If you were a kid in the ‘80s, and you liked sports cars you probably have a bit of a soft spot for these classic cars. Though unappreciated at the time, the Chrysler Conquest and its sibling the Mitsubishi Starion continue to increase in value and are now sought after by import car collectors worldwide.
Throughout the 1980s, there were frequent badge exchanges between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi’s products were marketed as Colts, Plymouths, and Dodges by Chrysler, which was mostly a one-way street. These captive imports benefited from Chrysler’s brand recognition while also filling holes in the local company’s inventory at a low cost.
For the first half of the 1980s, Chrysler didn’t have a sports car in its lineup, although it did market the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo. Those models were phased out in 1983, and the Chrysler Laser, a front-drive sports vehicle, was introduced in 1984. Dodge had its own Laser variant the same year, as did Mitsubishi’s Starion (as Conquest), which Mitsubishi sold in North America in 1983. Until 1987, when the Conquest was shifted somewhat upscale for its responsibilities at Chrysler’s finest showrooms, the Laser was the company’s primary sports product.
According to Autotrader, “At that time, the Conquest looked a little different from the way it does now. It had a narrow body with no fender flares, and it looked a lot more like an early ‘FB’ Mazda RX-7 or a ‘Z31’ Nissan 300ZX than the fender-flared Conquest that came later.” The iconic fender flares were added in 1987 as well as an anti-theft system and heated outside mirrors. During this time, the Dodge and Plymouth model names were pushed aside, and the newly branded Chrysler Conquest was sold from 1987 to 1989. Confusingly, the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler Conquest all of which had the same model name were not sold at the same time…
However, the newly badged Chrysler Conquest TSi and the Mitsubishi Starion were in fact sold at the same time. The models were exactly the same, with the exception of brand emblems. According to Car Buzz, “Power came from a 2.6-liter turbocharged inline-four good for 145 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque paired to either a five-speed manual or four-speed slushbox.” The widebody was the most popular style for the Starion, however, in order to comply with Japanese market dimension regulations, they also offered a narrow-body version at a 66.3-inch width.
In 1986, The Chrysler Conquest TSi and Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R were introduced. All Starion and Conquest models were turbocharged, with inline-four Mitsubishi engines, as befitting their sporty aim. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission, with a displacement of 2.0 or 2.6 liters. Starion was a direct successor to Galant Lambda and was built on a redesigned version of it. The turbo cars offered a little more punch under the hood and cool widebody panels above the wheel arches. With innovative design and the addition of an intercooler, the engine was able to crank out up to 176 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque. The interior came with a four-spoke steering wheel, a plethora of knobs and buttons, and fun electronic seatbelts. You’d also find smooth leather seats in the TSi and ESI-R models.
Amusingly, Chrysler gave credit where credit was due, even airing a sort of humorous TV commercial featuring a bold red Chrysler Conquest unleashed from its cage while a voice-over cautioned “a fire-breathing Chrysler has been imported from Japan.” For the remainder of the Conquest’s life, Mitsubishi experimented with things like wheel lug count and axles. In 1988, the wide-body was reduced to 68.3 inches, which was a significant reduction. The car was lowered about two inches the following year, giving it its final appearance. After its run surreptitiously ended in 1989, the Conquest was replaced by the future 90’s icons, the Mitsubishi 3000GT and the Dodge Stealth.