Last week’s Flash Back Friday featured my 1987 Dodge Shadow Shelby CSX, which might have you thinking I’ve made a typo above and I’m just double-posting about the same car. But no, my 1989 Shelby CSX was an entirely different car. Sure, they shared the same starting point (a Dodge Shadow) and they used the same basic drivetrain (an intercooled, turbocharged 2.2-liter inline-4 mated to a 5-speed manual transmission) but that’s where the similarities ended.
It’s worth noting that Shelby also offered a 1988 version of this car, but where the first year (1987) CSX was a black-and-gray model offered with an intercooled 2.2-liter to consumers, the 1988 CSX-T was missing the intercooler and was only offered to Thrifty (thus the “T” in the name) rental car agencies as a throwback to the 1966 Shelby GT350H rental car Mustang. The 1988 engine was still rated at the same 175 horsepower as the 1987 model, and 1000 were produced each year.
The 1989 Shelby CSX featured several upgrades from the ’87-’88 versions. First, the intercooler returned to the turbocharged 2.2-liter engine, ensuring more power under a wider range of ambient temperature. Second, the engine featured an entirely new “variable-nozzle turbo” technology. The 1989 Shelby CSX is officially called the “CSX-VNT” though I never hear anyone refer to it that way the entire 4 years I owned mine.
In the spring of 1989, about a year after I graduated high school, I remained a die hard big block, V8 muscle car advocate. At that point my experiences in 440-powered Mopars had defined my automotive enthusiasm, which meant I was a big believer in the “no replacement for displacement” mantra. Then my dad commented he was going to the Dodge dealership in Boulder to look at a used Dodge Shadow. I distinctly remember telling him, “If you have to buy one of those, at least get a turbo version.” In my head imagined an underpowered compact car, struggling to maintain 55 mph on westbound Interstate 70 as it plodded from my hometown of Golden to the scenic overlooks on Lookout Mountain.
A few hours later my dad returned and asked if I’d help him retrieve his new (slightly used) Dodge Shadow. I asked if it was a turbo version and he said, “yes” so I figured it would be interesting to see what he got. When we arrived at the dealership he pointed to a 2-door, black-and-gray Dodge Shadow with alloy wheels, a power-bulge hood and a blue pinstripe. It looked…cool! With notable exasperation I asked, “That’s what you bought?!”