Capsule Review: 1987 Dodge Shelby Lancer

capsule review 1987 dodge shelby lancer
The best thing about the 1987 Dodge Lancer Shelby was the turbo lag followed by eye peeling acceleration. My dad always looked over at me, grinning with a wild look in his eyes as he dumped the clutch, and then hung on to the torque steering helm as I laughed all the way to the next stoplight in Santa Cruz, California (when it was still cheap to live there).

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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  • Robbi_B Robbi_B on Feb 05, 2009

    I owned the 88 Lancer Shelby (slightly different than the Shelby Lancer) for a while. It was named Red, and she was a $1.00 car I bought off a friend. There was SERIOUS jury-rigging under the hood by the time the head gasket finally went, and she's gone to the big parking lot in the sky, now. But let me just say, I loved that car. Around 150,000 miles on her (not quite sure exactly how many, since the speedo/odo didn't work any more). It looked like a piece of junk, and at least once a week I'd get some punk in a souped up somethingorother at a stop light showing off, and they always got left in the dust. Loved that car.

  • Derrickx1 Derrickx1 on Aug 09, 2009

    I had a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo (non-shelby), light blue with all the toys. Digital dash, 5 speed, all power..etc. I absolutely loved that car. I bought it in 1989 with about 15,000 or so miles on it. That thing was like a rocket, as soon as that turbo kicked in,..zoom. That love lasted about a year, that's when all started going wrong. First the turbo kept going on me, then the vacuum pressure kept failing on me. It was stylish for the time though. I put 50's tires with chrome wheels on her and had all the black trim painted to match the car. I do admit I miss that car but I dont miss the headache of being broken down in the mid-town tunnel waiting for a tow truck!

  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.
  • Lou_BC High end EV's are selling well. Car companies are taking advantage of that fact. I see quite a few $100k pickups in my travels so why is that ok but $100k EV's are bad? The cynical side of me sees car companies tack on 8k premiums to EV's around the time we see governments up EV credits. Coincidence? No fooking way.
  • EBFlex "I'd add to that right now, demand is higher than supply, so basic business rules say to raise the price."Demand is very low. Supply is even lower. Saying that demand is outstripping supply without providing context is dishonest at best.
  • IBx1 Took them long enough to make the dashboard look halfway decent in one of their small trucks.
  • Mcs You're right. I'd add to that right now, demand is higher than supply, so basic business rules say to raise the price. The battery tech is rapidly changing too. A battery tech in production today probably won't be what you're using in 2 years. In 4 years, something different. Lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Now cobalt and in some cases nickel isn't needed. New materials like prussian blue might need to be sourced. New sources might mean investing in mines. LMFP batteries from CATL are entering production this year and are a 15% to 20% improvement in density over current LFP closing the density gap with NCA and NCM batteries. So, more cars should be able to use LMFP than were able to use LFP. That will lower costs to automakers, but I doubt they'll pass it on. I think when the order backlogs are gone we'll stop seeing the increases. Especially once Tesla's backlog goes away. They have room to cut prices on the Model Y and once they start accumulating unsold vehicles at the factory lot, that price will come tumbling down.
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