The Dodge Shelby GLHS is the 80s hot hatch you’ve forgotten about

By topgear, 16 April 2021

What’s this?

The original American hot hatch. The one omission from the ‘greatest hot hatch’ lists propagated across this internet of ours. An Eighties block of wondrousness with an excellent name – it literally stands for ‘Go Like Hell S’more’.

Thank you, Carroll Shelby.

STORY Vijay Pattni
Pictured: Carroll Shelby’s personal GLHS, images by Tyler Allen/RM Sotheby’s

Wait, what? *The* Carroll Shelby?

To quote Jules from Pulp Fiction, correctomundo. The same Carroll Shelby who had a penchant for fitting ACs with enormous V8s. The same Carroll Shelby who took on Ferrari at Le Mans in a Ford GT. And won. 

That Carroll Shelby.

Why would Carroll Shelby modify a cheap American hatchback?

Why the go-like-hell not? Nobody had ever thought a Dodge Omni would make a good foundation for a supercar slayer (for sound, logical reasons one suspects), but where others saw coal, Shelby saw diamonds.

The big man himself was said to be proud of turning a humble American econobox into something that’d bother more expensive, more polished stuff. “I had a lot of fun building those Dodge pocket rockets,” he once remarked. “Every magazine in the country, every publication, said ‘what the hell is Shelby doing building those?’”.

So what the ... *hell* did he do to them?

He fitted bucket seats and wrapped the steering wheel and gearshift knob in leather, added lightweight aluminium wheels, Bosch headlights, a new front air dam, some exceptionally, brilliantly Eighties graphics, and window tints.

And yes Mr Wayne, it does come in black. Only black, actually. These modifications themselves would be enough in today’s market to warrant a special edition, but Shelby wanted more.


He breathed on the 2.2-litre inline four-cylinder petrol engine to great effect. Each unit got a modified intake manifold, a new intercooler, a boost to the Garrett turbo’s pressure, better fuel injectors, and a remapped ECU.

How much power was it making?

Around 175bhp and 236Nm of torque, sufficient for a) 1986, and b) a front-wheel-drive car. It was allied to a five-speed manual gearbox, and Shelby reckoned on this ‘pocket rocket’ accelerating from 0-95km/h in 6.5secs and sprinting down the quarter mile in 14.7secs at 151km/h.

That’s quick. Did it handle?

Apparently so, according to those who drove it on its 1986 launch. Shelby hadn’t just fiddled with the engine, he’d also deemed it prudent to fit adjustable Koni dampers, new springs, stiffer anti-roll bars, beefier brakes, and a quicker ratio for the power steering.

All in, it was reportedly a full two seconds faster around Willow Springs than Shelby’s 1966 Mustang GT350.


Quite. You’d have to look long and hard to find one, because Shelby only ever built 500 of these between 1986 and 1987.

Though, they periodically pop up for auction (as mentioned, the pictures here are of Shelby’s own GLHS auctioned off by RM Sotheby’s back in 2016), and don’t go for silly amounts. At least not yet…

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