It turns out the Chrysler staff at the neighbourhood watering hole remembers our drunken discussions much better than we had anticipated. We were driving an actual, production-ready turbocharged Shelby Charger on preview day for the 1985 models at the Chrysler Proving Grounds. As unprepared as any respectable, well-informed, curious automotive journalist could be for this miraculous event, we were among them.


We’re not foolish. We all know that Chrys­ler has spent the better part of a year putting dummy Shelbys through their paces on the test track and in the wind tunnel. We just didn’t know when, if ever, the real deal would come to happen. We could only image the outcome of a street fight between the lighter-by-200 pounds back-alley Shelby and the techno­logically “better” Daytona. With identical turbo engines, the feisty Shelby would easily take down the more expensive Dayto­na. Is it possible that Chrysler would let such a thing to happen on Main Street, USA?

It seems that the marketing types were persuaded by some very persuasive product strategists that the Daytona owners would be resting comfortably at home while the Shelby bad boys went out for some mischief. Instead, cars like the Pontiac Sunbird Turbo, Toyota Celica GT, Renault Fuego Turbo, Datsun 200SX Turbo, and Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo would be on the menu for midnight munchies.

The 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is better than ever this year thanks to the addition of an electronic waste-gate control that permits 9 psi of boost for 10 seconds before reducing it to 7 psi. With the boost engaged, the turbo’s horsepower rating increases from 142 to 146. You may be wondering how efficiently the Shelby transmits its power to the road. After a couple of lightning laps around the proving grounds in a pre-production prototype, we’d say that the company’s 7.6-second 0-to-60-mph claim is entirely plausible.

The Shelby’s smaller engine compartment made it easy to fit the compact 2.2 turbo. The Shelby’s front-box structural section and engine mounts were reinforced to handle the additional torque, and the bonnet was enlarged to make room for the air cleaner. In addition, numerous Daytona Tur­bo items were changed for war duty in the Shelby: a larger-capacity radiator, larg­er rear brakes, better internal transmis­sion parts, a more efficient firewall heat front wheel out from under con­trol.

Being the sole Shelby model for 1985, the Charger Turbo’s new image motivated design engineers to further refine the small street rocket’s performance. Modifications to the internal valving of the power-steer­ing unit increase its already exceptional feel. The spring rates are recalibrated, and gas­-pressurized shocks appear at all four cor­ners; the combination is a great im­provement over last year’s unpleasant ride quality (assuming the prototype here is true to production) (assuming the prototype here is true to production). Goodyear Eagle VR50 205/50VR-15 radial tyres are used in place of 195/50s. The chairs themselves have been improved with the inclusion of lumbar support and bolsters for the back and sides.

As a package, the Shelby Charger has hoed a long row from its 1982 fall premiere as a rough but successful kid racer.