Original Owner: 1985 Dodge Omni GLH Turbo

Chrysler corporation went through the grinder starting in the early ’70s. Oil shortages, air pollution, excessive regulations, emerging foreign competition, and a nagging recession tested the mettle of the Detroit Three and a half (AMC was still hanging in) but Chrysler seemed to take it the hardest on the chin. But they showed resilience with their L-body Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon compact twins introduced in late 1977 as ’78 models. And they showed creativity and engineering prowess by significantly upping the output of the dowdy duo with models like this performance-oriented 1985 Dodge Omni GLH. It is located in  Mountainview, California and is available, here on eBay by its original owner for a BIN price of $9,500. There is a make an offer option too.

Basic five-door economy cars, the Omni and Horizon were the first large volume front wheel-drivers domestically produced. And sold they did with almost 1M produced over their thirteen-year run. Some might even say that these were the models that saved Chrysler. Whether that’s really the case or not is debatable but they were certainly a big help in Chrysler’s quest to regain their financial health.

Of course, being a volume-driven economy car doesn’t mean that it needs to be boring. It’s really an old formula, take a low dollar compact like a Dodge Dart and stuff in a 383 CI V8, or a high strung 340 in a Plymouth Duster, or my favorite, a 375 HP big-block motor in a Chevy II and you have a completely different animal based on an established, and usually amortized, compact platform. The Dodge Omni GLH (yes, it means Goes Like Hell) was no different, just a few years removed. And the secret to the GLH’s success was a 146 HP, 2.2 liter, inline, four-cylinder turbocharged engine working its way through a five-speed manual transaxle. And that’s exactly what we have here – I wish I could show it to you but there are no under hood images included in the listing.  The seller’s statement regarding this Omni’s operating prowess is a bit less than sanguine, “The car runs good but have not taken for any long trips…the transmission shifts good, the brakes stops.” OK, not outsized excitement, perhaps a bit cautious. The odometer shows 36K miles but it is easy to imagine that it has been once around.

The peanut butter hue of this Omni’s exterior is not exactly performance inspiring so maybe this Dodge is more of a sleeper. It presents pretty well as the seller states, “The body and paint is all original with no type repairs done, the paint shines but is not perfect, there’s some scratches and imperfections for its age and a small dent on passenger door to fender area.” A pretty accurate description I would say. It is showing its age and there is some road rash and fade present but it is what one would expect. While this Omni is not wearing its original wheels, the seller has them, and some other parts, that he’ll include in the sale.

Inside there is a surprise in the form of a pair of Recaro seats. They have been upholstered to match the rest of the tan interior – sounds like someone was pretty serious about this Omni’s sporting capability. A smaller aftermarket steering wheel has been added too. The rest of the interior is a sea of tan but it is in fine, clean shape – no rips, tears, or misc. damage. The basic, simple Dodge instrument panel is still clear and bright and as the seller claims, it’s not missing any parts. It’s interesting to speculate, but considering the Omni’s lot in life, I doubt that too many Chrysler engineers from the ’80s figured an Omni would still be running and in very presentable condition 35 years into the future.

The GLH is not that common a car, after 1985, it became the limited Shelby GLH-S and then in ’87 moved to the Shelby Dodge Charger version. Does rarity translate into value? In some cases, yes but in many no – it just depends on what’s in vogue at the time and how many are available. This Dodge is an interesting piece and it was a bright spot in a time of not so interesting and not so powerful domestic automobiles. I’m wrestling with that BIN price, what do you think; reasonable or more of a “make an offer” candidate?

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Comments

  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    As if the stock Omni steering wheel wasn’t ugly enough….interesting little car, price seems high, but that’s not a market educated opinion.

    Like 6
    • Gremlin X

      Few comparables to go off of but I suspect your instinct on the price is correct. Closest I can find is an ’86 GLHS that sold for $14,750 with 25,000 on the clock on BaT back in February. This isn’t a GLHS, has mods, has a lot more miles and, well, it isn’t on BaT. Neat car but dreaming at 9.5k.

      Like 6
      • stu

        This empty shoe box of a car should be priced like a pair of running shoes from Walmart. What a daydreamer…

  2. alphasud Member

    Another happy story of 2 lifelong friends that came together and bring Chrysler back from the ruins and put performance back at Mopar. Just think without Carol’s help we would have never seen a Viper or a Hellcat. Not to forget the Shelby Mustang and Cobra’s he’s famous for. Every Shelby car has significance and the GLH made performance available to everyone. It was definitely a hammer against the German engineered precision the GTI offered.

    Like 3
    • Ken Bagby

      All Carrol did was stamp his name on it. I had one and it handled well but couldn’t stand the crap VW shifting. He should have been ashamed to put his name on it. I did drive the wheels off of it!

      • george

        The GLHS cars were modified in whittier CA at the Shelby factory.. The engines were modified from the weak turbo1 non intercooled to intercooled,different intake and throttle body and all intake plumbing. Koni adjustable race shocks all around and a few other things I may have forgotten .Easy to make it shift better. On my GLHS Omni I removed the weak stock transmission [525] and put in a 555 GETRAG Gear transmission. Needed modified drive shafts. Extremely hard to break. Shifting with cable linkages was much better than the rod setup of the 525. Think of it as a diamond in the ruff. 1986 Hot Rod Magazine cover “GLHS Whips Mustang GT350”

        Like 4
  3. Steve R

    This car looks to be a value purchase if it checks out and the sellers paperwork is in order. Potential buyers need to make sure the seller has a title in their name, otherwise there could be some unforeseen and expensive issues with the DMV.

    Steve R

    Like 3
  4. LTDScott

    Not sure where you got some of the info in the last paragraph, but it’s not correct. The GLH was built from ’84-’86. ’85 and ’86 both had the turbo engine as an option. And in ’86, Shelby converted 500 of these to the Omni GLH-S with this body. In ’87 he switched to the fastback Charger body but the powertrain was mostly the same. I’ve personally owned both an ’85 and ’86 GLH Turbo.

    Like 11
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Unfortunately, Wikipedia. It had it partially right but partially wrong too. Thx for the clarification.

      JO

      Like 1
  5. Dave Prashaw

    Only new car I ever bought, January of ’86 (holdover), and one of my favorite cars ever. The sales guy said I knew more about it than he did, gave me an excellent price on it $8300 out the door, tax and all. It was black w/ the wine-colored interior.
    To correct the stuff the author incorrectly guessed at: Originally (’84) it was “just” the Omni GLH, a non-turbo 2.2 out of the Daytona. In ’85 came the GLH Turbo and both were sold for a few years. In ’86 Shelby hopped-up 500 of them (mainly intercooler and Koni suspension) as the GLH-S. All were black w/ grey interiors and graphics, and a numbered dash plaque. Only sold through certain dealers, I tried pretty hard to buy one at Dan Fitzgerald Dodge in Laconia, NH. They had 9 on the lot, including #002 in the showroom (Shelby kept #001), but they were all reserved and there was a waiting list. Settled for buying the Direct Connection computer which bumped 20 HP. Smoked a month-old Hurst-Olds at New England Dragway the next night by at least 4 car-lengths…
    They were available in black, red, and blue for ’85, gold and silver added for ’86.

    Like 7
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Hey Dave, pretty close to my experience. I wanted a GLHS and knew that Fitzgerald – Hicks (I will never forget that dealer’s name because of this) sold them.

      Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford one, but found an ’86 GLH-T exactly like yours (black / red) at Allen Mello Dodge in Nashua. It originally came down from Rutland VT. Boy, was that a fun ride – surprised a lot of IROCs back then.

      The fun ended much too soon when I wrapped it around a phone pole one night. I still have some of the original paperwork and a key somewhere

    • The Walrus

      I think you have your color years off… black, red, blue were ’84 only. Gold and silver added in ’85 and carried into ’86, although it seems like most ’86’s, not even considering the GLHS’s, were black. Rarely see an ’86 for sale in another color. I had a Gold ’85. This is a Gold ’85. In November of ’19 Barn Finds had a listing of another Gold ’85.

  6. Sfm5

    What is amazing to me is that cars like this actually garner any kind of interest 35 years later. These cars were econo boxes in their day with zero styling, build quality was horrendous and you were lucky to get 60K miles before visiting the scrapyard. For $9500 you can get something better.

    Like 7
    • DJ Lawrence

      @Sfm5 so what you’re telling us is that these are basically a 1980s version of a Subaru WRX. My 2005 WRX was ugly, had horrendous panel gaps from the factory, rusted out at the shock towers by 80k miles, and had block warp shortly thereafter. Maybe if I held on to it I could get $9,500 on eBay in 10 more years.

      Like 6
      • Steve R

        Yours might have been if it was a rust free car that spent more than a decade in indoor storage, like this one. Unfortunately it sounds more like it was destined to become a parts car.

        Steve R

      • JoeNYWF64

        Just like the Omni, that makes 2 examples of abandoning the single-people-wanting-a-2 door young customers.
        & even more beyond belief, the 4 door only Dodge SRT-4 when they already had BUILT a 2 door neon a few years prior!!!
        Picture the LS-6 avail only in the 4 door malibu in 1970.
        Or 426 hemi avail only in the 4 door belvedere.
        Or dowdy 4 door only SS-396 nova.

    • george

      That’s part of their charm.

      Like 1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      If you ever drove one, you might think differently.

      Out of all of the cars I’ve owned, this is on the short list of cars I would like to own again.

      Like 4
      • The Walrus

        Agreed. The only car I regret not keeping is my ’85 Gold Dust GLH-T. I may just throw an offer in on this one…

    • Marshall King

      I had an 86 Plymouth Horizon, and though not a turbo, it was a 2.2 with 5 speed. My wife and I both had fun with this little car and had a little over 160,000 miles on it when the motor blew. A friend of mine and I swapped in a used 2.2 and went on our way for 2 extra years. I thought it was a fun car and even liked how it looked. If I were looking for an older car to buy for reasonable money, I would consider one of these, although I would look for one for a bit less than $9500, the turbo would be a fun car.

  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I remember when the Dodge Omni was on the market. At the time, I didn’t find it as attractive as its twin, the Plymouth Horizon, but if given the opportunity, I would’ve bought one, and would’ve driven it. :)

  8. Steve Clinton

    I wouldn’t pay $9,500 for this plain-jane econobox if it was fresh off the showroom floor.

    Like 3
  9. Kevin McCabe

    The odometer shows 36000 and some miles, but based on the misalignment of the individual digits in the odometer, this tells me this car has rolled over at least once, so any potential buyer should figure on this car having 136000 and some miles.

    Like 3
    • The Walrus

      The Vehicle History Report shows a rollover…

  10. JP

    NJ Bell used the Omni & Horizon for company cars.They were good little knock around vehicles!

    Like 1
    • Brent

      I think I had one of these cars. It was a 1980 with the VW engine and a 4 speed. I bought it used in 1990 for my freshman year in college. I beat the crap out of that car.

  11. Rich

    Fun car, had one. But these were pretty low buck cars. Cheaply built, stuff always breaking, ate CV joints and clutch pedals. The pedals would snap off at the point where the clutch cable attached with spirited driving or drag racing. Learned to drive mine without the clutch pedal. Very easy to do, and spared me from replacing the poorly designed pedal every 3 months. At above 1K rpm the dash and interior trim would buzz like an angry hornets nest. I don’t think this has exceeded 100K miles though. Too clean looking everywhere for that mileage. Someone will end up with a fun but cheaply made toy. Best of luck.

  12. frank orzechowski

    Do any of you know what GLH means , it means” Goes Like Hell :

    Like 1
  13. frank orzechowski

    I also owned two of them and they where great cars and really good in the snow never put snow tires on them because they didn’t need them.

  14. george

    I bought a GLH Turbo new in 1986 and drove it into the ground. Saved a few parts and the turbo hood. I found a 1986 GLHS with a blown engine in 1991 and a small fire. Bought it for 800 bucks and did the Mopar Performance Super60 wiring harness to convert to the 1988 SMEC computers,bigger turbo , Indy Intercooler to crank it to 300 hp at 19 psi boost. Still have her in my garage and it still scares the crap out of me even after detuning it.

    Like 1
  15. MitchRoss Member

    If Mk 1 GTIs are doing that money, so should these.

    Like 2
  16. JC

    My parents had the european version of it, Talbot Horizon. It was a great car, was a little bit noisy because of the simca origin of the powerplant (1500 cc engine if I remember right).
    I don’t know if US ones where poorly made or made with other parts, because ours was really reliable and too bad had to go to the scrapyard at 350 000 km only because it was rear shocked and the insurance estimated it was too old to be repaired, but it was still driving really fine !

  17. geezerglide85

    We had 3 of these (non turbo versions) 1st ’83 Omni w/ the 1.6 carb. and a 4 speed. Great car but really slow, got 44mpg on the hi-way. Paid $5999 plus tax but this paid for itself because our Newport only got 10mpg (on the hi-way or sitting still) Loves it so much we bought a ’90 omni 2.2 f.i. w/ a 5 speed, Again $5999 plus tax and loved it even more. But a growing family needed more room so we bought a Used Cadillac (what a mistake) motor went after 4 yrs and we gave it away. Our 3rd was a ’90 Horizon bought used. 2.2 f.i. 5spd otherwise fully loaded a/c, p.s. velour, this was our favorite. The 2 ’90s were like rockets compared to the ’83, one w/ a turbo must be like a rocket plus!

    Like 1
  18. R.Scot

    I used to work at a Dodge dealership where my grandfather worked during the weekends when I was in high school during the early 80’s. I remember when both the GLH and GLH-s were introduced. Great little performing econo-boxes for their day, but they were overshadowed by issues plaguing the mainstream Omni and Horizon. Quality control issues, fires, breakdowns, and a steering issue that the “big three” in national news: NBC, CBS, and ABC, had widely publicized as a major safety hazard. Very unfortunate that the upgraded performance package didn’t get the recognition it deserved, but it appears that more of these are recently making their appearance on the market. An unforeseen classic now getting it’s deserved recognition? Could very well be.

  19. Keith Knox

    We bought a used 78 Omni for my mother in-law and liked it so much, we bought a new one for us. The 78 had a carbureted rabbit engine. Our 81 had the 2.2 with the 4 speed. I ended up rear-ending a guy and totaled the 81. Also bought a new 85 Caravan that had the 2.2 and 4 speed in it. 2.2 was a good little engine for us.

  20. David C

    I had a few of these back in the day. Just about every configuration except a glhs. Naturally aspirated and turbo 1’s. 4 dr and 2 door. My favorite was an 86 glh four door turbo 1. Smoked more than a few corvettes and other “hot” cars of the day. Loved the expressions on the faces of the muscle car guys when they got smoked by a 4 door grandma car. Throw a couple of corners in the mix and not very many could run with it.. Still have an intercooled 88 shelby daytona that runs over 150 mph, dead stock and gets 29 mpg. The 80’s were not all bad.

    Like 2

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