Ford Capri not your bag? Then what about a rival 1980s coupé from the land of the rising sun that offers power and reliability? Jack Carfrae looks at the pros and cons of owning a Mitsubishi Starion
Mitsubishi’s Starion (reputedly an amalgamation of the phrase ‘Star of Orion’) was one of the first of a series of hot coupés to storm out of the Far East.
The street racing scene as we know it was a long way off in the early 1980s, but the kind of turbocharged coupés that would give birth to scenes like those in The Fast and the Furious were beginning to rear their heads.
Along with the Supras and RX-7s of its day, the Starion brought edgy styling and supercar-humbling performance to the table at a fraction of the cost. Decent examples are scarce in the UK, but if you can track one down, few classics can offer as much performance for such little outlay.
Mitsubishi Starion 2000 Turbo Widebody
Engine 1997cc/4-cyl/OHC 8-valve
Top speed 133mph
Gearbox 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The Mitsubishi Starion came in both narrowbody and widebody guises, the latter giving the car more road presence and stability, but adding a slight weight penalty. Front spoilers are prone to scuffs and stonechips, or even being torn off completely, so pay extra attention here.
The Starion is also susceptible to its fair share of rot, though thankfully corrosion seems to be limited to the obvious places. The rear arches and the sills are the most common problem points.
Botched modifications are your biggest worry here. The 2.0-litre engines in particular are tough and more than tunable – many Starions found homes with the rallying and track day crowd as a result. As usual, if the mods have been done properly then there’s nothing to worry about. But bungled tune-ups and a lack of proper documentation spell trouble. Cracked exhaust manifolds and damaged turbine housings are not unheard of either.
A 2.6-litre unit was introduced for UK Starions late in the model’s lifetime and was available from the off in the US. It’s no less reliable and the additional low down torque sorts out the 2.0-litre’s woeful turbo lag, but the extra bulk renders it the slowest variant.
Be prepared for colossal fuel bills, too. Official figures peg most versions of the Starion at around the 19mpg mark, so trips to the forecourt will become all too regular.
Like the engine, the five-speed manual gearbox is no less reliable than you’d expect from a Mitsubishi. Cars sold in the US and Japan were available with a four-speed automatic unit and some of these made their way to the UK. Again, the self-shifter is robust enough as long as it’s been looked after and the fluid changed regularly.
Watch out for a slipping clutch on the test drive. This is often a sign of hard use and, given the Starion’s rarity, most of us could do without the resultant hunt for replacement parts.
Ventilated discs all-round mean the Starion is far from short of stopping power, so be wary of anything that requires a lot of effort from
the middle pedal. Handbrake cables are notoriously prone to sticking, which isn’t a serious malady, but offers a good haggling point.
The calculator-style 1980s switchgear isn’t of the greatest quality, so try before you buy. Give everything a good prod for durability purposes and be sure to test anything and everything electrical (windows, blowers, etc.).
Parts are neither the easiest nor the cheapest to come by, though the owners’ club forum is a good bet for sourcing rarer items. The leather seats are likely to have worn heavily on well-used or neglected cars, so you should budget accordingly for a re-trim.
Brutally fast and with precise handling and impressive refinement for its era, the rear-wheel drive Starion is excellent value and an alternative choice of 1980s coupé. It has motor sport cred aplenty, too, having enjoyed success in the World Rally Championship, American endurance racing and more. We’d also wager that the Mitsubishi will fare better than its British rivals on the reliability front.