By on February 16, 2016

1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESi-R

I try not to repeat manufacturers too quickly in this series of digestible crapwagons, save for last September’s Wolfsburg Week. I know I get bored writing about the same OEM, as I’m sure you like the variety. However, when I finally find a clean example of a car that has been on my wish list, I can’t help but feature it, no matter how recently we’ve seen the badge.

I never expected Mitsubishi to be the quickly-repeated marque.

Last week’s Eagle-badged DSM was an interesting car, certainly, but one does not find a stunner like this 1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESi-R every day, so it was a lock for Digestible status. With less than 42,000 miles on the odometer, there can be few better “Starquests” — the catchall term for the Starion and the Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge Conquest stablemate — left on our roads.

The styling of the ’80s is distinct and dated, with sharp edges and hidden headlamps dominating everything. The Starion/Conquest stood out with the option of a wide-body, with stunning flares covering wheels up to nine inches wide out back. Really, has any car ever sported fat box flares better than this?

I know that the price is outrageous. The seller is clearly trying to capitalize on the booming market for rare Japanese sports cars, but $20,499 is well beyond. $15,000 might be more realistic, though I think $12,000 is the right price for this wide-body beauty.

I ashamedly recall discouraging my dad from buying a new Starion when I was young, in favor of yet another Nissan Z. I probably used some choice terms to disparage the four-cylinder powerplant and four-seat configuration, as opposed to the superior six cylinder, two-seat Nissan. I regret it.

Starquest, I’ll come calling someday.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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47 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESi-R...”

  • avatar

    I remember being about 20 and thinking about buying one of these about the same time the XR4TI was interesting to me. I think the Stallion had all of two fuel injectors and a 2.6L four with a rather unimpressive eight valve cylinder head. I think I’d much prefer the 4G63T engine’s use of a less archaic cylinder head arrangement.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an 83 Plymouth Sapporo with the same engine, different head and lower HP. It wasn’t bad, but the Starion could be had with a Turbo, which would bump it from 150hp to almost 200hp. The XR4Ti, which I was a big fan of, too, lost the HP war by 22.

      That said, I would like an XR4Ti, preferably a reliable one, please.

  • avatar

    You’re showing your age, as when you were young the 2+2 Z didn’t exist yet!

    300ZX TT 2+2 forevaaaa.

  • avatar

    And yes I agree $12 max on this. It’s spotless though, even the original rims look perfect. I like the black lace better anyway – gives it that Knight Rider look fo sho. But you know, before you take pics make sure you don’t like… wipe the dash with your hand to clear it of dust.

    I was actually never that sure the Starion was sold here. I thought Chrysler managed to constrain Mitsu into providing -them- with versions only. I have never seen any in real life, beyond maybe one red Conquest.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m a fan of “honest condition” in the interior and engine bay, but when you’re asking almost 2x what the car is worth, you had better present it accordingly. Get out the Q-Tips.

      As a kid I always confused these with the A60 Supra. Don’t remember which I actually wanted now so I’ll just have to take one of each.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m having the Supra. In dark red that thing looked legit.

        So you meant this one:

        I really liked the one after, the late 80s one that looked chunky.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s the one, maybe a couple years later with a few tweaks:

          But really, either is fine with me. Or lord help me, an ’89 GTA with the gold or black lace wheels. Need more garage. (Sorry, off topic car, but the black lace wheels reminded me. :) )

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, the early-1990s Supra was pretty awesome, but I liked the stealth aspect of the late ’80s Supra turbos. Excellent car either way.

          • 0 avatar

            Chunky with regard to car styling is very high praise from me! I like wide things which look very heavy.

            Porsche 959
            Porsche 993
            66 Bonneville
            AMC Marlin
            3000 GT

  • avatar

    Beautiful Japanese widebody. *drools*

    Box flares and hidden headlights are high on the list of styling cues I want back.

  • avatar
    Clueless Economist

    One of the most underrated cars of the early 80s. Still looks good.

  • avatar

    This is the closest thing around to a Japanese Camaro, right down to the slightly greasy image. I like it a lot.

    • 0 avatar

      Those wheels look like they belong on a Camaro/Firebird. And that’s not a bad thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        I’m a sucker for those wheels too. They look perfect on most cars from the late 80’s/early 90’s.

        • 0 avatar

          Lace wheels are awesome on lots of the things.

          Any 90’s Cadillac
          NA Miata
          Grand Cherokee
          Lotus Esprit

          • 0 avatar

            They make me want an F-body Firebird Trans-Am.


            Obviously, that’s way out of my price range, but I still want.

          • 0 avatar

            Oh si. Puts me in mind of one for the list. Lotus Esprit.

            Lol the graph paper look behind the gauges and the steering wheel buttons. Pontiac, you so tacky.

            I WANT THIIIIS

            Trans Am Sportbak.

          • 0 avatar

            I notice you managed to squeeze “90’s Cadillac” in there.

          • 0 avatar

            It was an OEM wheel option, which looked good! Something like $400 over the standard wire wheel covers.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This is my ultimate ’80s dream car*.

    I’ve been saying for years that these are destined to jump in value. You have everything JDM fans love. I’m still waiting, but we might be on the verge now. I’m going to regret not picking one up. Though the asking price for this is ridiculous I’ve seen ones like this over the last few years, similar miles and condition, and this is about twice what they were asking.


    • 0 avatar

      Me too. The styling is just SO good. All sharp angles, it looks like a stealth aircraft before we knew such a thing was even possible. Turbo + hatchback = automatic win in my book. Factory fender flares that box out like that make my knees weak.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I’d go with a late-’80s Supra Turbo if I wanted a Japanese dream car from that era. Plus it had the targa roof available.

  • avatar

    It’s the car that the “dangerous” young Yakuza drives, whom the old man boss is constantly trying to control, and who is very suspicious of the undercover cop in the gang.

  • avatar

    My dad bought two of these (actually the “Chrysler Conquest” version. He did DJ work, and if he put down the seats he could get quite a bit of equipment in there back. They were quick for the day, though today the 4-cylinder Honda Accord is faster. They got good freeway fuel economy. He replaced the second one with a Toyota Supra Turbo. The Supra was much more powerful and more expensive, but it had no more style.

  • avatar

    UGH!!! “Mechanical mouse” shoulder belts!! Other than that: Starion + wide body + turbo = Conquest TSi…YES!!! :-)

  • avatar

    I always considered these a Japanese take on the 944. I’ve driven a couple of 944s, but never one of these, so I’m not sure my assessment holds for anything beyond exterior styling…

  • avatar

    This is what my 1978 Plymouth Arrow GT wanted to be when it grew up…lol.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Classic looks, in an 80s art deco sort of way.

    This car would have been a worthy substitute for the DeLorean in “Back to the Future”.

  • avatar

    A cool car with a very cool name. I liked these.

  • avatar

    I had a champaign with red interior, ’87 Chrysler Conquest TSi Turbo widebody. I purchased it used when my ’88 Camaro RS 5.0 was stolen from the parking garage at my complex in Phoenix. 6 weeks later, the Camaro was recovered with a little interior damage…the steering column was jacked to hotwire it. So, I had both cars for about 3 months. Unfortunately, I totaled the Conquest after falling asleep at the wheel, and hitting a concrete divider. I was really mad, as I liked the looks and speed of the Conquest, better than the Camaro. After the insurance paid me, the mechanic at the Chrysler dealership begged me to buy it. So I let it go. I don’t know if he ever restored it. Hard to believe it was over 20 years ago.

  • avatar

    Beautiful car. I really want to pick up something Japanese from the 80’s. This or a first-gen RX-7 would be my top choices.

  • avatar

    Cool car, but man that’s a lot of money. The seller specifically states the car was appraised (7 years ago), so I wonder if his asking price is in line with the appraisal. If I had this kind of money to drop on a nostalgia fun car I’d probably look for a Syclone or a Typhoon.

  • avatar

    Many years ago, a lady I worked with had one of these in bright red. The turbo had a bad oil seal and every time she pulled out of the parking lot it spewed blue smoke. I think the turbo repair was expensive at the time and she couldn’t afford it. It sure was a beautiful car…

  • avatar

    Mitsu actually built the Starion for quite a while in non fender flared version. C/D tested one in ’85 (the non fender flared version) and it acquitted itself very well.

    It was OK, but the car got a LOT better with the “widebody,” bigger tires, and intercooled turbo. With that it became a darn legit performer in its’ day.

    (And I’m thinking those seats are aftermarket…anyone else agree?)

    Too bad Mitsu went down the road it did…in the mid-’80s to the 1990s, they made some great stuff.

    • 0 avatar

      IF there ever was a Golden Era for Mitsubishi, it would have to be from the late 80’s through the end of the 90’s

      Starion ESi-R
      Colt Turbo
      Eclipse GSX (1st and 2nd generation)
      Galant VR-4
      3000GT VR-4

      And then there was the Lancer Evolution

      Looking at Mitsubishi today reminds me of a line from a 50 Cent classic: “Damn, homie! In high school you was the man, homie! What the f**k happened to you?”

      • 0 avatar

        Right when DSM took off… coincidence?

        • 0 avatar

          Not really, because the Eclipse was still a darn nice ride until about 2000. Upsizing it and putting it on the same platform as the Galant and Sebring ushered in the dark times.

          Mitsu in general dumbed itself down around the same time, probably to go more mainstream. Putting EVERYTHING on the Galant platform after that was also a horrid mistake.

  • avatar

    Here is one for $7500 – an ’87 Tsi

  • avatar

    The Nissan connection must be inherent. Had an acquaintance who received one of these for reaching 16. Same color. It lasted a few months then went through some landscaping the hard way.

    It was replaced on hard-earned min wage by a bronze beat-down 260Z.

    But while it lived it put fear into our malaise-era pony cars. Seeing it in the mirror was like being followed by Darth Vader’s tie fighter.

  • avatar

    My dad was a Chrysler salesman for most of the 80s so we had plenty of these in the driveway as demos. My 17 yo self was very happy cruising around in one of these. Girls loved it. This appears to be a nice example.

  • avatar

    This car was on my list when I bought my first new car, back in 1986. But both the Mitsubishi and Dodge dealers were less than helpful. So I bought a Mustang SVO.

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