The Story Behind the 420HP Dragstrip Minivan: Your Ride
There’s a common theme among superheros— the unlikely, sometimes ill-equipped character rises above to become a supernova of unmatched power. Take Captain America and Spider-Man for example. It’s a theme that permeates the automotive world as well, and perhaps no better than in a car like this. Not a shape you recognize? This is a 1993 Eagle Summit all-wheel-drive minivan. In its natural environment, it’s an all-weather people shuffler. In the hands of owner Leon Reitman… it’s a dragstrip demon. Reitman has earned YouTube fame for his stunning wins against Toyota Supras, Ford Mustangs, and even Dodge Vipers and a Nissan GT-R. Something an Eagle Summit naturally shouldn’t be able to do. We had to know more about this incredible 420-horsepower monster from New England, and Leon was kind enough to fill us in…
Just how does a 420hp minivan ever come to be?
By trade I am a mechanical engineer, who originally wanted to design cars. However, I quickly realized the Boston area wasn’t conducive to working in the automotive industry… so I ‘settled’ on designing robots. To address my automotive needs I’ve been building and racing turbo all-wheel-drive Eclipses and Talons since the mid ‘90s, long before it became popular amongst the kids.
In my early days of trying to understand boost control, I met Gus Mahon, a brilliant car guy with incredible heart. Before he passed away, Gus raced front-wheel-drive turbo Mopars – a 12 second Plymouth Acclaim and a 13 second Dodge Caravan – at a time when four-cylinder cars weren’t supposed to be fast. Seeing his minivan and its enormous popularity, I had an idea – why not take Mitsubishi’s minivan and transplant one of my 4G63 engines into it?
That’s quite the recipe!
Absolutely. In hindsight, it wasn’t that original of an idea. Mitsubishi sells these minivans with turbo 4G63 engines in other markets under the RVR name, but I wasn’t aware of them at the time.
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Tough to find a good donor vehicle?
I started keeping an eye on the market in the late ‘90s. At first they were too expensive, then as the price plummeted so did the condition of these vans. Eventually I got lucky and found this 1993 Eagle Summit AWD, which spent most of its life in Arizona.
Can you describe the build?
At first, I just drove the Summit around with its stock 2.4-liter engine. I upgraded parts as things broke – Evo VIII suspension and Evo III radiator. After two years, the clutch failed and it was time to do the swap!
Mechanically, it was relatively simple, however electrically the two engines are very different. Most people just use a 4G63 turbo harness, instead I re-pinned the original and found a turbo ECU that shared the same plugs. It has all the typical modifications found in 400 to 500hp DSMs.
Making power from a 4G63 engine is the easy part, putting it to the ground is another matter. Nobody makes suspension modifications for these vans. I’m on a second set of custom parts and I still wish I could get a custom rear sway bar. The drivetrain uses a slightly modified stock transmission and ACT 2600 clutch. Unfortunately, upgrading the rear end to a limited-slip differential would require JDM parts or custom axles, so for now I’m still using an open rear end.
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What does driving an Evo in a minivan disguise feel like?
On the street it’s okay, but it doesn’t come close to racing. At the track, this van becomes a superstar – people just can’t get enough of it and the reaction goes from ridicule to astonishment in just a few seconds. This was the intended purpose of the build, however it has exceeded my wildest expectations.
If there is a downside, it is that I find myself going to the race track more often than I should. I am between autocross events and drag racing every other weekend. That generates more videos, more popularity, and a desire to do more racing… not an easy task with three active kids. That soccer bumper sticker isn’t just for looks!
Any plans for the future?
The future includes a fresh paint, way too many people in this area know what this car is… so the beater look isn’t fooling anyone anymore. I’m looking to install a Forced Performance RED turbo, which should be good for another 100 horsepower. But the bigger problem is not being able to race my van at the dragway anymore… due to it getting faster.
At an 11.69 second time, the van is already right up against the 11.50 mark, and going below will require a roll bar. Because I still use the van to shuttle my kids around town, I can’t install one and effectively make it a two-seater. Bit of a dilemma! For now, I will see how fast I can make it, but once the track tells me I can’t go faster than 11.50… I will have to slow down.
Race Weight: 3,070 pounds with driver
Engine: Mitsubishi 4G63 (from ’90-’92 Eagle Talon)
Turbo: Mitsubishi 20G
Power: 420hp all-wheel-drive
Fuel: 93 Octane
Tires: Toyo Proxy R1R
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