Forget a potential SRT-4 model, Dodge reportedly is making plans to resurrect Carroll Shelby’s historic GLH moniker for a high-performance version of the Dodge Dart.
Mopar enthusiasts have been anxiously awaiting a successor to the Dodge Neon SRT-4 for a decade now, and it looks like they might finally get their wish. Surprisingly, the new high-performance Dart would steer clear of Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) line and instead revive a storied name that hasn’t been seen for more than a quarter century.
Even without the feared SRT badge, a Dart GLH is sure to be equally as potent. The name, which stands for “Goes Like Hell,” was reserved for Shelby-tuned versions of two high-performance Mopars in the 1980s. The GLH name first appeared on the unsuspecting Dodge Omni in 1984. Though the four-door hatchback was nothing more than a compact economy car, Carroll Shelby had something else in mind.
The Omni GLH wasn’t exactly a pocket rocket in its first year, but it was still a drastic improvement over the base model. The 96-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that came standard in the Omni received a special camshaft and the block was milled 0.02-inch to raise compression. The upgrades resulted in a naturally aspirated, high-output four-cylinder that made a respectable 110 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque. According to a Car and Driver, the 2,200-pound featherweight could sprint to 60 miles per hour in 8.7 seconds — an entire second faster than the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Big changes were made to the Omni GLH in 1985. Its pedestrian styling received an extreme makeover that included sporty ground effects, aluminum alloy wheels and special decals. But the biggest change came under the hood with the introduction of a turbocharged version of the 2.2-liter engine that further increased output to 146-horsepower and 170 pound-feet. Though Carroll Shelby was largely remembered for building the fastest Fords of the 1960s, he was quickly beginning to make a name for himself in a new era of performance cars.
When it was announced that 1986 would be the last year of production for the GLH model, Carroll Shelby set aside only 500 Omnis that would push the envelope of performance to new horizons. Available only in black, these select few were so radical that the GLH name was no longer sufficient. An additional letter was added, and the final 500 received the infamous GLH-S tagline —“Goes Like Hell S’more.”
A new two-piece blow-through intake, air-to-air intercooler and larger Garrett turbocharger safely raised boost to a maximum 12 pounds per square inch. The revised 2.2 liter engine put out a ridiculous 175 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, enabling the GLH-S to eclipse 60 miles per hour in only 6.5 seconds and spool through the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds. Those numbers are impressive even by today’s standards.
With Koni adjustable shock absorbers, stiffer anti-roll bars and 14:1 quick ratio power steering, the GLH-S was built to be a fun corner carver too. With a base price of just over $11,000, the GLH-S outperformed many German and Italian sports cars at just a fraction of the cost.
In 1987, Shelby built 1,000 Dodge Charger GLH-S two-door coupes using the same performance and handling formula as the Omni. Nearly three decades later and Shelby’s turbocharged Mopar twins are all but forgotten despite their storied performance legacy. Luckily, Dodge’s memory is still sharp, and it’s hoping to revive the historic name in the hope of achieving similar success.
Ever since its release in 2013, the Dodge Dart has been a bit of a letdown as far as performance is concerned. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta-sourced 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder seemed promising at first with forced induction and Italian roots. But with excessive turbo lag and only 160 horsepower, it never quite lived up to the hype.
In 2014, Dodge hoped to make amends with a GT model featuring a new 2.4-liter Tigershark engine. Though its name may sound aggressive, it certainly doesn’t have the ferocity of either predator. Don’t let the 18-inch five-spokes, body-colored accents and leather color schemes throw you off — even the high-output Dart GT is far from a pocket rocket. But with a GLH model potentially waiting in the wings, that could soon change.
A new 1.8 or 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will reportedly power the GLH model and be available across all Dart trim levels. Like the GT, the GLH will be equipped with additional performance features and more aggressive styling to differentiate it from the rest of the lineup.
While a new Dart GLH looks to build on the performance legacy that Carroll Shelby envisioned in the 1980s, it will reportedly do so at an affordable price just like the Omni and Charger models of the past. Those who attended the meeting said the GLH would start below $20,000. If reports are true, it would likely have the best bang-for-your-buck value in its segment.
Though it’s yet to be confirmed, it looks like the highly-anticipated arrival of a hot-rod Dart could soon be over, and what better way than to bring back one of the most iconic names in Dodge’s illustrious performance history.