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Old 1st April 2009, 16:08   #1
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Default Phoenix & Me - My Lancer Review

It’s been close to 2 years of owning my Lancer, fondly christened “Phoenix”. The car itself will be 9 years old in August. The odo is closing in on 125,000 kms, having done about 15,000 kms since the restoration/rebuild in 2007, which one can read about here:
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/modifi...t-phoenix.html (Lancer overhaul - Project Phoenix)

An ownership report was long overdue, and since I have some time in hand now after being laid low by a back surgery, thought I'd give it a shot.

I won’t dwell much on the restoration process here, but a brief summary would help bring some context to this thread.
In a nutshell then:
  • Picked up the used car at a very cheap rate, thanks to the depreciation calculations that my father’s company were using. The car had been my father’s personal ride (provided by the company) prior to that. I didn’t pass on the opportunity. I was well acquainted with this car, having driven it several times since it was bought in 2000. It was in good shape and was serviced regularly. The usual cosmetic aberrations, caused by Kolkata’s roads and traffic were present, but nothing that a paintjob couldn’t cure. There was no rusting, which was important. The mechanicals needed work – engine, suspension, brakes etc.
  • Did an enormous amount of reading and studying to learn about auto restorations and the basics of automobile technology. Team BHP was the single biggest (though not the only) source of information and inspiration for this project. In fact, the whole exercise wouldn’t have happened otherwise. In retrospect, would have saved me a lot of cash… lol!
  • Did extensive planning in terms of costs, logistics and implementation after talking to various tuners/modifiers around the country. Eventually decided to divide the project into 2 main chunks – cosmetic restoration to be carried out in local outfit, engine modifications to be done in Mumbai.
  • Engine work included a full overhauling of the engine along with additional performance mods like porting + polishing, enlarged throttle body, oversized pistons and a three angle valve job. A custom made free flow exhaust and CAI (conical filter with an intake pipe) would complement the engine upgrades.
  • Cosmetically, I derived inspiration from scores of Lancer photos floating around on the www, eventually coming up with a look that was sleek and sophisticated without going over the top. Interiors needed sprucing up, which meant repainting the dashboard and door panels in a new palette paired with good quality upholstery. The exteriors needed some repairs and a paintjob along with some subtle body kits. Opted for the standard SFXi front and side skirts and created a custom rear skirt. The front bumper got a nice mesh grille and was modified to fit Swift fog lights. The colour of choice was a foregone conclusion – it had to be black, and that too jet black, which meant no green/blue/red sparkles or tinges. Settled for a BMW black from the Standox catalogue.
  • Tyres and alloys were chosen after even more research. The M6 replica alloys with Michelin PP2s came up tops eventually.
  • A suspension upgrade was also on the cards, in the form of Pedders struts and springs.
  • ICE upgrades were carefully planned, but each time I settled on something, I stumbled upon something new in the Team BHP ICE section that confused me and sent my plans for a toss! Highly dangerous section that is!
Some pics of the car when I got it:

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Old 1st April 2009, 16:43   #2
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The project was time consuming and highly frustrating at times. Logistics were a major issue, given that the engine was being sent to Mumbai and I was receiving parts from across the country, and even some from outside India. In addition, West Bengal has some weird and inconvenient waybill regulations for bringing stuff into the state which caused me a lot of grief. The weather wasn’t helpful either, with heavy rainfall across the country (especially in Mumbai and Kolkata) stalling progress. The Pedders took a long time to come thanks to some import problems.
Eventually, when the car rolled out of the workshop one late monsoon evening I was over the moon. The feeling didn’t last too long. A rebuild as extensive as this, which involved stripping the car to its chassis, taking apart everything and putting it all back together, would always have problems. I spent the next few months making the car work like it should, troubleshooting issues, getting them fixed – basically spending an insane amount of time in the workshop. My health suffered, my social life suffered – but this was my baby and I had to raise it right. Slowly but surely, the car became more and more reliable and the frequency of workshop visits reduced. A couple of years hence, I can proudly say that the car is in fine mechanical shape, is reliable, handles like a dream and is a pleasure to drive. Oh, and the ICE rocks!

Some WIP pics:

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Old 1st April 2009, 16:54   #3
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Pics of Phoenix:

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Old 1st April 2009, 17:00   #4
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Further upgrades made:
  • Fitted EBC Greenstuff front brake pads
  • Upgraded to new stock headlights with 90/100 bulbs (+ relay)
  • Added a short shifter, which makes gear shifting a joy
  • Used Petronas fully synthetic engine oil for about 10,000 kms, but switched to Castrol Magnatec during the last oil change
The biggest grouse I have with this car is the engine performance. The overhaul + mods didn’t meet my expectations. Maybe my expectations were wrong. In retrospect, had I been a bit more knowledgeable back then, I may have planned things out a little differently from the performance upgrade perspective. The Lancer’s 4G15 engine is not a performer. Period. So no matter how much you modify it for power, it will fall short of expectations. I should mention that a turbo was never in the equation – I wanted to keep things naturally aspirated. A MIVEC engine transplant would have probably been the way to go – would have meant a slightly increased budget, but then I would have saved on the old engine overhauling and modding costs.
But, having said all that, I feel that all this taught me a LOT. Prior to this, I had never seen an engine so up close and personal, I didn’t know how to troubleshoot mechanical issues, heck – I didn’t even know what some of the parts were called and what their purpose of existence was! And unless you go through the grind, you don’t learn. So this project helped me get my hands dirty – and I loved that!

Okay, so project talk done – here are some of the pros and cons as far as my ownership experience goes:

  • Looks: The Lancer is a looker – a head turner in stock form (the older variants anyway). I love the low slung sedan looks (hate the new fangled tall designs), and the subtle tweaks that I have given it makes it even more sexy. The paintjob is of a very good quality and the wide rubber and alloys completes the “purposeful and mean” look.
  • Interiors: Spacious, comfortable and contemporary after the new dual colour scheme and leather + art leather upholstery. The chrome painted bits add to the effect. Overall, a very nice cabin to sit in.
  • Handling and driveability: Hands down, the best part about the car. The Lancer is a good handler in stock form, and the Pedders suspension + PP2 tyres have taken it to another level. Handles like a dream, corners on rails and steering feedback is super. To date, I haven’t driven a car (in the sub-20L range) that feels nicer to “drive” – but this of course is based on my limited experience.
    I should also add here that the super slick cable gear shift with the short shifter makes gear changing a pleasure.
  • Braking: The EBC Greenstuff brake pads are excellent – no complaints here. The brakes are responsive and have great stopping power.
  • ICE: Took me a long time to nail down the right combo, but the end result was pretty good. I am running the following setup:
    • Head unit: Alpine CDE-9881 with Ipod adapter cable
    • 2-way Front Components: Illusion Electra EL6.1
    • Subwoofer: JBL GT4-12 in a sealed box
    • Amplifier: JBL GTO75.4
    • Connection wires: Stinger SWK8RS Pro Series wiring kit plus additional Monster Car Audio speaker wires & Phoenix Gold RCA cable
    • Full Damping (Noisekill) for the front doors
    • Rear fill (Pioneer coaxials) disconnected for now
The Lancer has good build quality, which helps the soundstage. No rattling noises (except the aftermarket parcel tray which I am working on) to take away from the musical experience. The Illusion components are super and I personally take credit for starting an Illusion “movement” of sorts in Kolkata (you’re welcome Ajay :P ) – several BHPians in town have ordered them after hearing them in my car! Overall, an excellent setup, but as we know, ICE is dangerous – sky’s the limit! Heh!
  • Safety: The car’s built really well. Airbags and ABS would have been good to have, but the structural deign and strength is in itself confidence inspiring. Several years ago, I experienced a high speed crash in this very car (I was in the front passenger seat) when we rear ended a stationary Opel Astra at over 60 kmph. Nothing happened to us, and even the engine escaped unscathed! I like to think that my family owes a fair bit to this car.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Not great, but I get 10+ kmpl from the car in city conditions with the AC on most of the time. And since I don’t exactly drive the car in “economy mode”, I am ok with the FE figures.
  • Sound: The free flow exhaust, custom made by Electra Performance, Chennai, sounds awesome. Along with the Ractive air filter, the car has a deep, sporty growl. There are times when I would have preferred a more silent car, but I like the way Phoenix sounds anyway.
  • Performance: I’ve touched on this already. The car is not that fast - Indian Lancers were not meant to be with the 4G15 engine. The mods have probably added a couple of horses to the engine, but it still suffers from poor low end torque, is not very high revving, and has a very narrow “sweet spot” in the rev band.
  • Ride: With the stiff suspension and low profile tyres (205/50/15), the ride is a little harsh. Bad Kolkata roads don’t help either.
  • Seats: Sorely lacks lumbar, thigh, side & neck support. Big problem, especially for someone like me who has back problems.
  • Age: With age comes the usual rattles, squeaks and minor irritants. It’s true of human beings, and it’s true of cars.

I love this car. I’ve sweat blood, tears and a lot of rupees to restore her to her present state. However, it is not getting younger. Pure logic would tell me to sell the car, instead of spending more time, money and effort on it. The fact that I have to renew the road tax for the car this year (close to 20k I am told for a 5 year renewal) should also catalyse my decision to part ways with it.
But then, logic doesn’t always work, does it? So the heart tells me to hang onto Phoenix, give her a new heart and a new lease of life. Truth be told, apart from the lack of pace, the car is in fine nick. The seats and rattles can be taken care of. A more powerful powerplant isn’t out of the question either – who knows!
Some facts that work in favour of keeping Phoenix:
  • A 2000 Lancer sells for peanuts in the used car market, and my restoration/modifications won’t raise the value one bit. Monetarily, I will take a huge hit.
  • There aren’t too many cars that will satisfy my needs after this car. I had narrowed down these:
    • Octavia vRS (used): would be a nice upgrade, but they are a rare breed, costly to maintain and we know the horrors of Skoda A.S.S.
    • Elantra CRDI (used): Great engine, comfortable, good VFM, but it’s a discontinued car and I wasn’t too thrilled at its handling. Also wasn’t that keen on a diesel sedan.
    • Cedia Sport (used): The new Lancer – almost settled for this, but then realized that I wouldn’t be happy with the (lack of) performance and would have to modify the engine anyway. Handling would also need to be improved, which meant I would have to spend a fair bit.
    • Getz CRDI/ i20 (new): Somehow not keen on “downgrading” to a hatch after driving a sedan!
  • I’ve worked very hard to bring this car up to scratch and to my satisfaction. Doesn’t really make sense throwing away all that effort, does it?
So that’s my story – confused, in love, and not sure where I’ll end up with my car. Watch this space I guess

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Old 1st April 2009, 17:10   #5
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A very neatly maintained vehicle. One of the best .second pic from the last is Superb.
A very nice and detailed review. Good paint job. Price of the alloys please?

Happy and safe driving.
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Old 1st April 2009, 18:39   #6
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Thats an experience i just lived through your words.
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Old 1st April 2009, 19:12   #7
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dude you better hold on to this car and banish all thoughts of selling it.

being another owner of a car brought up from the ashes (not literally), i would advice you that no other car would give you the same satisfaction as one you have brought back to life in your own way.

by the way how's your return from the modder's desk?
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Old 1st April 2009, 19:15   #8
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abhi that was straight outta your heart man. Made for a wonderful read and how is your back now, hope you recover from the surgery pretty soon.

When you know that selling this car will fetch you only peanuts, don't sell it period. Doesn't make sense to part with something into which you have put your heart and soul. Lets keep the monetary part aside since this aint mortal.

I have followed your restoration thread closely and suggest that you keep this car as a token of your hardwork and show it to your kids.
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Old 1st April 2009, 21:05   #9
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You love it man. The tyres and alloys add that exquisite touch. Head turner for sure. Keep updating the thread and am sure many would still want to know about it
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Old 2nd April 2009, 00:47   #10
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That has been a roller coaster journey for sure Razor Singh but I think it has taught you the lessons you need to learn. Now, I can't wait to see the MIVEC powered monster out on the roads Have fun!
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Old 2nd April 2009, 08:56   #11
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When Lancer came to India, the 1.5 petrol was nice. It was slower than the out and out ( by Indian standards at that time ) G1HC, Esteem and Baleno. But it had class and it still has. One of the best engineered car even today. Drive G3HC or SX4 and then drive Lancer. Lancer feels the best ( JUST MY OPINION BASED ON WHICH TYPE OF CARS I LIKE ). The car's engine is reliable if regular maintenance is done. Ride was good and the one you have that is the original lancer looks, is one of the best looking designs in the country even today. Despite the low riding stance, itS GC is nice.

Dont sell off this car. We have baleno that has space, grace, pace, FE and the list goes on long, but the new cars dont have a feel what Balneo gives us. Same goes for lancer. Atleast this car is still in production and spares availability is not an issue.

The car look neat. Yes it migth not be fastest, the quickest, but overall no other car can give you same amount of satisfaction as this car does.

Last edited by aaggoswami : 2nd April 2009 at 08:58.
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Old 2nd April 2009, 10:28   #12
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Great work done there. Important thing is you didn't overdo it. Looks fantastic! Congrats! I wish you many more miles in your 'Phoenix'.
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Old 2nd April 2009, 10:40   #13
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Great Modification.How did you insert Ralliart decal into the speedo?
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Old 2nd April 2009, 10:50   #14
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Thanks guys

Originally Posted by mnhegde View Post
Price of the alloys please?
A couple of years back they cost me 4k per wheel.

Originally Posted by rjstyles69 View Post
abhi that was straight outta your heart man. Made for a wonderful read and how is your back now, hope you recover from the surgery pretty soon.

When you know that selling this car will fetch you only peanuts, don't sell it period. Doesn't make sense to part with something into which you have put your heart and soul. Lets keep the monetary part aside since this aint mortal.

I have followed your restoration thread closely and suggest that you keep this car as a token of your hardwork and show it to your kids.
Thanks Riju. Not sure if I can preserve the car long enough for my kids to see and appreciate, but let's see...!

Originally Posted by iraghava View Post
Now, I can't wait to see the MIVEC powered monster out on the roads
That makes two of us. Fingers crossed.

Originally Posted by hillram View Post
How did you insert Ralliart decal into the speedo?
These are sticker-like inserts which replace the stock speedo stickers. They come with their own back-light, which can change colour (blue/light green) and brightness. Should be available at any good accessory shop.
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Old 2nd April 2009, 10:58   #15
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Default Hats Off!

Excellent review, Razor.

From the looks of the car when you got it, it was in great shape for a 7 year old car (you said it was a 2000 model you got 2 years ago).

Secondly, its evident that the modification work on the car entailed a huge investment in terms of money and patience. Wouldn't be possible without being a car nut yourself. Hats off to your dedication.

Looks like we both like the colour black. My car is different in all respects from yours (and has no mechanical mods except light alloys). But we've both gone for the phantom-like profile in Black. Let me put up the pics this weekend, then you'll understand what I mean.

Cant wait to see your phoenix in the forthcoming Kolkata Tbhp meet. Also sent you a PM yesterday.

Last edited by predatorwheelz : 2nd April 2009 at 11:00.
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