The Mitsubishi Starion is a three-door, turbocharged four-cylinder rear-wheel drive four-seat sports car that was in production from 1982 to 1990. It was also marketed in North America as the Conquest under the Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth names; both the Starion and Conquest came to an end in 1989. Although preceded by earlier turbocharged designs such as the Porsche 930 (1975), Saab 99 (1978) and the Mitsubishi Lancer EX 2000 Turbo (1980), it is considered to be one of the originators of the modern Japanese turbocharged performance automobile genre.
The "Starion" name is claimed to be a contraction of "Star of Orion." It was also widely believed that the Japanese intended the name to be "Stallion", but due to lack of "l" in Japanese, the name was spelled with "r" instead.
The Starion's appearance in 1982 occurred during a period in which a number of Japanese Grand Tourer (GT) sports cars were increasing in popularity. The Starion's turbocharged four-cylinder engine enabled it to be very competitive.
During production, the Starion was produced in both a narrowbody and widebody, in later years ('86.5-89). The design proved durable and few changes were made between models, with only simple improvements demarking the change from one model to the next. In the United States market, there was only one major change when the car was upgraded to the ESI-r (Conquest TSi) model; this model features an intercooler and five-bolt wheels, replacing the four-bolt wheels it had inherited from the rear wheel drive Mitsubishi Galant Lambda.
At the time, Mitsubishi opted for the Mitsubishi Astron engine with a single-camshaft head (SOHC) rather than the dual cam head, and also for a throttle-body fuel injection setup which mixed the fuel with the air prior to entering the plenum chamber.
Production ceased entirely by 1990, and its successor, the GTO was fitted with the mechanicals of the recently demonstrated Mitsubishi HSX Sports Coupe concept vehicle.
Many of the performance features of the Starion were integrated into later vehicles and can be found in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, in the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
The Starion used a traditional front-mounted engine with rear-wheel drive layout, which most sports cars use. 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.
Engine capacity was 2.0L with the now well-known Sirius 4G63 2.0L engine, subsequently featured in DOHC form in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution series of automobiles. However, American customers received the larger Astron G54B 2.6L engine, but without any additional horsepower. Neither engines were DOHC. After 1987, European Starion models were also fitted with the 2.6L engine, as was the GSR-VR for Japan. Both engines featured computer controlled fuel injection and turbocharging.
Horsepower varied between 150 and 197bhp (147kW) 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 also built for the Japanese market, however production ceased in 1983 due to low sales figures. The Starion GX had no electric windows, no air conditioning, no independent rear suspension, no fuel injection and did not have power-assisted steering.
Seating was a 2+2 arrangement, although the rear seats are not too suitable for large adults. The front seats were adjustable for lumbar, angle, knee support, position and featured variable-angle side-braces.
One of the more unusual features was that the seatbelts were located in the doors for the driver and front passenger, and some American and European models featured electrically operated seatbelts.
A five-speed manual transmission was standard in most models, however, an automatic transmission was sold as an option in some markets.
The drag coefficient was around 0.32; quite efficient for the era, and although quite angular, the aerodynamics in general were exceptional at the time. It was one of the world's fastest mass produced cars.
A number of models existed throughout the world during 1982 to 1990.
2.0L 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
2.0L 4G63 engine, apart from GSR-VR which has 2.6L 4G54 engine.
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 - 1987–1988 (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
2.6L G54B engine. with TD05-12A turbocharger Mitsubishi
- Technica (this was a narrowbody package not a model)
2.0L 4G63 engine with MHI TC06-11A turbocharger, apart from GSR-VR which has 2.6L 4G54 engine with TD05-12A TC.
- EX II - flatbody with Intercooler
- EX - luxury version
- TURBO - base model
With the exception of Australia, many models were available as either narrowbody or widebody shell styles.
The Conquest was a version of the Starion sold by the Chrysler Corporation from 1984 to 1989. The Conquest was sold under both the Dodge and Plymouth names until 1986. Chrysler sold the Conquest under its own name from 1987 until 1989. The Conquest was replaced with the Dodge Stealth and the Plymouth Laser, as the Starion was replaced with the Mitsubishi 3000GT and Mitsubishi Eclipse.
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 Holland, 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, an incredible 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 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 equally successful offroad, and 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 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 1000kg (2205lb), lighter than the Audi Quattro. The car was developed with a turbocharged and intercooled version of Mitsubishi's 2.0L fuel injected engine, but the final goal was to use a turbocharged and intercooled 350hp (261kW) version of the Sirius Dash engine that Mitsubishi announced at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show, which switched electronically at 2500rpm 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 Alan Wilkinson, who had developed the Audi Quattro for Audi Sport UK.
Major results circuit
- 1984 Australian Production Car Champion
- 1984 SCCA Nelson Ledges 24 Hour Race 1st
- 1984 SCCA Playboy Endurance Championship 1st
- 1985 British Saloon Car Championship 2nd in championship
- 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 Dutch National Touring Car Championship 1st
- 1987 SCCA Escort Endurance Championship 1st
- 1987 SCCA Nelson Ledges 24 Hour Race 1st
- 1988 SCCA Showroom Stock A National Championship 1st
- 1990 SCCA Showroom Stock A National Championship 1st
- 1985 Inter TEC (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
JTC=All Japan Touring Car Championship
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 Cote 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 1st (Pentti Airikkala/Terry Harryman)