All the Goodies! 1986 Dodge Omni GLH

More and more, I think the 1980s represent my favorite era of vehicles. There was just something slightly obnoxious, slightly irreverent about cars from this era – almost like they knew they were odd little upstarts, but still wanted to dress up like the baddest muscle cars on the block from 20 years earlier. Cars like this 1986 Dodge Omni GLH here on craigslist are members of that brawny if slightly underpowered class of vehicles that took attitude in a completely different direction. 

That’s why so much is owed to enthusiasts like Carroll Shelby, who pioneered the concept of injecting additional horsepower into lightweight chassis like the Omni, turning this homely hatchback into a legit hot hatch. I love that this car wears its original aero kit proudly with the oh-so-period-correct Bosch Pilot fog lights still wedged into the air dam. Those chunky multi-hole alloy wheels, red pinstriping and ‘Turbo’ lettering jumping off the valve cover helped convert the Omni from tepid to tricked out.

The insides were a bit more mundane, closer to your bread-and-butter penalty-box spec Omni and Horizon accommodations. You did get better buckets and the manual transmission was practically a requirement. The inside looks tidy, thanks to the low 35,000 miles on the clock that the seller claims it has. He’s had some maintenance work done under the hood in the time he’s owned it, which includes installing a new turbo and wastegate. It’s unlikely, but the last project-grade GLH we featured was also a rare Santa Fe Blue model.

Window louvers! Polished alloys! Big bumpers! Oh yes, all of the design cues just scream “80s.” I can’t imagine those louvers are easy to find; it took me ages to find them for my Subaru XT6 project, which hails from the same era as the GLH (and my E30 has those gigantic bumpers). The GLH is one of those cars where it’s not too much of a jump cost-wise to get into the best example you can find, and finding one in a rare color is an even better place to start. Would you consider taking one of the hotted-up hatches home as a project?

Fast Finds


  1. flmikey

    “More and more, I think the 1980s represent my favorite era of vehicles”…really? April fools day was two weeks ago….just kidding…I must admit, though, this was a special car…and very quick….favorite era? No, but at least they were trying in the 80’s….

    • Jeff Staff

      I know – somewhat of a dark period for enthusiasts, but I love the oddballs and econo-car hotrods like this that came out of it. Good, clean, CHEAP fun.

  2. dj

    Wrong grille and the Dodge on the hood is wrong. Plus it has that Ebay generic turbocharged emblem that’s in the grille. Quick search found a Sante Fe blue one with 77k milles on it for sale.

    • moparedtn

      I bought a GLH Turbo new in 1985. You are correct; this ones’ grille is wrong (and tacky) and louvers did not come on these cars.

      Further, the author says the 5 speed was “practically a requirement” – well, it WAS mandatory, since no automatic was offered. The transaxle on these was spindly and broke easily, so much so that Mopar went with Getrag units when they bumped power to 175hp in the GLHS next year.
      Mine threw the final drive right through the case at 49k miles, then Chrysler fought me to warranty it.
      I traded that car for a 5.0 Mustang the moment it was out of the shop and never looked back.

      Yes, mine was also Santa Fe Crystal Coat Blue (for some reason, I remember the exact name of the color) and that paint job would not best be described as “durable” – it was anything but.

      Know what else wasn’t standard on these? A/C. Nope, mine didn’t have it. Got a heck of a discount because the dealer screwed up on the order. :-)

  3. geebee

    I see the 80’s as a transitional time. A bridge between the old loud, somewhat unsafe, hell raising cars of the 60’s and early 70’s, and cars that focused more on safety and being more environmentally friendly. I still love the looks of a lot of the old cars, but have no doubt the best cars ever are being made today.

  4. Jeffro

    GLH= Goes Like Hell

  5. angliagt

    I learned (years ago) when I was looking into these.
    years ago,that there’s a GLH model,& a GLHT one.The “T”
    stands for turbo.

    • John D

      GLHT? I’ve never seen one. The first Shelby models were not turbos. There is an inter cooled version called the GLHS. When asked what the ‘S’ stood for, Shel answered back “Goes Like Hell Some more”. Now, I do have a 1988 Dodge Shadow Shelby CSX T. And the T stands for ‘Thrifty’. You could actually rent one at Thrifty Rental.

    • Greg

      You’ve forgotten more than you learned.

  6. MH

    What about the even better and fast GLHS! Hard to find and worth more $.

  7. Sam

    The Omni, for its time, was a well engineered car when compared to Chevettes, Pintos, etc. FWD, spacious, good economy. Kind of a larger VW Rabbit. The neighbors had a silver 4dr Omni. My dad bought a Mercury Lynx 2 DR hatchback.

    • Connbackroads

      Umm . . . yeah, they were a copy of the rabbit. The early ones used a 1.7 liter VW Rabbit engine.

  8. Royal Ricci

    My friend had an 85 Omni GLH that he bought new from the dealer. He loved it and it never gave him any issues. He was carefully watched by all those who knew him as there was much suspicion that the turbo wouldn’t hold up.

    Lost touch with him when he moved to Minnesota. He had the movers load the Omni onto the trailer for the journey West. However, he had at least once made the trip to Minnesota/Wisconsin with the Omni. I think he lost the alternator while on the road.

  9. Rustytech Member

    I never was much for the boxy Omni’s, but this car was fast and handled well. They were a fun drive. This car looks great even with the incorrect add on’s I’d buy it and “GLH”!

  10. ORMel

    I worked as a service porter at a Chrysler dealership when they were selling these cars. The turbocharged versions of otherwise depressing cars made that one of my most favorite jobs ever. It was amazing to see a 3 week old car coming back with completely bald front tires and a destroyed front suspension from the incredible power they packed into a puny chassis.

  11. Ralph Robichaud

    I agree with Sam.. compared to competition at the time, they were definitely superior, ugly as a concrete block, but just about as rugged.. witnessed a offset head on (left front to left front) collision in the late 80s, with speed of @ 30mph, average city street speed, between a Horizon (Omni twin) and an Olds ’88.
    Guess which fared off best.
    The seats were also much more comfortable than the Chevette,Cavalier, Pontiac 2000,Tempos,Topaz, and the Asian econoboxes

  12. Kenny

    Wow,what a flashback.My mom had one of these,same color and everything.I loved driving it,it was a zippy little ride.She didnt drive much so I put a lot of miles on it,she traded it in on a new cavalier z24.I would have rather had the Omni

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