Carroll Shelby was born in 1923. By the time he was 40, he’d flown military bombers like the B-25 Mitchell and B-29 Superfortress. He’d raced Austin Healeys, Cadillacs, Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Maseratis around the world, setting records wherever he went. The AC/Shelby/Ford Cobra was reality, and he was on the cusp of getting involved with the Ford GT40 project that would become a legend.
Today, every gearhead knows the Shelby name. We know why most “Cobras” we see are kit cars. We know why the GT40 is special enough to be remade in its own, futuristic image. These are rare, high performance machines that changed the world of motorsport. All of these from the mind of a young, once-bankrupt chicken farmer.
Serious name dropping.
Shelby’s time at Ford connected him with industry legend Lee Iacocca. In the early 80s, the two could be found saving Chrysler with another A-lister, Bob Lutz. Imagine being a gearhead and playing with cars, but when you say you play with Chryslers—you actually play with the Chrysler company. Crazy. These dudes would ultimately deliver another legendary machine—the Dodge Viper.
Along the way, Carroll Shelby laid his hands on a variety of smaller Chrysler products. All of these were sold in incredibly limited numbers—some as low as just 19 units. They’re super rare and it’s super special to see any of them in the real world. The car we have before us today is one of just 1,000 ever made.
It’s an amazing machine!
[tgp] Introductions: My understanding is you’ve got a super duper nice Shelby Charger GLHS. Is that correct? Anything else you’d like to mention?
[deej] Yup! It’s a 1987 Shelby Charger GLHS, number 0209 out of 1,000. I traded it for a rusty Challenger T/A engine block my father had stored in his basement since the 80s.
When I got this car, it had 29,000 original miles on it. The only things I’ve done to it have been tracking down all the rare period correct Direct Connection parts, lowered it a little with Ground Control coilovers on the original Koni struts, and installed a Mopar Stage 2 ECU with all the supporting parts to add a little more punch. All little touches to make the car my own, and to make it look like it was modified in ‘87 straight from the dealer catalog.
On Shelby GLHSs…
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As a GLHS owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them?
[deej] The thing that I absolutely love about these cars is the styling. All 80s cars are just so beautiful to me. The Mopars in particular are my favorites just due to how my father instilled them into me as a child. The sleek fastback look, the recessed headlight buckets in the nose cone, the simplicity of the interior, and so much more I could sit here all day and talk about.
These Shelbys, particularly, do it for me more so than the run-of-the-mill Turbo Dodges due to the rarity. I absolutely love having something that is so rare other people have only ever seen photos of one—if they’ve heard of it at all. That’s why I go bonkers trying to find these Direct Connection parts, because there are so few people left who can say “I have that”, and that’s such a fulfilling and satisfying thing to me.
As far as what I don’t like, the parts availability for these cars is dwindling at a rapid pace, with no signs of reproductions starting back up. Granted, we do have a small handful of vendors that custom make/order parts for us, but it’s pretty monopolistic and relatively expensive compared to Hondas or Chevys, etc.. Other than that, they’re reliable, fun little cars, as long as you don’t go overboard like I have with the lowering and the power.
[tgp] How did you end up in this camp? Why have you stuck around as long as you have?
[deej] Back in 2010 when I was just 13 years old, my father and I bought a 1988 Plymouth Sundance for $50 as a little project. I didn’t really even like cars too much at the time, but I did enjoy spending time with my father. We got it running fairly easily, and gradually I started warming up to the car.
During this time is when social media started exploding, and I started seeing modified cars online, realizing that I can modify my car too. So I started doing research on the car, and that’s where I found out about the extremely rare Shelby CSX version of the P-body. So I modified the heck out of the little Sundance, and in the meantime, picked up #394 of the 500 1989 Shelby CSXs.
Well, the Sundance got totaled, I’ve had the CSX for almost five years now, and then during the height of the pandemic in mid-2020, I drove halfway across the country for my GLHS. I’ve stuck around this long because the cars are just so cool to me, and it’s such a satisfying thing for me to have rarer stuff than other people.
[tgp] How’s the community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?
[deej] The community is relatively small, but pretty genuine. Before Facebook blew up and became accessible to just about everyone, there were a couple of forums and even little websites that still hold a plethora of information to this day. Now most people just use a variety of about five Facebook groups to communicate ideas, sales, and information to one another. There is an annual SDAC (Shelby Dodge Auto Club) convention that I have yet to go to, but it’s a long weekend with track events, car shows, and hangs with other enthusiasts.
This gearhead life…
[tgp] You recently took the GLHS to H20i. Isn’t that traditionally a VW/Audi event? And, googling around, I saw a lot of bad press from 2019. What was it like this year? How much did the pandemic and press affect things?
[deej] I have been going to H2Oi since 2015 and I can honestly say it is my absolute favorite time of the year. I would not trade this week for any other. This year was definitely different. The police presence and actions were absolutely ridiculous, but I understand why they did it.
I’m not going to speak on the actions of others that have turned it into this shit show, but, I do know that true car enthusiasts attract one another. When I go down, I’m meeting up with people who I only talk to online for 360 days out of the year. This is the opportunity to finally enjoy being in one another’s company, and seeing the machines that brought us together in the first place. If H2Oi turned back into an “event” for true enthusiasts, and the police were to give us a chance, I seriously think this can be revived to its former glory.
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[deej] This faux automotive culture is now about being seen and heard rather than pursuing what you truly love. People “build” what they think the majority of other “car people” will think is “cool”.
I use those quotes on purpose. Nobody “builds” anything anymore; just bolt-ons, suspension, reps, and wraps on cars that are less than 10 years old. “Car people” aren’t car enthusiasts. They’re people who think that these cars are “cool”. It’s just a never ending cycle of feeding egos and shitty cars. People need to either get out of the culture or continue to build cars of quality that they genuinely have a passion for.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[deej] So many people have changed my life for the better as far as cars go. I’d start with my father, who raised me on Mopar muscle cars. I stayed in Mopar-land, with a focus on a different era.
When I started driving, that’s when I started meeting local likeminded people, who believe cars should be built and treated the way I do. Then taking my machines to social media introduced me to dozens of other people who share the same ideals.
It’s really impossible for me to give an answer because all of my friends have helped me so much in one way or another, whether it be through physical help, good deals on parts, or just an authentic inspiration from what they’re building. I just want each and every one of them to know how important they are to me.
“Rad” isn’t usually the word we use to describe the works of Carroll Shelby. The Cobra and GT40 are not “rad” in the current parlance. Neither is the Viper, but the GLHS was totally, unequivocally rad—and it’s just ONE of the many 80s and 90s Chrysler products Mr. Shelby improved.
I (Brian) actually learned to drive stick in a lesser L-body, my buddy Lloyd’s ‘81 Omni 024. It was bright blue and an absolute blast. I can only imagine what one of those would be like with another 100 horsepower. Sitting low and lean, looking out over that long hood, and hearing that Chrysler 2.2 screaming away? So rad.
And a SERIOUS shout out to Deej for actually driving this thing. Only 1,000 of these were ever made. That his looks THIS good and he STILL DRIVES IT says a lot. It was meant to be driven. Thank you, Deej!