1-Of-500: 1989 Shelby CSX-VNT Turbo!

It’s hard to believe that a car like this 1989 Dodge Shelby CSX-VNT was based on Chrysler’s ubiquitous K-car platform, but it was. I have only owned two K-car-based vehicles, a LeBaron Convertible and a Dodge Mini Ram Van, a caravan without rear side windows. I would have loved to own this car 30 years ago, or 30 hours from now. It can be found here on eBay in Whitesboro, New York with an unmet opening bid of $5,600 and no reserve after that.

This car is based on the Dodge Shadow, a nice little car in its own right even without having 175 hp and 205 lb-ft of torque. What I wouldn’t have given to have this drivetrain in my plain white little 1987 Dodge Mini Ram Van. Chrysler and Shelby also offered the CSX on the Plymouth Sundance and they were made for only three years, 1987 through 1989.

There isn’t a lot of bling that a person could or would want to add to this car, at least in my opinion. For being 31 years old, it still looks pretty crisp and clean, not overly-fussy, and creased with that God-awful upswept line through the door handles that almost every car seems to have today. Thanks, Hyundai.

Shelby and Chrysler offered three variations of this car, the first was the CSX with Chrysler’s impressive 2.2L inline-four intercooled turbo II and 175 hp of which they made 750 total. They also made 1,001 of them for the Thrifty Rental Car Company, the CSX-T with the Turbo I non-intercooled turbo engine. Then the granddaddy, the one for sale here, #410 of 500 made: the CSX-VNT. For the record: CSX = Carroll Shelby eXperimental and VNT = Variable-Nozzle Turbo and it was reportedly the first use of variable-turbine in a factory production vehicle. You can see that the interior has a unique Shelby script on the Recaro seats and door panel fabric and I don’t see really any glaring flaws yet in this car, do you?

The engine is the aforementioned 2.2L inline-four with 175-hp and 205 ft-lbs of torque. The seller says that the engine and turbo were both rebuilt 4,000 miles ago and they say that this car runs and drives great. Aside from being a paint job away from being a stunner, this could be a good buy if it stays around the opening bid price. Any thoughts on this Shelby CSX-VNT?

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  1. alphasud Member

    Looks like a fun and affordable piece of automotive history. I remember the VNT significance in the automotive journals. It may not be a Cobra or a Mustang but it’s still a Shelby.

    Like 13
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    As quick as our ’86 Shelby Daytona Turbo Z was I can imagine this lighter car goes pretty good. Nice package.

    Like 6
  3. Sean H

    This car has the original composite Fibride wheels on it which is rare. Shelby really did experiment with these Chrysler Turbo cars. Although I wouldn’t want to hit a pothole with those wheels today.

    Like 6
  4. Ed Hardt

    No one forgets about these cars, they block them from their memories.

    Like 1
  5. Kevin Barr Staff

    These are really neat cars. A buddy of mine owns one, and it’s surprisingly fast – it gives my 1JZ-swapped Cressida a serious run for its money.

    Like 4
  6. CCFisher

    I’ve never understood the Shelby mystique. After his racing career was cut short, he turned early Mustangs into very capable racers, then sold his name to anybody with pockets deep enough. That he was able to maintain that mystique after slapping his name on K-car derivatives is a testament to his charm and marketing skills.

    Like 5
    • Quintin Torsen III

      He also made chili, do not forget that. Not to mention, he wrangled a replacement heart out of the system at a much too old age to do so. Money does have its advantages (not just pretty girls, but they are at the top of the advantages) .

      Like 3
  7. kiteflier

    Back in the 00’s a buddy would make scary torque steer rockets out of those turbo K cars by dialing up the boost. They were cheap and he could change a head gasket about as fast as changing tires.

    Like 2
  8. Dave Suton

    I remember these coming through Sterling Heights assembly. They would leave assembly with black steel wheels, and no spoilers. Some aftermarket company would do that. But the paint would get extra attention and there would be no defects. I had a friend that had one. Smoked Honda’s all day long.

    Like 4
  9. Classic Steel

    Yep this is Shelby’s bastard son but affordable for the person who lives on a shoe string budget.

    I like Ed’s comments of trying to forget the memories of them

    Like 1
  10. Ed

    I had an 89 Shelby Daytona…loved that car, wish I still had it!!!

    Like 3
  11. David Bailey

    RE: The Turbo Mini-van. I had one of first ones Chrysler made(tested at Chelsea Proving Grounds) due to fact that my wife and I bought one of LAST AMC EAGLE WAGONS(’87 and ’88). There were a host of niggling complainst we were constantly taking Eagle in for, so we asked dealer to help us out .Chrysler was wrapping up AMC non-JEEP affairs at this time so we got the mini-van from Chelsea Proving grounds. Let’s just say that Caravan was THE ORIGINAL MUSCLE VAN!!

    Like 5
    • Ray

      Had a college chem professor with a turbo caravan with the 5 speed as his daily driver. Never knew they existed. His “fun” car was an 86 SVO Mustang. Both were modded. Guy loved his turbos and avoided the SAAB 900s like the other professors.

      Like 1
  12. Chris

    I had an ’87 turbo Shadow 5-speed (not a Shelby) and it was fast and easy to modify. Mainly, but not only, by adding boost with a few off the shelf parts for a few bucks. I could regularly beat 5.0 Mustangs, with the only downside being blowing the head gasket too often, which is a pretty big downside, but worth it for the win (at the time). Fun cars!

    Like 1
  13. bobhess bobhess Member

    Shelby didn’t sell himself to anyone. Chrysler came to him to jazz up the K car line. Kept what is now Shelby American alive and Chrysler had their hot rods. Ed, had real thoughts about selling our ’86 but we were making a move and had 3 too many cars. We did go eat up some Mustangs with it before we moved.

    Like 4
    • triumph1954

      Bobhess. You are correct. Chrysler came to him
      because Lee I. was with Shelby at Ford. CCFisher needs to educate himself. These were quite the car in the day. This is a nice clean example. Would be nice car to own and have fun with. Price is not out of line for condition.

      Like 1
      • AMCFAN

        It wasn’t Chrysler that came to Shelby at all. It was Lee Iacocca. It was his association through Ford the two worked together in the past. They remained friends outside of work. After Henry Ford III screwed Iacocca out of being the CEO he went to Chrysler. He was only able to work his magic and save the company through association. He had many friends in the automobile business and people not only believed in him he was well liked. Lee knew he had a good car. It was their only car. Shelby stepped in and made it better.

  14. Stangalang

    Just remember..this is the same Mr. Shelby that conjured up these magical mustangs that whooped most everything else out there..AND STILL DOES. May he rest in peace

    Like 3
  15. GeneB

    A friend pf mine was a travelling service mechanic and he showed up at my cabin on Mt Palomar with a Throfty Rental CSX-T. We put ot theu the paces one cery twisty road up and down that mountain for hours. No matter how hard you turned, could NOT get a squeak out of any tire, that just how GOOD the suspension was.

    Like 1
    • Steven D

      Man it would be amazing to drive this up Palomar with a freshened up suspension. Used to hit the grade on my sport bike.

  16. JCA

    Meh…at the end of the day, it was still a really expensive Sundance. These sold for $16k new and are selling around $6k now. I’m comparison, an LX 5.0 was $11k then and sell for $15k now. With that $5k, you could easily make sure you were ahead of any Sundance in ’89.

    Like 1
  17. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I had a base 1987 Shadow. I loved that little car. Typical 80’s big three quality problems, but it was ten years old by the time I got it. I kept hoping to find a wrecked Shelby like this to strip and jazz up my POS, but it would just be a fake and the paint job would cost me more than the car was worth. I think these turbo K-cars and Shelbys deserve their little spot in history. They meant something in their day.

    Like 1
  18. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Got a couple of bids, Sold for $5700

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