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Shelby CSX: The Sundance and Shadow's Full Potential

There were basically 3 different Shelby CSXs.

1987 - the first Shelby CSX (Carroll Shelby Experimental)

In 1986, the L-body Omni and Horizon were scheduled to be replaced, along with the Aries and Reliant, by the P-body Shadow and Sundance. Meanwhile, Shelby Automobiles was on a roll; their 1986 GLHS, rough riding but extremely fast for the time, hit a chord with car enthusiasts. For 1987, they sold two a four-door euro-luxury car (Shelby Lancer) and the Shelby CSX (Shadow body, Carroll Shelby Experimental); the Charger GLHS remained on sale, to keep the production line busy.

1987 Shelby CSX

Shelby wanted to use the powerful Turbo II engine in his new project, but Chrysler wouldn’t produce the cars with those engines installed for him. Shelby decided that converting the Turbo Is to T2 specs was cheaper than swapping the engines. The production line installed T2 intake, turbo, throttle body, intercooler, fuel injectors, and the associated parts; the standard transaxle was used, since the A555 Getrag unit was too expensive, and the computer was programmed to limit torque so the transaxle would last.

In the end, Shelby was able to claim 175 horsepower “with greater torque and better throttle response over the entire power band, without sacrificing reliability,” (at least not too much reliability,) 0-60 in 7.1 seconds, with a full 0.85 g of cornering force — all quite good numbers for 1987. [The Chrysler-built Turbo II was better made, with internal engine parts changed to handle the increased power.]

1987 dodge 2.2 engine from csx

The compressio ratio was set at 8.1:1; boost pressure could reach 12 psi. Maximum horsepower was rated at 175 @ 5,300, with torque at 175 lb-ft from 2,200 to 4,800 rpm. The quarter mile came in 15.1 seconds.

The chassis was modified with special front and rear sway bars, low-pressure Monroe Formula GP shocks and struts with coilover springs, 15x6 Shelby wheels, Goodyear 205x50R15 tires, four-wheel disc brakes, Goodyear VR/50 Gatorbacks, special body trim, and black and silver paint with blue trim; the brake proportioning valve and master cylinder were also modified, and the pedals provided heel/toe driving capability. The interior was basically stock Chrysler, but with a Shelby leather steering wheel and boost gauge; a cassette player was standard. Each of the 750 cars had a numbered plaque on the dash. There were no options available.

shelby csx rear csx steering wheel/dashboard

The prototype CSX were four door cars. These were the first off the Chrysler production line and the only mules available to Shelby Automobiles.

Parts altered by Shelby were warranted by Shelby; other parts were warranted by Chrysler. In both cases, the warranty was for one year or 12,000 miles, whichever came first.

1988 Thrifty CSX-T

The 1988 CSX-Ts were built for Thrifty Car Rental. They were different from the 1987 in that the stock T1 engine was retained, for durability. The differences from the previous year were 15x6.5 Shelby wheels, and the colors were mainly white with blue and silver trim. There were one thousand built, again with no options. (Jon wrote that the CSX-T had white wheel inserts, not black). [High Performance Mopar, the predecessor of Mopar Action, took one out to the streetlight races, and outran V8 and V6 muscle cars with the CSX-T.]

1989 - New innovative Shelby CSX with intercooled turbo, Getrag

The 1989 CSX was quite a departure, with more aggressive styling and many technical innovations. Shelby was finally able to get Chrysler to build the cars with the A555 Getrag transaxle and a more powerful engine. This gives the 1989 model the strongest drivetrain and engine bottom-end of any of the Shelby FWDs. The engines were modified by Chrylser with a Variable Nozzle Turbo (the outfit was generally referred to as the Turbo IV), which eliminated the turbo-lag and upped the torque by over 25 ft lbs. [A defect in early-production turbochargers gave this engine a poor reputation for reliability, but the technology was advanced for its time, and has since come into common use, particularly on diesels.]

csx interiorThis was the first car ever built with a plastic wheel, called the Fiberide; the 15x6.5 wheel was much lighter than its aluminum counterparts. They were a gleaming gold color, and almost look like a hub cap. Tires were standard Goodyear 195x60R15 with optional 225x50r15 Gatorbacks. The car had an aggressive front air dam, rear wing, and side skirts, for a ground-hugging appearance. The rest of the chassis was basically like the previous models. The interior featured some unique items such as interior cloth with “Shelby” emblazoned everywhere. The other optional item were the firmer Recaro seats. The only color was Exotic Red. 500 were built, with 2 cars used to build the 1990 CSX prototypes.

Mike Cuttita wrote:

The 1989 CSX-VNT was again based on the Shadow ES, but with a list of changes that was the most comprehensive to date. The engine was based on the previous year’s 2.2 Turbo II, but was upgraded to what Chrysler called the Turbo IV (note: Turbo III was Chryslerspeak for the 16-valve 2.2 introduced two years later) through the world's first production use of a Variable Nozzle Turbo, or VNT.

Based on Formula 1 technology, the Garrett turbo used moving vanes to manage the amount and speed of exhaust gasses passing through the turbine, causing it to act like a small turbo that spools up to boost quickly at low engine rpm, thereby reducing turbo lag. At higher engine speeds, the vanes opened to allow more volume to pass (at a lower airspeed), changing it into a bigger turbo—and eliminating the need for a wastegate because the boost level could be controlled by computer management of the VNT vanes.

While rated at the same 175 hp as the standard Turbo II, the torque was now up to 205 lbs.-ft and the power curve was broader and flatter, making it easier to drive.

1990: the Shelby CSX that never came

The 1990 was to be the long awaited 16 valve car. It would have been a 2.5 liter engine, and blue with silver Fiberides. It wasn't to be.

Performance modifications for the Shelby CSX

  • Install a high-flow catalytic converter and 2.5 pipe all the way back to a high-flow muffler. Some suggest that the VNT will overboost if the restrictive exhaust is removed, so exercise caution.
  • Put on a 52mm throttle body, and match the intake to it.
  • Install a new oil pan from Ed Peters with the windage tray.
  • Larger valves and match intake and exhaust ports to manifolds. The T2 engine had ports in the intake manifold that were bigger than the one in the head, and the exhaust ports in the head were bigger than the ones in the manifold.
  • If you are really looking for big hp gains, then the Super 60 kit is the way to go, and the CSX-VNT is the only Shelby built car suitable for it. This kit gives you a new computer, new turbo, ported/big valve head, 52mm throttle body, new intercooler, and some misc parts. It must be used on a T2 engine, and needs a Getrag A555 transaxle. The CSX-VNT has both of these. A 1990 Daytona VNT would not be suitable, because it uses the common block engine with CAST crankshaft.

The CSX versus the CSX-T

(From Brian T. Minnebo)

CSX CSX-T (Thrifty version)
Number made 750 1,000
Wheels Centurion (Silver) Shelby LeMans 6.5 wide, black highlights
Engine 2.2 Turbo II modified to Turbo I specs
(torque reduced for transmission life)
Stock 2.2 Turbo I
Interior Light/dark grey Dark grey only
Color Black White
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