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Modern Classic: 1985 Dodge Omni GLH Turbo

GLH Turbo

In high school, my best friend Vince had a Plymouth Horizon. That silver beast was excruciatingly slow but it handled damn well, for what it was. There was some kind of an issue with the radiator, but it would get us to McDonald’s at lunch, where on our way out we’d fill our soda cups with water, pour it into the radiator, and that would get us back to school without overheating. The spring on the carburetor was also broken, but a rubber band and a paper-clip did the trick. Since we were broke, we’d put about $1-$3 of gas a day into it. All of that did not matter, what mattered was that we had a car.

Vince loved that POS and ran it into the ground, which didn’t take much. The whole time he kept yapping about how awesome the Carroll Shelby-fied GLH or GLHS must be. It was with good reason, as the French/American Company actually entered Horizons into Group B Rally… precisely at the same time that Audi entered with their Quattro. Needless to say, those efforts did not pay off, but old Carroll was paying attention.

Big hat tip ton this car to Brandon of DailyDerbi.com

GLH Turbo rear

The Horizon twins started out as French Simca Horizon, which was a replacement for the aging Simca 1100. Due to car companies buying each other out, it was later branded at Talbot Horizon. They were manufactured all over: France, U.K., Finland, and of course United States. While produced in substantial numbers, they were not considered great cars anywhere, and were constantly overshadowed by the VW Golf.

In the United States, the Plymounth Horizon and Dodge Omni twins, received different engines, but differences did not end there. Typical of the Malaise Era were U.S.-spec larger bumpers. Different engines were used too, specifically VW’s own 1.7-liter. The suspension was completely different too; Euro front torsion bar was ditched for MacPherson struts, which further helped with the installation of the VW engine. The engine was later supplemented by Chrysler’s own 2.2, as well as Peugeot’s 1.6, which was only available with a manual transmission.

Around this time Carroll Shelby was working with the Chrysler Corporation. In 1984 they came up with the GLH, which stood for Goes Like Hell, but it wasn’t until 1985 that a turbocharged version came out with 146-hp and 170lb-ft. Combined with a 2200lb. weight, this translated into 8.7 second 0-60 time and a 16.7 second quarter mile at 81mph. Not bad!

GLH Turbo engine

Along with the extra power in the GLH Turbo, came chassis improvements. Most notable were the 15-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 195/50-15 GoodYear Eagle GT tires, which was a crazy dimension for mid-80s. Other modifications included larger vented rotors, stiffer suspension, and quicker steering. This was a serious hot-hatch!

But wait, there’s more!

In 1986 came the Horizon GLHS, or Goes Like Hell, Some-more. 500 GLHSs came in black with gray interior. Higher compression ratio, more boost, and an intercooler to keep all that from going boom, and it translated into 175hp and 175 torques. Those 0-60 and quarter mile times dropped to 6.7, and 14.7 at 94mph. Oh mama! I can’t think of a faster factory hot hatch than this until the 1990s DSMs.

Chassis was equally improved with bigger brakes, 205 tires, faster steering rack, thicker sway bars, and adjustable Koni struts. All cars came full loaded with A/C, and a radio. Further separating the men from the boys was black trim, sporty pedals and shifter, and a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel. Options? There were two: oil cooler and a roll-bar. How fucking hard core is that?!

GLH Turbo bottom

The first thing I did after seeing the Dodge Omni (not a Horizon but the same damn thing) GLH Turbo picture here, I emailed the link to Vince. He needs to own this. He has been looking for a small fun car to fit in between his lifted 4Runner and lowered 3-series, and this is perfect! 100,000 miles, completely rust-free, updated interior and exterior, stock. Perfect.

Here is the For Sale Ad and here is the Build Thread.

What else are you going to get for $3500? A rusted Civic? A beat-up Miata? A beat-up and rusted E30?

Maybe I should get this for myself?

 

Currently there are "38 comments" on this Article:

  1. Vavon says:

    A Simca-Chrysler-Talbot Sunbeam is most definitely not the same thing as a Simca-Chrysler-Talbot Horizon!
    <img src="http://images.forum-auto.com/mesimages/724614/1980-talbot-sunbeam-lotus-group-2-003.jpg&quot; width="650/">

  2. muthalovin says:

    Hell yes. Also, that white Daytona bring back memories. Sure, mine was black, but it got me into awesome levels of trouble.

  3. Felis_Concolor says:

    Compare the GLH Turbo and GLHS to anything in the FWD minisport category at the time – and then go forward 4 years and realize it would take at least 3 more years before the other hot hatches would compare to the '85-86 performance levels exhibited by the 4-door L-bodies. Not until the 140 hp Sentras hit the streets did the Omnis encounter a serious challenger – but by then, the Neons had arrived and were ramping up their power levels to once again frighten the competition. Does anyone else remember when the rest of the FWD minisport crowd got serious and added 50-series rubber to its cars as standard equipment? I know it wasn't any time during the 80s, so at least 5 years passed before the competition started sporting equivalent tires. And those 15×6 wheels were the best looking alloys to come out of the 80s.

    Don't forget that asymmetric hood vent, which was fully functional and used high pressure air from the windshield base to cool the exhaust turbine housing at speed, then allowed the heated air underhood to escape when at a standstill. You could tell when you were pushing your turbomotor hard by how much heat shimmer danced above the vent when you stopped.

    • Kamil_K says:

      Yup, my '94 Integra GS-R has 195/55-15s, 170hp, 2800lbs, ran 15.2 in the quarter… and was awesome!!!

      Civics running 14s were considered healthy. :)

    • Vavon says:

      I'm guessing you're talking about the USA, because in Europe there were several by 1986.
      To name but a few: Fiat Ritmo Abarth 130 TC, Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9, VW Golf GTI 16V.

  4. LTDScott says:

    I owned two of these back about 10 years ago – an '86 basketcase that I never got running, and an '85 with the full powertrain from an '87 GLHS Charger. Very fun cars, and I enjoyed beating stock Mustangs at the track with it. I hooned mine quite a bit, including going off roading out in the desert:

    http://youtu.be/_RJ7mCcjzTY

    Sadly, I bent rods and did some other damage to it thanks to running lean under boost (weak fuel pump). A guy I knew rebuilt the engine, but didn't do a good job, and the car had a ton of blowby and other issues after that. I lost interest in it and ended up selling it to a Shelby Dodge nut.

    I had no idea what happened to the car, until last year when I went to the Cars and Coffee gathering in Irvine. I parked my LTD in the "show" lot, when a man came up to me and asked if I used to own an Omni GLH. It was the guy that bought my car. He completely rebuilt the car, put a roll cage in it, and now he takes it road racing. He even took it to Las Vegas to run a Shelby event, and old Carroll himself apparently got a major kick out of the car. He said it has appeared in Grassroots Motorsports, too.

    I always love hearing when a car I used to own has led a charmed life after me!

    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/Omni/P1010525.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/Omni/P1010523.jpg"&gt;

  5. facelvega says:

    the undercarriage on that car would make it work two grand even if it was a standard Omni. Surely there aren't many left in that condition. It's a "buy now" in my ratings.

  6. mnm4ever says:

    Looks like that ad is from 2011… little late Id say. But sweet ride, I remember all these Dodge turbo cars from high school, they were the fastest things around in those days.

    • danleym says:

      Last post was early December 2012, and as of that post the car is still for sale.

      • mnm4ever says:

        Yea I saw that later on and went to edit my post but didn't see it then, thought maybe it didn't post. I blame my terrible reading comprehension with long forum posts. Surprised it has been for sale that long though, this looks like a perfect example and there are enough fans of these cars out there. Price is super cheap too. I am very tempted myself but I can't buy anything for a few months, we are building a house and can't spend any money until after closing!

        • danleym says:

          If I would have just kept reading the comments, I would've seen that the owner already chimed in, too. I'd love to have it, too, but not enough space and a potential upcoming career change are enough to keep me away. Unfortunately, too, it's a great price, it would be a blast to have.

  7. wolfie says:

    Even the lowly Vega had a "hot version". The Cosworth twin cam Vega,which according to a friend , had some weird double pump one of a kind fuel delivery system.

  8. salguod says:

    There was a very nice (restored maybe?) GLH at one of the Cars & Coffee events here in Columbus last year. Don't recall if it was a GLH, Turbo or GLHS.

    • vroomsocko says:

      Newest New Years Resolution: Finally attend a Columbus Cars & Coffee! It will do my eyes good after recently searching craigslist for "custom" and finding all sorts of local horror.

  9. topdeadcentre says:

    At that price? I'm whippin' out my checkbook! This would make an awwwwwesome commuter!

    • danleym says:

      Every time I see something like this, I really wish I had more space. I'd love to buy it, I have the money to buy it, easy, but I'm not getting rid of either of my other two cars, and I don't have the space for a third (well, fourth, including my wife's). I need a bigger garage.

  10. Jay_Ramey says:

    Kamil, I dunno if you went to Larz's Great American Car Day in 2011, but various Dodge-based Shelbys made up (I kid you not) like a QUARTER of all the cars that showed up.

  11. faberferrum says:

    Hey, I had one of these last year! Well, I dragged it home, never did anything with it, then traded it and a turbo daytona for a chevy sprint turbo this fall. That was a laugh and half, after dropping off the daytona, I drove over a set of diamond harrows the fellow had left in tall grass and blew out BOTH front tires on the truck!

  12. Turbo224 says:

    The car pictured in this ad is mine, and it is definitely still for sale. I searched for a long time for a car in this condition, so I'll sure miss her when she's gone. Fly in and drive her home!

  13. Brad Barratt says:

    I want one like this. My mother owned two base model Horizons and they were good for what they were.

    If you didn't want to buy a VW Golf, they kind of filled that niche.

  14. POLAЯ says:

    Ah, fond memories of my first car. A two years new 1988 Horizon, which meant it was almost dead. It may have only had 96hp, but 600 watts of three 10 inch Bazooka tubes out back would make your teeth chatter and your hair move.

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