Was the 80’s the Death of the American Petrol Head? (Part 1)

I think not. It is more appropriate to say opportunities galore. More often than not, people hate on 80’s American Cars saying it was the low point for the American Petrol head. That’s understandable since it is true. It was a very low point. So much so that even Ferraris of that time struggled to get to 350 horsepower. A lot of vehicles were boxes with no style except the few which slipped through the cracks.

We did get some interesting vehicles and in my opinion, some good looking ones.

**Manufacturer Dodge**

The Omni GLH is a good example. It was a good looking car, had good performance and if you go to TheTurboDodge.com it is a good price. There were many great 80’s cars.

Buick Regal GNX is the perfect example, but that was one of very few 80’s cars that have become “classics” rather than a rust bucket destined for the junkyard.

Another less famous classic is the Shelby CSX. This pocket rocket is a classic in its own right. While less famous then the GNX, it is a quick little car! The CSX scampers away to a top speed of 132 miles per hour (“mph”) in 1989, while having 175 horsepower and with a 0-60mph of 7.0 seconds in 1989. Does that sound fairly slow? It is actually pretty nippy. Given the fact quite a few modern cars are within that same range, making this a hot little car.

This along with the Omni GLH could be called America’s 99 Turbo, only more underrated. (Arguably)

In 1987, the CSX could do 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of 131 mph. It was able to do the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds. The suspension was modified with low pressure gas-charged Monroe Formula GP struts with coilover high rate sport springs and specially calibrated anti-roll bars were used on the front. The rear is a semi-independent trailing arm suspension featuring Monroe Formula GP shocks and a large-diameter solid anti-roll bar. This lowered the car by 0.7-0.85 inch making it the real deal.

A rental car version of the CSX was done which was called the CSX-T.

1988 was the second year for the Shelby CSX. This was the year Shelby worked out a deal with Thrifty to create the limited production CSX-T specifically for Thrifty’s rental car business. The “T” in CSX-T stood for Thrifty. It was not available to the general public much like Carroll Shelby had done in the 60s for Hertz Car Rental with the Mustang GT-350H. Eventually cars filtered into public hands through direct sales and auctions after the cars had run their cycle as rentals.

Carroll Shelby even spread his magic to the Dakota. If you wanted a V8 tuned by Shelby, this was the way to go. It was based on the two-wheel drive short-wheelbase Dakota Sport. The first change Shelby made was replacing the 125hp 3.9liter V6 with a throttle body fuel-injected 5.2liter 318 CID V-8. The engine was the same Dodge used in its full size pickups.

In order to make the V-8 fit, the cooling system had to be modified by replacing the standard belt-driven engine fan with a set of twin electric fans which were mounted in front of the radiator. The engine otherwise remained completely stock. This one modification added 5 extra horsepower over regular size Dodge pickups bringing the total to 175hp and 270lb ft.

The transmission was a 4 speed automatic with locking torque converter (also available on the V6 Dakotas that year). The axle ratio was 3:90:1 with a SureGrip limited slip. This hardware allowed for 0 to 60mph in 8.7 seconds. The standing quarter mile was covered in 16.5 seconds at 82mph. No manual transmission was available.

In the ’90s, the trend of fast trucks was continued by the Syclone, Lightning F-150 and the SRT-10 Ram.

The CSX and the Dakota weren’t the only two vehicles Shelby modified, the Lancer also go the treatment which made it a much sportier package. The Lancer puts out 175 horsepower. You could call this “the M5 from Dodge”. Of course, that may be stretching it a bit. Either way, if you wanted a fast Sedan, this was an option. It could do 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds.

People say the 80’s were a low point, but there were some signs the light hadn’t been overshadowed by darkness. Shelby’s introduction to the high performance luxury Sedan market was the Limited Edition 1987 Shelby Lancer which was a departure from his previous ventures. This car was designed with a single goal in mind; to be the ultimate expression of how a true enthusiast’s automobile should perform.

Shelby aimed to make the Lancer more lavishly equipped than his previous Dodge-based offerings. Each Shelby Lancer came identically equipped and there were no options. It could do the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds at 89 mph and a top speed of 130 mph.

These cars did not go away quietly; they went out with a BANG!!

The Charger got in on the action. While a lot of people hate the 1980 model years of the Charger, saying it “tarnished” the name. You can’t deny they did make a fast version. Like the Dakota, Lancer and CSX, this is powered by a 2.2 Liter Turbo, with 175 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. It ran 0-60mph in 6.95 seconds, did the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 94mph and a top speed of 134mph.

As with the ’86 GLH­S, several changes were made from the suspension being upgraded to Koni adjustable struts and shocks, anti-roll bars were added and they slightly altered the alignment. The tires remained 205/50VR-15 Goodyear Eagle VR Gatorbacks, mounted on 15×6 inch Shelby “Centurion II” aluminum wheels. The front featured power assist Kelsey Hayes brakes which were 10.2 x.94 inch vented discs with 54mm single pistons. The rear had 8.0 x 1.28 inch drums.

Whether you like it or not, Shelby made the most of what he had to work with.

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