The term DIY (do it yourself) is widely used and abused in the automotive world. Sure, you can call yourself a DIYer if you do your own oil changes and swap in fresh spark plugs every so often, but in the tuner world DIY tends to go well beyond these basic maintenance items. If you’re into modifying cars, then DIY means installing all those tasty go-fast upgrades yourself, and in the most extreme cases it even means designing and fabricating one-off parts for that truly unique project.
John Lazorack’s ’88 Chrysler Conquest TSi is one of the most extreme DIY project cars we’ve ever come across, having not only received a LS1 V-8 engine swap but also a whole host of one-of-a-kind modifications inside and out. Best of all, every single one-off component attached to this funky ’80s Mitsu-Chrysler bastard child was designed, built and installed by John (with a little help from his fiancé Tara and a few buddies).
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with anything that can be driven,” John explains. “I’ve always tried to find a way to make things better from a visual and performance standpoint. After many years of college [Penn State for mechanical engineering and Academy of Art for automotive design], I finally landed a job as a surface designer at GM in Detroit [and won the Designer’s Choice Award earlier this year]. Once I got a place of my own with a garage, I was finally able to focus on my Conquest [bought in 1999 and driven to high school] and turn it into the car I always wanted it to be. My main goal was a reliable 400–500hp car that I could use and abuse on a daily basis, drive to the track, race it, drift it, drag it, whatever, and then drive it home. I didn’t set a time limit for the project and didn’t have a ton of cash to throw at it. I looked at it more as a long-term learning experience to see what I could do given the skills I had obtained in college and as a professional, no matter how long it took me.” >>
As any Starion or Conquest owner can tell you, there isn’t much aftermarket support for this oddball machine. But that made it the perfect challenge for a guy like John. After stripping the car down to a bare shell and selling off just about every part he didn’t plan to use, he turned his attention to building a rollcage. “Since nobody makes an off-the-shelf cage for this car and I was planning to daily drive it, I had to design it myself to fit my needs,” John says. “I went to Art Morrison for some DOM custom spec tubing.” After all the tubing was cut and bent by Morrison, John got down to the dirty job of welding into the Conquest before taking on the powertrain swap.
Starting with a LS1 5.7-liter V-8 out of a ’02 Corvette, he decided he wanted to push this aluminum-block masterpiece of pushrod technology as far back in the engine bay as possible to optimize weight distribution. This meant cutting the firewall, as well as finding a new steering system for the car. For this, John turned to the fox body Mustang parts bin, sourcing a power steering rack and pinion out of a GT model. As John told us, “The power steering conversion was one of the biggest challenges with the build. After figuring out how to mount it, I then had to redesign the steering knuckles while also re-engineering the steering geometry to allow for more steering angle. After making close to 10 patterns, I built the final product in a 3-D modeling program and took it to a local CNC machine shop.”