Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Omni GLH

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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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.

  • Alan Like all testing and analysis work you need a good set of requirements. If you don't you'll find or end up with gaps.
  • Alan In aviation there is more vigourous testing, well, until Boeing changed things.
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  • Doug brockman hardly. Their goals remain to punish us by mandating unsafe unreliable unaffordable battery powered cars
  • Lorenzo It looks like the curves are out and the boxy look is back. There's an upright windscreen, a decided lack of view obstructing swoop in the rear side panels, and you can even see out of the back window. Is Lexus borrowing from the G-Class Mercedes, or the Range Rover?