The import-only Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution I, II and III offer 90 per cent of the same turbocharged performance, four-wheel drive grip and rally kudos that later Evos offer, but at a fraction of the price. And being lighter than later versions you feel more in touch with the road. As Simon Norris as Evo gurus Norris Designs emphasises: "These early Evos are very lightweight, but don't forget - they do lack the refinement of the later models. And given their age reliability may not be as good."
Spot the difference time!
The first 250bhp Lancer Evolution went on sale in Japan in October 1992, and buyers could choose between a well-equipped 1,240kg GSR model and a back-to-basics 1,170kg RS rally-car version. Both were five-speed manuals.
The Lancer Evolution II arrived in January 1994 with a deeper front air dam, a new rear spoiler with 'Evolution II' stamped on it, rear foglights (on the GSR version), OZ alloys, a wider track and longer wheelbase, larger wheel arches, revised gear ratios and an increase in power to 260hp, whilst the aerodynamically-revised 270hp Evo III was launched in August 1995.
RS models shed ABS, air conditioning, various bits of interior trim and electrical items and the Recaros were replaced by bucket seats, whilst a mechanical rear limited-slip diff replaced the viscous one fitted to the GSR. A complete service history from arrival in the UK is strongly recommended, and your Evo I, II or III must have the relevant SVA document to be run on UK roads. Early Evo engines can take a lot of punishment, but avoid examples cars fitted with JDM fuel cut defenders or boost controllers. Proper UK remaps, or replacement ECUs, are your wisest route to greater power.
Buy if: you are on a budget - but you must be prepared to wait a few months for the right car
Don't buy if: you're looking for the ultimate in contemporary comfort or reliability
We found: 1995 Evo III, grey metallic, service history, 62K miles, £4,895
Poor: Less than £1,995
Good: £2,000 to £3,500
Special Editions: No limited edition models made, but low-mileage RS models (designed for rallying) can command a small premium.