Text: Wooley // Photos: Matt Jones

The DSM… one of the most disrespected and unloved options in the culture these days. Yet – still one of the strongest power-wise, and one of the most timeless visually… if you agree that curves represent timeless design. So realistically, why do the Eclipse/Talons get so much hate within today’s fanboy scene? I’ve kind of racked my brain, and asked around on Facebook… and it seems like most of the generic criticisms can be wrapped up into 2 categories: 1) Crank walk 2) JDM trends


Ok, so let’s start with crank walk. First of all… crank walk is kind of dried-up old news, and not really that pressing anymore, because a lot of the crank walk problems have already turned up and been weeded out. It’s kind of like worrying about leprosy – yes it can happen, but it probably won’t. The better news than ‘leprosy’ is, if crank walk happens, you’re out a motor… definitely a setback, but not the end of the world. For example – wrapping your car, ANY car, around a tree would be much more of a setback than crank walk… and it’s probably more likely too. Yet – the crank walk reputation still lives strong. And we can thank the internet for that. It happens to 5% of the cars… yet 1,000% of the people on the internet gossip about it forever. People that have never owned the cars talk about how bad it is.


Hell – people who don’t know what ‘crank walk’ is… chime in and talk about it every time they see a DSM posted on the internet – calling the DSM’s durability into question. And it goes back to that never-ending dilemma that – people on the internet just don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about most of the time. They simply just don’t have the qualification to weigh in on the topic. Pretty much all of you reading this magazine know that DSMs are infamous for crank walk. Why? Because you’ve read it on the internet. Ok. So how many of you actually know a guy who has had a DSM… and it crank walked. If you’re raising your hand right now, you’re in the very small minority. So congratulations I guess.


But I will give you this much – DSMs are sort of a pain in the ass to work on. They are not simple, like a Honda. They are higher maintenance cars. And when they malfunction, it’s harder to diagnose the problem, it’s hard to physically get to the problem, and it’s harder to change the part and put it all back together again. And sometimes you go through all those motions, put the car back on the ground, and the problems isn’t even fixed – you misdiagnosed it. And when these type of things happen, in a lot of circumstances… the owners run to the Internet, and start bitching about how shitty their car is. I know. I’ve had a DSM for a dozen years… and I’m guilty of doing that at some point. Sometimes a DSM will make you lose your composure. But when you see people calling the DSM into question on the internet, you’ve got to ask yourself: who is this dude? Is he experienced? Is he a builder? Is he a racer? Or is he just some backyard mechanic who’s losing his cool & getting frustrated – because his car’s broken, and he can’t fix it in an hour.


Which leads me to my next pretty valid point about DSMs:
Point blank – unlike many other popular imports of the 90’s… DSMs are actually fast enough to break themselves. Keep this in mind, because it’s a key point to think about. You don’t have that problem with a Civic, or an Integra, or a Prelude, or a Miata, or a Corolla, or an unswapped 240… because those cars don’t make any torque. And in general, none of those cars are fast enough to even break themselves, until you start getting deep into mods. Funny, however, that you DO see these problems with the RX7, and the Z32 turbo. With more power & more complicated engineering, comes more complexity… and that means more eventual issues, and more complicated maintenance. That’s just the way it is. So in a way, the DSM is in a company outside of its class, and outside of its price-point. And that mean it attracts a younger, more immature, less experienced, more reckless, thrill-seeking buyer. In short – the youth. And therefore – the DSM’s reputation has been tainted by its own owners. Let me tell you what happened. As the import scene was booming, street racer tuner punks (like me) bought the DSM in the 90s and early 2000s, because they look rad… and because they outran everything else in their class – in the day. Then – these kids realized with $1500 worth of exhaust and a boost controller… they were raping the shit out of everybody. With $1500 in a Honda… you’re lucky to gain 15 horsepower at the wheels. With $1500 in a DSM, you can gain 2 seconds in the ¼ mile. So people were throwing bolt-ons at the cars, with no real long term insight/plan as to what they were doing. They’d puke the turbo… and throw a bigger 20G on there. They’d then puke the clutch, and throw a Stage4 drag clutch on it.


And then after 5 years of daily abuse… low & behold… guess what would happen. The car would give in and break. It’s just a machine, and machines wear out. The more complex they are, usually the more quickly it will happen. But then what did the owners do. Did they take it like a man, realize that they caused their own demise, and rebuild? No – not at all. They kicked tires, threw wrenches, talked shit, pointed the finger at Mitsubishi… and then sold the car, and kept forever talking shit about the DSM. So is crank walk the unavoidable fate of every DSM – nope. I have 200,000+ miles on my GST, and I’ve been beating on it since 2001 – stock original block. Every car has its strengths, and every car has its weak links. In fact – it’s usually the strengths that end up revealing the weak links. But there is a lot to take into consideration, when you’re reading reviews on the internet. And remember, in the end, the turbo Eclipse/Talons run the 4G63 engine, so it’s a pretty safe bet. Sure, you’re door handles and side skirts might fall off at red lights… but that motor under your hood is (arguably) one of the strongest and most proven 4-cylinders ever made.


A second huge factor for DSMs falling off: the scene & the culture changed. Yep – the import scene began going through hormonal changes, good & bad, and it pulled the rug right out from under the DSM. When the import scene first really exploded in the late 90s, the 95-99 turbo Eclipse was one of the kings. Pop that blow-off-valve in the parking lot, and see if people didn’t come running. This was the ricer hay-day. But you younger kids HAVE to get this in your head and understand your history: back then, it wasn’t rice. It became ‘rice’ later, when the trend started falling apart. But back then – it wasn’t looked down on… it was looked up to. This is what the trendsetters were doing. It was the style of the day. It was how we set the bar. (Kind of like you look at ride height and a nice set of wheels today.) Completely wild, kitted, vinyled, and booming… or GTFO.


Well – as the JDM styles began to take over and flood in – the DSM began to lose its throne with the in-crowd. It was losing its home. The smaller Hondas adapted very well, because of their JDM origins, and JDM aftermarket Honda support. At the same time, we had the drift scene growing on American shores… and that also brought in huge JDM influence. Up until this point, cars like the S13, FC, and AE86, had been outdated, forgotten, and out of style. But with all the new awareness of JDM parts options… they came back around in full swing. The DSM, however, is not JDM. And it has no JDM aftermarket options. So as the import culture was moving to a more sophisticated JDM influence… we had nothing to offer the Eclipse/Talon… but discount American Blitz bodykits. DSM owners never had an outlet to keep up with the styles.


So here is where we sit today. The loyal ol’ school DSMers have kind of gone their own way. A lot of ‘em think that the import culture went completely homosexual over the last few years… which is kinda what I think about hip-hop. Until now, there has not been a DSM featured in this magazine since we’ve gotten a hold of it. Yet – 2 out of 3 of the mag’s owners either do have, or have had DSMs. We are believers. But we are hard-pressed find one that fits with the mag. Of the modded DSMs that remain on this planet – 1/3 seem to be drag cars… fast as shit, but fugly and unstreetable. Another 1/3 are simply out of date – still stuck in that 10-year-past mark. And the last 1/3 are fast and very well kept… but look almost completely stock, which is boring for a magazine. But this one is a little different. Fast – yes. Well done – yes. Well fitted – yes. Daily – yes. And you can talk all the shit you want about the DSM bloodline, but when we get down to the facts – what else can you buy on Craigslist for $3,000… that comes with a factory turbo, 4G63-level potential, and this much aftermarket support? You can buy a Honda or a 240 for $3000… and those are great options.


But then realize, that you ALSO have to buy a motorswap, you have to buy all the associated parts, and you have to do the swap (or have it done professionally and spend even more $$$). Wisely invest that same cash in the DSM’s factory 4G63… and you will beat the above cars like they’re puppies who just peed on the carpet. All I’m saying is – if you’re not currently in the position to do a complete motorswap, Mitsubishi already did that for you… a 4G63 swap. And the car is underpriced right now, because the demand is not there… not like it is for Honda & 240 chassis. But demand comes and goes. And that’s kinda what being a real leader is all about – seeing potential, seeing style, making your own educated decisions, and seeing it through. A lot of people in this scene call themselves trendsetters… but then they go out and buy the same damn chassis as all of their scene-friends, they Google the perfect wheel fitment, and then they pray for haters. This car belongs to Caleb, and when he was shopping around for a car, all import options were on the table. But he kept going back to the DSM. And he couldn’t find a good, solid reason why the import culture didn’t see its potential & beauty. So he decided that was just all the more reason to go with it… to prove it to ‘em. This is Caleb’s GSX, and he doesn’t have to waste any time praying for haters.


This feature is from back issue No. 25 – pick up some of our back issues, or subscribe in our store here.