By on May 24, 2012

The Mitsubishi Starion and its badge-engineered Dodge Conquest TSi twin were more quintessentially 1980s than neon-colored leg warmers and regulatory fiascos, combined. You had your gloriously ridiculous Japanese-macho lines, bright red interior, and TURBO emblems everywhere you looked. The Starion/Conquest was quick, too, with a big turbocharged Astron four-cylinder engine. Only problem was, the Starion/Conquest was a finicky, fragile machine, best known for maddeningly undiagnosable fuel-system problems, weird electrical-system woes, and general flakiness. Many are tempted by Starion projects, but eventually most of those MitsuDodges sitting under tarps in driveways will end up in The Crusher’s waiting room, as this Denver example has done.
To me, any car that had TURBO seat belts is all right! Chrysler really lost something when they replaced the cladding-and-spoilers slot in the lineup with the Dodge Daytona IROC R/T.
Of all the sporty cars that have competed in 24 Hours of LeMons races enough times to give us a decent sample size, the Starion is by far the least reliable. The Jaguar XJ-S, Alfa Romeo Spider, even the dreaded Porsche 944— all of them are cockroach-grade survivors on the race track, compared to the Starion.
But still, it’s impossible to think truly bad thoughts about this car. Just look at it!

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45 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Conquest TSi...”


  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Good find, Murilee. I believe these were badged as Chrysler Conquest’s though, not Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      Actually, the Conquest was badged as Chryslers, Dodges and Plymouths at one point or another.

      • 0 avatar

        The Conquest was NEVER sold as a Dodge or a Plymouth. It was only sold as a Chrysler (under Chrysler Corp). The architecture was based off of the same car that was imported as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Saporro.

        The Conquest was unique to the Chrysler brand only. I remember this very well from the 1980s.

        http://www.allpar.com/cars/chrysler/conquest.html

      • 0 avatar
        GoesLikeStink

        I had totally forgotten the Plymouth Saporro!

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    In the U.S. they were Dodges. Almost bought one that was black cherry back in the late 80s. Probably good that I didn’t.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    This one looks to have been an unfinished project or someone’s already gotten to the parts inside for another project.

    Very cool find. I kind of remember these as rebadged Dodges or Chryslers back in the day.

  • avatar
    vwbora25

    imagine, being paid to troll around junkyards…some people really do have the great jobs…great find as always

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I’ve always had a liking for these cars in their later, flared-fender form. The Starion/Conquest is probably the closest the Japanese came to a true American-style ponycar. It’s not a stretch to imagine a Conquest owner having a mullet.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Agreed… I just love the lines on these cars. They look like the fighters from Battle Star Galactic (the original).

      And is that a slider based graphic EQ in the dash? If so I might be in love.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    My dad had two of these in a row back in the day, both purchased new. He’d drive the wheels of a car for 2-3 years then trade it in. He liked the Conquest because it was sporty, fast for the day, but he could fit all of his DJ equipment in it. It had excellent luggage space if you folded down the rear seat. They got reasonable fuel economy, and they were not notably unreliable for him.

  • avatar

    I see these in seemingly good condition around Detroit from time to time. The exterior would hold its own as a 2012 model, and then some. How expensive could one be? Thanks, Murilee, for the dose of reality.

    An interesting project that would never happen because it would be insanely expensive: slip the mechanicals of a more reliable, much better performing current car under this sheetmetal.

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    Hopefully someone saves those glorious wheels. A great addition to nearly any ’80s car, particularly one more reliable than the average StarQuest.

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      I believe that the 5-lug bolt pattern was unique to the StarQuest, and the rear offset won’t work either.

      • 0 avatar
        sexyhammer

        that’s a big negative, the bolt pattern is 5×114.3 and those wheels are very popular with the Nissan and Toyota crowds as a result. Why did auto manufacturers give up on making AWESOME wheels like these?

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        Sexyhammer got it, and beyond that, there are always wheel adapters. Besides the obvious Japanese choices, I’ve personally seen ‘em on a Volvo 245 (which is natively 5×108) and loved the look

    • 0 avatar
      Toy Maker

      +1 on the wheels!

      They’d be gone in a second in my part of Canadia too.

  • avatar
    GD3FTW

    no pics of the engine? and most importantly the TURBO????

  • avatar
    cls12vg30

    Awesome find. As for the wheels, I’ve heard of several people adapting them for use on S12 200SX’s.

  • avatar
    brokeguy

    If that yard was in my neck of the woods, them wheels would have been gone before they set the car out in the yard. Would LOVE to get my hands on a set of them, they are in the top ten of sexy factory wheels IMHO.

  • avatar

    There is a ratty all black one of these I see regularly around town. I really love the over the top styling of the fenders on these, and would love to find one cheap to mess around with.

  • avatar

    They were NEVER sold as a Dodge or a Plymouth. They were Chrysler brand only.

    http://www.allpar.com/cars/chrysler/conquest.html

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      You didn’t read the whole article, did you?

      “The Conquest ran until 1989 with few exterior changes (and a move to the Plymouth brand in 1986)…”

      • 0 avatar
        supremebrougham

        I have to chime in here for a moment…

        Two things:

        One, if you look carefully, you can see traces of the sticker on the rear hatch that read “Imported for Chrysler”

        Two, somewhere in my vast collection of showroom brochures, I have one for these, from I think, 1989, that clearly said Chrysler Conquest TSi.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        Here’s a late-’80s ad that shows both the Dodge and Plymouth logos and contains “imported for Dodge and Plymouth” in the text. No mention of Chrysler at all.

        http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4107/4947021785_955847e898.jpg

  • avatar

    God, from the back it looks like they washed it for the trip to the junkyard.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      No kidding. This was either someones loved car that finally became too much trouble to deal with anymore or someone was deep into a restoration project and gave up. It is crazy clean on the outside for the boneyard.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Really, I can’t understand why that car is in the ‘yard. But my lemon Honda looked good, too….

  • avatar
    nikita

    A friend at work bought a new Starion. The whole electrical system basically fried itself shortly after the warranty expired. Hid wife forced him to give up on it, at a huge loss. Stalling out suddenly on Los Angeles freeways can be hazardous to your health. I know no one with a turbocharged Mitsu product of that era that didnt have multiple problems.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    LSX FTW?

    (Sorry somebody had to say it.)

  • avatar
    seanx37

    A few years ago, I kept seeing a red one in my neighborhood. By chance, I drove down a side street…and there it was. With 2 more in the guys driveway. He had 3 of them, all red, and all running. I talked to him for a few minutes. He drove a different one every few days to keep them all fresh. Weird, but kind of cool.

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    Have any of the Starions in LeMons had a Jacky Chan/Cannonball Run theme? That could be fun,stick all the fake spy gadgets on there, dress in a white jumpsuit and black bowl cut wig.

    • 0 avatar
      cls12vg30

      That would be SWEET.

      That was Cannonball Run II, IIRC, with Jackie Chan and Richard Kiel – (Jaws from the James Bond movies, also was in Happy Gilmore as the guy with the nail in his head.). They were driving a black Starion.

      In the first movie, Jackie was driving an AWD Suburu of some kind.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    Looking at these is about as good as it gets. A friend of mine bought one because the price was right, but we were disappointed to find out that the car looks far cooler than it drives.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    For a brief moment in time, around the late 90′s, these cars were the prefered donors of front mount intercoolers.

    That was before the market became flooded with dirt cheap Ebay chinese made auto parts.

  • avatar
    nelio2k

    Well, whatever badge it may be, the 1988 Chrysler Conquest TSI was my first car at age 15… a hand-me-down from my uncle and two cousins.

    I sorely missed it, but flakey is right. At one point it was burning gas like oil… failed the smog… and the turbo was busted. I was getting 13 mpg, as poor as a hummer.

    Good times…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    This would be an attractive car by modern standards. Hardly any vehicle for the 80′s aged well – this is definitely a rare exception. Those rims, those luscious beautiful OEM rims. Those seats look damn comfortable and red was an absolutely screaming popular interior color in the 80s.

    I remember as a kid dreaming, lusting after this car. It’s a shame they were a reliability nightmare.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Wish I could find one of these in decent shape. I could bring it to Musclecar shows, and to the imports! Especially with an EVO VIII engine in it…:)

  • avatar

    I had a few friends with these oddly enough they found them to be very reliable. (well other then head gaskets) They used the mitsu 2.6 (read minivan and mitsu trucks) and parts could be interchanged or hacked together if you had real problems. One interesting thig I learned when a buddy drag raced his was the drive shaft occasionally fails under load with spectacular results. These were offered side by side with the G bodies (daytona etc) in the eighties if I remember these were pricier. It I had my choice of 80′s sports car this would be it actually (well or a 928 if I had the cash)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    That is a really nice car. Its sweet looks betrayed a devilish personality, just like an Italian car.

  • avatar
    and003

    Murilee Martin: “The Starion/Conquest was a finicky, fragile machine, best known for maddeningly undiagnosable fuel-system problems, weird electrical-system woes, and general flakiness.”

    This reminds me of an article I came across in a recent issue of Modified Magazine about a Chrysler Conquest TSi that had a Corvette motor installed. Were it in my power, I could get this Dodge Conquest TSi and turn it into a similar project, but with a 3G Hemi instead of a Corvette engine.


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