Over 50 years ago, in September of 1965, the General Manager of Shelby American, Peyton Cramer, and the Hertz Corporation came to a brilliant business agreement: They would offer the 1966 GT350-H as a rental car through the now-famous Hertz “Rent-a-Racer” Program.Oct 26, 2018.  In the late 80’s Shelby America did it again with Thrifty rental car company with another partnership and a 1988 Dodge Shadow Shelby CSX-T. The CSX was a three year run from 87,88,89 with the ’88 Thrifty versions getting the ‘T” for Thrifty. All of the Shelby CSX cars were 4 cylinder turbo 5 speed cars. The CSX-Ts had a turbo but no intercooler unlike its siblings that had an intercooler. Production stats are 1987-750, 1988- 1,000, 1989- 500. The cars come with a numbered dash plaque. My cars are #445 & #732. 

A full write up on these cars is here at Shelby-Dodge.com   Here is a PDF file of the advertisement for the Rent-A-Rocket from Thriftycsx-t broshure

I was fortunate enough to locate two rust free Shelby CSX-Ts that were project cars. Neither ran and were located in Oregon, and Washington state. Shipping back to Minnesota for both cars on the same transport trying to save on shipping costs, did not work out. Each car was owned by a different person and they were far enough apart that the shipping brokers could not get a driver to grab both. So it goes. Eventually both cars made it home to Minnesota. 

Car #445 had a rebuilt engine, but, had the small original Mitsubishi turbo and non intercooler, which was the stock configuration in 1988. Moreover, it had a bad trans with no reverse. With some planning and a Saturday in the garage with my turbo pals, the car got a different transmission, a new Garret turbo, and a Mopar intercooler/Radiator combo from a 1990 VNT Daytona. The ability of using ma Mopar parts, that bolt right in is again a blast for me. I have stated my fascination with this in my other blogs. The interchangeability of parts from completely different models is just prudent car building. Usually more horsepower equates to more $$$ in build costs. Turbo technology gets you a lot of bang for the horsepower buck, aka, “boost for the buck!”

Car #732 The previous owner had an engine built with some decent parts but never fired. This car was purchased as a known “basket case”. This means someone took apart the car, it sat around for years while the hobbyist collected parts, planned the project, had big hopes and dreams, but never finished the car. A lot of work was done to the engine, and a short-block of sorts was assembled. Turns out there were some issues with mixed engine internal parts being used that did not and would not have worked out. So it goes. No harm no foul, I am just glad my pal Turbo Todd and I opened up the engine one day in my garage. 

Drive Train Install Day- Recreation

June 17, 2023 was the day to install the engine and trans into the CSX-T. . A big day that takes a lot of preparation. Throughout the day one finds out the preparation steps that were missed, mainly pieces or parts. Fortunate to have good pals to help and work on the install with. I guess this is their recreation as well. Good comradery which includes solving problems, celebrating small successes, and of course some good garage talk razzin’. Lots of body bends, ups and downs and once again I sear the concrete in my garage is harder that anyone else’s, at least my body is telling me that. My wife is kind enough to support my hobby by making lunch and snacks. Accomplishments were the gas tank removed and rinsed of rank gas, sending unit inspected and the fuel pump with carrier was removed. Of course the fuel pump and rebuilt kid I has bought to replace and repair was Delphy, not Bosch, so not we wait for a Bosch pump, which means the tank could not go back up into the car. The rear shocks were replaced with a hard to find set of XXXX that were procured over a year ago and set on the shelf. Of course the bushings were shot, hard and brittle, even on a new set, New ones were ordered in advance and went in just fine. We used an engine leveling mechanism on the hoist which allowed the engine and trans combo to be tiled and angled at install. Two out of the three new motor mounts were installed, waiting on the third, but alas the engine and trans, new clutch, resurfaced flywheel, all went together. CV axels removed and reinstalled as well, not a small task in and of themselves. 
A parts needed list was created which will delay the car from going back onto the ground. Shifter cables and the starter was deemed bad and added to the list. 

A good productive day on 732. Can’t thank my pals enough. 

Engine Build: for 732.  A project within a project.

May 2023 update: Engine is assembled, or should I say, yet another work of art has been created by Professor Turbo Todd. 

April 2023 update:  All machining work is done, Notes below from the professor Turbo Todd
Shortblock is pretty much all together. Head is ready to be bolted to block. Turbo is assembled too. Exhaust manifold, turbo housing, swingvalve, and turbo brace had Eastwood high temp appearance coating applied. They all look like new now. I didn’t know how much was removed from deck of block during previous owners rebuild. After assembling, pistons instead of being .012″ below the deck of block, are now .009″ above the deck (or commonly referred to as out of the hole). This means that about .020″ was taken off the deck during resurface. Typical is only about .006″ to straighten it. So you will have a little bump in compression to around 8.45:1 from stock 8.10:1. That will be good for performance. Glad it wasn’t any more. As a result, I may have to advance cam timing a couple/few degrees as that much resurfacing retards cam timing.

In March, as described below, we chased some pistons. Turns out we were not able to use those after all. Of course one of the pals in the local turbo dodge local network had a set of pistons we could use, but finding rings proved to be challenging. Being a packrat pays off once again. Our local professor Turbo Todd found the set needed, in a box one a shelf. 

Using +40 rings setting in a piston box from a stalled project +040″ over bore CB. Completely forgot about the pistons/ring pkg. because they were hyperuethetic pistons ordered by TPiS about ten years ago. So with the 3.477″ actual bore using the 3.485 worked out fine after file fitting the rings. You can only use rings that are .010 (or under) in a dissimilar bore. In other words, you can use a +.040 ring in a .030 bore, but not a +.040 ring in a .020 overbore. The ring would be oval in the round cylinder, and never seat. There is an EZ way to check for that when assembling engines. File fit rings are actually .005 oversize and you file to fit rings to your bore.
Total Seal had nothing to offer. They had the correct oversize bore rings, but the width of the rings were not a match. Venolia pistons used the same old original 1.5 x 1.5 x 4.0mm ring pack design and we didn’t have many options, as that is pretty old configuration. Almost obsolete by today’s designs

March 2023 update: Spent the month of Feb digging out boxes of engine parts, sorting through cranks and pistons, and several heads to find one suitable for use. D heads, G heads, Swirl heads and avoiding the aftermarket junk china crap heads. We look for high flow and durability under boost. A good head was discovered, the correct crank was found. Ensuring square tooth vs. round tooth pulleys are consistent, and everything will align. Networking with the local Mpls Turbo Dodge guys, a TII turbo was sourced and is now out for balancing. A good swirl head is now at the machine shop after 6 hours of pre-porting. The new pistons installed by the previous owner were an aftermarket problematic piston not suitable for high boost applications, so they will go in a box on the shelf. After determining the correct bore of the cylinder a piston size was determined. A phone call and more networking yielded a set of pistons in Calif, that were incorrectly ordered, but IS the correct size needed for this build. A few phone calls and $500 later, we have a good set. Misc parts blasting, cleaning refinishing is also underway while all the parts come together. 
Here are some notes from the professor Turbo Todd the engine guy. March 2023

  • installed new exhaust guides with stops. The guides sometimes drop on the exhaust on these cylinder heads. Back cut valves and polished underside of factory intake valves. installed the new stainless exhaust valves. They received the back cut treatment too. One exhaust stud hole needed a time sert. That is better than a Heli-coil. That finish on the deck on head you could use as a mirror and shave. 
  • The block was re-stripped down and brought into the machine shop  for .002 honing and a bath in the cleaning solvent. Since we are honing the cylinders, we are able to use the deck plate. That will help make them even more true. A deck plate simulates a cylinder head being bolted to the engine. That modification was also made to the oil pump hole on the block.
  • The crankshaft is being polished lightly.
  • Cleaned up & weighed those rods yesterday. Good thing I did as we had one rod that was pretty light. 693 grams (they regularly come in around 703g or so). The others came in around 697g The replacement TI/TII/TIV rod came in at 704 grams. The factory balance is typically within 4-5 grams of each other. They batch them in heavy and light batches. Aftermarket performance rods will shoot for closer to 1-2 grams.  Ended up lightening the other three to match the weight of the lightest one. Now they are all 692/693 grams. Within 1/2 gram of each other. You lighten the rods (could be on the big or small end) by removing casting flash from beams, and removing weight from pads on top and bottom. Also drilled and countersunk the small end for better pin oiling, as the factory small end sort of suffers from lack of oil.

The Turbo
The turbo on these cars is no doubt the secret sauce. For this and other builds we always upgrade to a slightly larger turbo, and also add a stock Mopar intercooler from another Chrysler vehicle, normally a ’90 Daytona intercooler because it bolts right into this model. These components is what is called T2 or Turbo II. The Turbo for this car is referred to as a TB03 turbo. Sometimes shortened to T03 or T3. Garrett specifically labels it TBO352 or TB0371.  It gets sent out for this work and returns with a balance sheet proving it is perfect. All the parts are balanced separately, but when put together, slight imbalances can stack up and make for a wildly unbalanced turbo. It went through three balances, getting better with each one. The compressor wheel is a T3 60 trim wheel. It was used on some of the SVO mustangs and Buick turbos. It offers close to the same flow as the Turbonetics S-60 wheel, but less than 1/3rd the cost.  In addition to the larger compressor wheel and matching machined cover, the compressor housing was ported, boost reference port added, along with upgraded 360° thrust bearing, and staggered turbine seal. VSR balancing added too. A full rebuild kit was obviously used.  Here are some pictures and VSR balancing sheet.

The decal kits for these cars are somewhat available but due to a non responsive supplier I decided to generate my own decals, which was an extremely expensive process working with graphic designers and a graphics printer. The lower Shelby text placed on the doors was the difficult piece to find. I also now have the entire decal kits available over at the store for sale. 

Fall of 2022 both CSX-Ts were completely repainted and new decals applied.