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Goes like Hell: Dodge Omni GLH and GLHS, Dodge Charger GLH-S

dodge omni GLH-S

When it was first released, the budget-priced, European-design Dodge Omni was an unlikely candidate for high performance. The addition of Chrysler 2.2 engines made them quicker — but still clearly economy cars. The Omni GLHS and turbo GLH would change that — for those in the know.

GLHS logo

Named “Goes-Like-Hell,” and upgraded by Carroll Shelby’s company, the 1984 Omni GLH had a Chrysler-tweaked engine that raised power to 110 bhp; it used a special camshaft and a milled block (.020) to bring up the compression. Chrysler’s Direct Connection (now Mopar) designed an after-market ground effects kit that became standard on the 1985s and 1986s.

dodge omni GLH

The 1985 and 1986 Omni GLHs gained an optional 146-bhp turbo 2.2-liter engine, with torque in abundance — 170 lb-ft at just 3,600 rpm. That was a huge difference, making the pedestrian Omni into a hard-charging little car, given its light weight. The performance was accompanied by alloy wheels, tape décor, and ground effects.

With the non-turbocharged engine, the 1985 Omni GLH had a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds (quick for the time) with a 16.7 second (81 mph) quarter mile. The car could stop from 70 mph in 195 feet and held 0.83 g in the skidpad, according to Car & Driver, while still getting 18 mpg (EPA rated it at 25 city). It needed premium gas, with or without turbo; but it beat the image-leading Volkswagen GTI by a full second, zero to sixty.

1986 Horizon/Omni engines C/R
Horsepower Torque Manual MPG
1.6 liter (97.1 CID) 2-barrel (Peugeot) 8.8 64@4800 87@2800 31/39
2.2 liter, 2-barrel carburetor 9.0 96@5200 119@3200 26/35
2.2 liter, turbocharged (Omni GLH only) 8.1 146@5200 170@3600 18/25
2.2 liter, high output (Turismo 2.2) 9.6 110@5600 129@3600 22/30

The Omni GLH used 195/50HR-15 Goodyear Eagle GT tires — much lower profile than typical tires of the 1980s, or for that matter, the 1990s, and far wider than usual for cars of the Omni’s size. The car also had larger, ventilated front disc brakes, stiffer suspension tuning, and quicker steering, making the cornering grip higher than any front-drive car Car & Driver had ever tested.

Omni GLHS

The Omni GLHS (Goes Like Hell, S’more) started in 1986l it was based on a four-door car, and had a modified Turbo I engine (Garrett tubocharger), a long-runner tuned intake (2 piece) manifold, and an intercooler — essentially, the Chrysler Turbo II, but without stronger internal parts (crank, rods, pistons, etc.). GLHS production was only 500 in 1986; all were black, with a grey interior.

Options included an oil cooler, and roll-bar. The engine had a compression ratio of 8.5:1, a maximum boost of 12 psi, peak 175 horsepower at 5,300 rpm, and peak torque of 175 lb-ft from 2,200 to 4,800 rpm. The sole transmission was a five-speed manual with a top gear ratio of 2.57:1. The redline was 5,800 rpm; the air-to-air intercooler dropped the air entering the turbocharge by 100°F.

1986 Dodge GLHS

Standard on the 1986 GLH-S were heavy duty power brakes (10.2 inch disc up front, 8.0 x 1.28 drum rear); tinted glass; various trim blackouts and stripes; road lights; cargo-bay carpet; five-speed manual transmission with heel-and-toe pedals; extra sound insulation; high-back cloth seats; AM stereo/FM stereo; full instrument cluster; 14:1 rack and pinion power steering; air conditioning; rear defroster; and leather-wrapped wheel and shifter.

The suspension used stiffer front anti-sway bars and fully adjustable Koni iso-struts with coil springs that could be manually set up for different conditions. The rear used the usual semi-independent trailing-arm suspension.

omni glh-s dashboard

So equipped, Shelby claimed that the 1986 Omni GLH-S could do 0-60 in a stunning 6.70 seconds, with a 14.7 quarter-mile (at 94 mph). Cornering was quite good, with a skid-pad measurement of .88g. Shelby Automobiles was able to advertise that “names like Porsche, Ferrari, Audi, and BMW all finish behind Carrol Shelby’s new Limited Edition GLH-S.”

Bill Cuttita wrote:

The last 3,100 Omni GLHs were produced, and Carroll Shelby became a manufacturer (again) with the creation of Shelby Automobiles. The last 500 were all black turbos, and were sent to Carroll’s new plant in Whittier, California, to become the Shelby GLHS ... with an induction system featuring a special radiator assembly with an intercooler for the intake charge, two piece intake manifold, multi-port fuel injection, larger Garrett turbo, 205/50 VR15 Goodyear Gatorbacks on special Shelby Centurion wheels, Shelby Automobiles dash number plate, an unpegged speedometer with applique indicating up to 135 mph, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

omni ghs

It was intended to be a late 1985 model, but production delays kept the Omni GLHS from dealer’s lots until the spring of 1986. The performance world was set on its ear by early reviews, including an April ’96 Hot Rod cover with the announcement "GLHS WHIPS GT-350!"

Hot Rod declared that the little Omni was two full seconds faster than the GT-350 over a side by side lap at Willow Springs, and one second faster in the quarter-mile than a 1966 Shelby Mustang. The official GLHS numbers were quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds, 0-60 in 6.5 sec, and .88g on the skidpad. Bite was improved tremendously over the GLH, but at a cost — a slightly harsher ride, and care had to be taken when pushing the car quickly over surfaces that were less than ideal, as the little Omni could lose grip going over bumps.

charger GLH-S

The GLHS was sold through Dodge dealerships that stepped up to a Shelby Automobiles franchise, and for a $10,995 sticker price, the Shelbys went out the door to performance enthusiasts like hotcakes.

Chrysler introduced ’fast burn’ cylinder heads for the 2.2L family this year; cylinder heads used on turbo engines were given a tapered snroud around the exhaust valve for better flow.

1987 Dodge Charger GLH-S

For 1987, Shelby and Dodge made 1,000 GLH-S cars based on the Dodge Charger two-door coupe, which was a close relation to the traditional-hatchback Omni. The cars had Koni adjustable shocks and struts, 15" Goodyear Gatorback tires, and the same intercooled 2.2 liter engine peaking at 175 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. It was a 2-door coupe only in black with grey interior. Sixty mph came up within 6.95 seconds, making it quite respectable if a little slower than the stodgier-looking Omni GLHS. The quarter mile came up in 14.7 seconds at 94 mph.

shelby charger glh-s

Aside from the sheet metal, this was an extremely similar car, with nearly identical front and rear suspensions, brakes, and powertrain equipment; the “blacken everything” motif remained as well. An auto-reverse tape deck was added, and the price rose rather quickly, up to $12,995 (plus destination).

dodge charger shelby glhs

For 1987, the aluminum air-to-air intercooler measured 11.5 x 6.25 x 3. Cornering went down to .84 g on the skidpad. Front and rear brakes appear to have remained the same; as in 1986, a 135-mph speedometer was fitted. A big 78-amp alternator was used with a 335 amp battery. Modified parts were warranted by Shelby for one year or 12,000 miles, except for certain engien and transaxle parts, which were given 2-year/24,000 mile coverage with a $100 deductible. Chrysler parts were covered by their one year/12,000 mile warranty except for powertrain, which was, again, 2-year/24,000 miles.

Car Power Turbo Production
1984 Omni GLH  110 none 3,285
1985 Omni GLH 110 or 146 none/Turbo I 6,513
1986 Omni GLH  110 or 146 none/Turbo I 3,629
1986 Omni GLHS 175 Garret* 500
1987 Charger GLHS 175 Turbo II 1,000
* According to Bill Yohman, this was the basis for the Turbo II
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