Follow by Email

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Saleen Focus N2O vs. Shelby GLHS: Which Would You Buy?



A good recipe can always be made better. Effectively, that’s the mantra of any successful tuning company. Add the right bits here, take away the wrong bits there – voila, a masterpiece. When it comes to fettling with Ford Mustangs, two names loom large: Carroll Shelby and Steve Saleen. 
But they both also dabbled in hot hatchbacks too. In 1986 Carroll Shelby gave the Dodge Omni a jackhammer of an engine, and in 2005, Saleen turned the Ford Focus into a nitrous-snorting sprinter. Both tantalizingly cool, both limited production vehicles.

We found two examples up for sale on eBay – this 2005 Saleen Focus and this 1986 Shelby GLHS – and we want to know: if it were your money, which would you buy?


After crafting unquestionably the world’s most coveted Ford Mustangs, Carroll Shelby took a hop, skip, and a jump across town to Chrysler, at the request of its chairman and friend Lee Iacocca, to invigorate the corporation’s performance. Invigorate he did. Shelby would go on to develop the Dodge Viper and a funky little hatchback called the ‘GLHS’, the severely demented brother of the new ‘Goes Like Hell’ Dodge Omni.

Chrysler handed Shelby a scant 500 GLH Turbo Omnis, and by the time Shelby was finished with them, the new Shelby GLHS cars were outputting an even 175 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. It may not seem like it today, but that was quite a heck of a lot, considering the base 1.7-liter Omni made due with just 70hp of put put. Zero to 60? Try 6.5 seconds.

According to the listing, this GLHS is number 250 of the original 500 car run, and shows under 23,000 miles on the clock.


Steve Saleen got into the hardcore hatchback game about two decades later, but he kept with the Ford theme. When the first generation Focus hit the market as the replacement for the Escort, it quickly earned a reputation as a fine driver. As it aged, that luster began to fade, and by the end of its lifespan in 2005, it needed a little boost.

Saleen provided such a boost. His creation, the S121 N20, featured a tuned version of Ford’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder, outputting 150 horsepower. In the trunk he stuck a 10-lb tank of nitrous, which when unleashed (button above cigarette lighter) could feed an additional 75 horsepower into the Focus engine, upping torque to 250 lb-ft and scooting to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. To complement its urgent engine, the Focus totes a Racecraft suspension and sporty body mods to boot.

Production numbers are a little vague, with the consensus being around 200 ‘N2O’ Saleens built in total. According to the seller, this S121 N2O is number 79 of the series. So there you have it: a Shelby tuned Dodge Omni or a Saleen tuned Ford Focus. Which is pulling at your heartstrings?