By on October 26, 2017

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerIn the long and varied history of the Dodge Charger name, the model has had many different forms — often completely unrelated to one another. For a short while in the 1980s, Chrysler Corporation added a little Shelby badge to the Charger name.

Let’s check out some glossy L-body goodness.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerThe Charger had been on a hiatus since the 1978 model year, when the folks in charge at Dodge determined it was time for a new sporty two-door in the lineup. While the previous version was a semi-luxury rear-drive coupe which shared a body with the very brougham Chrysler Cordoba, times had changed. America had moved from rear-drive malaise to front-drive malaise. And Chrysler was short on funds.

In came a new Horizon, sort of.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerFor the 1983 through 1987 model years, the Charger was based on the compact L-body platform used by the Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni. Accompanying the regular Charger on dealer lots was the Shelby version, a sportier alternative. When Dodge announced the Charger was dropped for 1988, the Shelby Corporation purchased the last 1,000 Shelby Charger examples and created a special model. The result is the Rare Ride you see here — the Shelby GLHS.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerNot to be confused with the 1986 Shelby GLH-S (based on a modified Omni), the Charger GLHS was available only in 1987. Shelby used the same basic idea from the Omni in transforming the Charger.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerOnly available in black, all cars carried the same options: leather-wrapped wheel, air conditioning, sunroof, and a center console. There were KONI shocks and struts on every wheel.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerThe interior featured a numbered Shelby plaque and a sticker on the speedometer which extended the top indicated speed from 85 to 125 miles per hour. The needle could continue to navigate the dial and, on the second time around, 5 miles per hour would indicate 135.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerThe blade wheel design for the Charger GLHS was new, in that it was the exact same as on the Shelby GLH-S. But the blades faced the opposite direction.

Image: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger GLHS, image via sellerUnder the hood is the 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that powered so many Chrysler vehicles of the era. This version is known as the Turbo I, providing the front wheels with 146 raging horsepower (though the Shelby variant bumped power to 175 hp). The Shelby Charger GLHS is the fastest and rarest version of the only front-drive generation of the Charger.

This one was on offer recently via Craigslist (listing expired) for $4,500. An affordable collectible — but is it worth collecting?

[Images via seller]

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32 Comments on “Rare Rides: This Dodge Charger From 1987 Is Also a Shelby (and Intercooled, Too)...”


  • avatar
    Dilrod

    I remember reading an article in Hot Rod magazine when either these or the GLH-S came out. They raced it against one of the old Shelby Mustangs from the 60s, I forget the model. Anyway, the old Shelby could beat it starting out, but the new one always passed it eventually, even with a head start.

    Opened my eyes to what a little engine could do vs. a big old one.

    • 0 avatar

      That article was April issue 1986, and I agree, it opened my eyes to the 4 cylinder Shelby cars. In the article it ran against a GT350. I was a Mustang Shelby fan and thought ole Shelby was selling out. But after the read….
      I went for a test drive and that sold me. I bought a 86 GLHS and loved it. My daughter still has it. I have also had a 87 for a short time. GREAT cars.

      • 0 avatar
        EAM3

        My friend bought a slightly used ’86 GLH Turbo (not an S). With very few modifications (read no $$ spent) he would terrorize IROCs, Trans Ams and Mustang GTs. My brother-in-law had a brand new Corvette at the time and did not believe our stories. So he showed him. Stayed nose to nose with the Corvette until about 80 or so, when the Omni seemed to hit a brick wall. Insanely fast and fun car.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I like the speedometer modification.

    It looks like there isn’t a plastic peg for 0. The instrument in K Cars didn’t have a peg either, and the needle would go below zero when you reversed. My personal record was estimated 35mph in reverse. The K Car chassis was definitely not optimized for such driving and the car got really, really squirrelly the night I pulled that stunt!

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Fast little K-car hatchback. But as I remember it had horrible torque steer.
    Again, another rare find.

    Try and find some first generation Jetta GLI, Scirocco, or Dasher’s. Those are extremely hard to find in good shape.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    There is an independent shop on Altona Road in Pickering Ontario that specializes in old VW’s. Has some vans, Karmann Ghias and have seen some of the first generation for Canada Sciroccos there. Unfortunately he tends to be outlandish in his asking prices for vehicles.

    Isn’t the problem with Shelby’s the fact that eventually Carroll/the company tied their name to too many different products, including wheels, boats, motorcycles, chili kits and deodorant?

  • avatar
    JMII

    As someone who learned to drive on an ’85 Dodge Omni I approve of the Shellby GLHS in either form! The Charger at least looked the part with the longer hood and fast back design. It actually looks like a baby Ford SVT Mustang. Where as the Omni version just looked like a VW Rabbit clone. Both with lighting fast turbos at time and I remember drooling over magazine articles describing these cars back then.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve wanted one of these for years. An acquaintance of mine had one of these, he traded a 1984 or 85 Nissan 200SX for a brand new 1987 GLHS hatchback. He was also a city cop in a nearby town. One night he was out on some rural roads testing the upper limits of what he could do with the car.

    Unfortunately for him, he got caught by the State Police, who clocked him doing 115 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. My guess is he p!ssed off the statey, as they cuffed him, impounded his car and spent 48 hours in the county klink.

    IIRC, the fine for 60 over on county roads was close to $1000, not chump change for anyone in 1987. I don’t think he ever did that again…

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    I owned an 86 Shelby Turbo that had the stage II computer with the Intercooler. It was very fast. These cars weighed about 2200 pounds soaking wet. I loved the angular eighties look. Unfortunately, the car I bought rusted itself to death. The most important thing to do with these cars is look underneath them. They were made at a time when Chrysler was seriously short on cash. When they rust, they rust quickly. They are not K cars. They are L bodies which were derived from French Simcas.

    The engine in the Shelby GLHS was prototype Turbo II. It was not a Turbo I. The regular Shelby Charger Turbo had the Turbo I non-intercooled engine. The weak link with this car is the manual transmission. It is not a crisp shifting transmission by any means.

    Mopar had a lot of upgrades for these cars. You could get a Turbo II car putting out 300 HP with the Super 60 package.

    These cars are only really worth something to Mopar guys. They are Unibody cars that are very difficult to fix once rust spreads from the floor to the frame. Trust me I have experience with this.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 85 LeBaron GTS (H-body) met its demise due to rust. It had a similar cable-shifted 5-speed – not crisp, but adequate for daily driving.

      Thankfully, mine was a non-turbo, so the engine lasted longer than most other 2.2s.

      My car had *4* pedals: gas, service brake, clutch, and parking brake. You had to be careful of the parking brake during spirited driving!

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I had an ’87 Lancer ES Turbo. Same deal, four pedals. Mine went through the normal head gasket stuff and some trans issues, solved under the 7/70 warranty. I traded mine on a Dakota pickup, they didn’t rust in Georgia.

    • 0 avatar

      @ bluegoose: I concur with the admonition on rust. I owned an 84 Shelby Charger (non-turbo) and had I been more diligent on the “rust factor” I would still be driving it today possibly. Rust was the main reason I – reluctantly – sold the car. A gentleman in IL purchased it and I’ve always wondered what it’s ultimate fate was. If I remember right he was going to use it for parts for a Rampage, but that may be wrong. My brother owned one of these and it was a fun car to drive. He always took great care of the car (wish I could remember the plate number). My experience with the 2.2 was positive. My 84 at 406K miles only went through a quart every 2K and got 35 mpg without issue on the highway. Good acceleration too. If things were financially different for me I would thoroughly enjoy owning one of this era’s Charger again.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Nice find, Corey. I’d say it’s worth something approaching the asking price.

    And speaking of Shelby…if you’re in the Denver area, and want a piece of Snake Heaven, you have to check out the Shelby American Museum in Boulder.

    https://shelbyamericancollection.org/

    You’ll find all kinds of Shelby memorabilia and some really amazing cars, including several GT40s, mint Shelby Mustangs, and a bunch of street and racing Cobras.

  • avatar
    Funky

    This, as well as the regular Charger, has a decent amount of appeal to me as a collectible. But that’s just because it brings back some memories for me. I don’t believe these will significantly appreciate in value (not that I’m an expert, so my belief shouldn’t mean much). I did enjoy mine (a regular Charger) while I had it.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “Shelby” just doesn’t resonate with collectors, and this car is huge reason why.

      It must’ve been Steve Saleen that lit a fire under the sleeping Carroll, with Steve’s cozy association with Ford and hot rod, comp racing/winning Saleens.

      “4-Eyed” Saleens is my recommendation for long term collectors of ’80s “Muscle” and or “Special”/limited editions.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    I had a Horizon and I rented a two-door Sundance (same car, lesser running gear). What godawful crapboxes.

    It’s so pathetically typical of Lee Iacocca to use branding like Shelby to peddle the same old trash to niche audiences. Much like having Frank Sinatra endorse a signature edition of the stretched midsize “Imperial.”

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “I had a Horizon and I rented a two-door Sundance (same car, lesser running gear)”
      Not true. The Sundance was a K-Car derivative, while the Horizon was built on the earlier L-body.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You’re a bit off base here, tony. This car was worked over quite extensively by the Shelby folks. It wasn’t just a “trim level.”

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        And that Sinatra-endorsed Imperial was a 1981 coupe, not the 90s stretched K-Car you’re thinking of.

        But other than all these errors, yeah, great point.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    In high school, one of my friends had one of these. Also knew people with 5.0L and 5.7L F bodies.

    The Mustang was the only sporty two door from the big 3 worth a damn.

    These Chrysler things were buzzy little beer can rat boxes.

    The F bodies were junky GM cars with huge, heavy doors that sagged, with anemic 305s or somewhat strong 350s handicapped with 4 speed autos.

    The Mustang LX 5.0L is the KING of the 80s.

  • avatar

    I had a GLH Turbo. It did not have an intercooler only the later S model did. The GLH was fast off the line and as a sprinter. A twisty road with on/off was a lot of fun. Where it all fell apart was long pulls where things got hot and the ecm would pull boost and spark. I beat up a 911 once in tradfic but when it came time to autobahn the 911 and my boost both flat left me. I later drove a non shelby charger with intercooler and it made all the difference. For the record I ran a 16.1 quarter with it once and the malaise era audience was umpressed

  • avatar
    threeer

    Best friend owned a Shelby Charger (non GLHS). Once the turbo kicked in, it was pretty quick. And yes, torque steer was always a force of physics to deal with driving that car. It burned to the ground. Literally.

    I owned a 1985 Lancer GTS, so for a time, we both piloted Dodge turbos around. I thought I was high cotton in college at the time (this would be 1989 when I bought the Lancer). Power everything, awesome gun-metal blue. I thought it was darn-near luxury, at least for a then 19-year old.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Any time you beat a 5.0/5-speed LX with a FWD turbo, that was something to brag about. But there’s not much difference between a 2.73 and 3.08 rear end. Both suck.

    Back then turbo-4 cars had lots of lag, so not much “power” off the line. But they were little monsters if you were willing to abuse the clutch. Meaning slip-it, sidestep it and power shift.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    I had an ’87 Shadow Turbo 5-Speed, in that Dodge maroon color. A Mopar Performance computer, K&N filter and minor exhaust mod (mostly only sound benefits) later, and it ran consistent 15.5 – 15.6 second 1/4 miles. I could beat stock-ish automatic LX 5.0 cars at the track, but even the 2.73-geared ones with 5 MT would usually pass me just before the trap. The big thing to do was pack the intake with ice between runs and avoid the bleach trap. Traction in 1st gear off the line was atrocious on street rubber (usually Eagle GTs). That little car was so much fun! Unfortunately, shortly after giving it to my sister she totaled it on a two-lane blacktop in a risky passing maneuver. At least she walked away. RIP little Shadow…


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