DTW’s Top Fifty All-Time Top 50 countdown: Number 4

This is in fact two cars not one. The 1982 Mitsubishi Starion came as a widebody and as a narrowbody.

1982 Mitsubishi Starion: momentcar.com
1982 Mitsubishi Starion: momentcar.com

The narrow-body catered for the Japanese market’s arcane tax laws and the wide-body for the export market primarily. It entered a field thick with competent, capable and well-priced driver’s cars such as  the Nissan Z cars, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra and the Honda Prelude and Isuzu Piazza. In Europe it fought bravely against the Manta and the Capri from Opel and Ford respectively. Alfa Romeo’s GTV was also firmly in its sights.

The striking appearance was matched by equally interesting underpinnings, a deceptively simple RWD layout with traditional front-mounted engine so it’s a bit of a drift-king. Customers could get a limited slip differential and anti-lock brakes as standard features though the ABS worked only on the rear wheels. The car had McPherson struts at the front and anti-roll bars front and rear, based on the award-winnning design of the Sapporo and Galant coupe. Instead of rack and pinion steering there was a gearbox to do the turning duties.

In recent years Mitsubishi have not offered such a compelling vehicle as the Starion which is a disappointment for fans of the three-diamond marque. Perhaps it’s time for Mitsubishi to revive the name and re-invigorate their image.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “DTW’s Top Fifty All-Time Top 50 countdown: Number 4”

  1. The Starion was a fine car for sure ( I think you have to mention the Porsches 924 and 944 as its most famous rivals).
    But the design of the car was a bit too delicate for a Mitsubishi. Remember the Lancer Turbo with the same engine, that is how easy a sporty front bumper can be designed….

    1. Good point! Porsche’s cars cost a lot more for only a small improvement in top speed. Also, Porsche had a limited range of cars alongside their 928 whereas Mitsubishi had family cars and saloons. Not many realise this: the Starion shared components with other, standard
      Mitsu cars so it was cheaper to run than a Porsche.
      I’m impressed you found that Lancer. It comes close to being the least-designed car I’ve yet seen. It makes the Stanza seem expressive in comparison.
      I bet the Lancer in this form is not as cheap as you might think either? (Are they actually quite good?)

  2. The Lancer was the work of Aldo Sessano of Open Design, an automotive and industrial designer of some distinction.

    Approximate blagged CV:

    Born in Turin, Attended the Faculty of Architecture at Turin Polytechnic
    1956-68 Chief designer at Fiat Centro Stile Fiat
    1968-1983 Sessano Associates Founder President, working with Renault, Enasa Pegaso, Seat, Volvo, Magnadyne, Marelli, Balay, Silma, Style, Gaggia, Indesit.
    1977-1997 Open Design founder, co-operates with Mitsubishi (since 1977), Saab Scania, Japan Railways, Konica, Cookvessel, Toyo Glass, Kodama-Echolac, Toyo Tyre.
    1998-2002 Master Design International founder collaborates with Mitsubishi, Maserati, Fiat, Lancia, Suzuki and Subaru.

    The Lancer has the same qualities as the Fiat 124, 125, and 128 saloons – at first sight they seem childishly simple, but on closer examination, they are finely proportioned, have a carefully worked out “stance”, and well considered, never overworked detailing.

    The Italians make it all look so easy, the failures of everyone else are evidence that it’s not.

    I occasionaly drove a 2000 Turbo in the late ’80s, A brutal thing, made worse by the 12″ steering wheel the owner had seen fit to install. Unassisted steering, naturally. It well deserved the BMW 2002-hommage reverse graphic on the front air-dam – the two cars were very much of the same stripe.

    1. One of the rewarding aspects of DTW has been the scholarship it has brought to light. Even the Starion has provided an opportunity for interesting insights.

      Sessano’s work falls – as I see it on the other side of the line separating simple from banal. I will look further into the matter; for the moment I see a small saloon that is formally correct. It’s missing nuances and what Bill Porter called “subtle formal shifts” (he was worked at GM during the Rybicki era, note).

  3. Well, the Starion was the beginning of Mitsubishi´s sportscar era – and already the highlight of this short era (except you are a Franz Beckenbauer fanatic and therefore you have to love the Mitsubishi 3000GT Beckenbauer edition).

    Maybe we do really not recognize the real significance of this Lancer. He was the very first sportscar named Lancer, long before the Evos are dominating the world of rallyesports. And we would find his engine – the 4g63 (the same engine loke the Starion) – in all Evos…

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