By on August 5, 2016

dodge omni glhs (Image: Sotheby's)

The Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon twins didn’t get much respect in the 1980s, and even today’s hipsters – who’ll cling to anything avante-garde or ironic – failed to bestow them with latter-day reverence.

Well, never mind the haters. If you’re in Monterey, California on Aug. 19, and you have a hankering to spend a seemingly ludicrous amount of money on a 30-year-old econobox, your day has come.

RM Sotheby’s plans to auction a 1986 Dodge Omni GLHS, once owned by legendary tuner Carroll Shelby. This was the original hot hatch, with only 500 of the Shelby-tuned, turbocharged and intercooled Omni variants build before the model’s swan song.

Spotless and gleaming black, Shelby’s personal vehicle has just 7,733 miles on the odometer. Certainly, there’s no Omni nicer than this one, or as expensive. The auction house lists the vehicle at $40,000–$60,000, offered without reserve. Proceeds will go to the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust.

In many ways, the Omni GLHS is the ultimate sleeper. An ultra-rare performance version of a wholly boring and unsexy hatchback might be someone’s ticket to car show fame.

The Omni and Horizon were born out of desperation. In the late 1970s, with Chrysler’s fortunes falling like rust from the fender of a Dodge Aspen, the company re-engineered the French Simca Horizon in order to add a fuel-efficient subcompact to its stable of thirsty dinosaurs. The original 1.7-liter Volkswagen four-cylinder was soon joined by the 2.2-liter unit from Chrysler’s phenomenally successful K-car line.

The thing about that iron block SOHC 2.2-liter was that it could handle modifications with ease. Eager to exploit existing engine inventory, Chrysler added a turbocharged variant — the Turbo I. Soon after came the Turbo II, which Carroll Shelby thought would make a nice addition to a performance hatch.

Shelby Automobiles took the Turbo II and worked it over completely, leaving almost nothing unchanged. When it left the shop (and entered the Omni), Shelby’s unit cranked out 175 horsepower and a flat 175 pounds-feet of torque. Because the Chrysler 2.2 was already known for its low-end grunt (and often nothing else), an engine computer was added to tamp down the Turbo II’s torque. Without it, owners could kiss their Omni’s stock 5-speed manual transmission goodbye.

The Omni GLHS made the 0–60 mile per hour run in 6.5 seconds, topping out at a 135 mph top speed. The following year, Shelby worked his magic on 1,000 Omni-based Charger coupes, but they simply don’t have the nerd appeal of these done-up boxes.

[Image: Sotheby’s]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

65 Comments on “This Was as Hot as the Dodge Omni Got, and It Can Be All Yours...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “The auction house lists the vehicle at $40,000–$60,000, offered without reserve.”

    Lol, you guys.

    And your catalog thing is very annoying to use and navigate.

    But how’s about this Shelby Lancer instead!
    https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/5704692171.html

    It’s got black lace alloys while this Omni does not, which makes it factually superior.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I found a super clean 1992 Plymouth (Sundance) Duster. 3.0L, 5 speed, 3 door. I think I’d be happier with it than this freaking Omni. I rode in an Omni/Horizon a couple times, I barely fit and hated everything about it.

      Duster: http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/cto/5689303277.html

      I would really rather have a 1992 Tempo GLS 5-speed (3.0L), but the Duster is crazy clean. Great color, too.

      *Edit: that Lancer needs the new “//Dodge” logo in the bottom RH section of the grille. Why is it idling so high? In the close up of the instrument cluster, it looks like 1500 RPM, while the temp gauge indicates it wasn’t just started so it wasn’t in its cold-start warm-up cycle. In the other interior pic, it looks to be at 2k rpms!

      Speaking of Chrysler compacts, did you know there is a new Dodge Neon? Its actually a Fiat Tipo (sp?) and its only in Mexico for now.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        57,000 miles? Just about the time they start puffing little wisps of blue smoke out of the exhaust.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          That’s funny, because I believe my aunt’s Jeep Commander did the same thing (puff blue smoke at startup) at a similar mileage. Obviously not the same engine (it was the non-Hemi V-8), but I guess some things never change.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          The turbo versions tended to do that, but my non-turbo 85 LeBaron GTS was tight until I rebuilt it at 160k miles, and then I ran it some more, up to 206k miles. That’s when the rust got it.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            I think Jim was talking about the Mitsubishi 3.0L V-6 in the Duster I linked to.
            Or maybe he thought it was a Turbo 4?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            no, the 3.0 mitsu V6 didn’t puff blue smoke at start-up, it trashed its valve guides and puffed blue smoke constantly.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            no, the 3.0 mitsu V6 didn’t puff blue smoke at start-up, it trashed its valve guides and puffed blue smoke constantly…..

            True dat. 2.2s were not oil burners at all. just lots of of piston slap.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      That’s not bad. It might even be worth $3k. Find another hatch and fix the little things, and you’re good to go. I knew a guy that owned a Le Baron GTS back then – I forgot about the funky dash and the high cowl – the exact opposite of something like a late ’80s Honda Accord, that was light-years ahead engineering-wise, but not as much fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The Lancer is what the K-car should have been, if they had more time to think out the layout. It would have needed the 2.2 to be multi-port EFI too, to avoid the K-car’s reputation, and provide a better base for Iacocca’s thousands of variations.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “The auction house lists the vehicle at $40,000–$60,000…”

    As Robert Plant asked, “Does anybody remember laughter?”

    Yes, I see the car’s provenance and it is for charity, but still…

  • avatar
    JimZ

    worth noting that at the time, Simca had been pulled into Chrysler Europe along with Rootes.

  • avatar
    kit4

    A piece of junk car with a fast engine in it. I’ll pass.

  • avatar

    I had the non -S version of this car. The suspension was well tuned, not just ‘make it stiff’. The engine had some lag but ran hard till it got hot…an intercooler is needed. Big Brakes from elsewhere in the catalog.

    I still ask, why’d they pay Shelby for this ? An intern could have done the parts picking, the engineers just left alone for the suspension work, and slap “Super Bee” on it and call it a day.

    You aren’t going to see many of these as they were all rode hard and put away wet, with owner #3 using the “fish hose trick” to raise the boost…boom ! Oh, and they ate fuel pumps….there were two, high and low pressure.

    I spanked a 911 in traffic once. 944 were fun to play with too….back in the day. You were invincible till the temps went up and the boost was pulled back…

    Cool to see one survived. I’m sure that someone will, for charity, pay too much.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon twins didn’t get much respect in the 1980s”

    That’s not how I remember it.

    Almost a million of these things were built over a 13-year run. Scaling for today’s market, it would be the #7 best-selling car, like a Hyundai Elantra or Ford Fusion.

    I recall them being pretty solid cars, much better than Chrysler had ever put out previously. And, the competition was still producing late-model Pintos, early tin-can Escorts, Chevettes, rusty Rabbits (some with 70-HP diesels), rusty Corollas, CVCC Civics with nightmare tuning, and Datsun B-210s.

    “Made in America” flag-waving helped sell a lot of Omni/Horizons, too.

    The GLH was instantly revered when it was introduced. It had V8 power in a small car, and the magazines featured it regularly on their covers. Even the Corvette had less than 200 HP at the time.

    This particular car will appeal to someone who remembers those times, but the price seems about 2X too high.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      70 hp u wish! The diesel sported a whopping 40 hp and the gasser was 70, IIRC.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        The diesel Rabbit may have had 48 hp. Incidentally, the 1986 Corvette had 230 hp rather than less than 200 hp. The GLHS was certainly capable of running with just about anything one could buy new at the time though.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      I agree that the price seems too high. And, having lived through the era (and having owned the Charger, non-turbo, version of this), I agree that these were, at the time, percieved by most people to be decent vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Good rundown on the Omni/Horizon. People who call them punishing econoboxes never drove them. They had a pretty good ride, even on the freeway, and the Plymouths were downright upscale in some of their interiors.

      The early VW engines were junk, but the Chrysler 2.2 was just about right for this weight class, even with carbs. The engine should have been redesigned for sequential EFI, but they settled for throttle body injection.

      The two minuses for the car were rusting panels, and poor crash-worthiness. The first was solved when Chrysler went to full body galvanizing, but the second was inherent in the car’s design. New cars the same size are more crash worthy, but have beefier crush zones and better cabin reinforcement – and weight several hundred pounds more.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Did they really rust that badly? My grandparents had a 1980 Omni in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It wasn’t that great of a car and they replaced it in 1984, but that makes it about three times more rust resistant than their 1969 Chevrolet Nova that they replaced in 1972 due to needing a reskin. I’d say the Omnirizon had it all over the Escort/Lynx and anything small produced by GM in the era. It was pretty good compared to a Pennsylvania Rabbit too. In terms of comfort, packaging, and road manners; it was like a 1st generation Accord with a bigger backseat, but without the quality.

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      The Pinto was dead after 1980.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    This is exactly like the Acura TL.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    This vehicle looks very Bits’n’Pieces (Aussie slang for Mitsubishi).

    I do remember we had a Mitsubishi Cordia that looked similar and came with a turbo 1.8 litre four. Cops used them here because of their power to weight ratio and the fact these were as quick as many V8s.

    From what I heard if driven hard the Cordia GSRs didn’t go a great distance before expiring.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    I had an ’86 GLH Turbo 1. Great fun smoking other cars!

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Nice greenhouse. Needs a 5″ lift.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’d rather have the awesome round-hole wheels from the regular GLH. I wish there were wheels like that today. Other than the wheels, a fun piece of nostalgia but a crap car.

  • avatar
    raph

    Tough crowd, I’m surprised you guys don’t define the malaise era as 1970 to just last year.

    For its time the GLHS was a quick little car and a decent handler.

  • avatar
    zip94513

    Those things weren’t fast by any standard, but I once raced one up I-80 climbing the hill from the scales in Truckee westbound toward the Donner Summit. The 2400lb turbo car won and my 4600lb (with me in it) Mercury Montego 351M got whooped!

  • avatar
    65corvair

    GLH = Goes Like Hell.

    Really!

    0-60 in 6.5 seconds was fast back then. A Tempo was about 15. I’m thinking a 3 series was around 8 seconds. This was the ultimate sleeper car. Not as good as a GTI but what do you do when you get beaten by an Omni!

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      1984 Tempo GLX (2.3L HSC 1bbl carb) was 12.3 seconds to 60.

      1992 Tempo GLS (3.0L) was 8.6 seconds to 60.

      It would’ve been quicker but Ford put the weakest cam in the Tempo’s 3.0L because with the same one as a Taurus or Probe, it was faster than “performance” cars priced well above it (I’m guessing the Probe V-6). I do know it only puts out 130 hp in a Tempo, but 140-145 in a Taurus (of the era, it was higher later). My 1992 Tempo LX V-6 was pretty quick, it surprised quite a few people. Big(er) engine + small car = fun, fun, fun.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        The very last year of the Tempo, they offered it with the V6, a 5-speed, plus-one alloys, and zippy paint colors. Car & Driver lavished it with praise as the epitome of a sleeper. Looked pretty dated inside by then though, and the Contour was a far better car.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I respect the OmniIzon line up, but there certainly isn’t $40k of parts in one!

    After 10-20 years thrbo 2.2s like to go through headgaskets, as the engine was originally intended for supercharging when it was designed (Chrysler thought turbo were more trendy).

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    Car #086 isn’t worth $40,000+. This is just a GLHS that Shel happened to own. This is just rich old guys tossing money at stuff for bragging rights.
    If it were Shelby’s GLHS 001 with the 16v Hans Hermann head? Totally different story.

  • avatar
    Avid Fan

    Shame on the lot of you. Where, oh where is the love for this fine jewel of automobile excellence. If it had a BMW logo on it or a Ford oval it would be an undervalued classic. (oh, won’t someone buy this so I don’t have to, ohhhhhhhh. It’s on Craigslist, ohhhhhhhh. Please stop me ohhhhhhhh).
    It has many, very horsepowers. It can be unreliable. You’ll probably have a hard time finding parts for it. It might break down at an inconvenient time and leave you stranded. I just don’t get it. What is not to love.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I take it you’ve never actually owned an Omni have you?

      You do have a point though, if this were a Nissan CAltima Vitamins turbo, Honda CRX, or a Mazda 321122 GRX people would be amazed.

      • 0 avatar
        Funky

        I had the Charger (2 door coupe hatchback) version of the Omni. It was a 1987 (or maybe it was an ’86…but I’m pretty sure it was an ’87). It wasn’t a bad vehicle. The handling was respectable in spite of the narrow tires (or at least this is what I remember). It went very well in the snow (I took it on a few skiing trips, so I had plenty of opportunity to test it in snow). Mine did not have the turbo engine, but it was still quick when starting at the red lights. Overall, I really liked it. I had it for less than 2 years (because someone, not me, crashed it and totaled it). I sometimes see both the Omni and Charger versions of this vehicle at car shows. They seem to attract a decent amount of interest. I can understand the desire one might have to keep a car like this as a collectible.

        • 0 avatar

          I had a 84 Shelby Charger (non-turbo – bought used in 85) and I thought it was a fun car to drive. The previous owner had only changed oil twice in 16K miles. Needless to say the valve guides needed to be replaced which I did under warranty. I sold it to a gentleman in IL after I had amassed 406K on it. (I think he was going to use it for parts for a Rampage or something.) Living in IA, the salt in the winter contributed to it rusting to the point of being unsafe to drive. I should have taken better care of it as I’m sure I could have got to a half million miles. The 2.2 still gave me around 35 mpg and only used a quart every 2K. Still had the original clutch although, by this time, it was starting to slip a bit.:) The low profile tires took some getting used to in the winter. I really liked the car and wouldn’t mind having another one if maintenance wouldn’t be an issue. It was quick off the line and handled good enough for me. Had it up to around 110 – 15 one time and it got kind of scary as I could no longer feel the road. Backed it down slowly and decided not to go there again. (wimp, I know).

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    The “original Hot Hatch” my ass! That accolade more likely belongs to the original ‘Mk1’ Golf GTI, not this POS!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Most of the B&B won’t understand how feckin fast 0-60 in 6.5 seconds in an ’86 anything was.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I have yet to read any comments regarding torque steer. I’d say judging by it’s age it would of been a handful.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      I don’t have experience with the turbo version of the Omni/Charger, but I did own a 1986 Dodge Lancer turbo (in some sort of high-end sports edition). And, for sure, torque steer was a problem with it (that is what I recall, anyhow). Especially when doing a so-called jack-rabbit start.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Paging Thomas Kreutzer…

  • avatar
    montecarl

    I wanted a GLH in high school at the time..Couldn’t afford one…If I could find a survivor for a good price..I would try to buy it

  • avatar
    geo

    What’s with the Omni hatred? They were a decent car in the eighties. Smooth ride, good power, powerful even with the 2.2, and usually held together well. I remember it handled and cornered better than my dad’s Rabbit. Hopelessly outdated by the end of its run, but it was a good run.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    A good pal of mine had a 5-speed Omni, replacing his ’78 318 Valiant.

    The Omni – non-GLH – was not a bad performing car for the 80s. Not great compared to today, or the 60s, but still not bad considering the general performance crappiness of the time. We could play with the Monte Carlos SS and the 305 Camaros of the time.

    One night my friend came across a GLH loaded with teenagers – I told him not to even try once I saw the badge, but he didn’t listen. The GLH pulled like a bull and had 2-3 cars lengths on us in a few seconds.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: These cars were the near-exact equivalent of the mini-stereos that all the Japanese electronics companies...
  • ToolGuy: The period from 1987 to 1995 was not kind to Subaru [skip to the “Annual Vehicle Sales Chart”]:...
  • cimarron typeR: I don’t know why you wouldn’t buy a G70 /Stinger GT over this. True rwd and 100k...
  • cimarron typeR: Interesting that the prndl gear display for auto is the exact as our 81 Corolla wagon growing up....
  • 28-Cars-Later: Should I review the MY14 Cadillac SRX I drove a drunk girl home in last night? :D

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber