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Project Car Hell, Off-Brand Japanese '80s Hairdryer Edition: I-Mark RS or Cordia Turbo?

Time:2018-05-16 05:32Turbochargers information Click:

project Hell Japanes Off-Brand

Is it a sickness to love weird Japanese sport compacts from the era of Pseudo Echo and Iran-Contra? Cars that nobody but a few scarily obsessed single-interest types would even recognize? It sure is, but not to worry--there's no better reason to hurl yourself headlong into the Lake of Fire that is Project Car Hell. Last week, we went high-buck with a couple of pricey rat-rod engine swaps. This week, we'll keep the price tags a bit lower, but the cost in blood will be about the same.


Two worthy Project Car Hell candidates: the Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS and the Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo!

The 1980s have become the default decade for low-impact, harmless nostalgia; you'll hear Duran Duran and Mötley Crüe playing at the dentist's office nowadays. That's not the 1980s we're talking about today, however. Today, we will be jumping into the pastel-colored time machine, pulling on our legwarmers and turning our garages into the nightmare 1980s world of the Village People gone New Wave! Yes, the lovable, campy costumed gay heartthrobs of the 1970s mutated into terrifying murder-crazed zombies of hirsute fashion crime about the time Ronald Reagan took office.

Those are the 1980s we're talking about when we talk about today's car choices--not the cheery, reliable Celica or the 200SX, but the baffling and temperamental Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo and the Isuzu I-Mark RS. You don't get Cyndi Lauper, you get Adnan Khashoggi!


With a neck-snapping (for 1988) 110 turbocharged horsepower, this Isuzu I-Mark RS is just begging for the biggest turbo money can buy.

The looked good on paper, with 110 turbocharged horses under the hood, a Lotus-designed suspension, a curb weight of just 2,167 pounds and a price tag nearly a grand less than that of the Honda CRX Si. The only problem was, hardly anybody bought the things, and the few that did manage to roll off showroom floors got right into breaking down and dropping parts in most un-Japanese fashion. That makes the late-1980s I-Mark RSs quite rare these days, which means you can be the only person in town with a super-original-looking example.

Of course, you'll want to upgrade the turbocharger and intercooler to jack up the boost to geological pressures, because your I-Mark will need at least double the factory horsepower. The longest journey begins with a single step, however, so first you'll need to pick up an I-Mark RS as your starting point. They're tough to find, my friend, but Project Car Hell is here to torture help you!

This 1988 I-Mark RS in Salt Lake City (go here if the listing disappears) runs and drives, and it comes with an absurdly inexpensive $800 price tag. Wait, is that a typo? Eight hundred bucks? Yes, for the price of a primered-out 1983 Nissan Sentra riding on three space-saver spares, you could have this priceless example of automotive history. Fix up the interior, rebuild the engine to withstand 30 pounds o' boost, and shop for the biggest turbo the Long March Turbocharger Factory #414 in Guangzhou has to offer, because your I-Mark awaits!


Go more obscure than just about anything! This Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo has been lovingly stored on four flat tires in the Florida salt air for more than a decade.

That I-Mark RS would be a lot of fun, no argument there, but too many people would be able to identify the thing. An against-the-grain iconoclast like yourself needs to go with a Japanese '80s turbomobile more obscure than a semi-General Motors product--say, a car from the first generation of Mitsubishi-branded products to be familiar to Americans since the A6M Zero. Everyone knows about the Starion, and you can usually find some folks who can distinguish a Mirage from a Colt, but there are more Bigfoot sightings than Cordia appearances in North America these days. (The Tredia, the sedan sibling of the sporty Cordia, is even harder to find, but we'll stick with the I-Mark RS's natural competition today.)

The 1988 Cordia Turbo was a real factory hot rod in its day, with 135 blown horsepower in a 2,458-pound package. Now, some might say that Mitsubishis of the 1980s were somewhat less than reliable, and they'd be absolutely right, but we're not going to dwell on such trivialities. You'll get your Cordia looking good and delivering at least 200 horses out of that 4G engine, thanks to modern technology and copious amounts of sweat and money.

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