Unearthed: 1986 Shelby GLH-S

Classic Cars

For a brief time in the 80s, there was one American-built hot hatch that could face the Volkswagen GTI. This is that car.

These days, the Volkswagen Golf GTI reigns supreme in the world of hot hatches. Many other automakers offer impressive competitors, but it's the GTI that most defies the segment. But back in 1984, Carroll Shelby and his crew had the chance to modify the Dodge Omni, a simple front-wheel-drive, five-door hatchback. Developed by Chrysler's European division, the Omni was the first front-wheel drive transverse engine production car for the North American market.

In addition, the car allowed for the automaker to beat their Ford and GM rivals to market with a VW Rabbit competitor. Calling their ultimate Omni the GLH (Goes Like Hell), it carried over most of the modifications that were done the year before by Shelby to the Charger. However, for the last 500 GLHs, Shelby went even further. Calling it the GLH-S (Goes Like Hell Shelby), they were powered by a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 175hp and 175lb-ft of torque and mated to a five-speed manual. Weighing only around 2,200 pounds, the GLH-S could go from 0 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, a quarter mile in 14.8 seconds, and a top speed of 130mph.

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All told, only 500 units were produced and each had a dash-mounted three-digit plaque showing its build number. Compared to the regular Omni, the GLH-S was powered by the aforementioned intercooled Turbo II engine and was equipped with Shelby Centurion wheels and Koni Adjustable shocks/struts, and various other alignment changes. The owner of this '86 GLH-S (#126) says that he bought it back in 2001 from the car's second owner. It only had 35,000 miles on it at the time and was in excellent condition. At present, he's only added on another 4,000 miles and has taken it to many track day events.

Some upgrades included a better flowing exhaust system, a custom calibration with 3-bar MAP sensor, a manual boost controller, Mopar Performance injectors, an adjustable fuel pressure regulator, and strengthened the transmission in order to handle the extra power. The interior is all original with the exception of the A-pillar-mounted boost gauges and a CD player. All GLH-S units were equipped with a special steering wheel and a leather-covered Momo shift knob. Not surprisingly, the owner isn't interested in selling, as it's become a true American classic. Photos courtesy of Marcus86GLHS

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