Adding New Fuel To An Old FlameWhen Eric Plebani's Starion first graced the pages of November '99 Turbo, it caught our eyes by being a fast, budget-conscious Diamond Star. Budget-yes, but bucket, hell no! It proved that innovation can be achieved for pennies-good ideas cost nothing. Our first encounter with Plebani's '87 Mitsubishi Starion was on May 15th, 1999 at Island Dragway in New Jersey. The vehicle debuted running consistent 11.5s at 124 mph, which is enough to be considered a very worthy Starion even to this day. Back then, the Diamond Star was equipped with a bone-stock 4G63 Eclipse powerplant plugged into a bone stock OEM Starion transmission with the help of a Buschur Racing motor mount kit. Advanced Clutch Technology was able to design a bulletproof clutch set up to transfer the ponies to the rear. A ROM-tuned ECU working in conjunction with an HKS VPC (Vein Pressure Converter) and Buschur Race Pump handled fuel management. "The motor was originally bone-stock because we didn't even know if this set-up would work at all," said Plebani. "After it debuted at the IDRC event, we were confident the platform would be capable of running good numbers."
That Was Then, This Is Now!In just under a year, Plebani was able to move up the ladder from double to single digits. His home track is Atco Raceway and this is where the long process of getting the car to hookand book began.
Once he realized the set-up was working flawlessly, Plebani swapped out the 20G turbo for a larger T-66 Innovative turbo. The new hair dryer was set for 27-psi of boost pressure, just like the original. Besides the turbo swap, Plebani also had Buschur Racing open up the cylinder head and load the engine with forged pistons and billet rods.
The first gremlin Plebani encountered was the OEM transmission. With the motor ingesting 27 pounds of boost pressure, the transmission would literally spin apart on him. While covered in gear oil after yet another transmission change, Plebani decided enough was enough. Soon after, a Chevy Powerglide was poised to be installed into the determined Diamond Star. Plebani brought the Powerglide to a local V8 shop that fitted the transmission with a set of friction-free roller bearings designed to help the little four-banger turn the gears. After a few test sessions with the 'glide, Plebani determined the stock rear end gear was too tall, so he installed a shorter one-this is when magic started to occur.
The Starion landed in the land of 10s with the 'glide and all of the other engine mods, so it was time to play with the suspension. At the time, Plebani said, "I wanted the car to run reliably at 27 psi and once I have it dialed in at that amount of boost, I will go to 30 psi." Today he said, "to get into the 9s, I had to play a lot with the shocks, tire pressure and anything else that could get my car to hook and book. I videotaped all of my runs and the footage made a big difference in learning what the car was doing down the track. What made the biggest difference was the Ground Control set up in the rear. I played with different shocks and spring rates, but the Ground Controls seemed to work the best. As a matter of fact, I still haven't made the jump up in boost, but with a little more suspension tweaking, the car will be ready for 30 psi."
Although the motor was still very healthy, Plebani made the decision to install a Stage III Buschur engine complete with a Buschur sheetmetal intake and fuel rail, a set of Unorthodox Racing pulleys and one big-ass Spearco intercooler. After all the mods, the Screamin' Starion grasped the nines in June and has since ran its best time of 9.73 at 141 mph at the '00 Diamond Star Shootout. Plebani and his Starion have seen trap speeds in the 146-mph range, and with a little more suspension tuning, the car should be in the low 9s and knockin' on the 8s.