Mitsubishi Starion

From Wikipedia / Edited for ModernRacer.com

The Mitsubishi Starion was a three-door, turbocharged four-cylinder rear-wheel-drive 2+2 sports car that was in production from 1982-1990. It is also marketed in North America as the Conquest under the Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth names. Although preceded by many earlier turbocharged designs, it was considered to be one of the originators of the modern Japanese turbocharged performance automobile genre.

The Starion's appearance in 1982 occurred during a period in which a number of Japanese Grand Tourer (GT) sports cars were increasing in popularity. It was launched to a marketplace against other Grand Tourers of the era, such the Porsche 924 Turbo, Nissan 300ZX Turbo, and the Toyota Supra Turbo. Despite poor sales figures, the Starion was received well by the motoring media who typically saw it as the harbinger of the turbocharger era.

During production, the Starion was produced in both a narrowbody (also known as Sport body) and widebody (known as the "R" version for Rally body) designs. Few changes were made between models, with only simple improvements marking the change from one model year to the next. In the United States market, there was only one major change when the car was upgraded to the ESI-r (Conquest TSi) model; this model features an intercooler and five-bolt wheels replacing the four-bolt wheels it had inherited from the rear-wheel-drive Galant Lambda.

The timeless design was not without drawbacks though. At the time, Mitsubishi opted for the Mitsubishi Astron engine with a single-camshaft head (SOHC) rather than the dual cam head, and also for a throttle-body fuel injection setup which mixed the fuel with the air prior to entering the plenum chamber. The design was somewhat unusual however, and it didn't have widespread appeal. Probably because of the unusual design, the Starion never brought Mitsubishi the success it desired in the marketplace to match the vehicle's success on the racing circuit.

Production ceased entirely by 1990, and its successor, the 3000 GT, was fitted with the mechanicals of the recently demonstrated Mitsubishi HSX Sports Coupe concept vehicle. Many of the performance features of the Starion were integrated into later vehicles and can be found in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, and the early Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Conquest was a version of the Starion sold by the Chrysler Corporation from 1983 to 1989, under both the Dodge and Plymouth names until 1986. Chrysler sold the Conquest under its own name from 1987 until 1989.

A number of models existed throughout the world during 1982 to 1990. Many markets got the 2.0L 4G63 turbo engine, while others got the 2.6L 4G54 engine, both with similar power figures.

The Starion used a FR layout, namely a front-mounted engine with rear-wheel-drive platform. Many came with a limited slip differential and basic anti-lock brakes as standard features. The entire chassis was derived from the previous high-performance variant of the Mitsubishi Sapporo or Galant Lambda sports coupe, with a MacPherson strut front suspension and an independent rear suspension.

Engine capacity was 2.0L with the now well-known 4G63 engine, subsequently featured in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution series. However, American customers received the larger G54B 2.6L engine but without any additional horsepower. After 1987, European Starion models were also fitted with the G54B 2.6L engine, and so was the GSR-VR for Japan. Both engines featured computer controlled fuel injection and turbocharging. Horsepower varied between 150 hp and 197 hp depending mostly upon the turbocharger that was fitted, the presence of an intercooler, and whether the 8-valve or 12-valve head was used. A naturally-aspirated version known as the GX was also built for the Japanese market, however production ceased in 1983 due to low sales figures. Unlike the most common models, the Starion GX had no electric windows, no air conditioning, no independent rear suspension, no fuel injection and did not have power-assisted steering. A five-speed manual transmission was standard in most models, however, an automatic transmission was sold as an option in some markets.

The Cd drag coefficient was around 0.32 -- quite efficient for the era, and although quite angular, the aerodynamics in general were exceptional at the time.

The Starion was a prominent competitor in motorsports up to International level during the 1980s and performed well on the circuit in Group A and Group N races of the era. Although not that commonly used in modern motorsports, a number are still raced on both circuit and in special stage rally events, usually by privateers.

The Starion was equally successful offroad, and found victory in Group A World Rally Championships and Asia Pacific Rally Championships, during 1987 and 1988. An all-wheel-drive version of the Starion was also produced for Group B specifications, being one of the few Japanese automobile manufacturers to enter this class, but after an encouraging start as a prototype, was not homologated before the FIA banned Group B cars for safety reasons. The Starion was converted to all-wheel-drive by adding a strengthened transfer case from a Pajero behind the transmission. This configuration allowed the engine to be situated well back in the chassis, for improved front/rear weight distribution compared to the Audi Quattro, whose configuration required the engine to be far forward in the car. Although the wheelbase did not change, the use of regular headlights rather than the production model's pop-up headlights allowed the nose to be six inches shorter, as well as saving several pounds in weight. Further weight was saved by the use of carbon fiber for the driveshafts, sumpguard, and lower arms of the suspension, and fiberglass for the hood, tailgate, door skins, fenders, bumpers and spoilers, resulting in a final weight of less than 1,000 kg, lighter than the Audi Quattro. The car was developed with a turbocharged and intercooled version of Mitsubishi's 2.0L fuel injected engine, but the final goal was to use a turbocharged and intercooled 350 hp version of the Sirius Dash engine that Mitsubishi announced at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show, which switched electronically at 2500 rpm from one inlet valve per cylinder to two. The car was campaigned for Mitsubishi by Team Ralliart in Essex, Great Britain, under rally veteran Andrew Cowan and engineer Alan Wilkinson, who had developed the Audi Quattro for Audi Sport UK.

Mitsubishi later became a prominent front-wheel-drive player, modifying these to all-wheel-drive when needed. Needless to say, the Starion was their last true rear-wheel-drive sports car.

© Wikipedia / ModernRacer.com

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