By on March 14, 2011

We all remember the Starion, with its TURBO badging on everything from the seat belts to the door handles, but who among us can recall ever having seen the other 80s hot-rod Mitsubishi in the wild?

Because TURBO emblems cost extra yen, the ’87 Cordia Turbo didn’t have quite as many as the pricier Starion. In addition to the usual decklid badge, there’s the one on the steering wheel…

…and the one cast into the valve cover.

Only the 1980s could have produced this door-panel insert fabric. The Cordia (and its sedan cousin) sank into North American obscurity rather quickly. Actually, they started out in obscurity, as Mitsubishi got off to a very slow start as it tried to branch out from its captive-import relationship with Chrysler.

Check out that post-Malaise-Era 140 MPH speedometer! 1987 car buyers were able to drive a new Cordia Turbo off the Mitsubishi lot for $11,329, about the same price as the naturally-aspirated Nissan 200SX hatchback. That got you 116 turbocharged horsepower… but if you went across the street to your Dodge dealer, you could get yourself a Shelby Turbo Z Daytona— with 174 screamin’ turbocharged horses— for $12,749. Worth paying nearly a grand-and-a-half more for an extra 58 ponies? Given the nowhere-near-Toyota-and-Honda build quality of Mitsubishi products at the time, you were probably much better off with the Dodge.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: What The Hell Is a Cordia Turbo?...”

  • avatar

    When I lived in Japan during 90-93′, these cordias were EVERYWHERE. The thing I remember about them the most was the different emblems they had. Instead of the typical Mitsu logo, there was a chrome “MMC” logo. Kids would steal them off cars, break off one of the M’s, and glue them to their ballcap or other fashion accessory. It was quite stylish at the time. The altered logo, not the car.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    As a kid in the Midwest, I don’t believe I saw a Mitsubishi ANYTHING (other than the “captive import” models) until the 1990 to 1994 Eclipse.

  • avatar

    You don’t remember the Cordia and the Tredia? Ancient Rome’s two most famous tire brands?

    • 0 avatar

      Car and Driver always wondered what happenned to the “Beadia”. :-)

      There were a few of these around Maine in the 80’s, they had rusted into dust by the mid 90’s, just like all the rest of the ’80s Jap-crap.

  • avatar

    As a kid in the South, I remember the Cordia, as well as the Starion.  I always thought the Starion looked cool, in an over-the-top, folded-paper sort of way.

  • avatar

    The shot of the interior door panel reminds me of my 1978 Plymouth Arrow (yeah, it was a Mitsubishi)…loved, loved, loved that car…

  • avatar

    I had forgotten about these Mitsus.
    These seemed to be everywhere for a while even in DFW, and then all of a sudden they were gone. I seemed to recall they didn’t rust as badly as the Hondas or the Toyotas of the time. Even in relatively benign North Central Texas the Japanese cars tended to rust a lot quicker than domestic cars.
    I remember when those graphic equalizers were all the rage back in the day. I wonder how well it sounded on those small cheap speakers. My Delco premium(!) deck sounded pretty good once I got rid of the crap speakers that GM put in it

  • avatar

    What I remember most about the Dodge-badged COLT, besides being tin-cans was the flush rear side glass which looked really cool, compared to the inset door glass. The Audi 5000 from 1983 really set the standard for flush glass that still hasn’t been improved on. I’m sure their design was expensive, too.

  • avatar

    These weren’t sold in Canada so I’ve never seen one except for the occasional photo on there internet. Not bad looking cars in a cheesy 80s way.

  • avatar

    Other than the hood and a few little engine compartment pieces it looks as though parts sales weren’t that great for this oddball car. Murilee, you may be the only guy who’s looked at it in years.

  • avatar

    I did just about exactly what you described in 1984.  I test drove the Cordia Turbo, and then went out a bough a 1984 Chrysler Laser Turbo [the same car as the Dodge Daytona Turbo].  The Cordia felt like an economy car, and to me the Laser did not.  I believe that my 1984 had 142 HP though, not 174.  I only paid $10,400 for it, though.  To this day, it is still the only car that I have ever bought new.

    • 0 avatar

      How did your Laser treat you? Our 1985 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo, purchased for $12.5K IIRC, was a disaster that ended 54 years of family brand loyalty to Mopar. The longest any head gasket lasted was 17K miles, and the digital dash was dead after two years. The advertised 5/50 warranty wasn’t worth the paper it was published on, containing huge deductibles and pages of exclusions. I could almost speculate that you never bought a new car again because you spent 3 years paying for your Laser after it had been parted out in a scrap yard. We kept our ’66 Dodge for 13 years, our ’71 Plymouth for 16 years, our ’79 Plymouth for 9 years, and the ’85 Dodge was a bitter memory in 1988. I’m not going to suggest that a Mitsubishi would have constituted a good buy, but buying a Honda Accord or Prelude would have saved the price of a year at UVA in the mid ’80s.

    • 0 avatar

      We had an 87 Lancer Turbo ES for 10 years and 165K miles. it had a bad turbo coolant return line, which lead to a blown head gasket. Due to a manufacturing defect, the trans was replaced, and it had an ongoing issue with a MAF. Otherwise, I drove the car for 10 years with very few other problems. I’d buy another one if I could.

  • avatar
    Buster Brew

    In the late 80’s, a neighbor of mine in Meridian MS had a white Cordia.  There was something about the rear fender and wheel-well that made it rather different.  When I first laid eyes on it, I was sure it was French.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Ah yes, the Cordia: the reason I have never owned and will never own a Mitsubishi product. I was forced to drive one of those shoddy, slow, miserable vehicles for a week during the ill-starred fuel pump saga starring my turbocharged Omni and it made me appreciate just how wonderful Chryco’s 2.2 turbomotors were in comparison to everything else available at the time. Mashing the throttle on the Cordia definitely produced more noise from under the hood, and it definitely sucked more fuel into the engine, but it was definitely a waste of time as nothing else seemed to change: it could barely compensate for the added drag of the a/c compressor whenever that fuel-sucking device was active.

  • avatar

    Dusting off my 1987 Road & Track Test Annual, I see the Cordia Turbo had a 116 bhp, turbo charged, 1.8 liter sohc four. It did 0-60 in 8.5 seconds!  The article compared it to the Acura Integra LS, the Toyota Celica GT-S, and the VW Scirocco 16V.  The outcome?  Acura came in first, followed by Toyota, Mitsubishi, and VW.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to re-read Ford Mustang GT vs. Chevy Camaro IROC-Z. :)

  • avatar

    Murilee, if you get back to the SF Bay Area…in Oakland in the alley behind Santa Ray Avenue off of Paloma Avenue in Crocker Highlands is a collapsed carport.  It collapsed in the 1989 Earthquake.  The slab sunk a foot, the roof fell in and it has not been repaired.  What does this have to do with the post?  Well, IN the carport is a Mitsubishi Cordia crushed by Mother Nature.  Strange but true…

    • 0 avatar

      Got any photos?

    • 0 avatar

      I must see this.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry Murilee, no photos, and we moved away.  Strangely enough, after living in the Bay Area for almost 20 years, my family and I packed up in the middle of last year and moved to….Colorado, just like you.  We’re up in Fort Collins, about an hour away.  There are some decent looking junkyards up I-25 around Longmont/Loveland and I hear there is a good pick and pull around here in the Fort Collins/Windsor area.

      If you have peeps in the Oakland area, I can pinpoint exactly where the car was for them to check it out/snap some pics….Look at Google Maps and search for 720 Santa Ray Avenue, Oakland, CA.  Look at the alley just to the North of the house.  I cannot remember for sure if that was the actual house (if so it looks like the Cordia is now actually gone and only the sunken slab is left), but I have a feeling it is a few houses to the left from that one.  It’s worth a trip down the alley just to see…The alley is not really used, kind of overgrown, decent neighborhood.  I used to love at the corner of Santa Ray and Paloma.


  • avatar

    I don’t understand the negative perceptions of Mitsubishi reliability.  According to the photo of the odometer, this particular Mitsubishi lasted 197,000 miles.  I think that’s quite good for a 1980’s era car.  Back in the day, my parents had two Mitsubishis from the ’70s / ’80s era: a Dodge Colt rear drive hatchback automatic and a Plymouth Champ (subcompact FWD dual stick shift).  Both were incredibly reliable, and ran over a decade and 150K+ miles with no repairs to the drivetrains other than a failed water pump and loose transmission bands in the Colt and a broken clutch cable in the Champ.  Compared to the late ’60s-’70s Dodge and Simca products and the horrendously unreliable ’80s Ford Escort they had, these were paragons of reliability and fit and finish.  Ditto for the Mitsu-sourced Hyundai Excel drivetrains of the era.

  • avatar

    My fondest Mitsubishi memory is a 1977 Dodge Colt. Had the “Silent Shaft” engine, which idled very smoothly due to the balance shaft. The car also gave me the “silent shaft” when the the shaft bearings seized up and the timing belt wiped out its teeth at the crankshaft. What a marketing double entendre by those clever MMC folks.

  • avatar
    Joseph Burke

    These cars were underpowered because Mitsubishi was hesitant to spend the money to develop a DOHC engine for them. The rest of the industry was moving in that direction already and turning out cars of similar size and price with a lot more power, but Mitsubishi didn’t have the funds to do it and their cars suffered because of it.

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