Fitting the T56 6-speed transmission under the Conquest’s center tunnel also proved to be a major challenge. “After 20 or so times trying to fit the engine and transmission in the car, I eventually had to cut the entire center tunnel out,” John says. “Knowing that my once very clean and stock car now had a gigantic hole down the center of it was very intimidating and at times overwhelming. But little by little I rebuilt the tunnel and parts of the floor to tie it all together. Due to my engine placement, I could no longer use the stock brake booster, so I also had to source a booster and master cylinder, this time from a fox body Mustang Cobra. Once I got everything to fit and got the car to steer and brake, it was on to interior.”
If you’ve ever ridden in an ’80s Starion or Conquest, then you know the interior is classic ’80s cheese. We’re talking overstuffed velour-wrapped seats, big square buttons galore and a slab-like dash with as much style as a 2x4. For an automotive designer like John, big changes were needed. “I did pages and pages of sketches to try to figure out the direction I wanted to go,” he says. “I wanted the interior to feel expensive yet be race car simple. I rewired the car from scratch, gaining simplicity and dropping weight. Once I finished the paintwork on the chassis and cage, I started the final assembly inside.” The end result is stunning — the carbon-fiber dash and center tunnel and cleanly integrated switches and gauges giving John’s Conquest a GT race car vibe inside while still looking like an entirely pleasant place to be on a long cruise, thanks to the suede-wrapped door cards and center tunnel sides.
As for the stock-looking exterior, John kept it simple but still put a number of custom touches on it that only the hardcore Starion/Conquest lovers out there are likely to spot. The pop-up headlights were removed in favor of lighter HIDs sourced from an ’04 Cadillac STS. “I had to build custom-sealed housings with adjustment for the projectors,” John explains. “The stock foglights were replaced with custom-built LED boards and vacuformed polycarbonate lenses to give it a stock look and feel but with a touch of modern technology. The front facia opening has also been enlarged for a more aggressive look and increased airflow.” And as icing on the cake, John fell into a set of old school HRE 505 wheels that give his Conquest a suitably aggressive stance while providing a period-correct style.
Speaking of stance, it’s also worth noting that during his time under the car figuring out how to make the engine and trans fit, John also took the time to strip the undercoating and yank the suspension, install new bushings throughout, stitch-weld the chassis and repaint the underbody and control arms. He also cut down the strut housings so that he could use adjustable Tokico Illuminas from a Toyota MR2 along with a set of Cosmo coilover sleeves and lowering springs.
As the poster child for the “Built Not Bought” DIY mantra, John Lazorack’s ’88 Chrysler Conquest is as custom as custom gets, despite having been built on a budget in his home garage. For those of you who appreciate home-brewed ingenuity and craftsmanship, it doesn’t get much better than that — unless, of course, you’re John, who has put a solid 10K miles on his Conquest this summer, including flogging it like a rented mule at a number of autocross and drift events. For in-car video evidence of John’s need for a tire sponsor, search YouTube for “Conquest drift in-car” and turn up the volume!