By Matt Wolfe
March 1, 1986; the first Dodge Omni GLH-S is produced by Shelby American.
Based on the pedestrian Dodge Omni compact, the Omni GLH-S was the automotive equivalent of attaching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arms to Pee-wee Herman’s body. The Omni was about the most humble foundation on which a performance machine could be built. However, it was that very principle that attracted one of the best in the business at injecting a ludicrous amount of power into a hilariously small chassis; Carroll Shelby.
Having created the legendary Shelby Cobra by inserting a Ford V8 into the body of a British roadster, Shelby was no stranger to the concept of “small car, big engine.” The theory behind the GLH-S was largely the same, but Shelby used a different means to achieve the same end. Instead of installing an oversized V8 between the Omni’s fenders, Shelby resorted to turbocharging to transform the Omni into a pint-sized projectile.
Shelby had begun to modify Dodge Chargers for Chrysler in 1983, calling them “Shelby Chargers”. The first turbocharged Shelby Chargers appeared in 1984, and Shelby borrowed that engine to create the Omni “GLH” the same year. The “GLH” moniker stood for “Goes Like Hell”, a name Shelby coined himself. When the GLH-S variant appeared in 1986, the acronym’s added “S” indicated that this Omni would go like hell “S’more.”
The “S’more” came courtesy of a further increased power output thanks to an intercooler and other additions. The GLH-S’s 175 HP rating is not an overwhelming figure, but its compact-car roots meant that it weighed just over 2300 lbs. Thanks to its excellent power to weight ratio, the GLH-S could out-run contemporary Mustangs and Camaros, and even surprise Corvettes at the stoplights. Only 500 GLH-S’s were built. Though they did not achieve the same notoriety as some of Shelby’s other creations, the GLH-S remains a favorite of those who enjoy big power in a small package