Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Conquest TSi

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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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.

    • Eddie Eddie 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!

  • ChristianWimmer Yes, but with a carbureted 500cid V8. None of that fuel-injection silliness. 😇
  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.