Building a Montero TURBO
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By: Dave Delouise - 04/01/2005

How it all started

Well guys- As most of you know Ive been trudging along this past year trying to become a monty driver as opposed to parts rig owner. I started with an 84 monty that had the motor out, but the short block machined and ready to go. I had no head for it, and no idea of just how much other stuff I would be missing, as I had never worked on one of these before. After asking lots of questions here, I took the advice of FastEddy, KevinC, JasonA, and others and went looking for a starquest. I found an 84 conquest non-intercooled car, and started to dismantle it. No sooner than I was ready to yank that motor, I found a guy selling an 87 conquest tsi, in running condition. I again asked you guys for advice and learned how much better and easier the install would be with the 87 vs. the 84. Add to that the benefits of the intercooler, and better parts to sell off, to try to recover some costs. Anyhow, I spent a week or two getting the 87 running great. I did all that maintenance stuff before I tore it down, as I figured it would be way easier to diagnose problems later. It didnt help. More on that later...


After the tune-up, I pulled the motor and harness out. I then began the changeover of parts required to make the starion motor work in the trucks. The oil pan was changed, as well as the pickup tube and dipstick location. A new water pump was added, with new timing set. The balance shafts had been removed prior, so I just left that alone. I stress relieved the exhaust manifold by cutting the webs between the runners, and then had it machined flat. I next attacked the throttle body and injectors. I replaced all the gaskets and o-rings, and cleaned the injectors. Everything was going great. I prepped the monty to receive the new motor by first stripping out the old carb harness. A lot of stuff was already out from the previous mechanic, so I got kind of lost many times. A previous battery had leaked, and rusted all down the firewall, and even on to the frame. I cleaned that up and POR-15d everything real well, then touched up with some silver spray paint. I installed a new clutch and dropped the motor in. I had a new fuel line built using high pressure hose with the ends on it that I needed. I also had the hydraulic shop build me new lines for the oil cooler. The wiring harness and all the little components went in fairly easy. Actually connecting the harness to the monty was a different story.

The wiring gets harnessed

I had taken tons of pics of the engine in place in the conquest before I touched anything, to have as a reference for the re-install. BOY did that ever come in handy. I got all the electronics and vac lines hooked back up and went to tackle the grafting of the two harnesses. Well, what I learned is that 87 is a bastard year for the starquest. It shares many of the components of the 88-89, and some of the 86. There are even two versions of the 87 and neither match the other years completely. Anyway, my first clue was that there is no wiring diagram from mitsu for the 87. They include it in the 88-89, but there are some differences. With TONS of help from Eddy, Kevin, Lizzord, RallyColtTurbo(Jess), and Shelby and the guys over at the strarquest sites, I managed to get everything hooked up.

Its A-LIVE! Or is it?

I cant remember exactly when but it was early summer... I finally fired it up. I had a helper there, and it was a good thing. I had neglected to tighten the banjo bolts on the fuel filter, and even though it ran, I was spraying gas everywhere! Very lucky, and one mistake I will NEVER make again!

I got it running, timed it, everything seemed great. Took it for spin, and my heart broke. It had a terrible cut-out at 2000 rpms. I started trying to diagnose it and couldnt get anywhere. Again I came back to the turbo guys here, as well as the starquest guys. I was very fortunate to have an electric motor rewind shop next door to my shop. The owner is a great friend and golfing buddy. He has all the equipment and know-how to fix my problem right? Wrong! Even with his help, we got nowhere. I had any electrical glitch somewhere, and no amount of testing and retesting was helping. I ordered a new computer, and that didnt help either. We struggled with it for a FEW MONTHS and all attempts were futile! Ive been assured by the experts that it was probably something real easy, and I tend to agree, but I had very little patience left. It was NOT easy and I was getting nowhere!

Going in a different direction: MPI

In September, I sold my business and actually made enough on the deal to have two nickels to rub together. I said screw it, shot the lock off my wallet and committed to swapping the TBI injection to MPI. This would involve getting rid of all the electronic stuff that was plaguing me so I kind of saw it as a guaranteed fix. The truck sat for a month or so, while I did my homework. MPI is expensive, no real way around it. There are lots of guys who do wacky stuff like drilling injector holes right on the stock manifold, and then gluing them in with JB WELD!!! But I wanted to do it right. I found a guy in a wrecking yard in Perth, Au. who sold me a manifold off of a Mitsu Magna. It is a naturally aspirated, front wheel drive sedan that was only delivered to Oz. The manifold is a direct bolt on, but requires extensive modifications to switch from the front drive application to our trucks. I could have bought one through the starquest guys, that was already modified, but Im glad I didnt. There is a lot more room in the bay of a starquest, and it would not have fit. I wound up buying a spoolgun for my mig welder, and learned to weld aluminum. It was a very tedious process, but it came out quite nice.

Upon Reflection...

Would I do it again? NO WAY. For what the Magna costs, and still has to be modified, I would build my own intake in a second before doing that again. I would probably do all the design and cutting/bending work, and then have a pro tig weld it. Anyhow, I painted my manifold with a hammertone paint to hide all my non-pro work and it came out looking great. In fact, it is far and away the best looking part of my engine bay.

Upon FastEddys suggestion, I opted to go with a computer system from Simple Digital Systems, in Calgary. They were fantastic to work with and provided me with all I needed. I decided that since I was taking this big of a step anyway, I took their option of a direct fire spark control system, integrated with the fuel system. This eliminated the rest of the nearly twenty year old stuff from the original mitsu setup. I have no coil or distributor now, just coil packs from SDS that fire the spark plugs. Their system even came with a fuel pump relay for that crash safety thing. It installed without a hitch and fired up with minimal persuasion.

Okay, NOW it runs?

I took it for a drive, but it didnt run very well. It was rich to the point of backfiring, coughing, gagging, puking...... I pulled the plugs and found the #4 to be very wet. After a quick discussion with a mechanic buddy, he thought it sounded like it was firing on the decompression stroke, and to check my firing order. I went back to the manual, and double checked my plug wires and all were good..... 1-4-3-2. I gave quick call to SDS and guess what? I learned something that should be so easy......If you grab any repair manual that covers more than one vehicle, engine, year, etc., there will ALWAYS be a firing order listed for EACH one right? Well...... SDS says to me- Conquest... thats an inline four right?..... ALL inline fours fire 1-3-4-2. HAAAA!!!!! Why do the manuals make it so difficult? I felt like an idiot, but also felt kind of liberated. Anyway, seems since SDS already knows this tidbit of info, their coil packs are numbered by cylinder, not by firing order. I changed those wires and ..... WHEEEE!

Now the smoke starts. Lots of it! Gobs of it. James Bond smoke screen style smoke. I had lost allot of components that integrated with the intake manifold, secondary air cleaner, EGR, etc. when I made the jump to MPI, so there were a couple of loose ends. Namely, there is a breather hose out of the valve cover that couples to an oil separator. It is mounted to the air can. I had heard about plumbing the oil separators drain line into the turbo oil return line so I did just that. Now though, I have no air can so???? My mechanic buddy deduced that I could just plumb that breather line DIRECTLY into the oil return line, since in essence, that whats happening in the stock setup...... WRONG! It was pressurizing the return line, feeding oil backwards through the turbo, into the intake, causing all my smoke. Easy fix. I just mounted a small breather filter on top of the valve cover, and plugged the T in the return line. Took it for a drive and could not be happier.

Driving the turbo (finally)

Ive literally never owned a vehicle with this much power. Well, different kind of power.... it wont tow like my Cummins, but hey..... This little sucker is so zippy, and fun to drive. (And I thought I wasnt going to race it...... ya right!!!)

As I finalize this project (uh-huh), I find a real sense of accomplishment. At this point, it appears as though I may have the only one of these in the world. Pretty dang cool!

Would I do it again? Probably, but I would do a lot of things different. I followed Landraiders 4.3 swap closely as well. He has WAY more room left in his engine bay, and still probably has more useable power. Add to that the gearing issues, and it seems like a viable solution. The G54b turbo swap is a great way to go, but I would personally never try to tangle with that factory wiring again. I am so sold on the SDS system, that even if I was going to do the 4.3 swap, I would never even give the factory computer a second thought. I would order an SDS system for it. It isnt cheap by any means, but it was the cheapest $1600 I have spent on a project vehicle EVER. It resolved many problems, and increased the usability of the truck. They go by the name Simple Digital Systems for a reason.... it is very simple, and they are there for support along the way.

I have learned so much about this vehicle along the way that it has given me confidence to break down anywhere! I learned that there is also, a feasible way to fuel inject any G54B motor that would be really affordable. Id guess it would really benefit the carbed 2.6 a bunch.
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The Engine Bay
Dave D
It looks OE
Dave D

The budget, or lack thereof...

Did I spend a lot of money on this project? Well... Um... YA! But it was still VERY affordable when compared to using any number of other vehicles as a platform. For example, the 74 CJ-5 I also own, I paid $3500 for it and it is plain ole, stock with a bad cylinder. Did I waste allot of money on this project? Um...YA! I could have cut many hundreds of dollars out by either not needing to do the MPI portion, or even committing to it in the first place. I spent allot of money on stuff that is now lying in a pile with the old computer and TB stuff. I of course didnt need to buy that first 84 quest. I certainly didnt wind up needing that extra quest computer. Ive got at least $50 worth of hose lying around that I didnt wind up using! It all adds up. I did not include any tool purchases in my total for obvious reasons. I now have a very well outfitted shop! Keep in mind I did NOT rebuild the motor that is now in the Monty. I just serviced the heck out of it.

So.... heres my outlay to date:

Total: $5,017.52

For anyone looking at a swap like this, remember a few things when that bottom number scares you!--
You probably already have a montero/raider/truck
It shouldnt need new everything
You probably already know a whole lot about your rig; I started from a TOTALLY blank page!

Thanks for all the help everybody- First round in CO is on me!!!

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Water neck mod
Dave D
The Magna Intake
Dave D
Oil cooler
Dave D
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Oil line
Dave D
Intake plumbing
Dave D
Who said this was bolt on?
Dave D
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The Magna intake is pretty
Dave D
exhaust manifolds
Dave D
Overhead view
Dave D
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Water pump
Dave D
Its coming together!
Dave D
Some extra plumbing necessary
Dave D
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Need a thermo - STAT!
Dave D
Anybody see my magnet?
Dave D
"Some" mods are necessary...
Dave D
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Did I mention I did some welding?
Dave D
The parts look like new again
Dave D
Something every engine needs: A TURBO!
Dave D

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