Almost There: 1984 Dodge Shelby Charger

By Jeff Bennett

Carrol Shelby was a legend in the automotive world.  Formerly a very good sports car racer, Shelby gave up racing for health reasons and found himself modifying automobiles.  Starting with the legendary Shelby Cobras, he branched out into modifying Mustangs for those who wanted a lot more power and style to go with their cars.  After the Mustang deal concluded, he even managed to market a wildly successful chili making kit that is still (thankfully!) in supermarkets today.  By the time the 1980s rolled around, Shelby was out of major automotive projects, but his name was still gold to enthusiasts.  Luckily for him, his old friend Lee Iacocca was in control of Chrysler.  To enhance sales of their two seat Dodge Charger, Iacocca asked for Shelby to add some spice to the utilitarian two door, and the Shelby Charger was born.  This pristine example of the 1984 version of the Shelby Charger, found on Craigslist in serene Douglassville, Pennsylvania, is an early example of Shelby’s work with Chrysler.  Selling for a mere $3200, this flashy Dodge may need a little spice, but it is an important part of Shelby and Chrysler history.  Thanks to Rocco B. for tipping us off on this one!

Chrysler began building the Dodge O24 and Plymouth TC3 in 1979, which were two door versions of the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon four door economy cars.  The coupes were, however, styled very differently, and they looked very sporty in comparison.  As time went on, the names were changed to the Dodge Charger and Plymouth Turismo.  Calling a front wheel drive car a Charger upset some purists, but by mid year 1983 they got a pretty nice gift from Chrysler.  In addition to some earlier suspension changes, the Dodge version was given a Shelby makeover.  The improvements included a 107 horsepower 2.2 liter four cylinder engine, different gearing, a stiffer suspension, and a flashy exterior package.  How much Carrol Shelby had to do with the improvements is debatable, but nobody questions that they were a big improvement.  The Shelby Charger was gradually improved over its life span, with the addition of a few horsepower in 1984, and with the much needed installation of the turbocharged 2.2 in 1985.  The cars soldiered on until 1987, when the last 1,000 were purchased by Carrol Shelby, modified with an intercooler, painted black, and sold as the Shelby Charger GLH-S.

While I wish this were a Shelby Charger GLH-S, most Barn Finds readers know that the Gods don’t allow well taken care of cars with low mileage to be the coolest versions.  This one, despite the non-turbocharged engine and the automatic transmission is still pretty nice.  You just don’t see many Chargers anymore, and even fewer Shelby Chargers.  When they do pop up, they have usually been beaten on and abused.  The worst part is that the unique Shelby interiors are faded and ripped if the car has spent any time outside.  This one, despite the cracked up padded steering wheel, still looks like it did when it rolled off the showroom floor.  A thorough cleaning of the greyish white vinyl would help, but the rest looks good to go.

Everything under the hood looks to be in great condition as well.  I have to admit that I am sad to not see a turbocharged 2.2 under the hood.  Later versions of this engine were offering 224 horsepower with Lotus engineered 16 valve heads and an intercooled turbo.  While not available in 1984, adding one of these coupled to a later, stronger five speed manual transmission would be a magnificent upgrade combined with the light weight of the Charger platform.  There is a whole community of 2.2/2.5 Chrysler engine fanatics who have achieved great quarter mile times with these engines, and you can spend hours on the internet reading of their exploits at drag strips across America.

On the other hand, it would probably be a sin to modify a car so nice.  With just 73,000 miles on the odometer and an obviously garaged existence, this one needs to be preserved.  When you think about it, these cars marked Carrol Shelby’s return to the automobile industry.  After modifying a number of Dodges into what Shelby said were “mules that could outrun a race horse,” he went on to building continuation Cobras, and modifying Mustangs just like the old days.  While collecting authentic Shelby cars is an expensive proposition, this is an inexpensive way to collect your first Shelby.  Compared to the cars that came before it and after it, it isn’t much of a performer.  However, it is a milestone for the man.

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Comments

  1. Steve R

    Too bad it’s an automatic. It seems like a relative bargain if it is as clean as it looks.

    Steve R

    2+

  2. KEVIN

    I had one new. It was the biggest POS that I ever owned.

    4+

  3. Oingo

    This is the DNGLH version.

    12+

  4. Rustytech

    These certainly weren’t the best Shelby ever offered, but compared to what was available at the time they we’re sporty looking, and fun to drive. I wish it were a five speed, but how many are you going to find in this condition? At under $4000 this is definitely cheap thrill!

    2+

  5. Neal

    Brings me back to when I was fourteen and salivating over each copy of my Road and Track subscription. This was one of the prospects for performance for us “regular” people. (I should have dreamed bigger.)

    1+

  6. DrinkinGasoline

    It’s a shame that Carroll Shelby lent his talent and name to this.

    4+

    • Billy

      I bought a 1988 Shelby Daytona back in the day. The night I got it my old man came to see me at work and asked for the keys. He promptly took it out on the street to the local street light rodeo. He at one stop light, easily beat a kid in a Camaro. Today Dad is pushing 90 years old and is quite forgetful, yet he still recalls that incident fondly. Shelby knew what he was doing, always did until the day he died. He didn’t sell out, he tried new ideas, and as usual, did pretty damn well.

      4+

    • The Walrus

      Shelby was great at polishing turds. Mustangs may have been popular, but they were basically an amalgamation of the cheapest parts in the Ford inventory. Relative to the era, base Mustangs of the 60’s were pretty comparable to base Chargers of the 80’s.

      0

      • Kevin W

        The only “turds” he polished wore the name of Chrysler

        0

  7. Jeff

    I had one. It was a fun car but when repairs started it was an ongoing PIA. From front wheel bearings, you would get about 20k miles before replacing if you were lucky. Then there were cracked heads and blown head gaskets. The 5 speed was nice but the cheap linkage would detach regularly. Tires were very expensive at the time as well. Good to see some are still on the road

    0

  8. ClassicCarFan

    kind of agree with “DrinkinGasoline”….
    I recognize the contribution Shelby made to the world of sports cars over the years. He was truly one of the greats and is associated with so many iconic cars, but I can’t help feeling that in later years he seemed to have licensed out his name to some really lame efforts. he must have had some bad late-arriving tax bills to settle or something…

    1+

    • billy

      Ever drive one? Okay, this one is pretty lame as far as performance goes, but the 2.2 turbo was something to behold. You all forget, the 80s were a time of just reawakening performance. Easy to forget when today’s standard sixes top 300HP. A turbo would easily best a Ford or Chevy V8 of the time. I recall reading a car mag in the early 80s, they spoke of the Chrysler 2.2 four being the equivalent of the small block Chevy engine of the 80,s. We all believed that the price of fuel was going to rise so a four with or without a turbo made all the sense in the world. The same magazine compared the new turbo Dodge Daytona to the Camaro , Firebird, and Mustang, said, it is what they SHOULD HAVE BEEN. Looking back from todays eyes, we can laugh, but in the mid 80,s, these were pretty damn cool.

      1+

  9. Will
  10. sluggo

    I knew a few people with these cars, the plain jane ones were boring and kind of crappy econoboxs for their time. I could not see buying one new. But I knew a guy I worked with who bought one of the souped up Turbo ones and I think he might have done some suspension work too. That thing was fast and handled like on rails. He scared the bejeesus out of me throwing that thing into corners, I was amazed at how well it went around like they did. But I dont think they lasted long at all when driven like that. But at the time the perf ones were hot stuff.

    0

  11. Kevin

    Nothing more than a japanese disgrace to the Shelby name.

    0

    • The Walrus

      Huh? That’s a bizarre comment. What’s ‘Japanese’ about it? Are you thinking this is a Colt?

      0

      • Kevin W

        Oh come now, half of Chrysler’s crap in the 80s was made by Mitsubishi

        0

      • The Walrus

        I’m not sure where you pulled that ‘stat’ from, but it’s clearly not accurate. I’ve heard others say it also and it’s simply not true. This platform was developed with VW in the late 70’s… and aside from Colts and Conquests (and late 70’s Challenger/Sopporo) nothing else was made by Mitsubishi. I can assure you Colts and Conquests were no where close to 50% of sales. They probably weren’t even 5%.

        0

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