Vagabond of the Interstellar Highway: Finding a Home in the Stars
Written by Brian Brawley
The year was 1986. It was a cool Autumn evening as you drive with your friends down the freeway. Football season is in full bloom, and nothing matters more than playing that varsity game, except maybe asking your sweetheart Jenny to prom. With windows down and the cool wind against your brow, nothing else matters, it’s a night of wonder and amazement. Then in the mirror come lights. The only other car on the road blitzes by in an almost UFO-like fashion. You cannot help but notice as it passes, the sleek angles, the cutting edge wedge shape, the meaty box flares, and the whistle of forced induction. The warm orange pulse of its spaceship dials and indicators freshly burn into your retina. It is no car by conventional means, as the only words you can muster are “interstellar” as it melts into the horizon. As the taillights grow smaller, they seem to drift into the sky unifying with the stars. This is the story of a forgotten hero, this is the legend of the Starquest.
Star of Orion. The official moniker Mitsubishi gave its new halo car, the Starion. Debut in 1982, the Starion was the result of Mitsubishi’s success in the late 70’s. Starion was a very prideful and powerful car, and packed all the punches. During its production run, Starion was available with futuristic tech such as automatic climate control, audio system with graphic equalizer, and power windows within 30 seconds of shutting the vehicle off. As one of the earliest cars to offer turbocharged power tethered to electronic fuel injection, it was also considered to begin the wave of turbocharged Japanese sports cars and sedans. For the US, Starion came with a modest 145bhp tied to a 5 speed manual transmission. By 1984, Dodge officially imported Starion and named it Conquest with hopes to steal sales from the likes of the RX-7, 300z, and Supra. 1986 by far brought the most important upgrades. With wider haunches, intercooled goodness, and many engine revisions, Starion ESI-R (Euro Sport Intercooled-Rally) and a now Chrysler Conquest TSI (Turbo Sport Intercooled) were extraterrestrial. Power was now up to 176bhp, torque at 223 foot pounds. This was the mid model refresh Starquest needed with the new competition. With the introduction of 12 valve and even 16 valve heads Starquest hit its pinnacle at 188bhp and 234 foot pounds of torque. By 1989, a new Diamond Star Motors was focusing on a new successor the 3000GT/GTO, and Starquest became but a story in a fairy tale.
Still, Starquest was the entirety of its era. From the futuristic interior from a spaceship, orange glow dials, and turbo badging seatbelts. The narrow and wide body cars with a sleek hatch, flip headlamps, and edgy styling. It’s a stunning car even today. With 4 wheel independent suspension, disc brakes, ABS, Limited Slip Differential, and a 2800 pound curb weight it was a strong fighter and was a force to be reckoned with. As their legend implies, Starion and Conquest both hold a place in the stars even if long forgotten. They were the future then, and they are the future now.
Photo courtesy of Flickr