By on May 25, 2012

Most folks think of Cobras or Mustangs when they think of the late Carroll Shelby, but don’t forget the Shelby Chryslers of the 1980s! Shelby cranked out a run of turbocharged front-drive Dodges that delivered amazing-for-their-time bang-for-buck performance, and they’ve remained quite affordable. So affordable, in fact, that Shelby Dodges are not uncommon sights in self-service junkyards; just in the last couple of years, I’ve found this Daytona Shelby Z, this Omni GLH, and this Shelby Charger awaiting their appointments with The Crusher. Last week, I spotted another one in a Denver yard.
Yes, this car was based on a platform designed in France by Simca, and it’s true that the L-bodies were flimsy throwaway cars that tended to disintegrate in a hurry, but so what? 146 horsepower in a 2,350-pound car was ridiculous in 1985!
The Omni GLH and the Shelby Charger were more or less the same car beneath the skin, with the same 2.2 liter turbocharged engine under the hood.
This example is pretty much a thrashed-to-death basket case, though it doesn’t seem to be rusty. Will beat examples of Shelby Chargers ever be worth enough to be restorable?

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34 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger...”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    That’s a pity. Yeah, these weren’t the most well put together cars, but a buddy of mine had one identical to this one but with leather, and it was a beautiful car. Wickedly fun to drive, too.

    • 0 avatar

      Now this brings back memories. When I was in grade school,my Dad had an 82 Plymouth Turismo TC3. After that he bought a Shelby Charger and eventually a Shelby Charger GLHS. I remember one popular car magazine drew a comparison between these cars and the British Sten submachine gun. Crude, but effective.

      This car gave my Dad years of reliable service and respectable highway gas mileage, though high octane gas was needed.

      As a teenager learning to drive, I recall the clutch had about a mile of travel and under acceleration, the steering wheel darted all over the place. I definitely learned about torque steer in this car.

      Seemingly every part of the interior squeaked and the ergonomics were wack. The ventilation controls were to the left of the steering wheel and low on the dash, completely obscured from view while driving. My favorite MOPAR cost cutting feature came in the form of a crescent shaped sticker on the bottom of the 85 MPH speedo. 90mph, 95 mph, 100 mph and so on clockwise…

    • 0 avatar

      After a hard run, you could put a small frying pan right on the turbo and make some pork chop sandwiches while waiting for it to cool.

    • 0 avatar

      I am the original owner of a 1986 Dodge Shelby Turbo, I still have it. Dodge wanted to embarrass the Corvette in showroom stock racing and the SCCA would not permit the cars that had the Shelby serial numbers that had an inter cooler and 4 wheel disc brakes. Thus my car was born with 20 other brothers at the Shelby works with a Dodge serial number a sun roof, rear drum brakes and 19 lbs of boost instead of 9. There were a few other “tweeks” such as re-positioned front lower control arms. A few additional welds in key places. rear axle with negative camber and modified front struts that allowed 4 degrees of negative camber. Just to name a few. With cage and fire gear this car weighed 2100 with full fuel. Performance was 0-60 in 5.5 seconds the 1/4 mile in 13.1 seconds and a top speed of 155. Yep it really pissed off a lot so called fast cars on the street.

  • avatar

    I remember when the Omni “Goes Like Hell” first hit the road. I wouldn’t mind one sitting next to my GT500.

  • avatar

    These cars struck me the same way 80’s albums from classic rock bands did. A final grasp for cash based on a once innovative and legendary name.

    • 0 avatar

      Good lord, the phrase “classic rock” makes my 61-year-old head hurt! I didn’t like 92% of that stuff when it was new!

      The car? Much the same, especially when Chrysler simply covered part of the quarter window with plastic, even giving the forward edge a fake black rubber window gasket! Just as phony as the bands mentioned!

      Either way, it doesn’t work on any level.

  • avatar

    yeah, this one’s trashed, the body has been rattle canned to keep the rust at bay since the paint obviously got blasted away from sun exposure (and lack of care).

    The body isn’t in too bad of shape in any event for a thrashed out car.

  • avatar

    Has there ever been an uglier and cheaper-looking steering wheel than the one used on these L-cars? This wheel looks like it belongs on a 1980s Skoda or Wartburg.

    • 0 avatar

      This was the upgrade steering wheel for L-bodies. IIRC, there were two different 3-spoke wheels below it on the options list for some of the non-Shelby cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Have you ever used one of those steering wheels? My friend had a Horizon he put over 200K on, and I drove it often. The steering wheel seemed just right, letting you rest your fingers in between the spokes. The later air bag wheels were so huge they looked like bumper car steering wheels by comparison!

    • 0 avatar

      Both of my mom’s Horizons had the exact same steering wheel. Dull for sure.

  • avatar

    The Wheel in the back looks like it might be pretty cool

  • avatar

    These little Chargers are one of the few cars that make my short list for possible projects. They are much maligned, but they really are a piece of 1980s America and really reflect where our country was at the time. Although people like to look back on the 80s as some kind of Golden era, the vast majority of those of us who were young at the time were just scraping by. We did the best we could with what we had. And you know what? We did OK.

    Coming out of the late 70s, we needed cars like these. They were fresh, they were frugal and they were more than the sum of their parts. They were always underdogs, but punched way above their weight.

    • 0 avatar

      do people really look at the 80s as a golden era? You just blew my 3 remaining brain cells.

      • 0 avatar

        Not a golden era for cars in general, but the 80s were awesome! I wish I could relive a few choice periods in my life and most would be from the Reagan era…I think I had more fun in the 80s than all other periods combined.

  • avatar

    That engine bay is nearly identical to my former 85 LeBaron GTS (non-turbo); my heart leapt at the sight.

    Part of Chrysler’s 80s revival was due to cool cars like this.

  • avatar

    I find it interesting how the Shelby Chargers got 2 headlights while the regulars had 4. 024 and TC3s had that 2 headlight set up too.

  • avatar

    AAaaah! I didn’t need to see this!

    I had a lot of fun with these cars back in the day. Several friends owned them (or variations of them), and they provided a lot of good times sorely missed.

    I came upon a 1985 Shelby Charger Turbo when I first moved to Michigan in 1998, the owner wanted $1000 to get it off his property. It had a CEL going on and needed all the usual maintenance items. I have routinely kicked myself in the rear for not snagging the car and taking it home at the time.

    These weren’t the most sophisticated cars, but they were inexpensive and zippy. Nothing like these are offered today. It’s too bad the Mopar-based Shelbys are not given the same respect as the Ford-based Shelbys. We’re scrapping our automotive history.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      It’s disheartening to read the hatred, vitriol and revisionism being spouted on the Mustang forums regarding the turbocharged L-bodies. They’ve forgotten Shelby wasn’t a one-man show, and Iacocca had directly collaborated with him in order to get these pocket rockets produced. There’s no other explanation for Chrysler offering a model which was quicker, faster and better handling than its flagship K-based Daytona/Laser platform while simultaneously being thousands cheaper; you need someone at the very top keeping the bean counters in line to perform that sort of price/performance inversion. The only concession offered to the accountants was the complete absence of magazine ads touting the turbocharger option for the L-bodies during their production years; the only mention was a double asterisk line at the very bottom of the magazine ad page in 4 point type stating “turbocharged engine option available: use your imagination.”

      Judging from the posts I’ve read over the past decade, a lot of 5.0 drivers were spanked hard in the 80s by kids with more talent than money in a turbo L-body giving them an object lesson in basic physics.

      • 0 avatar


        Now that’s one intelligent reply. Good job!

        Many on here and over on Curbside Classic know I was a big fan of all things Chrysler back in the 80’s, from the K-Cars, extended K-Cars, Daytonas and even these on a much, much lower level.

        The LeBaron GTS was equally fast as well.

  • avatar

    Brings me back to my youth. MY buddy had a burgundy one with the silver stripes. Was a very good looking car for the time period.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Hey Murilee, which yard is that? I really want to grab those wheels.

  • avatar

    …146 horsepower in a 2,350-pound car was ridiculous in 1985…

    Pffffft, the Scion FR-S is a positive porker!

  • avatar

    There is still one of these I see around town, and it looks great. Blue on silver.

    I loved these cars; I had a Reliant wagon, and added to my pride of ownership to know they shared the same platform. You knew for the price you were paying this was no expensive sports car; but it delivered on what it promised — cheap speed. And that makes them as worthy of Carol Shelby’s heritage as the Shelby Cobra and Mustang.

  • avatar

    An Omni GLH was one of the funnest cars I ever drove.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I remember when these came out in the 80’s. The grand reunion of Iacocca and Shelby. The skeptics said ‘But it’s FWD!’ ‘Where is the V8’? I said who cares if it has Shelby’s name on it and has performance then it is ok. Say what you want about L-Body Omnirisons, they did have decent build quality. It’s rare you see a rotted one.

  • avatar

    Now that Mr. Shelby is no longer with us, this car may now actually be worth more than the gas left in its tank.

  • avatar

    If I had the resources, I’d buy this car, give it a custom chassis and new paint job, and install a Pentastar V-6 from the current Dodge Challenger in the engine bay. :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Better yet, since I recently came across information about a 1988 Dodge Daytona that was turned into an RWD car with a 6.1 Hemi in place of the original engine, I could do something similar with this Shelby Charger.

  • avatar

    I looked at the Omni GLH and Shelby Charger back in 1986 when ready to buy a new car. I loved the Omni GLH (black with silver stripes) and wanted one bad. But it was on the showroom floor for over 9 grand and that was a lot for a small car back then.

    I looked at a Shelby Charger (Garnet Red with the silver stripes… super sharp) and while I thought it looked awesome, as a two door, I couldn’t see making my friends squeeze in the back. Plus the price was even higher (over $10K, maybe). Too rich for my college boy earnings as a waiter.

    My favorite part of those cars were the machined aluminum wheels on the later versions (just the holes around the rim). 15 inchers and w- i- d- e. Too bad the steering wheel and dashboards were so outdated, even then.

    Neat cars, though.

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