JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
4/20/23 8:29 a.m.

We lived through the ’80s and ’90s and spent a lot of time with the era’s greatest hits–drove them, raced them, even knew them when they still had that new car smell. We fondly remember shopping for Kamei air dams, Hella lamps and 14-inch tires.

But were the cars of those times really that rad? 

We wondered that ourselves, so …

Read the rest of the story

porschenut HalfDork
4/20/23 8:44 a.m.

Not true if driven properly.  Yes there was no traction control so a stupid launch would fail.  But if done right it would smoke the BFG TAs all the way thru first gear.  On the right tires it handled pretty well, but I only got 10K out of a set even with flipping front to back.  Even with aero of a brick it would top out in the 120s and gave more than one 944 fits in the curves or highway.  For the money (<9K) it was the fastest thing out there and the fastest 4 door american car of the era.  I bought one of the last ones in August '86, put an ASC sunroof on and peeled off all the stickers.  When my wife went into labor we set a record getting to the hospital 5 minutes before her water broke. 

What it didn't do was last.  Dead stock at 50K it blew the head gasket.  By 60K it needed a water pump and alternator, went thru 5 sets of tires and 3 sets of front strut mounts.  It was a noisy rattle prone POS but the most fun I had in a car for a while.  Would I buy another? No.  Did I regret this one? GLHell no.

Qaaaaa New Reader
4/20/23 11:34 a.m.

I once dated a girl whose dad had one of these when they were new. While within the warranty period, the transmission failed, so it was replaced for free. The replacement began to indicate imminent failure on the cusp of warranty expiration. So, he unhooked the odometer drive cable and ran it til that one popped, then hooked it back up, and towed it to the dealership. Transmission number three began to make funny noises, so he pulled it and rebuilt it in their kitchen. He's a BMW master tech, but did that one at home for reasons I never fully understood. When he drove his newborn daughter home from the hospital, there was little to no floor remaining; so the Omni went away, replaced by an SN95 Cobra. All that, and he still spoke highly of the car.

hobiercr GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
4/20/23 11:52 a.m.

The car I learned to drive on was an '82 Omni/Horizon, 4spd with iirc the VW engine. I say both names because our car had an Omni badge on the left and a Horizon badge on the right from the dealer. Fake wood paneling, no tach, and an 85mph speedo. I beat the ever-loving snot out of that car and remember when I was racing against a buddy on one of our local fun roads and he remarked how high I was lifting inside wheels on some turns. What I'm saying is, even the non-GLH cars were a hoot.

When I started driving the Omni to my first jobs I would shift into 4th at 75mph and wrap the needle all the way under the bottom and back to zero. There was this one stretch of road that just begged for you to stretch a car's legs. Good times.

porschenut HalfDork
4/20/23 11:53 a.m.

Oh, also did great bootleg turns.  Get up to 30 spin the wheel and yank the brake.

Appleseed MegaDork
4/20/23 12:06 p.m.

You could say, this was rattley, or this broke a 60k, etc. But so did a lot of performance cars of the mid 80s. ZX300s, 944s, Camaros, Mustangs? Yup, all of them had issues. It was the 80s. 

I've always, irrationally, loved the Omni.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/20/23 2:55 p.m.

When I started autocrossing, I remember a dude running a regular Omni in H Stock. You don’t usually see that anymore. 

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/23 3:11 p.m.
Qaaaaa said:

I once dated a girl whose dad had one of these when they were new. While within the warranty period, the transmission failed, 

That seems to be an issue with chrysler cars of that era. I remember my parents buying an Aspen Station wagon, 9 days old the four speed locked up in 2nd gear and had to go back to the dealer for a new trans. Manual transmissions should not get stuck in gear.

Tom1200 UberDork
4/20/23 3:20 p.m.

The build quality of these was only rivaled by Eastarn Bloc cars. OK maybe not that bad but they were awful....................but they were awfully fun to drive as well.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/23 8:18 p.m.
Appleseed said:

You could say, this was rattley, or this broke a 60k, etc. But so did a lot of performance cars of the mid 80s. ZX300s, 944s, Camaros, Mustangs? Yup, all of them had issues. It was the 80s. 

I've always, irrationally, loved the Omni.

And the 70s were worse!

hobiercr GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
4/20/23 8:34 p.m.

In reply to porschenut :

ALL berkeleying day!

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
4/21/23 8:35 a.m.

I have a buddy with a modded 1985 GLH. It is the thinnest, tinniest, clankiest wonkbox on wheels you can imagine, but once the boost kicks in and you pucker a little from the fear of the car shearing itself in half, you can't help but giggle. The overall crappiness of the car paired with all of that power is what makes it fun! Would I daily drive one? No way, but as a 2nd "fun car", they are a blast. 

livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/21/23 5:18 p.m.

My best friends mom had a standard omni automatic and the things he did to torture that car I dare not admit to publicly for fear of reprisals. On another note, I had the sister car to the oMNI, the shelby charger bought from a fellow scca member from Roanoke VA...Keith are you still around brother? I beat that thing to death but I did make a record run from bethesda maryland to my home (then) in rustburg va in 2 hours and 48 minutes without incident or ticket...truly a cannonball worthy event. Divorce saw that car go away but not before building a good engine with a nasty cam and side draft webers on it...its a wonder I didnt drop the bottom end out of it because it regularly saw 7k on the tach before I sold it to a kid who let it catch fire and burn. Between that car and the 84 Dodge Daytona turbo we bought along about the same time, it ruined me for ever buying another Chrysler product.

jfryjfry SuperDork
4/21/23 10:25 p.m.
porschenut said:

Oh, also did great bootleg turns.  Get up to 30 spin the wheel and yank the brake.

just a little tweak - don't spin the wheel. A snappy, small input will make the car rotate the fastest. 

I also didn't know what the glh stood for - learn something new every day!

racerfink UberDork
4/22/23 8:41 a.m.

My uncle had an '85 GLH for a while.  Fun car to drive hard, which you had to to take your mind off the fact the steering wheel might crumble in your hand, come off the column, or the column might drop in your lap.  I remember how far the turn signal and wiper stalks were from the wheel.  You had to take your hand off the wheel to use them.

But the biggest thing I remember about it was how much better my '81 X-11 was in every way, and that's saying a lot, given the origins of the X.

My uncle's car met an untimely demise, when a '77 Olds Cutlass, driven by a drunk, lost control around a curve and slid the back end into my uncle's lane.  It held up well enough that my uncle didn't have an overnight stay in a hospital, but the car was toast.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/22/23 10:24 a.m.

As a Gen-X'r, that's a "Mopar" I can appreciate.  Sadly, looking at the prices, others feel the same way.

Tcrate New Reader
4/24/23 8:32 a.m.

We too had one when I was 16. by the time it had 25,000 miles it got new engine mounts, ECU, Clutch an oil pan was dented which we never replaced. It was my moms daily driver. Yep bootleg turns but we went faster than 30 and used to get it airborn in a field by my house. Its a minor miracle we survived those years. 

jimbbski SuperDork
4/25/23 12:04 a.m.

I've rode in a couple of the GLH's as an instructor in HPDE back in the day. They were quick cars but as mentioned the build quality and the quality of the parts were poor.  I had a friend who worked as a service writer at a Morpar dealer. The parts dept had a kit all ready to go with all the parts needed to do a head gasket job on the Turbo engines to save time. They averaged 2-3 per week. 

6/1/23 9:57 p.m.

I don't understand all of the negative comments from you all. Maybe you are from the younger generation(s). The GLH was one of the best performance cars you could buy at the time for the money. The VW GTI in '83 was the start the hot hatchback trend. There were a few others, but the GTI had the best balance handling wise. The '84 Dodge GLH came out to complete with the GTI, but was not quite as good. THEN, when the GLH Turbo came out, nothing could match it from a dollar/performance value. I autocrossed one for a couple of years and was nationally competitive in Solo II and Pro Solo. I also road raced an '84 Shelby Charger competitively. I don't know what you all are comparing them to for the time period calling them s....boxes. All cars at that time fit that that classification. BUT for that time, they were great cars.

KozyB GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/4/23 5:13 p.m.

I had an '85 GLH. I actually liked the interior and the steering wheel, and I figured out how to quiet the rattles and sqeaks in the plastic dash from my wife's '85 Corolla. The Corolla had little pieces of felt every place plastic touched plastic. I disassembled the GLH dash to the firewall, tightened (or installed) all of the dash to firewall bolts (factory on holiday?) and glued felt at all plastic to plastic interfaces. Holy cow did that quiet things down! It did not fix the crappy shifter, or the propensity of the engine to rock fore and aft on decel/accel (which I learned how to fix a year after I unloaded the car), but I loved the car when it worked, and I surprised a few RX-7s and Camaros along the way!

RacingComputers GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/4/23 5:34 p.m.

Ran an 83 Shelby Charger for 3 years in SCCA.  # 43 in Honor of the King

Regionals. Nationals and the Ford Econobox  Endurance Series.

During the Longest Day of Nelsons Ledges in 84,  hit a bump just going into the Carousel,   The Left Front Strut tower separated from the Uni body, and the car and I took a quick Trip to the Swamp.


At that time, there was less that 10K miles on the chassis.


Sent a picture after the race to Mr Maxwell and he shared it with the whole Good Time Gang of Dodge Shebly racers


Needless to say, full body seam welding ensued for the remainder of the car.


Last know, the car was in Delaware Ohio





Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/4/23 9:56 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

When I started autocrossing, I remember a dude running a regular Omni in H Stock. You don’t usually see that anymore. 

Editorial Director, Grassroots Motorsports & Classic Motorsports

Was he a DJ with a white Omni on American Racing Magnum I wheels? He was the only guy that I ever saw run a basic Omni, and I think he was out of New York.

He convinced me to buy a set of those wheels because they were only $75 each at Town Fair Tire.

Nice guy, but I wish I'd never met him.

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners