooler and are separate parts but attached later on. The drivetrain and exhaust system is also excellently detailed. The underside of the floorpan itself is very accurate, down to the last recess on the spare tire compartment on the trunk (unused though on the rally car as the spare tire is stored inside the cockpit). The brake systems are nicely detailed, with "AP" markings molded onto the rear brake calipers while the front brake calipers require "AP Racing" wet-transfer decals. Meanwhile, the front and rear brake discs depict ventilated ones but only for the sides facing outside.
The front suspension allows for not only turning movement for the wheels courtesy of polycaps inside the brake assemblies, but also steering movement, and the rear also lets the wheels turn courtesy of the same way the front does, through polycaps inside the brake assemblies. Included are 5 wheel rims which require a bit of detail painting to make them look more realistic, and decals are also required. Out of the 5 wheel rims, one of them would be designated as the spare one carried inside the car's cockpit. However, all wheel rims are molded the same way, so it would look rather unrealistic if the spare wheel rim had nuts in it, thus, I had to drill off the wheel nuts on one of the wheel rims and it was designated as the spare. The tires are gravel-spec and just has grooves, there is no worry on putting one backwards, and it also has tire decals.
The cockpit has parts molded in either white or black and would require detail painting along the assembly process. A lot detail exists, from the dashboard and console, seat mounts, fuel tank, rollcage, shock absorber tower covers, fire extinguishers and other accessories inside the cockpit. While the spare tire is now available and is stored behind the driver and co-driver's places, there's no way to secure it except to glue it to the floorpan or scratchbuild those securing straps. The dashboard though mounts differently, as it needs the finished rollcage to go in first, then it attaches to specific points in the rollcage, and so would the side panels and rear panel.
Now on to the gripes. They aren't actually gripes per se, but more like a wish list for those modelers without the time or talent or a combination of both to do quite substantial scratchbuilds of portions of the cockpit. One gripe that I could mention are the seatbelts. They're only decals. Granted, they were done quite nicely but those seeking to add more realism can make a more accurate representation of the seatbelts, although those who don't have the time and/or skills can settle for the provided seatbelt decals. Another one is with the picture of the completed cockpit on the box. It shows a dashboard with carbon-fiber trim, while there isn't any carbon-fiber decal included in any of the wet-transfer decal sheets. Well, while some people can actually replicate the carbon-fiber trim with paint instead of decals, it's quite misleading with what Tamiya did, and I hope it was just a sincere error.
Tamiya's done a great kit with all the new features they put in. However, it still has its shortcomings, but they would be compensated with by skilled modelers and/or those with enough time and materials on hand. I would recommend this kit not just for Lancer Evolution fans (like me), but for scale model builders in general.
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