We also paid a lot of attention to bracing up the cars midsection. The factory underchassis braces are two small wimpy tubes. We replaced them with Works Croxx Plate II. The Croxx Plate II is constructed of 4.5mm (31/416 of an inch) 6061 aluminum and then Type II clear anodized. It replaces the two factory front crossbars by combining them into one solid structural member to stiffen the chassis and prevent unwanted suspension deflection. Since all five mounting points of both bars are secured to one single plane, the Croxx Plate II sharpens the steering, helps keep the wheel alignment true underload, makes the car feel more solid and, for those of you out there taking your EVOs to extremes, it acts as a skid plate to prevent damage to undercarriage components from stones, road debris and the occasional hard landing after becoming airborne. For those who stick to tarmac use like us, the Croxx Plate II's other advantage is that it cleans up some of the underbody aerodynamics.

To really stiffen the chassis without resorting to a rollcage, we also used Cusco's new underchassis power braces. The power braces tie the chassis together completely, from our Croxx brace all the way to the back of the car. They bolt in at multiple points and form a stiff ladder frame that greatly reinforces the factory unibody. The braces are made of rectangular section steel tubing with hydroformed curves to maintain strength in this difficult-to-bend material. Hydroforming is a process of filling a tube with a fluid filled bladder for bending. This is the best way to bend a tube because it distributes the stress evenly about the tube and reduces the creation of weak zones. It is about the only way to bend a rectangular tube on its major axis without wrinkling it. The braces come in three parts: a front center brace, a center brace and side braces.

The installation is easy, using all existing factory holes. No drilling is required. One bolt required popping a sill plate off and sliding an arm under the carpet but was still pretty straightforward. These braces make the stiff EVO chassis noticeably stiffer by making the whole car feel tighter, more responsive to steering input and the ride noticeably smoother. As a good side effect they also reduce minor squeaks and rattles. When going up a sloped driveway at an angle it is readily apparent that the car is really stiff since it can lift wheels off the ground when doing this. The Cusco power brace system is the most inclusive and effective undercar brace setups on the market and give big gains in both torsion and bending. Although our car isn't allowed to run with a cage, we've done the next best thing to stiffen it.

Our EVO came stock with some really nice 17x8 forged lightweight BBS wheels. We liked them but wanted to put on some wider, stickier rubber and needed to make room for the huge brake upgrade, which we eventually plan to do. Volk came to our rescue with a set of feathery light CE28N wheels. We obtained a set of 18x9.5 CE28Ns with a 35mm offset and a gunmetal finish. The 9.5-inch wide CE28Ns are 1.5-inch wider than stock. This width will help keep our tread flatter on the road and are wide enough so we can eventually fit some 275 tires in our EVO's wheelwells.

Unlike the typical inexpensive cast alloy wheel, the CE28N is forged from one piece of billet. Forging is usually reserved for parts that must be very strong, like racing pistons or suspension arms. With forging, a piece of aluminum alloy is smashed in a die in the shape of the wheel with about 15,000 tons literally smashing the aluminum into the wheels final shape. This violent force works the metal refining its grain to make it much denser, tougher, more ductile and stronger. The process also causes the metals grain to flow around the wheels shape, aligning it which the direction of stress giving the wheel more strength where it's needed.