Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Conquest TSi

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1988 dodge conquest tsi

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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  • And003 And003 on Jun 12, 2012

    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.

  • Seal_Team_Ricks Seal_Team_Ricks on Jul 15, 2017

    In 1989, at age 11, my father and I went shopping to replace his problematic 1984 Lincoln Town Car; and so we moseyed into the local Chrysler dealer. Previously, our family had mostly Fords and Pontiacs. On the showroom floor was a 1988 Chrysler Conquest TSi, left over from the previous year, with "$5000 OFF" written on the windshield. It was definitely the coolest car in the joint, and given the generous rebate, I was like, "OMG Dad, we have to get this one!" Fortunately, he liked it too though he didn't really let on that he did. The end result was that after hours of haggling, we drove that sucker home that evening, with the promise that, "Someday this will be yours, son." I was ecstatic. Five years later, with only 38k miles, it was indeed given to me; and I managed (somehow) to tack on another 25k miles through my last two years of high school. I babied the thing, and we had nary a problem with it. It sure ate through the expensive Z-rated Goodyear tires fast though. A month after graduation, I was driving out of town during a heavy rainstorm -- a real frog strangler -- when gently accelerating after a right turn caused me to do a 180 and bang the curb backwards, snapping the driver's rear axle. Fender had moderate damage. Insurance company totaled it. Gypped us with only $4,500 payout. Anyway, ours was reliable. It was fairly fast. Handled well on dry roads, but dangerous on wet roads. Spun around VERY easily. Now, 20+ years later, I'm driving a '93 Olds Ninety-Eight with a 3800 V6 that is about as powerful as the Conquest, but in a car 600 pounds heavier (and 4 times the mileage on the odometer.) This car is VERY sure-footed on wet pavement.

    • Ed Tact Ed Tact on Mar 23, 2023

      Man your dad as as cool as mine! I had a similar situation but it was him buying a sports car for his mid life crisis after 15 years of raising kids and driving station wagons and sedans (he had a GTO in the 1960s in college). He bought a 1984 Z28 H.O. (L69) with T-tops and said it would one day be mine. I drove his truck at 16 for a year before he handed me the keys to the Z full time for my junior and senior high school years. In the mid-1980s, that was the best!

  • 56m65711446 Well, I had a suburban auto repair shop in those days.
  • Dukeisduke Yikes - reading the recall info from NHTSA, this sounds like the Hyundai/Kia 2.4l Theta II "engine fire" recall, since it involves an engine block or oil pan "breach", so basically, throwing a rod:"Description of the Safety Risk : Engine oil and/or fuel vapor that accumulates near a sufficiently hot surface, below the combustion initiation flame speed, may ignite resulting in an under hood fire, and increasing the risk of injury. Description of the Cause :Isolated engine manufacturing issues have resulted in 2.5L HEV/PHEV engine failures involving engine block or oil pan breach. In the event of an engine block or oil pan breach, the HEV/PHEV system continues to propel the vehicle allowing the customer to continue to drive the vehicle. As the customer continues to drive after a block breach, oil and/or fuel vapor continues to be expelled and accumulates near ignition sources, primarily expected to be the exhaust system. Identification of Any Warning that can Occur :Engine failure is expected to produce loud noises (example: metal-to-metal clank) audible to the vehicle’s occupants. An engine failure will also result in a reduction in engine torque. In Owner Letters mailed to customers, Ford will advise customers to safely park and shut off the engine as promptly as possible upon hearing unexpected engine noises, after experiencing an unexpected torque reduction, or if smoke is observed emanating from the engine compartment."
  • Dukeisduke In an ideal world, cars would be inspected in the way the MoT in the UK does it, or the TÜV in Germany. But realistically, a lot of people can't afford to keep their cars to such a high standard since they need them for work, and widespread public transit isn't a thing here.I would like the inspections to stick around (I've lived in Texas all my life, and annual inspections have always been a thing), but there's so much cheating going on (and more and more people don't bother to get their cars inspected or registration renewed), so without rigorous enforcement (which is basically a cop noticing your windshield sticker is out of date, or pulling you over for an equipment violation), there's no real point anymore.
  • Zipper69 Arriving in Florida from Europe and finding ZERO inspection procedures I envisioned roads crawling with wrecks held together with baling wire, duct tape and prayer.Such proved NOT to be the case, plenty of 20-30 year old cars and trucks around but clearly "unsafe at any speed" vehicles are few and far between.Could this be because the median age here is 95, so a lot of low mileage vehicles keep entering the market as the owners expire?
  • Zipper69 At the heart of GM’s resistance to improving the safety of its fuel systems was a cost benefit analysis done by Edward Ivey which concluded that it was not cost effective for GM to spend more than $2.20 per vehicle to prevent a fire death. When deposed about his cost benefit analysis, Mr. Ivey was asked whether he could identify a more hazardous location for the fuel tank on a GM pickup than outside the frame. Mr. Ivey responded, “Well yes…You could put in on the front bumper.”