Fast Black Box: 1986 Shelby GLHS

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The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon started life as a French econobox, the Talbot Horizon. If you saw this one sitting neglected, you wouldn’t normally give it a second thought, but it’s a bit special. You can almost make out the Shelby script below the door, but then you might just assume it was someone’s sense of humor. Would you believe this ugly little black box was actually faster than many of the muscle cars of its day and one even outran a Shelby GT350? It was faster on the road course and was 1 second quicker in the quarter mile. This little Shelby was donated to the California Automobile Museum recently. Before that, it was stored outside as you can tell.  Shelby and Ford had a disagreement over the trademark and they parted ways. Shelby’s friend Lee Iacocca had moved from Ford over to Chrysler. Shelby had his Shelby Performance Center so it looked like he’d have to work his magic on Chryslers. The problem was that Chrysler was building some unimpressive cars, like the much maligned K cars. With a bit of Shelby magic, the little four-banger was good for 110 HP in the 1985 GLH, which stands for “Goes Like Hell”. The turbocharged 1986 GLHS (Goes Like Hell S’more) boosted the ponies up to 146 HP. These cars were titled as Shelbys and Shelby built 500 of them. Can you imagine what it must be like going from 0 to 60MPH in 6 seconds in this little black box? 

Inside it is typical 1980s plastic and cheap. It’s worn and shabby but it is original. The only clue to its heritage is the Shelby badge on the dashboard.

It’s not actually signed, of course, but here’s the plaque. This one is number 44 of 500.

It’s not pretty, but everything is there, including the Garrett T03 turbocharger. It wouldn’t pass a smog test, so it was donated to the museum. It was running great, but it has an electrical problem.

No, it’s not pretty from this end either. It’s hard to imagine this little black box as anything but ugly no matter how much paint and polish is applied. Even today, this would be a great sleeper in both stoplight challenges and in the twisties. As it sits, the museum hopes to sell it for $5,000 (donated cars are either kept for display or sold to help support the museum). Nice examples of these GLHS Shelbys sell for $15,000 to $20,000. It might be possible with a repaint and upholstery to have a nice little car for less than it’s worth. This is a one owner car and the manuals, maintenance records and more are included.

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  1. gord

    where is it listed… not in cars for sale nor ebay at the museum website
    thank you!

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  2. Blindmarc

    Good deal @ 5k…..

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  3. fahrvergnugen

    Waay more horses than a GTI and none of the love.

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  4. Rx7turboII

    I don’t think that engine is right for the glhs. I thought that the glhs with the intercooler had the Turbo 2 Series Engine with the black valve cover that said Shelby. Anyone? The intake and airbox look right though…maybe just the VC is wrong?

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    • David Frank David FrankAuthor

      Not for sale quite yet. They are still deciding what to do with it, how much work to do on it or whether to sell it as is. I’m hoping to see some feedback and see what readers think. (You can call Roy at the museum and talk to him about it, of course. 916 806-8068)

      These used a Shelby modified Turbo 1 engine with 146 HP, (with parts from the Turbo 2) not the 175 HP Turbo 2 Series engine introduced in 1987. Some of the valve covers were black, some silver. This immage is from an article on the Hemmings website.—1986-Dodge-Omni-GLHS/3750737.html

      (And they all came in black. Maroon would have been a repaint)

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      • Superdessucke

        That isn’t wholly correct. These used the Turbo I base engine but they were modified by Shelby to make 175 horses with an intake, intercooler and other goodies. 146-hp was the stock Turbo I figure. Essentially, the engine in these was the Turbo II, just without the stronger crank, rods and pistons.

        For 1987, the GLHS was based on the Charger. And it used this same engine. No GLHS ever came with the Turbo II from the factory.

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    • Patrick

      86 GLHS was the only numbered shelby Dodge not to have the shelby valve cover. The one pictured is correct for the car, with the Mobil 1 plaque mounted on the left side of it.

      Also, the info is wrong in this article. There was a regular GLH-Turbo that had the 146hp T1 non intercooler engine. The GLHS has the 175hp T2. Just fyi

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      • PRA4SNW

        Patrick is correct. Although I longed for the 175 horse GLHS, my slightly empty pockets dictated that I buy a new ’86 GLH-T with 146HP. But boy, was that a fun car. Surprised a lot of IROCs and GTs.

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  5. Fred w.

    Not much of a car from a build quality/reliability standpoint, but quite interesting as a collectible econobox.

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  6. jw454

    A friend had three of these all at the same time back in the eighties. One black and two maroon ones. He talked a lot about how fast they were. I thought he had rocks in his head till we went for a ride one day. Those little buggies would scoot! I had a lot more respect for them after that ride.

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    • PRA4SNW

      He must have had GLH-T models, not GLHS, as those were only available in black.

      And yes, even the GLH-T models were very fast for the day.

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  7. glhs189

    The black valve cover didn’t appear until the 87 Charger GLHS. I have nos seat cover material if any wants it for the resto.

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  8. Steve

    While I would rock it due to the oddness factor, the statement “It was faster on the road course and was 1 second quicker in the quarter mile.” doesn’t do it for me. Its not always about getting from point A to point B the fastest. Some style and comfort need to be in the mix as well. While this may hav ebeen faster and quicker (by a minimum, how about you add 80’s era fuel injection, tires and suspension technology to the GT350…

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    • David Frank David FrankAuthor

      It is odd because it is a cheap econobox that is so fast. It’s not about style and comfort. Shelby wanted to create a fast car that most folks could afford. Obviously, it’s ugly and lacks “style and comfort”. That’s what makes it unique. It’s not about what sort of car you might enjoy. I’m thinking few of us would want this car, but there are always devoted folks who would love it. I showed it to an acquaintance this morning who’s thinking of buying it and taking it up to his place in Montana. He would leave the paint as it is and enjoy “blowing the doors off” unsuspecting motorists in a state where the daytime speed limit is not much enforced.

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  9. Craig Walker

    The uk only got std versions with the rattly 1.3/1.5 simca engines, what make/tyep of engine was fitted in these?

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    • AllenMember

      Geeze – early US ones got VW engines. The magic was in the 2.3 Liter engines.

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      • Withan Lemmon

        2.2 Chrysler SOHC 8-valve intercooler turbo with 12 PSI boost; 175 HP and 175 pound-feet of torque. Jeeze, next thing you know this article or commenters will start going on about the 6-speed manual or the front bench seat!

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    This box rules !!!!

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  11. AllenMember

    These cars were Detroit’s best kept secret – even the non-Shelby ones. I remember test-driving an ’86 Horizon for my son. As it whizzed past 70 mph in third gear, I was thinking “holy crap, I’ve got two gears left!” The road didn’t allow me to find out what was really possible. I threw it through a few turns. It was cheap ($1500) fast and fun. ‘ Wanted one for myself. A few months later, I found an Omni for my daughter. Both of these things ran well past 200K miles before they were sold off, and last my daughter heard of her old Omni was that it was still running great at 256,000 miles. Yeah, headliners fell, and door handles wobbled off, but that drivetrain was fantastic!

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  12. Rob S.

    For those who doubt…. these little ugly boxes would blow anything off the road in this year. Amazingly quick and no matter how much curve you threw at it, it would do it and laugh in your face! Don’t let the looks fool you, just because it didn’t look the part didn’t mean you should disrespect it. Remember. The mustang was a secretary car. Once it was blessed by Shelby it won the world manufacturers title! Everyone laughs at Shelby for putting his name on these cars. Race one and you won’t be so funny!

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  13. johne
    • Mark-A

      😍 is all that needs to be said!!

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  14. Craig Walker

    The sunbeam was a completely different car to the horizon being rwd & the lotus version was a homologation model for rallying with highly uprated running gear.

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  15. Turboomni

    A bit more trivia about the 86 GLHS was the availabiliy of the Direct Connection [now Mopar Performance] Super 60 kit they offered. It could boost the output of the engine to 300 hp and torque to over 300 ft lbs. It consisted of a different under hood wiring harness to accomodate the newer SMEC computer,a 3 bar map sensor from a Grand National, +40 injectors,turbo etc. Big stuff back then. Today guys run these engines at this power and higher often and with better computer management. Check out the 9 second GLHT on youtube. These are really fun cars.

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