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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Dodge Omni GLH Turbo is a Shelby by Design


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

Despite today’s carbuyers going nuts over crossovers, the traditional hot hatchback is still going strong…and in fact, most are hotter than ever. The Golf GTI has evolved into a 5.8-second missile from zero to 60 mph, the Mini Cooper JCW can do 5.9, and Ford’s all-new Focus RS can allegedly hit 4.7 seconds. Yikes. 
But not all of the classic hot hatches have lived on to see modern times. The Dodge Omni GLH would be one of them.

The “Goes Like Hell” Omni was birthed in 1984 when Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca enlisted longtime friend Carroll Shelby to turn the sedate Omni five-door into a hot performer. He did, and over the course of three years it got hotter and hotter, culminating in the Shelby monikered GLHS. This car, which recently popped up on eBay, isn’t a Shelby GLHS, but it is an ’86 Omni GLH Turbo and there’s still plenty to love about the boosted Dodge.


At first, things began modestly for the Shelby-tuned Omni GLH, which received a high-output 2.2-liter four in its first year, good for 110 horsepower. This was complemented by a stiffer and lowered suspension setup, larger brakes, sharper steering ratio, and 15-inch wheels wrapped in performance tires. It was brisk—zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds—though things would get rowdier still.

1985 saw the introduction of Chrysler’s optional 2.2-liter Turbo I engine, which cranked things up to 146 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. Considering the Omni GLH Turbo only weighed about 2,200 pounds, this was a winning combination, and responsible for zero to 60 dashes in the region of 7.5 seconds. The GLH and GLH Turbo models also looked the part for 1985 and ‘86, now wearing the sporty black air dam and side skirts as standard.


Unfortunately, while the GLH Turbo could best a GTI in a straight line, it couldn’t save itself from extinction. Dodge jettisoned the GLH and GLH Turbo after 1986, with Shelby’s 500 limited-run GLHS super hatchbacks ending the era.

Being that it’s an ’86, the Santa Fe Blue GLH Turbo pictured above is from the tail end of that lifespan, and shows a fairly low 32,560 miles to its name. These Omnis are becoming harder and harder to find in presentable condition and Turbo trim, but thankfully for collectors, pricing has yet to go stratospheric.