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The Dodge Omni GLH, Dodge Omni GLHS, and Dodge Charger GLH-S

dodge omni GLH-S

Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon construction

The Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon was designed by Chrysler Europe, the former Simca and Rootes; most of the engineering appears to have been done in France, where Simca made best-sellers and the inspiration for the Volkswagen Rabbit. (Full story on its development - as told by the design team). With the 2.2 liter engine and a manual transmission, they were quick, but as economy cars, they did not have a reputation for speed. The Omni GLH and GLHS would change that - for those in the know.

GLHS logoAppropriately named "Goes-Like-Hell", this Dodge Omni was created with Carroll Shelby’s company. The 1984 GLH was not turbocharged, but had engine tweaks (set up by Chrysler) to raise power to 110 bhp; it used a special camshaft, milled block (.020) to bring up the compression, and a chrome engine dress-up valve cover. No ground effects came from the factory on the 1984 GLH. Chrysler's "direct-connection" designed an after-market ground effects kit for the Omni that eventually became the production versions found on the 1985s and 1986s.

dodge omni GLH

The 1985 and 1986 Omni GLHs were available with either the 110-bhp high-output engine or a 146-bhp turbo 2.2-liter engine, which created a power rocket waiting to fly off the road. Alloy wheels, unique tape decor and ground effects rounded out the package. The turbocharged engine had torque in abundance, with 170 lb-ft peaking at a low 3,600 rpm; when one considers that the light Omni was fairly quick with the 96 horsepower 2.2, the turbocharged version’s power ratings become more impressive.

With just the base 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 did need premium gas, with or without turbo; but it beat the Volkswagen GTI by a full second, zero to sixty.

1986 Horizon/Omni engines Compression
Horsepower Torque Manual MPG Auto 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 24/29
2.2 liter, turbocharged (Omni GLH only) 8.1 146@5200 170@3600    
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. They were also wider than usual for cars of the Omni’s size. The interior was similar to the regular Omni, but it had larger, ventilated front disc brakes, stiffer suspension tuning, and quicker steering. The cornering grip was higher than any front-drive car Car & Driver had ever tested.

Omni GLHS

The Omni GLHS (Goes Like Hell, Some-more) started in 1986 based on a 4-door model and had a modified Garrett Turbo I engine, a long-runner tuned intake (2 piece) manifold, and an intercooler. This engine sounds like the Turbo II, but it does not have any of the forged internal parts (crank, rods, pistons, etc.). GLHS production was only 500 in 1986. Color was only 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 features for the 1986 GLH-S included heavy duty, power brakes (10.2 inch disc up front, 8.0 x 1.28 drum rear); tinted glass; various trim blackouts and stripes; Bosch 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.” That was true, but drivers did pay a price; the GLH-S had a very firm suspension. It also had a very fair price: just about $11,000 plus destination, which was inexpensive for this level of performance even in 1986.

omni ghs

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 VR 1 5 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.

While originally intended to be a late 1985 model released that summer, 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 Magazine cover with the announcement "GLHS WHIPS GT-350!" and a comparison article declaring the little Omni 2-seconds faster over a side by side lap at Willow Springs and 1-second faster in the quarter-mile than a 1966 Shelby Mustang. The official GLHS numbers went like this: 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.

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

shelby charger glh-s

For 1987, 1,000 GLH-S models based on the Omni-based Dodge Charger two-door coupe were made with 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. In essence, 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.

charger GLH-S

Engines table

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 Shelby GLHS (Charger) 175 Turbo II 1,000
* According to Bill Yohman, this was the basis for the Turbo II

Racing - Plymouth Horizon, Dodge Omni GLH

Angelo Taylor wrote that he has a “1985 Omni GLH turbo converted to a T2. This car has my own nitrous set up on it that is based on the base EFI NOS kit from NOS....When the car was a T1 with 16 psi of boost it was running only 14.0s....but the extra 175 - 200 hp of nitrous I put through it made it run in the 11s....11.89 at 118 being the quickest. I even ran Super Pro with it once and won 5 rounds before I red lighted...car IS NHRA legal with 8 point roll bar and 4 point harness. Three speed automatic with COAN 4000 stall converter. 2400 lbs. Car has 210,000+ miles."

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