Clay's 1986 Dodge Omni GLH-T

Is it WRONG to like FWD turbo Mopars????????

Background: In 2002 I purchased my first every turbo Mopar, a 1987 Shelby GLH-S, number 208 to be exact. While out cruising around one night I bumped into an old friend, and we started talking about the car. Then he dropped the bomb on me..... "Hey, Ive got one of these cars!". At first I thought maybe he has another 87 GLHS, but then he says "but its the Omni body style." Then I figured HEY! Maybe he has an 86 GLHS, which is probably the most sought after Turbo Dodge around! We talked for a bit longer, I asked if the car was for sale, which of course it wasnt. I found out it had been setting outside for a while because a friend of his blew up the stock transmission (imagine that!). That night I drove to his house to check it out, and found a black 1986 Omni GLH-T sitting outside. Not a GLHS, but a cool find none the less! 

On occasion I would bug him about selling the car, and one night in late 2003 I finally got him to say yes, and give me a price. I immediatley went to the ATM and got the money. The next day I picked up the car, and drug it home. 

This is the car the day I brought it home. Solid, but with the classic peeling clear coat. 

Transmission: 520/555 Hybrid

Due to the blown up 525 trans, literally!. There were 7 or 8 large holes in the case! It was bad enough that the engine would not even turn over. 

Blown trans pic #1
Blown trans pic #2

So the first order of business was getting that old trans out! I pulled it out, which turned out to be more difficult that I expected. There just isnt a bunch of room in these FWD cars to begin with, let alone having the entire drive train in the front of the car and my large self trying to pull it out. To make matters more difficult, this was my first FWD car to work on to this extent, so I was learning (slowly) as I went. I did eventually get the tranny out, and really wanted to find out if the car would run. For those who dont know, the started in these cars mounts to the transmission, so with it out, there was no way to mount a starter....... or is there?! I took the old junk transmission, and cut the started mounting portion out of the case, bolted that to the engine, then put the starter in! Presto! I turned the key, and the engine cranked, good sign number one! I put some gas in the tank, cranked the key again, and it fired right up! Sweet!! So now I have a RUNNING car. 

Next step was a new transmission. Now, everyone in the turbo Mopar world knows that the 525 is borderline in a stock turbo car, and worthless in a modified turbo car. So for me, another 525 wasn't going back into the car. After some research I emailed Cliff Ramsdell to see about getting a 520/555 hybrid transmission for the car. This is a 520 case and final drive, with a 555 trannys Getrag gear set installed. I also had him put a T-Trac limited slip, and a chrome-moly end plate to reduce flex in the trans. Then I called up Gary at Relentless and ordered a clutch. Somewhere on the net I picked up a shifter and cables from a guy, and now I was ready! In March 2004 I took a week of vacation, and got everything put together (again, learning experience), and drove the car around the block for the first time! 



When I got this car, it had only one "upgrade". The interior was completely gutted! No dash, no under dash HVAC box, no rear seat, no rear carpet, basically nothing. The gauge cluster was zip tied to the firewall, there was front carpet, and two seats, that was it. Most everything else was gone. I also had at my house a very rust 87 Shelby Charger with a good grey interior. I imagine you can see where this is going. I gutted the SC interior, and pulled what was left of the GLHT interior out. Put the carpet and seats from the GLH in the SC, and then sold it. I then ordered new ACC carpet in a 'charcoal' color. Its darker than I wanted, but it works for a black car. Next I bolted in the grey SC dash and seats, then followed that up with a set of GLHS door panels. Im still lacking the headliner and all of the rear plastic panels at the moment, but I will find them eventually. Here are some before, and current interior shots: 

Interior before picture
Interior currently-1
Interior currently-2

After removing the carpet, I found another common problem with L-body cars.......... rust! Floor rust to be more specific. Unfortunatley both the passenger side and driver side would need attention before any interior replacement could be done. The drivers floor needed most everything in front of the seat mount crossmember replaced, as well as a small piece of the wheel well. The passenger side needed a small piece in the front of the floor replaced, as well as a large section of the wheel well replaced. Here are some before and after pictures: 

Passenger side floor before
Passenger side floor after #1
Passenger side floor after #2
Drivers side floor before
Drivers side floor after


As you could see in the pictures at the top of the page, the exterior of my GLH-T is pretty rough. I want to car to look good, but at the same time I dont want it to look TO good. I just want the car to be all one color, and consistant through out, but maintain that "sleeper" look (which is standard equipment on all Omnis made). I also wanted the outside renovation to be cheap and easy, and stay looking good for a while. At the same time, I didnt want to do something that would have to be totally undone should I one day decide to actually put a good paint job on the car, so, my solution is the classic "old skool" hot rod method of primer! 

The entire exterior of the car will be painted in matte black primer, not just any primer mind you, but PPG DP40 epoxy primer. This particular primer is the start to ANY good quality paint job. It seals the metal underneath, and as long as that seal is not broken, rust has a hard time forming at all. The paint is also UV resistant, so it won't fade and/or turn into dust over time like regular primers will. Plus, when I decide to actually paint the car, all I have to do is scuff it up, and go for it. 

Ive done the painted thing a few times before, and even took many body shop classes on painting and body work. Its really one of those things you have to do in order to learn. So,  I started stripping the car body pretty much bare. I removed all the exterior parts, bumpers, door handles, mirrors, headlight bezels, marker lights, ground effects, and everything else. I even took out the front windshield (well, it was broken anyway!). My friend Josh and I spent a Friday night sanding all the junk factory paint down. Then we spent Saturday morning sanding and taping off the car. Sunday was paint day. We both painted the car, and I must say it turned out VERY nice, especially considering its just primer. 

Here is the result: 

Not to bad! 

Next I spent a weekend refinishing all the exterior trim, i.e. head light bezels, ground effects, bumper parts, etc. I will try to get some pictures of the car after its put back together. 



The engine in this car at the moment is really nothing special. It started life as a stock TI suck thru setup, and I have convereted it over to an 87 electronics/TII setup. I used all stock parts from other FWD turbo Mopars to do this. The head and bottom end in the car are bone stock 86 TI. The intake is the desirable 87 two piece, and I converted the turbo over to a TII compressor housing. The radiator and intercooler setup is from an 89 TII Daytona. The intercooler piping was all hand fit in 2.5" aluminum tube with silicon couplers and band clamps. I drove the car this way for a while and pulled a best of a 9.3 second 1/8th mile pass on street tires in 2006. Not to bad for a basically stock setup. In the spring of 2007 I converted the car over to 87 electronics. This makes it possible for me to run a socketed logic module so I can run different calibrations in the car by simply changing the eprom. Right now Im running on a Geoff Allen "Blueberry" cal, which is designed to run 20 PSI. I had to add +20 injectors and a 3 bar MAP sensor to work with this system, and boy does it work! Thanks to Geoff for this sweet cal, and Brian Bucar for buring the cal for me!

Next Steps

My next steps with this car are to continue working on it and upgrading it. I need to add a blow off valve and install my Walbro 255 fuel pump. I would like to eventually upgrade to a bigger intercooler. Ive also been gathering parts for a big upgrade at some point. Ive got a new set of Weisco forged pistons, true TII rods, a T3/T4 TO4E turbo, and other misc parts that should really wake this car up even more! On the interior front, I did find a donar car to supply me with the rest of the interior pieces/parts I need. Hopefully I can get this done in the near future. I would like to eventually paint the car as well. Flat black is cool, but I do like the shine as well. I dont know if Ill paint the car black, as Ive always been a big fan of blue cars. Only time will tell!

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This page last updated: 04/26/2007
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