San Marino Yellow: 1988 Chrysler Conquest

Here’s where people like me get into trouble: a rare color that is seemingly original paint. I don’t know why, but on certain cars, this is all it takes for me to make a bad decision. The Chrysler Conquest / Mitsubishi Starion twins remain one of those cars on my bucket list, but until this rare San Marino yellow example here on craigslist either goes down in price or magically has a 5-speed swapped in, it will remain merely a wish. 

One of the tell-tale signs (in my opinion) as to a car’s repaint history is whether original factory stickers or graphics remain in place. The “Conquest TSi” appliqué around the base of the hatch glass looks original, and I can’t see any obvious signs of overspray. Unfortunately, this car’s nice cosmetics are let down by some mechanical issues that should definitely factor into the asking price: it has a blown headgasket, and there is indeed coolant in the oil.

Which is really too bad, because so many of these cars have been completely trashed by now due to cheap prices and teenagers’ obsession with boost. The interior, despite being tan in color, remains very nice, with sport seats that show little signs of use. The dash isn’t cracked, but all of this is let down by the presence of an automatic shifter in the center console. One would hope this played a role in the Conquest not being turned into the ultimate project car by now.

The seller does include a full write-up from a local GM dealer of what the car needs; as you can see, the second line notes the presence of antifreeze in the oil. Although no headgasket job is cheap, you’ll definitely want to find out how long it’s been leaking to size up the potential extent of the damage internally. The seller is asking $4,200, which would be a great price for a Conquest with no issues, but in this instance, I think another reduction is in order to justify the work needed.


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  1. Rich

    Always wanted one of these too. Style still looks great today. Sadly this is probably not worth more than 2k as it sits.

    • XYZOL

      Haha, the first thing that came into my mind seeing this car was ‘always wanted one of those’ :))

  2. JoeR

    My favorite color on these is fiji blue.

    I clearly remember the night back in the early 90s, when one of these gave me a run for my money from a light while in my Grand National – I knew they had the boost way up, but was wondering if they had a bottle as well. Had much respect for these after that.

    • Cubs win

      When I had my 87 GN two of my buddies had these one white one black. I wasted them no matter how much boost they had. It was fun seeing how frustrated they got. They couldn’t understand how powerful the 3.8 six was.

  3. Jeffro

    Loved them in black. Every kid in high school wanted one of these.

    • Sam

      My dad had the 89 in black. I was so happy whenever he let me drive it. It was, by far, one of the best driving/handling cars I’ve driven. I kick myself for letting it go after he passed away.

  4. Rick

    When a dealership has to put a question mark after what they are asking is normal… it’s time to find a new service center…

    • Steve

      Also, whats with the compression and leak down numbers. The worst compression cylinders seem to have the best leak down. I would not expect that, especially for cylinder 4, 50% leak down, and the best compression. Am I missing something?

    • KeithK

      When we put a question mark next to a statement like that it usually indicates that the customer has asked us to guess or ” give a ball park” If he paid for a proper diag these results would have been printed out on the customers receipt. More than likely this was a free look over that he may have (usually not) slipped the tech a fiver for. The question mark doesn’t mean to look for another shop it means that you get what you pay for.

      Like 1
  5. 8banger Dave Member

    Had a white ’89 5 speed. Loved it. Took it to get smogged and the tech proceeded to put the front wheels on the rollers….intervention time….it was fast and nasty. Those 4s were basically turbod little truck engines, the head gasket being their Achilles heel.

  6. Moparmann Member

    The only thing that I DID NOT care for on these were the “mechanical mouse” seat belts!! :-)

  7. Chris

    My friend had one of these. The engines were terrible. When he was done with it, it was on its third engine.

  8. nessy

    I just love the Starion and Conquest. I had 3 of them, a red, blue and silver. I never had any problems with any of them and I wish I had all 3 back today. This seller says it may need a head gasket which was a known problem with these cars which is why his price seems low.

  9. EU Broker

    Drove the Mitsubishi variant from Cali to Chicago, up to Canada across to Montreal, down to Miami and back to the west coast back in 89 or 90. Fun car to drive, had it up to some high speeds on late night desolated highways, didn’t have a bit of trouble with it.

    • Sam

      Good point! These were fantastic for the long trips! Dad and I took some great long trips in his ’89: once from
      Kentucky to the Texas Mexican border and the up thru West Texas and on before heading back. Also enjoyed it on a few Florida trips, among others.

  10. PaulG

    Having recently sold an 88 San Marino yellow 5 speed Conquest, I can appreciate this one. I’ve also owned a red one, and would love to own a Fiji blue one day…
    Great cars when dialed in, and was always my first choice when traveling any distance.
    Surprised my share of folks when it was “hammer time”…

  11. John D

    Its at a dealership so if the problems were known at the time it was traded in, they most likely have way less in it. So go ahead and make an offer for less than what you would pay or for their asking price but fixed with a guarantee. I would hold on the fixed price but be willing to take a small bump in price without the repair, but still be less than what you would be willing to pay. Don’t get into heated negotiation over it. Leave your name and number so they can call when they realize they had a money offer. Also call the salesman once or twice a week to see if they had a chance to consider your offer. Let them know you can be a bit flexible on the price if they make an offer that is close to your price but you want to see that move first. They cannot put it on their dinner table.

    I sold a few of these, even an automatic. I had a yellow one that for some reason was sale proof, so it be came my demo. Good fun, although I’m a little tall for it.

  12. Vin in NJ

    Why did the seller bring a Chrysler Conquest to a Buick/GMC dealer for service?

  13. Alan (Michigan)

    Great looking body, appears to be very clean. These cars handled well too, and a bit of tuning had them on rails.

    If I were in the mood for a project, I’d think about putting a more modern engine in it, with some sort of transmission upgrade as well.

  14. Cubs win

    Neat little cars but they must have a stick. Blue was the best color I thought but the automatic is 0 fun chicks car. Especially in yellow.

  15. Adam T45 Staff

    This is the “wide body” version, which is the later and rarer of the Starions. Mitsubishi Ralliart homologated these for International Group A racing (both rally and circuit racing). Mechanical upgrades for these were available directly from Ralliart which would see them capable of a genuine 160+ mph. Sweet little car, but the auto and the engine issues probably mean that it’s over-priced. I can see a price of $3000 being realistic.

  16. Jason

    Down to $3,800.

  17. HeadMaster1

    Anyone else remember seeing these on the dealer lots when new with front wheels mounted on the back, and back mounted on the front? I’d y it was 50/50 in So Cal and the dealers didn’t understand different offset……they looked funny to say the least

  18. Kent Morris

    Great color combo and body condition; don’t let the engine issues scare you away if you want to own a StarQuest. It pretty much comes with the territory, but there are excellent solutions available. Often we SQers do a jet valve and balance shaft elimination while fixing the head gasket issues and use ARP bolts as well. A more efficient after-market radiator with always-on fans helps with the cooling issues as well. Here’s an example on one of mine:

  19. Ryan

    Wet carpet at the bottom of the transmission hump on the passenger side? Leaking windshield maybe…

  20. Joe M

    A friend of mine had a brand new one exactly like this with black interior, and a stick. We worked the graveyard shift, and I remember a lot of early morning runs with no traffic on the road, flying through foggy dips in the road. The turbo whistle was very prominent and slight turbo lag. Once it kicked in look out. This was one fun car.

  21. Paul R.

    Looks a lot like a MKIII Toyota Supra of the same era.

  22. CarNut from Winnipeg Member

    This is still a bucket list one for me too, but has to be 5spd. Makes me think of my father’s 82 and 84 Supras. I had an 82 Sapporo when he had those. But I definitely wanted a Starion.

  23. Kent Morris

    Here’s the engine photo that would not upload earlier.

    • Kent Morris


  24. Srt6

    Very interesting! In 1987 there were no automatics for the wide body cars and yellow was not even an option until 1988, so either the VIN is wrong or this car is a Frankenstein – pieced together

  25. Joel

    i didnt see how old your posting is ? Do u still hav the conquest? For sale? And whats your asking price? Is the 4200.00 neg.? Any and all info is appreciated..

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