Mitsubishi may be leaving Europe due to sluggish sales (blame the dull-as-dishwater model range) but whisk yourself back to the Japanese company’s heyday tearing it up on the World Rally Championship stage.
The Lancer Evolution and Mitsubishi’s long-running battle with Subaru is legend, but you might not know about Mitsubishi’s plans for a Group B rally car to take on the mighty Audi Quattro, Ford RS200 and Lancia 037.
Group B cars are often considered the ultimate rally cars because the rules allowed for an unrestrained power and technology war, with later cars pushing upwards of 600bhp. The result was unhinged performance on the WRC’s often narrow, twisty rally stages where spectator protection relied on crowds of fevered fans jumping out of the way at - hopefully - the last moment as the cars blasted past. Group B was banned just four years after its 1982 introduction, after the deaths of Finnish rally ace Henri Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto at the Tour de Corse event, when their Lancia Delta S4 plunged over a ravine.
Mitsubishi started planning a Group B version of its Starion coupe in 1984, and was serious about producing 200 road-going versions to satisfy the demands of the homologation process. These newly discovered artist impressions show how the car was shaping up. It did race in the prototype class at the 1984 Mille Pistes rally, but never made it to the start line of a WRC race.
While the styling is a bit more pumped up than the regular Starion, it’s quite subtle compared to the Peugeot 205 T16 and MG Metro 6R4. The main changes are the wider arches and the conventional quad headlamp unit, in place of the pop ups on the standard car, while every car would also have got a numbered plaque.
The Starion rally car was also four-wheel drive rather than rear-drive, and was going to be a replacement for the rear-drive Lancer 2000 Turbo. Power was said to be around 350bhp, but a one-tonne kerbweight meant it could have been competitive. It was set to be homologated in 1986, but the shutting down of Group B meant the Starion never got to race.
Mitsubishi applied what it had learnt to its next rally project, the Group A Galant VR-4. The Galant was the first Mitsu to win the WRC, which encouraged the company to go on and develop the Lancer Evos. A Tommi Makinen Edition version that had been on Mitsubishi UK’s press fleet recently sold for over £100,000.
These newly discovered pics have surfaced as part of Mitsubishi UK’s office clear-out, as it prepares to hand over its remaining UK aftersales business to the UK Subaru importer.
Are you sad that the Starion 4WD never got to race properly? Tell us in the comments below.