A rose by any other name is still a rose, but is a Dodge Conquest by any other name still a Dodge Conquest? It turns out yes. Branded alternatively as a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Conquest and Mitsubishi/Colt Starion, the iconic three-door coupe was a mainstay sports car throughout the 1980s. It featured small displacement turbocharged engines, rear wheel drive, and possibly the most 1980s body kit ever created. It was complete with pop-up headlights, a massive rear window hatchback, boxy corners, and an extra long nose.
Though they are rare to still see on the road today, Conquests/Starions are unmistakable when they pass by. The initial production run spanned eight years from 1982-1989, when it was succeeded by several different Mitsubishi and Chrysler models. It was the predecessor to some of the most sought out tuner cars of the 1990s. Even today, its echo can still be felt in small displacement turbocharged sport coupes.
Mitsubishi Starion and Chrysler Conquest History
To learn about the Starquest we have to go all the way back to the times of the Ancient Greeks. Well, not quite, but that is where the name Starion comes from (“Star of Arion”), which represents a mythical and fast horse in Greek mythology. Shifting to modern times, 1982 was the year Mitsbushi first started manufacturing the Starion from their plan in Japan. Mitsubishi created the Starion to compete against the other JDM sports cars of the era. These included the likes of the Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra, Nissan 280zx/300zx, and Honda Prelude.
Starting in 1983, due to a pre-existing relationship, Chrysler started to sell the Starion in North America under its own brand names; Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth; as the Conquest, where it competed alongside the Mitsubishi branded Starion. Mitsubishi also sold the Starion in the UK under their Colt brand.
The Starion/Conquest was originally sold exclusively with a narrowbody design, but starting in 1985 it also got a widebody body kit, too. Part of the reason for the narrowbody design was due to Japanese regulations that taxed larger cars, making it cheaper. Until 1987, the Japanese market also got the smaller of the engines available, the 2.0 L inline-4 turbo instead of the 2.6 L inline-4 turbo available for the North American market.
The highest performance variants of the Starion got the ESI-R badge while the Conquests got the TSi nameplate. Production continued on the Chrysler Conquests and Mitsubishi Starions until 1989, when they were struck from all lineups. It’s pretty rare to see any Starions or Conquests on the street today. Most years had production numbers well under 20,000, making these cars quite gems to find in clean condition.
Group B Rally and the Starquest
It might come as a surprise, but the Mitsubishi Starion was a significant motorsports competitor during its run. It performed in both Group A and Group N races and was an endurance racing champion for many years. Incredibly, Mitsubishi even created a prototype of the Starion that was going to compete in the Group B rally class. They debuted it in 1983 at the Tokyo Motor Show with a slightly bored 2.1 L version of the G63B and 4WD.
The modified Starion weighed just over 2,100 lbs and had the engine tilted 6 degrees rearward to help incorporate a 4WD front differential. The engine also had unique cam timing to increase low-end throttle response and torque. Apparently, the engine was set to make 335 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. This would have been a massive upgrade from the 145 hp available in the production models at the time.
Unfortunately, Group B Rally ended before the Starion ever had a chance to compete, making it one of the big what ifs of rally history. It was heavily based on the Audi Quattro, the ultimate Group B rally car.
Diamond Star Motors
To succeed the Starion and Conquest in the 1990s, Chrysler and Mitsubishi jointly released the Mitsubishi GTO-3000GT/Dodge Stealth, Plymouth Laser/Eagle Talon/Mitsubishi Eclipse. They did so under the joint name Diamond Star Motors. The DSM name came from a combination of the Chrysler star logo and Mitsubishi diamond logos. The short lived DSM partnership produced some very iconic cars, all of which owe their creation to the Starion/Conquest.
Chrysler Conquest and Starion Engines and Performance
The Chyrlser/Dodge/Plymouth Conquest and Mitsubishi Starions were available with two different engines. Either the Sirius 2.0 L G63B engine or the Astron 2.6 L G54B engine. Both of them featured fuel injection and North American models had the TD05-12A turbo producing 7.5 PSI of boost. The Astron G54B also had a twin-injector setup, hemi shaped cylinders, center mounted spark plugs, dual balance shafts, and three valves per cylinder for 12 total. High performance versions of the Sirius G63B also had the same three valves per cylinder setup. These setups were designed where the third valve was only active at higher RPMs for increased top end power. These versions also had redlines increased up to 7000 RPMs.
From 1983-1986, the Japanese market only got the Sirius G63G, but starting in 1987 it got the same Astron G54B as North America. The switch was mainly due to emissions regulations, as the G54B had an easier time making the same power. Both engines had chain-driven SOHC
There were both intercooled and non-intercooled versions for both engines. The intercooled versions were introduced in 1985 and Mitsubishi/Chrysler put into the higher performance versions that made slightly more horsepower and lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, the body kit corresponded to the engine version. The widebodies got the high performance variants and narrowbodies got the non-intercooled and lower performance variants.
While both these engines are themselves relatively unremarkable, the G63B’s successor is one of the most highly regarded tuner engines of all time. The SOHC G63B became the basis for the DOHC 4G63T, which powered cars like the Lancer Evolution until 2007. The 4G63T is widely considered one of the strongest and most stout performance engines to ever hit the market. While its predecessor isn’t quite as notable or strong, it still holds its own when modified.
Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion Performance
Both the G63B and G54B slowly saw their power increase as the years went on. They started with a relatively modest 145 hp, and by 1989 the highest performance ESI-R and TSi made 197 hp.
Zero to 60 mph times ranged from 9 seconds in low performance models to 8 seconds in later year high performance badged variants. While that doesn’t sound very fast to modern ears, in the emissions crunch of the mid-1980s it was actually pretty respectable. The Chevrolet Camaros of the same era made roughly the same power but out of much larger 5.0 L and 5.7 L V8 engines.
The engine wasn’t the only area of the Conquests and Starions that had modest performance upgrades. High performance models came with a limited-slip differential for the rear wheels, as well as independent rear suspension with McPherson struts, fared flenders (starting in 1987), and a lowered ride height. All of this added up to nimble handling that made the Conquests and Starions drive surprisingly well for their time. Their light curb weights of 2,800 lbs (narrowbody) or 3,000 lbs (widebody) also made up for the lack of power.
Available transmissions were either a five-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, with the manual being faster and more reliable. The rear had slighter wider 225/50VR16 tires vs the front’s 205/55VR16, and came with four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. A sporting handling package improved performance even further with wider tires and 8-point adjustable shocks.
The Starion Design
As you can see from the pictures, the Mitsubishi Starion/Chrysler Conquest was a very stylish car for the 1980s. It bears a passing resemblance to the Porsche 944 – and actually managed to keep up with it performance wise for a few years. As we mentioned, the cars came in two primary body styles, either the narrowbody or widebody. From 1986-1987 the widebody was approximately 2.4” wider than the narrowbody and weighed almost 200 lbs more. For 1988-1989, the widebody was narrowed 0.4” to 68.3”, making it only 2” wider than the narrowbody.
The hood on both models featured a non-functional hood scoop and dual air vents, as well as a functional and massive air dam on the elongated nose. All models were hatchbacks that had an all-glass liftgate connected to the side windows – which all lifted open together. The seatbelts were motorized and the headlights were pop-ups, the ultimate in mid-80s style. It’s hard to tell, but Starquests actually came with rear seats, though they were incredibly cramped.
The dashboard was flat and vertical and actually featured a boost gauge for the turbo. It came standard with dial gauges that could be optioned for LED panels. Today, there are several body kits available for the Mitsubishi Starions and Chrysler Conquests, many of which amplify the boxy OEM design. The top of the line ESI-R and TSi models also came with leather seats, a pretty nice upgrade.
Chrysler/Mitsubishi Starquest Common Problems
For the most part, the Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion are considered very reliable cars. Though they had a relatively limited production run in the 1980s, that should not be considered an indicator of reliability. There were many 200,000 mile Conquests and Starions still on the streets by the early 2000s. Though, by now most of them have unfortunately bit the dust.
Some of the most common problems on Starions and Conquests during their production run were oil leaks, build up of oil on the spark plug electrode, and overheating issues. For the most part these were not widespread issues, and proper maintenance was key to avoiding problems. Even the turbos were pretty reliable and were not susceptible to major issues or flaws.
Anyone looking at purchasing a Starquest today should start by looking for rust, especially in the rear arches and sills. Also, anything electrical should be thoroughly tested to make sure it is still functional. Due to the low ride height, the front lip is a notorious place for dings and scuffs. It should probably be expected to have at least some light damage.
You can still find clean and well taken care of Chrysler Conquests in the wild, but it’s getting harder and harder to find them. Well maintained ESI-R and TSi versions go for around $15,000 – $22,000, depending on options, transmission, etc. You can also find some very well taken care of versions for north of $25,000 as well as some beater versions for under $10,000.
Chrysler Conquest and Starion Upgrades
The Chrysler Conquest and Mitsubishi Starion don’t exactly scream performance, but there is actually a pretty robust aftermarket community for it still today. From both suspension and engine power standpoints, there are many upgrades that can be done to the Starquest to improve performance.
Suspension wise, the most common upgrades are to the sway bars, brakes, and coilovers/lowering springs. Sway bars help the car handle sharp corners better both in and out, while upgraded brakes are necessary when the engine gets modded. The Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion already rides decently low, but coilovers can bring it down another few inches for an even lower center of gravity.
Engine wise, power can be upgraded all the way up to 400 with just some basic bolt ons and a turbo swap. Standard mods like an intake, downpipe, and intercooler for non-intercooled versions all make about 10-15 hp.
The best way to increase power on either the G63B or G54B is to upgrade the turbocharger. With a larger turbo and supporting mods, the Starquest can quickly turn into a full fledged racing machine. However, as soon as you start to up the power in the Conquest/Starion you also need to upgrade internals. Forged connecting rods and pistons, bigger fuel injectors, a beefier clutch and other driveline components, and performance camshafts are a few of the necessary upgrades that will need to be made to handle more forced induction.
One of the most reputable Starquest engine performance companies is Top End Engineering. They make tons of Starquest parts, including turbo conversions, forged connecting rods, camshafts, and downpipes. If you’re looking at modding your Starquest, Top End Engineering is definitely a place to start consulting.
Mitsubishi Starion and Chrysler Conquest Legacy
The Mitsubishi Starion/Chrysler Conquest is truly one of the most iconic vehicles from the 1980s. It’s over the top styling, small displacement turbo engine, and decent power make it a great example of 1980s performance. While it wasn’t quite capable of besting higher spec production cars of the era, it could hold its own. Today it still has a cult-like following of enthusiasts who swear by it as nostalgic gold.
Just a few mods can transform this 1980s timepiece into a modern rocket, but donors are becoming harder to find. If this is really a car that you like and you feel a connection to, make sure you swipe one as soon as possible. In a few years only the most well preserved and taken care of models will be available. By then, they will certainly fetch a premium.
Are you the proud owner of a Starquest looking to start some modding? What experience do you or your fellow Starquest owners have with your Chrysler or Mitsubishi powered ride?
Let us know in the comments below!