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The Dodge Omni GLH Really Did Go Like...

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author photo by Will Kinton March 2017

The Dodge Omni was Chrysler's first foray into the world of front-wheel-drive subcompact cars -- and it became the first American car with front-wheel drive to gain mass-market appeal. The Omni was well received by the automotive press, winning Motor Trend's Car of the Year in 1978. In a time of high gas prices, the Omni was honest, economical and one of the first American cars sensible enough to fight back against the tide of Japanese and European imports.

And then Carroll Shelby got his hands on it.

For 1984, Shelby modified the suspension, upped the engine compression to add about 20 horsepower, improved the brakes and enhanced the steering. He named his new creation the Dodge Omni GLH, which stood -- this is completely true -- for "Goes Like Hell."

In 1985, the GLH was given a turbo, allowing it to really live up to its moniker. Power was boosted to 146 horses, which combined with a weight of just 2,300 pounds to make the Omni GLH one of the hottest hatches available. For some perspective, the MK1 VW GTI at the time had 113 hp -- and the Honda Civic Si had just 91 hp.

Dodge made an even crazier version of the GLH for the 1986 and 1987 model years called the Shelby GLHS (reportedly for "Goes Like Hell Some more"). The GLHS received an updated engine and turbo components, boosting the car's power to a whopping 175 horses. This gave the GLHS a 0-to-60 time of 6.5 seconds, a top speed of 130 mph and a 14.8-second quarter-mile time -- all of which are roughly on par with my 2013 Volkswagen Golf, but about 30 years earlier. The GLHS was faster than contemporary Mustangs, Firebirds, Trans Ams, Camaros and even the Corvette.

Unfortunately, the GLH and GLHS lived short lives. The standard GLH was only made from 1984 to 1986, and only 500 GLHS models were made. In my opinion, it's time for the GLH name to make a comeback, as "Goes Like Hell" fits perfectly with Dodge's current marketing scheme. If Dodge makes an SRT version of the Dart, they'd be foolish to not call it the GLH.

Photo by Greg Gjerdingen

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The Dodge Omni GLH Really Did Go Like... - Autotrader