Since its inception in 1984, the Daytona Turbo Z was Dodge's luxo-performance flagship. For the 87 model year, a number of changes occured to the Daytona. Modest redesigns to the nose and tail were perhaps the most obvious changes, but performance fans were pleased by the introduction of a new model: the Daytona Shelby Z.
Now that Shelby and his merry men had developed the intercooled engine setup, Dodge immediately put it into production. The Shelby Z almost seemed to be built around that engine, and the model name was a gratuitous tip of the hat, if you will, while allowing former Daytona buyers to still feel at home. Standard underhood equipment was, of course, the Turbo II. It was backed only by a newly-designed 5-speed transmission with a Getrag gearset. Together, this gave the car a bit more grunt than prior Daytona Turbos; ETs were in the 15.5 second range. While this was about .7 seconds faster than the old Turbo I Daytona, it may not seem like a big improvement (especially compared to the Turbo II GLHS). You must realize that as time went on, Dodge seemed to focus more and more on the luxury half of luxo-performance and the Daytona's curb weight showed it: the 87 Shelby Z tipped the scales at over 2800 pounds - some 400+ more than an 87 GLHS.
If a buyer so desired, you could get an automatic transmission with your new Shelby Z. Deciding to go shiftless, however, meant sacrificing the nifty TurboII engine--the automatic could only be paired to the lesser (nonintercooled) TurboI powerplant. All other standard Shelby Z hardware remained unchanged, though.
Externally, the Shelby Z featured an airdam and side skirts, the rear wing (which was also seen on other Daytona models), and 15x6.5 aluminum 'crab' wheels. Still, it was a fairly subtle package compared to other Daytonas; outside of the aero add-ons and unique wheels, the only clues were SHELBY Z decals above the door handles and a SHELBY Z badge on the rump (below the DAYTONA badge).
Inside, there was a slew of creature comforts. Indeed, the Shelby Z was now the ultimate Daytona, and as such it offered just about everything: leather seats, power 6-way seat adjustment, a digital dash, and much more. The Daytona Shelby Z's base price was very near $13,000 even but it could very quickly skyrocket if your were liberal with your ink pen on the options sheet. I'm told that 1987 Daytona Shelby Z production was 7,152 units.
For 1988, the Shelby Z was mostly carry-over. The TurboI engine was physically redesigned this year (new intake manifold, different throttle body, etc) but the published power figures remained unchanged. 7,580 Shelby Zs were made for 1988.
1989, however, included many revisions. The Z moniker was dropped; the model was now known merely as the Daytona Shelby. Externally, the nose was slightly redesigned. One main reason for this was to add extra air inlet openings; apparently the Daytona tended to run a bit hot at times due to insufficient airflow through the radiator. This redesign eliminated the rub strip across the nose and allowed the turn signals to wrap around somewhat; in my opinion this 'clean up' improved the looks quite a bit. New wheels were added; they now measured 16 inches and were a 5-spoke design commonly called 'pumpers' (see pictures below); they were shod with 205/55 Goodyear Eagle VR radials. Out back, all badges were changed to decals; the SHELBY name still appeared below the DAYTONA lettering.
Enginewise, there was more news: the shiftless crowd went from the 2.2L engine to the new-for-89 2.5L balance-shafted motor. Curb weight continued to climb; a 5-speed Daytona Shelby now topped 3000 lbs.
For 1990, there was more drivetrain news: the availability of the Turbo IV eninge, also known as the VNT. Note that this engine was only paired with the 5-speed transmission. It was quite rare, only 536 were built. If you did opt for the TurboIV engine, a unique decal (seen below) was placed on the hood buldge. This decal was the only visual clue of what was underhood.
Inside, a fully redesigned dash appeared. This brought a new instrument cluster with new all-analog gauges. (The optional digital cluster was no longer offered.) Very importantly, the parking brake was finally moved from the footwell to the console.
Bodywise, the T-top option was deep-sixed this year. Also, Dodge proclaimed that the Daytona Shelby wore a new monochromatic paint scheme for 1990--hence the death of the two-tone ground effects paint which had been used for 1989.
The new-for-1990 Daytona interior.
It should be noted that for 1991 there were still a few Daytona Shelbys produced. It seems that it wasn't a year-long model offering; perhaps the factory was depleting some built-up stock of Shelby hardware? The factory officially killed the Turbo II and Turbo IV engines after the 1990 model year was completed, so all 1991 Daytona Shelby 5-speeds were powered by the new-for-91 high-torque TurboI; automatic-equipped cars were powered by the standard TurboI as before.