Mitsubishi Hill Climbers find Westside hotrod shop

       For the second straight year, a small Westside hotrod shop is working with a team from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Matt Clark (left), who owns Clarks Metal and Speed with his wife CJ, stands beside driver Hiroshi Masuoka, in one of the two Mitsubishi Electric Division entries Clark is helping work on for the June 30 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. The photo was taken inside the Clarks' hotrod shop.
Westside Pioneer photo

       That shop is Clarks Metal and Speed, 106 S. Chestnut St., which mechanic Matt Clark and his wife CJ opened in May 2012. “It's a pretty big deal for us, as a new shop in Colorado Springs, getting a deal with Mitsubishi,” said CJ, the shop's business manager. “After last year, they saw our services were invaluable. We have our old hot rod shop, and they come in with state of the art technology.”
       The Japanese company will have two cars entered in the same race (the Electric Vehicle division) for the 91st Race to the Clouds Sunday, June 30. The Mitsubishi team linked up with the Clarks last year through a common link - Rod Millen of MillenWorks, a California-based automotive technology company. Millen has also built cars for the Hill Climb.
       Matt Clark is hardly a stranger to the Hill Climb, having attended it for all but 1 of his 29 years. His parents, Jeff and Vicki, were regular race spectators, and started taking Matt up there when he was just a baby. By age 8, he was already tinkering under the eyes of veteran Hill Climbers Gene Pacheco and Gary Lee Kanawyer.
       “They would give me little tasks to do, and it seemed like it came easy to me,” Matt recalled. “I think I was mechanically inclined and it grew as I got older.”
       The interest has not faded over the years. “My brain never stops,” he said. “I'm always thinking how a car is made and how I could make it better. It's a 7-day-a-week addiction.” Luckily for him, CJ's into cars as well, which is good, because even on vacations, “we go to hotrod shops,” Matt reported. “It's strictly cars.”
       Looking to the future, Matt said that one of his goals is to design a car of his own for Pikes Peak. “Definitely, definitely,” he said, “if the funding was ever there.”
       Mitsubishi brought two cars to the Hill Climb last year and two again this year. The difference is that both of them this time are the same car - the MiEV Evolution II. It's an upgraded version of the MiEV Evolution (one of the cars in 2012), which was piloted to a second-place finish by MMC vehicle development/test driver Hiroshi Masuoka. He is back this year, and six-time Hill Climb motorcycle champion Greg Tracy is driving the second car.
       The Evolution II “combines parts used in production vehicles with a high-capacity battery and high-output motors specially designed by MMC's suppliers,” the Mitsubishi website states. Other enhancements are in the steering (an all-wheel drive system has been added), along with “reduced weight and improved aerodynamics,” the website continues.
       Clark normally has two mechanics to help him, but added a third for the 2012 Mitsubishi effort, and has done so again this year. Mitsubishi brings its own crew also. Clark is officially the crew chief for Tracy's car, “but everyone works on all the cars,” he said.
       Matt and CJ have dedicated their entire 3,500-square-foot shop to Mitsubishi's needs for about a month leading up to the race, even ceasing work on local projects “so we can handle the massiveness of this operation,” she said.
       In an interview with Matt Clark and Masuoka at the shop, they said the goal this year is to shave a minute off the 2012 car's time of 10 minutes, 30 seconds up the 12.42-mile course.
       Which of the Evolution II drivers will do better? “Whichever one makes the fewest mistakes,” Clark replied.

Westside Pioneer article