David S. Wallens Editorial Director
July 14, 2017 7:49 a.m.

There’s just something so right about a car sporting box flares from the factory. It’s like its engineers got partway through the design before realizing, “Nope, we need to stretch the car even wider in order to fit in all of this awesomeness.”

It’s a solution perfectly demonstrated by several favorites, including the Porsche 944, Nissan Skyline GT-R and, of course, the original BMW M3. There’s one more to add to that list, though: the Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R and its stateside twin, the Conquest TSI.

The car didn’t start out so beefy. Mitsubishi released the Starion in 1982 as a narrow-bodied, somewhat meek 2+2 sports coupe. Turbo and non-turbo variants were offered in the home market.

American imports started with the 1983 model year, and stateside consumers weren’t limited to shopping at their local Mitsubishi dealer. The exact same car, with the appropriate labels, was also sold as a Plymouth Conquest and, later, a Chrysler Conquest. Either way, all U.S.-market cars received a turbocharged 2.6-liter, single-cam inline-four.

“Somewhat meek” doesn’t mean it was a dud, though. Dave Wolin and others turned that original Starion into an endurance race winner, and before he became a Hollywood movie star, Jackie Chan drove one across the silver screen in “Cannonball Run II.”

And then things got serious for 1986: a set of IMSA-worthy box flares for those top-of-the-line Starion ESI-R and Conquest TSI models. Fat, 16-inch wheels–7s up front and 8s in the back–filled those flares. Mitsubishi also added an intercooler, boosting horsepower to 176. (Starting with the 1988 model year, an ECU change helped push that figure to 188 ponies.)

While it was a bit of a niche player in the mass market, the wide wheels, torquey engine and limited-slip differential helped the car dominate the G Stock class in SCCA Solo competition from 1989 to 1993–until competitors figured out the Mazda MX-6, the class’s next superstar.

The Conquest and Starion left our showrooms after the 1989 model year, with Mitsubishi abandoning the rear-drive sport coupe market in favor of the all-wheel-drive 3000GT Enthusiasts, too, seemed to gravitate to options sporting either more power or less weight. As a result, prices have remained kind of flat. A nice 1987 example recently went unsold on Bring a Trailer at $6518.

Still, if you’re looking for the perfect, unique accessory for that Members Only jacket, then a clean Starion might fit the bill.

Read the rest of the story

4cylndrfury MegaDork
July 14, 2017 7:56 a.m.

Ahh the 80s...Starions, Celicas, Corollas, Turbo Buicks & T-top Cutlasses...so much quirkiness to love. SWMBO will never understand my affection for the blocky whips of my youth.

David S. Wallens Editorial Director
July 14, 2017 8:05 a.m.

Cool, glad that you're digging it. Look for some turbo Buicks in the near future.

4cylndrfury MegaDork
July 14, 2017 8:11 a.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: Look for some turbo Buicks in the near future.

tuna55 MegaDork
July 14, 2017 8:13 a.m.

I have wanted one of those forever.

David S. Wallens Editorial Director
July 14, 2017 8:53 a.m.

A dude in my high school had a black one--this was back when they were new. I didn't know him, but I remember seeing it out in the parking lot.

NickD SuperDork
July 14, 2017 9:20 a.m.

A guy I knew in college bought a used Conquest TSi. It blew black smoke like a diesel from the day he got it. Turns out that it had a massive boost leak. He fixed that and it immediately kicked the rods out of the block.

yupididit Dork
July 14, 2017 10:44 a.m.

I have two black one's sitting in my garage. An 87 and an 88 SHP.

I believe in 85 or 86 they had intercooled flatties. Which were rare. And dont forget the SHP package that were available for the 88 and 89's. It had adjustable shocks, 16x8 front and 16x9 rear wheels, and a stronger 6 bolt rear and axles.

I love these cars, the looks are beautiful and the interior is so 80's. What I dont love about the car, the engine. The 2.6 made lots of torque because its size but it was heavy and was basically a truck/forklift engine. With tbi injection the 2.6 wasnt reliable and didnt get fuel to all the cylinders evenly especially the 4th cylinder. People had a lot of reliablity issues because of the injection system even some cars catching fire. Overseas they got the sohc 4g63 engine with mpi. The aftermarket for these cars is meh at best.

I love my 87 and I'll probably keep it forever. It travels with me when I move across the country, even when it's not running which is always

Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
July 14, 2017 10:58 a.m.

My buddy Vince Kowalski had a very early Starion Turbo when we first got our driver's licenses. (back in 1986) I think his was an 83 or an 84--- before the box flares, and it had an even more ridiculous interior. (like Jackie Chan's car in the first Cannonball Run movie) Digital gadgetry FTW!

I learned how to drive stick in that car. Back then Vince thought it was fast.....it wasn't. It was cool though, when it was running. I was never sure if it broke so often because Vince beat the everloving E36 M3 out of the car, or because it was flawed to begin with. Turns out, it was a combination of both. I don't think there is car that epitomizes the 80's more than a Starion Turbo. Flashy, funky, cool, and kinda crappy!

yupididit Dork
July 14, 2017 11:31 a.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin:

The "technica" package had digital gauges and all sorts of talking to you thingy's. I would love to add a technica flatty to my stable!

Trackmouse SuperDork
July 14, 2017 1:19 p.m.

I believe the common swap for these is a 4G 63 engine with turbo? Either way I love that 80s boxiness. It's one of the reasons I chose my Celica, which also came with a boat anchor open engine. Although I do know of one starion that has a Lexus V eight hint hint

classicJackets HalfDork
July 14, 2017 1:34 p.m.

These still have some of my favorite factory wheels of anything, ever, on top of being awesome with the widebody.

When I do a 5 lug swap on my Courier, these are the wheels I want it to wear (ideally those 16x8/9 stagger coolness)

NickD SuperDork
July 14, 2017 2:29 p.m.
Trackmouse wrote: I believe the common swap for these is a 4G 63 engine with turbo? Either way I love that 80s boxiness. It's one of the reasons I chose my Celica, which also came with a boat anchor open engine. Although I do know of one starion that has a Lexus V eight hint hint

I have yet to see a swapped StarQuest that kept it in the family. I have seen 1UZ, all manner of LSx, and both flavors of Toyota JZ.

Grizz UberDork
July 14, 2017 3:29 p.m.

In reply to NickD:


Here's one.

yupididit Dork
July 14, 2017 6:33 p.m.

Most swaps are 4g63 or 1/2jz and then LS with lots of cutting.

84FSP Dork
July 14, 2017 9:01 p.m.

Love these. Was talking with a few local afficanados who hit the conquest club meet in gatlinburg recently. There was something like 12 cars that showed which gave me a sad

Vigo UltimaDork
July 14, 2017 10:54 p.m.

I haven't owned a Starion (yet) but from everything i've read it seems like a lot of the problems come down to wiring issues and people not understanding how the 2-injector tbi system works or is supposed to work.

I've got a lot of experience with the basic g54b engine (own two in running vehicles currently and dad drove one for the first 14 years of my life with it being probably the first engine i ever turned a bolt on) and while they definitely aren't the MOST reliable out there, again it seems like the main knock on them is that it's not a 'sporty' engine. Or a few people who kept driving with the oil pressure light on because their secondary timing chain failed and engine 'ran fine' so they drove until it seized up.

So yeah, it's a truck engine with some known foibles in a sports car with wiring that doesn't age gracefully that runs a 2-injector TBI system that you have to understand to effectively modify. I guess that's bad enough but it still seems like the popular opinion of Starions can mostly be characterized as people that don't know enough to keep up with them letting them break and then calling them junk.

Boost_Crazy HalfDork
July 15, 2017 12:23 a.m.

I've got one as a Lemon's car. My expirience with it makes me really want a nice street version. The cars are actually very well built, interiors that used much better materials than many cars of their time. Which was also kind of the problem, as there is lots of extra weight thought the car. The engine itself was a pleasant surprise. Not a sporty feeling engine, but torque for days. It was the muscle car of '80's Japanese cars.

I think Mitsubishi is really missing the boat by not introducing a modern version of the Starion.

Brett_Murphy PowerDork
July 15, 2017 12:26 a.m.

Apropos of nothing, I know where one of these is for sale. It has some sort of coil-overs on it, too.

Zomby Woof PowerDork
July 15, 2017 8:39 a.m.

Vintage views was always my favourite part of the magazine.

Mitsu had it going on in the 80's. It was a good time to be an enthusiast. The cars were crude, but fast and fun. And they looked great!

Dbussey1 Reader
July 15, 2017 10:19 a.m.

I had a silver '86 in college. Bought it with 56k miles, not running, with a dented flare and a stuck window. Fixed the problems in an afternoon and drove it for two years - still my favorite car.

The G54B is a heavy and quirky, with balance shafts, jet valves and all. But its a solid enough engine by 1980's standards. I agree that most of the issues come down to wiring and a misunderstanding of the fueling system. Maintained properly in stock form, they're just fine and make for a fun little car.

Appleseed MegaDork
July 15, 2017 2:41 p.m.

Those might be the best looking stock wheels ever to grace any car from the 80s.

July 15, 2017 2:54 p.m.

Prices for these are all over the place. It's really a hassle to sort through.....not but really, $5k for one without an engine or trans, or $2k for one with all the windows broken/damaged or $500 for a stripped car with clear title but needs EVERYTHING.

yupididit Dork
July 15, 2017 3:14 p.m.

In reply to Sine_Qua_Non:

You can get a pretty decent one for 5k. Just have to know where to look.

Advan046 UltraDork
July 15, 2017 3:51 p.m.

I raced a Quest-Star when my Merkur XR4ti had a wiring harness short mid race. So I asked my cousin if I could borrow his for a couple of weeks and managed to score points in it on the frozen michigan lakes.

I told my cousin I would take the car when he was ready to move on several times. But he forgot when it wouldn't start one day and sold it. I was fully prepared to do the 4g63 swap with a standalone computer running the show. It would probably still be with me.

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