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1987 Shelby Charger GLHS – The BangShift Pick Of The Iacocca Chryslers

1987 Shelby Charger GLHS – The BangShift Pick Of The Iacocca Chryslers

As we look back on the work of Lee Iacocca upon his passing yesterday, I felt compelled to go digging for one of his works. With two car companies under his belt, it wouldn’t be hard to find something to tie to the man, but the question before me was “What would work?” Picking a Mustang or a Maverick or pretty much anything he had a hand in during his tenure at Ford seemed a bit like cheating…he was at Ford when just about everything was a hit (or was, at least, right for the times). His tenure at Chrysler isn’t as well-received by the kind of folk like you, readers. He built front-driver after front-driver, minivans and more, and only allowed the M-body line to live because cops and fleet sales ate them up (and because the Fifth Avenue sold well to older audiences.) It’s not the greatest time, but Iacocca still made lemonade out of lemons, and to do so he brought in an old friend from his days at Ford to help out.

The Dodge Charger name has been a hallmark of the brand since it’s 1966 introduction, but it had come a long way from the fastback Coronet. The 1968-70 model was an icon. The 1971-74 version was so tied to Richard Petty’s successes in NASCAR it was borderline comical. The 1975-78 Chargers were basically re-hashed Coronets and Cordobas with small trim changes, big tanks with smog engines that were, at best, ok for the time. By 1981, the name had been moved to the Omni-based three-door fastback and for 1987, Shelby had something special ready. He bought 1,000 of the last Dodge-manufactured Shelby Chargers and converted them into GLHS cars. The short list: 175 horsepower and ft/lbs of torque from a 2.2L four-banger that had intercooling for the turbocharger, a stout Getrag A555 five-speed box, Koni struts and shocks and Goodyear Eagle Z-rated rubber. And just for the hell of it, they had a sticker on the speedometer that continued speed callouts to 125 MPH. Each car was numbered with a serial plate on the dash and just like the Omni GLH hatchback, each car was a torque-steering wonder that would happily slap around any car of the day. In fact, at one point in time Shelby invited any owner of a Ferrari 308 to meet him at Willow Springs for a head-to-head match. Nobody bit, but a lot of Ferrari-ista bitched at the thought. Telling, isn’t it?

It was an affordable little rocket, balancing the line between economical and the best kind of fun you can have with your shorts still on, small enough to be practical, violent enough to encourage delinquency. It was built because a long-lasting friendship could be fruitful decades after their first go-round with high-performance vehicles together. It’s pure 1980s Chrysler but in the right way: progressive, looking to the future and a bit brash. After the GLHS came the Shelby CSX line based on the Dodge Shadow, then the next hot thing was the Dodge Neon SRT-4. Chrysler was doing tuner-style front-drivers before that was really a trend. And it was smacking around Mustang, Camaro and Firebird while doing it, while taunting Ferrari to come and play. Goes Like Hell, indeed.

eBay Link: 1987 Shelby Charger GLHS #0148

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10 thoughts on “1987 Shelby Charger GLHS – The BangShift Pick Of The Iacocca Chryslers

  1. Gary

    I bought a new Plymouth TC3 (Total Coefficiant) in ’82, right before the Turbo Chargers came out. Still, it was quick and fun. A couple of buddies from Rockwell and I were leaving our bowling leagues one evening, and one of them had a 302 Cobra 2 Mustang. We all got our on the highway and hammered it. He told me a work the next day, “I was doing 140 when you went around me!” I told HIM to get his speedometer checked…but a few months later, he showed up with a new, Turbo Shelby Charger. Man, those things were pretty…

  2. Joe Jolly

    I started wrenching on cars in the 70’s and I have had my butt in the drivers seat of the best and worst of the smog era cars. I drove a new Omni GLH and wasn’t too excited about the little tin can. The GLHS was a different story. I was seriously impressed with the acceleration from 50 to 100+ mph. The car did run pretty damn good from a roll.

  3. Don

    Bought a new 1985 Omni GLH Turbo and daily drove it for 11 years. Lots of good memories from that car. Bone stock it would run high 14’s.

  4. Crankshaft

    Got to play with one of these back in the early \’90\’s. Very quick and impressive power for the era. What I remember the most is the INSANE amount of VIOLENT torque steer when the boost came in. It\’d try to rip the steering wheel out of my hand!

  5. Matt Cramer

    Those are a pretty good example of the ’80s angular styling, and getting hard to find even in non-Shelby trim. I’m not sure the last time I saw one that clean – although pictures of the driver’s seat are conspicuously absent.

  6. A

    That’s my old car. It was hit by a truck and had the fender bumper and header replaced. It was pretty fast when I owned it. I sold it about 5 years ago for $6000. I put new koni struts on it too.

  7. Kevin Isenberg

    I have #0592 in all original condition with 53,xxx miles on the clock. They are fun cars especially considering how cheap they were/are. They are pretty solid if you are willing to continually tighten the interior trim screws monthly. The Omni GLHS is much more popular among the Shelby Dodge crowd, but the Charger GLHS is way better looking and I like it way better.

    The GLHS did not get the 555 gearbox like the article states. They came with the 525. The torque steer issue is not near as bad as people claim. Torque steer really only becomes apparent when you are making much more power. My 1985 Shelby Charger, which makes considerably more power, would try to kill you using torque steer. Oddly enough, I ditched the \”equal length\” axle on the passenger side for a shortened minivan axle and the torque steer vanished.

  8. Jeff Cole

    #0717, original owner, in our garage with 63000+ miles. Thank you Carroll and Lido!!

  9. 69rrboy

    When they were new my friend had a 4 door GLHS Omni that was “turned up” a little according to him. I only got to drive it once.

    I had literally just gotten in the car, drove it maybe 2 miles, and stopped at a major 4-way intersection with 2 straight lanes and 2 left turn lanes. I was in the far left turn lane. While sitting there minding our business a very loud 70 Charger R/T with a hood scoop and big tires came idling up beside us. He winged the gas a few times and my friend said “You’re not gonna take that are you?”. I said “What am I supposed to do, rev back? He can’t hear this thing over his car. Do you want me to race him?”. He said “Yeah, blow his doors off!!”.

    Before the light changed he said “Get it around the corner and get it straight and then hit it!” so that’s what I did. Thankfully we were instantly in front of him because the Omni changed lanes 3 times in 4 gears. The torque steer was ungodly!!! I had a crick in my shoulder for months.

    At the next light the Charger idled up beside us, gave us a thumbs up, and said “What the hell is in that thing???”. My friend said “Just a stock 4 cylinder”. The guy just looked at him funny and turned off. He’s probably still trying to figure out what was in that little car.

    Years later I drove an SRT-4 Neon and it didn’t have ANY of that horrendous torque steer at all so obviously the engineers learned a lot from the old days.

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