The Mitsubishi Starion was a two-door, turbocharged four-cylinder rear-wheel drive four-seat hatchback sports car that was manufactured by Mitsubishi from 1982 to 1989. Rebadged variants were marketed in North America as the Conquest under the Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth names.
Mitsubishi began marketing the Starion in 1982, during a period in which a number of Japanese grand tourer (GT) sports cars were available, including the Nissan Z cars, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra and to a lesser extent, the Honda Prelude and Isuzu Piazza.
The Starion was marketed in the US under Mitsubishi as the Starion and badge engineered variants of were marketed as the Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler Conquest. In the UK it was sold as the Colt Starion.
Manufactured in two body configurations; a narrowbody and widebody, the narrower style complied with Japanese exterior dimension regulations taxing larger vehicles and engine displacement exceeding 2000cc. Only the narrowbody was offered through the 1985.5 model year.
The introduction of the widebody also split the car into two ranges: one a non-intercooled lower horsepower car using the narrow body style and a high-performance intercooled widebody. In most markets, widebody cars were given the label of Starion ESI-r or Conquest TSi. Markets that never received the widebody had the ESI-r label, these cars had similar performance as the widebodies. Widebody cars were offered in 1986-1989 model years in the US.
Mitsubishi says "Starion" is a contraction of "Star of Orion" — and refers to both a star and the mythical horse, Arion.
Several sources attribute the name to struggles by Japanese engineers to pronounce the word stallion. Automotive journalist Paul Niedermeyer noted that an early Japanese television commercial for the Starion closed with a logo of a stallion's head with the word "Starion" below it. The translation of the voiceover says the name refers to a star and the mythical horse, Arion. The Mitsubishi Colt and Mitsubishi Eclipse featured equine names, with the Eclipse named after the champion racehorse.
The Starion uses a traditional front-mounted engine with rear-wheel drive layout. Many came with a limited slip differential and anti-lock brakes (single channel, rear wheels only) as standard features. The entire chassis was derived from the previous high-performance variant of the Mitsubishi Sapporo or Mitsubishi Galant Lambda sports coupe, with a MacPherson strut suspension and swaybars that were fitted to front and rear. Rack and pinion steering was not offered, instead gearbox steering was standard on all models.
Engine capacity differed between markets. American customers received the larger SOHC Astron G54B 2.6 L engine. Most markets received the SOHC 2.0 L Sirius 4G63 engine, subsequently featured in DOHC form in later Mitsubishi sport compacts such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Both the 2.0 L and the 2.6 L produced roughly the same horsepower, the larger 2.6 L did have a slight torque advantage and the 2.0L had a higher redline. Reporters of the time considered the 2.0l to be peaky and exciting, while the American market 2.6l had plenty of torque, but was less rewarding. Both engines featured computer-controlled fuel injection and turbocharging. After 1987, European Starion models were also fitted with the 2.6 L engine, as was the GSR-VR for Japan. The move to the 2.6 L in all markets was spurred by emissions restrictions around the world tightening to meet the American standards for lead in fuels. Reviews during the change were negative as many felt the car was slower, for most of these markets this was the case as the engine change also coincided with a move to the heavier body style.
Horsepower varied between 150–197 hp (112–147 kW; 152–200 PS) depending mostly upon the turbocharger that was fitted, the presence of an intercooler, and whether the 8-valve or 12-valve head was used.
A naturally aspirated version known as the GX was offered in the Japanese market, with production ending in 1983. The Starion GX was offered without power windows, air conditioning, independent rear suspension, fuel injection or power-assisted steering.
Seating was a 2+2 with rear seats unsuitable for large adults. The front seats were adjustable for lumbar, angle, knee support, position and featured variable-angle side-braces.
Front seat belts were located in the doors for the driver and front passenger. 1987 and later American models featured electrically operated seat belts. Newer models also featured power windows that remained powered up to 30 seconds after the engine was turned off.
Later upgrades to the model included an intercooler, five-lug wheels replacing the four-bolt wheels it had shared with the rear wheel drive Mitsubishi Galant Lambda, rear power train changes from four- to six-bolt axles, various fuel management upgrades and upgrades to the transmission.
Towards the end of the models US run a widebody could be bought with a "Sports Handling Package" or SHP. This included adjustable front and rear struts and 1 inch wider wheels (up from 16 x 7 to 8" front and 16 x 8 to 9" rear). The SHP was only offered during the '88 and '89 model years. The package can be retro fitted to earlier pre-widebody cars.
In 1988, a Special Edition Conquest TSI-SE was marketed to commemorate various IMSA and SCCA championship wins. It consisted of these vehicles from the first 500 of the assembly line in Japan (ROW and North America). They featured all US dealer options, including SHP packages, a revised PCI-ECM with "over-boost", HD Borg Warner JM600 four-speed automatic transmission with push button overdrive and fourth gear lockout and an exclusive "Group-B" yellow exterior color scheme (paint code 059). A one-year only limited production run (verified by MCA-Chrysler Motorsports of America 10/01).
Notable upgrades included multi-port injection (MPI) consisting of standalone engine management (programmable computers) to control individual fuel injectors, one per cylinder versus the stock PCI-ECM two injector system. Two injector systems, primary (idle injector) and secondary (boost injector) non-sequential firing ('83-'86) and sequential firing ('87-'89).
Production: These figures are both cars, total, all styles
- 1986: 19,438
- 1987: 17,605
- 1988: 10,655
- 1989: 1,961
- Figures courtesy Mitsubishi Japan.
A number of models existed throughout the world during 1982 to 1990.
The Japanese domestic market had a large range of Starions to choose from.
- GX - 1982–1983 (non turbo)
- GSR-I,GSR-II,GSR-III, GSR-X - 1982–1984
- GSR-II, GSR-III,GSR-X,GSR-V - 1985–1986 - can be distinguished from the earlier Starions by driving lights in the front bumper
- GSR-V - 1986–1987 - some had Sirius Dash engine
- GSR-VR - 1987–1989 (widebody)
The Roman numeral after 'GSR' denotes the vehicle specification. Some examples can be found below:
- GSR-I - base model
- GSR-II - power steering and electric windows
- GSR-III - improved audio system, trip computer system, digital dash cluster, and air conditioning.
- GSR-X - leather interior replaced the cloth, climate control, air conditioning, cruise control
2.0 L 4G63 engine.
Australian vehicles were mostly similar to the European Turbo specification. The J codes below denote the model version, and are found on the Australian Vehicle Information Plates.
- JA - 1982–1984
- JB - 1984–1985
- JD - 1985–1987
It was marketed in North America by Mitsubishi as the Starion from 1983 until 1989 and by Chrysler as the Conquest under both the Dodge and Plymouth names from 1984 to 1986 and under the Chrysler name from 1987 until 1989.
The engine used is the 2.6 L G54B unit with TD05-12A MHI turbocharger, although the TC05-12A (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) turbocharger was fitted to the earlier, non-intercooled narrow-body models. These early cars have 145 hp (108 kW).
- base - 1983
- LS - 1983-85
- LE - 1984-87
- ES - 1984-85
- ESI - 1985.5-1988, intercooled
- ESI-R - widebody only 1986-89, intercooled
- TSI - widebody 1986-89, intercooled
- Technica (this was a narrow-body package without intercooler)
Verified by ** MCA-Chrysler Motorsports of America (10/01).
- EX II - flatbody with intercooler
- EX - luxury version
- Turbo - base model
With the exception of Australia, many models were available as either narrow-body or wide-body shell styles.
The Starion was a prominent competitor in motorsports up to International level during the 1980s and performed well on the circuit in Group A and Group N races of the era. Andy McLennan driving a Simmons drums sponsored Starion was very successful, picking up many race wins and a Monroe championship, this against the semi works car of Colin Blower. In the Netherlands, John Hugenholtz won the over 2L class in the Dutch Championship, with the Colin Blower-prepared Mitsubishi Dealers car. In the United States, the Starion became best known for successes in endurance racing. Starions from Dave Wolin's Team Mitsubishi, with turbocharged 2.6 L G54B engines built by noted Lotus engine guru Dave Vegher, captured the prestigious "Longest Day of Nelson Ledges" 24-hour endurance race four years running from 1984 through 1987. Team Mitsubishi Starions also won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) U.S. Endurance Championships three of those four years, competing against the fully factory-backed (Wolin's team was only partially sponsored by Mitsubishi) efforts from Chrysler, Audi, Nissan and Mazda. Although not commonly seen in modern motorsports, a number are still raced on both circuit and in special stage rally events, usually by privateers.
The Starion was not very successful off-road, but found victory in Group A World Rally Championships and Asia Pacific Rally Championships during 1987 and 1988. An all wheel drive version of the Starion was also produced for Group B specifications (one of the few Japanese automobile manufacturers to enter this class), but after an encouraging start as a prototype, it was not homologated before the FIA banned Group B cars for safety reasons. The Starion was converted to all wheel drive by adding a strengthened transfer case from a Pajero behind the transmission. This configuration allowed the engine to be situated well back in the chassis, for improved front/rear weight distribution compared to the Audi Quattro, whose configuration required the engine to be far forward in the car. Although the wheelbase did not change, the use of regular headlights rather than the production model's pop-up headlights allowed the nose to be six inches shorter, as well as saving several pounds in weight. Further weight was saved by the use of carbon fiber for the driveshafts, sumpguard, and lower arms of the suspension, and fiberglass for the hood (bonnet), tailgate, door skins, fenders, bumpers and spoilers, resulting in a final weight of less than 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), lighter than the Audi Quattro. The car was developed with a turbocharged and intercooled version of Mitsubishi's 2.0 L fuel injected engine, but the final goal was to use a turbocharged and intercooled 261 kW (355 PS; 350 hp) version of the Sirius Dash engine that Mitsubishi announced at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show, which switched electronically at 2500 rpm from one inlet valve per cylinder to two. The car was campaigned for Mitsubishi by Team Ralliart in Essex, Great Britain, under rally veteran Andrew Cowan and engineer , who had developed the Audi Quattro for Audi Sport UK.
Major results circuit
- 1984 SCCA Nelson Ledges 24 Hour Race 1st
- 1984 SCCA Playboy Endurance Championship 1st
- 1984 Silverstone Finale 1st
- 1984 Australian Super Series 1st and 2nd outright - Peter Fitzgerald and Brad Jones
- 1985 British Saloon Car Championship 2nd in championship
- 1985 James Hardie 1000 9th outright, 2nd in class - Kevin Bartlett and Peter McKay
- 1985 Australian Manufacturers' Championship 7th
- 1985 Guia Race in Macau Grand Prix 3rd
- 1985 Guia Race in Macau Grand Prix 4th
- 1985 SCCA Nelson Ledges 24 Hour Race 1st, Despite heavy rollover crash damage.
- 1985 SCCA Playboy Endurance Championship 1st
- 1986 SCCA Escort Endurance Championship 2nd
- 1986 SCCA Nelson Ledges 24 Hour Race 1st
- 1986 SCCA Showroom Stock A National Championship 1st
- 1986 Winton 300 Group E Production touring cars 1st Des Gibbs and Denis O'Brien [Starions filled top 6 positions]
- 1986 Dutch National Touring Car Championship 1st
- 1987 SCCA Escort Endurance Championship 1st
- 1987 SCCA Nelson Ledges 24 Hour Race 1st
- 1987 Australian Production Car Championship - 1st - Peter Fitzgerald
- 1987 James Hardie 1000 5th outright - Gary Scott and Akihiko Nakaya
- 1988 SCCA Showroom Stock A National Championship 1st
- 1988 Australian Manufacturers' Championship 8th
- 1988 Oran Park 250 3rd outright - Gary Scott and Terry Shiel
- 1988 Tooheys 1000 10th outright - Terry Shiel and Brad Jones
- 1990 SCCA Showroom Stock A National Championship 1st
- 1985 Inter TEC (Japanese Touring Car Championship (JTC)) 4th
- 1986 SUGO Group A 300 km Race (JTC) 3rd
- 1986 Race de Nippon Tsukuba (JTC) 1st
- 1986 Suzaka 300 km Race (JTC) 2nd
- 1986 All Japan Touring Car Championship 2nd in championship
- 1987 All Japan Touring Car Race (JTC) 1st
- 1987 GHiland Touring Car 300 km Race (JTC) 1st
- 1987 All Japan Touring Car Championship 3rd in championship
- 1988 Hiland Touring Car 300 km Race (JTC) 2nd
Major results rally
Starion 4WD (1984–1986)
- 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally 1st in Experimental Class
- 1984 Milles Piste Rally (French Rally Championship) 1st in Prototype Category
- 1986 Hong Kong-Beijing Rally 2nd
- 1987 Qutar Rally (Middle East Rally Rally Côte d'Ivoire (World Rally Championship) 4th
- 1987 Himalayan Rally 1st
- 1987 Oman Rally (Middle East Rally Championship) 3rd
- 1988 Scottish Rally (British Rally Championship)
- 1988 British Open Rally Championship (CARTEL International Rally) 1st (Pentti Airikkala/Ronan McNamee)