Capsule Review: 1987 Dodge Shelby Lancer
In the mid-1980s, Carroll Shelby saw enough potential in the second generation Chrysler K-Cars to lend his name to no less than four versions: a Charger, Omni GLH (Goes Like Hell), Daytona, and the Lancer. Of all the cars, the Lancer had the most potential to capture the marketplace, a true American 3-series competitor. With its 5-door hatchback styling, crisp Euro inspired lines, and a fairly nice interior (that was as good as anything during the time period), the Lancer Shelby should have taken the driving world by storm; however, it has faded into almost extinction.
The largest problem with the Lancer lay in its fundamental layout. Americans of the 1980s viewed its useful hatchback as a marque of a cheap vehicle. That perception only worsened as the Lancer was only equipped with a 2.2L four-banger, another American no-no. Despite being producing 175bhp (147bhp in the non-Shelby), the drastic torque steer, turbo lag, and non-Euro feeling body lean chased off the import buyers as well.
Yet the few that bought one discovered something incredibly rare in Chrysler’s history, a car with character, a car that tackled corners with élan never seen in an American designed and produced sedan. They also discovered turbos that failed at 75K miles, electrical glitches, and early-failing shocks.
I will always remember a car that tackled Highway 1 in Big Sur with aplomb, a car that surged with gusto across the plains of Texas, and a car that still remains interesting in its design. If you ever see a Dodge Lancer Shelby, count yourself lucky. Rare when new, they are positively unknown, unloved, and non-existent now, which is a shame.
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