Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Omni GLH

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1986 dodge omni glh

You’d think that the Shelby-ized Dodges of the 1980s would be sought-after collector’s items nowadays… but you’d be wrong. The Omni GLH/GLHS had to be the best performance-per-dollar deal of any new car you could buy during the mid-to-late 1980s, but its humble Simca origins and disposable nature mean that surviving examples aren’t worth fixing up once they get in rough condition.

The ’86 GLH had 146 horsepower, weighed 2,295 pounds, and listed at $7,918 (or just over 16 grand in 2011 bucks).

Compare that to the ’86 Honda Civic Si, which had 91 horsepower, weighed 2,033 pounds, and sold for $7,999. OK, fine, we’ll admit that the Civic had build quality a couple of orders of magnitude better than the Omni and it handled better, but: 55 more horsepower for $81 less! Spend about 11 grand, and you’d get the ridiculously overpowered GLHS, which came with 175 horsepower and ran 14.7-second quarter miles right off the showroom floor. That blew away the Mustang GT and IROC-Z Camaro, and came very close to beating the ’86 Corvette.

Check out that screamin’ red interior. What’s not to love about a Rootes Group four-door hatch with Dodge badging, Carroll Shelby influence, and lots of boost? Apparently, this car’s last owner didn’t feel that way. Right now it’s in a Denver self-service yard, but the next stop will likely be a Chinese steel factory.

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  • And003 And003 on Apr 06, 2012

    Narrator from old commercial: "Dodge Omni GLH ... no more Mr. Nice Guy!"

  • And003 And003 on May 12, 2012

    Murilee Martin: "Its humble Simca origins and disposable nature mean that surviving examples aren’t worth fixing up once they get in rough condition." I don't know ... if I had lots of disposable income, access to the right hot rod shop, and information on where to get new parts, I wouldn't be averse to fixing this car up, though I'd probably give this car a custom interior and keep the original paint scheme.

  • Tassos I have driven exclusively manuals in my own cars for the first 30-40 years of my driving history. They were usually very affordable, fuel efficient simple vehicles with front wheel drive. Their manuals sucked (in the case of a 1983 GM vehicle I bought new) or were perfect (in my two 5-sp manual Hondas).After 2005, I started driving excellent 5 and 7 speed automatics in my own cars, which were NOT available in the US market with manuals.With today's outstanding automatics, which are also MORE, not LESS, fuel efficient than any manual, your question becomes MEANINGLESS.Because NO CAR "needs" a manual.Only some DRIVERS "WANT", NOT "NEED", a manual.Let us use language PRECISELY.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic And this too shall pass.....Ford went thru this when the model T was introduced. It took the moving assembly line to make real money. As time progressed, it got refined, eventually moving to the Model A. Same kind of hiccups with fuel injection, 4 speed automatic, Firestone tires, dashboards with no radio knobs, etc, etc, etc. Same thing with EVs. Yep, a fire or two in the parking lot, espresso time at the charging stations, other issues yet to be encountered, just give it time. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Art Vandelay 2025 Camaro and Challenger
  • Mike Beranek Any car whose engine makes less than 300 ft-lbs of torque.
  • Malcolm Mini temporarily halted manual transmission production but brought it back as it was a surprisingly good seller. The downside is that they should have made awd standard with the manual instead of nixing it. Ford said recently that 4dr were 7% manual take rate and I think the two door was 15%.