Jackie Chan & Evo


Every now and then a star becomes associated with a brand of car, usually by accident. Think the various incarnations of 007 and Aston Martin, of course, and perhaps Steve McQueen with the Ford Mustang. You could probably come up with a bunch of examples.

But it’s rare in the world of showbiz to have a situation where a global superstar is associated almost symbiotically with a car. Jackie Chan and Mitsubishi Evo is the only example we can think of.

The relationship between the Martial Arts movie superstar and the Mitsubishi corporation began at the end of the seventies, when an agreement was drawn up between the Chan empire and the car company to use Mitsubishis exclusively in his films.

Of all these, the most blatantly Mitsubishi branded is 1995’s Thunderbolt (below), in which Chan plays a Mitsubishi factory employee who graduates to test driving and then on to, well, saving his sister from the evil embrace of kidnappers, an equally malign bunch of street racers (in Skylines) and generally, the world.


But in terms of pure Evo-tastic action, 1998’s ‘Who Am I’ has to take the gong. Check out the central car chase scene in which a handcuffed action hero and two lovelies (one of whom is also handcuffed), evade a series of bad guys and cops in the streets of Amsterdam, seeing off an interesting assemblage of vehicles, ranging from an old Rover and a brace of 3-Series. Check the way the Evo itself lays waste to the bad fellahs, and the way the ‘Everyman hero’ image of the car is perfectly illustrated when a skillful stunt driver flicks the chased Evo snugly into a parking spot and thus goes unnoticed by the authorities as they streak by in pursuit. I wonder if this was written into the contract.

But its not only about product placement, this hookup. As honorary President of Ralliart China (the company’s motorsports arm), Chan hosted a series of celebrity-dotted race junkets that brought in the Asian glitterati to circuits all over the region. In 1995, Ralliart went ahead and sealed the deal into automotive immortality when they produced 50 Special-Editions of the Evo IX, with a requisite acreage of Carbon and Jackie Chan’s signature all over the detailing.

And you can see the symbiosis logically. Or what the advertising and marketing departments of the world used to call ‘synergy’ – Jackie Chan as understated, vibrant, unassuming yet powerful and explosive, the Evo and the star share a set of core values, proper and true.

The Evo might not save the world in itself, or do back flips and cause explosions with nary a sniff of combustable materials, but in the same way as Jackie Chan makes the commonplace cityscape erupt with action, this earthy piece of engineering makes everything seem fun and copes with danger most sublime…