By on September 28, 2013

11 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler did pretty well selling Mitsubishi-derived products in North America, but the only platform from their European operations that was a hit over here was the Simca-based Omnirizon. These cars had a lengthy production run and you still see a fair number in wrecking yards these days; in this series so far, we’ve had this ’78 Horizon, this ’83 Dodge Rampage Prospector, this ’84 Turismo, this ’85 Shelby Charger, this ’86 Omni, and this this Shelby-ized ’86 Omni GLH. I’d really like to find a final-year-of-production 1990 model Omnirizon, but so far this ’87 is the newest example I’ve seen in the wrecking yard.
05 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost European and Japanese cars of this era had gone to six-digit odometers, but Detroit stuck with five-digit tradition until the 1990s.
07 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Omnirizon could be had with a Simca 1.6, a Volkswagen 1.7, or the Chrysler 2.2 originally developed for the K-car platform. By 1987, the 2.2 was the only engine available in these cars.
04 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one appears to be pretty well optioned. Automatic transmission, to siphon away some of those 96 Chrysler horses.
03 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAir conditioning on a mid-80s econobox is an uncommon sight.
06 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe factory digital AM/FM radio probably pushed the out-the-door price of this car well into Aries-K territory, but how else could the buyer listen to the greatest hits of 1987?
01 - 1987 Plymouth Horizon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sentra, Civic, and Corolla (not to mention the Excel) were really stomping sales of Detroit subcompacts by 1987, but the Omnirizon (and the newly-acquired-from-AMC Jeep line) helped improve Chrysler’s bottom line a bit.


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68 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Plymouth Horizon...”


  • avatar
    ex-x-fire

    For a cheap car, boy they had some comfy seats.

    • 0 avatar
      April

      I noticed that. The upholstery in my Mom’s 1987 Horizon stayed nice three times as long as the seats in my brother’s 1978 Dodge Colt. It as so bad in the Colt I took out the ratted out drivers seat and replaced it with the passenger seat. :D

  • avatar
    The Dark One

    Wow ! All the way from Bob Post Chrysler/Plymouth in Louisiana. I seem to remember they only sold Peugots for about 2 years; about as long as the Ford dealership down the road sold Bertones.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    There was a time when it seemed like Chrysler intended to keep on building the Omni and Diplomat forever. As the 1980’s wore on these 1970’s era cars remained in production year after year with few visibile changes. I recall the Diplomat getting a stay of execution on more than one occasion because sales were still strong and there was no comparable replacement among Chrysler’s growing line of K-Car derivitives.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Can’t believe that radio was never replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOlds

      As an NPR junkie, I can tell you that some of us don’t care too much about hi-fi. The CD player in my Silverado still has the CD my wife put in there back in 2009. I keep waiting to see if she will ever realize its still there

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        My parents never swapped out the stock stereos on any car they owned, unless the head unit failed for some reason.

        And of course in modern cars, a stereo swap is next to impossible in most models with the uber-integrated head units.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “As an NPR junkie, I can tell you that some of us don’t care too much about hi-fi.”

        Yay you! Me too.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          +1 I own a car that a previous owner swapped a CD player radio in, but I find myself wishing that I could install one of the original radios with a casette player.

          Only problem is it uses a security anti theft code thing.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I had an issue with the one in my Audi 100 when I had it, and none of the codes on the radio or in the trunk would unlock it. I ended up swapping in a Pioneer CD player and never regretted it. One day CDs may go the way of the cassette, but it looks like that won’t be anytime soon.

        • 0 avatar
          stevelyon

          ‘Round here (Los Angeles), NPR is the only station that plays any music that’s worth a damn.

          I never replace the head units in my cars either, unless they break, then I go all out and put in the nicest one I can find and that matches the stock lighting colors.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    I had an 83 with a 4 spd and 1.6l I thought was from Peugeot. Pushrods solid lifters. Right off a ag pump or gen set. Ran great for over 10 yrs. My kids got it for last year of high school, they learned to drive stick on it. I put a clutch and numerous brake jobs in it. First and last front wheel drive clutch job I did in the driveway. Rust was its biggest enemy in salty NE Il. “Sold” it to a friend of my son who drove it a couple more years. Every bit as good as anything in its price range at the time.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Aside from the dirt/grease, those seats are in amazing condition.

    On an unrelated note, I always hated the steering wheel in these.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    That car looks so clean I wonder if the 39,000 is original miles

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Knowing how far a friend’s Omni America went before a cranky heater core and less than competent mechanics put it out to pasture – and how much better Chrysler’s paint held up, especially compared to GM’S peel-on-the-showroom-floor clearcoats – I would not be surprised if that’s its third journey around the dial. By that time the understressed 2.2 was capable of generating twice the power given that version, so engine related problems were few and far between.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These cars are getting rare from what I’ve heard, I used to have ’90 model and let me tell everyone the differences if they’re interested:

    1. The interior was completely different, earlier models had a neat spacious interior with a few nice touches like a segmented glove compartment, the ’90 model ditched all of this for a bland dash design and knee-cushion for the front passenger that ate up much of the leg room. They also had Dodge Caravan steering wheels with airbags.

    2 They had front anti-roll bars which made hardly any difference, but at a cost of poor undercoating and poor metal. Earlier OmniHorizons hold up better.

    3. Less power and more torque, made no difference and just helped sell K-cars.

    4. The transmissions were still brittle pieces of junk, my automatic going out by the time that I sold it. But even the manuals were weak, I know someone with a GLH and the shift linkages are plastic!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Most of the early 3-speed automatics were Torqueflites and held up just fine. There was a big difference between the Dodge and Plymouth interiors at first, the Horizons were more unscale.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats strange when you consider that Dodge was the more upscale company.

        My Horizon had a 3-speed Torqueflite, but by 1990 I wouldn’t doubt that previous owner neglect, an emergency park shift by my mom, and Chryslers gift for de-contending weakened it.

        Despite that I’ve heard rumors of the car still chugging around, I could spot it easily with its extremely warped gray paint.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The three speed Chrysler FWD transmissions were not junk. While some may have had some failures, the vast majority would easily survive and outlast most other FWD transmissions. I guess that because the Ultradrive was such a problem, that internet keyboard warriors like to say the same about the 3 speeders…nothing could be further from the truth. Even CR slobbered red dots on many of these transmissions.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I’ll give them that they were smooth, very smooth transmissions, but like the manuals they hated any hard driving.

          And despite the title, they had barely anything in common with the RWD Torqueflites which were a pretty durable trusty design.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      AFAIK, the 2.2 post-carburation (88-end) always made 93hp. The 2bbl model (which was my first car, a 5speed ’87) made 96. But that particular factory carb was so touchy that it would make the car feel like a Jekyll/Hyde type. Earlier in the day, it might have felt like you could drag a GTI of the day, and in the afternoon, you might get toasted by a 3 speed auto 4 cylinder Topaz.

      I know this because those very things happened to me. Teehee!

      In any case, I’d bet on that “less hp” 93hp TBI Fuel Injection model being consistently more powerful than my 87 with that awful carb and a “theoretical” 3 extra hp.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        You’re pretty much right there, slightly less hp at ’88 but more torque. I remember increasing the timing on my engine for a slight hp gain with really no consequences, really hoping that I had gotten 100hp out of it (pretty dorky, I know).

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I know of one running and regularly driven Omni in this town, a silver example. Somehow it’s not a total rustbucket, unlike the only Ford Festiva in this town.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Boy, this brings back a lot of memories. Most of them bad.

    My very first new car was a ’79 Horizon. Bought absolutely stripped for exactly $5100 cash plus tax. It was non-metallic Caucasian Flesh color inside and out, with vinyl taxicab-grade seats.

    The handling wasn’t as bad as you’d think given the lurid “Not Acceptable” stamp from Condemner Reports (based on the steering lacking a self-straightening tendency, so you just kept your hands on it — duh). In fact, my brother was so impressed with its then-novel FWD traction in a rainstorm that it prompted him to go out and buy a real Rabbit.

    The engine was a 1.7 VW, with heads and carbs by Chrysler that forced 2-3 restarts every time. Once up and running, it ran fine, though the shift linkage felt like a series of rubber bands. The ride was soft, because of a suspension so mushy it literally bottomed out every time it passed over an ordinary-sized curb on the way out of the driveway.

    It was the “quality” that drove me out of it. First the unprimed paint on the wheelwell lips began to peel off in sheets. Then the shifter spontaneously popped out of position, immobilizing the car. (“A pin broke at the base of the shifter,” diagnosed my colorful gas-station guy. “Effin’ piece o’ pot metal. IT’LL BREAK AGAIN.”)

    Then the door latches froze in winter weather, forcing me in panic to tie the driver’s door shut with clothesline in order to drive to work. Finally came the piece de resistance: a defectively welded motor mount that came to light at 2-1/2 years and 30,000 miles, causing the engine to rotate backwards and literally fall out, coming to rest atop the halfshafts and lying back against the firewall. Chrysler responded to a series of complaint letters by saying “Naturally you can understand we are not in a position to offer an indefinite warranty” (I’d missed the 5/50 boat by a year or two — the new car warranty was 12,000 miles/12 months). I got it fixed and sold it immediately for a new ’81 Rabbit that was a stouter car in every imaginable way.

    I heard from a car-fan buddy that he knew a German-car mechanic who, out of curiosity, put an Onmirizon and a Rabbit on lifts next to each other. He said the cars matched up bolt for bolt, with every piece cheapened on the imitator. As an owner of both, I believe him.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I once rented one of these while my nearly-new ’88 Civic was in the bodyshop. Surprisingly cushy compared to the Honda, but man, that red interior…

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “I heard from a car-fan buddy that he knew a German-car mechanic who, out of curiosity, put an Onmirizon and a Rabbit on lifts next to each other. He said the cars matched up bolt for bolt, with every piece cheapened on the imitator. As an owner of both, I believe him.”

    yes, ‘cos second-hand hearsay is so trustworthy. I bet you know someone who knows someone who saw a kid named “S**thead” too.

    The L-platform descends from the Simca 1307 once Simca became part of Chrysler Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      And coincidentally (or not), its been said that VW copied the Simca for the Golf. Of course, the Gold was originally an Audi design so…

      But after a bit of experience with a MK1 Golf and owning a Horizon, I’m willing to believe that Chrysler cheapened out a few parts but its not like the original Golf itself was high quality.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I can’t believe they actually managed to sell these up to 1990. The cars were completely outdated by 1985, and European sales dwindled around that point. Even Lada Samaras felt modern compared to these.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    My best friend in high school had one of these, a 1987 in a kind of flat grey, if memory serves. He was a very tall guy, like 6’6″ and I’m a big guy at 280lbs in HS and I remember it being a relatively comfortable car. We hooned all over creation in that car, as well as my ’90 Taurus. My sharpest memory of that Omni was when we’d been driving around all night and were getting close to my house when the poor thing started to shudder a bit as if it was missing, then just as we turned the corner on my street, the oil light came on. My dad always told me that was very bad, and we shut it down as soon as we got in front of my house. I remember the HEAT coming off that engine when we popped the hood. We pulled the dipstick and it was clean as a whistle. I grabbed a quart of Penzoil my dad had for the mower and we put the whole thing in. I’ll always remember the sound of it draining down into that hot engine. That quart just barely got the end of the dipstick wet after we let it sit for another half hour with the hood up. He took it to a quick lube the next day, and I think it went another couple years after that. I bet the engine was basically wrecked inside.

  • avatar
    GD3FTW

    Do my eyes deceive me, or does the speedometer really top out at 137 km/h?

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      85 mph speedometers were a NHTSA requirement for a while via FMVSS 127. Though I don’t think this car could go much faster than 85 anyway…

      • 0 avatar
        bigdaddyp

        I had an 89 and then an 87 both with the 2.2 and 5 spd manual transmission. Once on a trip to visit a friend at college, I came close to redline in 5th gear. The speedometer was wrapped all the way around past 5mph. Fairly drama free experience, stable but a ton of wind noise. The 2.2 and 5 spd was not the best thing for my younger self to be driving. For its time that was a pretty quick car-excluding the automatic equipped version.

        • 0 avatar
          blppt

          @bigdaddyp LOL….same experience with my ’87 5speed…coming back from Eastern Long Island, the needle would be buried below the 85, and I guess the fact that I didn’t die horribly due to this teenage stupidity should tell people that the car was unusually stable at those speeds (for the time, its size, shape, and weight).

          It certainly wouldn’t have had much to do with “driver’s skill” given I had only been driving for a year at that point.

          Also…these cars were RIDICULOUSLY good in bad weather. I never realized how good it was until I got my next car, a 88 Reliant hand-me-down. I’ve had several AWD Subies with all-season tires (and many other makes/models of cars) and no car I’ve had since came close to how well this car handled in the rain and snow.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        The same engine+transmission in the Reliant could get to 95mph, with a lot of road and patience… or so I’ve heard…

  • avatar
    Power6

    This was my second car, same year, same colors and all. The Horizon was typically more optioned than the Omnis I think. Mine had air con, remote L and R mirrors, am/fm/tape, rear defog/wiper, and center arm rest, real luxury stuff for a Horizon!

    Nothing that special, though nice enough to drive since they were light, the torquey 93HP 2.2 moved it pretty well.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Whose Vic is that?

  • avatar
    jimble

    The Omni and Horizon were developed from the Simca and had the same exterior styling, but they ended up being mechanically very different cars: http://www.allpar.com/omni/horizon-c2.html

  • avatar
    detlump

    My friend had a Horizon like this, he drove it well beyond 200,000 miles, until the shock towers rusted out. Of course he had help keeping it running and improving it because his father was a powertrain engineer at Chrysler. Still it was a good car for him.

    Personally I liked the steering wheel, it seemed the spokes just fit my hands well (yes I know you’re not supposed to do that).

    I guess the Caliber could be seen as an evolution but not nearly as successful.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m curious if he managed to get any secret, more durable parts like another Chrysler employee who commented on here, parts that escaped the bean counters.

      If anything the closest evolution would be the Dart I think, you get a turbo option, they were built in the same factory in Illinois, and have loose European roots.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    My father bought a 1980 model for one of his employees as a company car. He gave it to me to use for a month before I went to college. It was pretty cheaply made. I remember after doing a couple of bong hits that I could hear the structure creak and flex over steep curb cuts. No doubt about it, it helps your hearing acuity. I was quite surprised that a brand new car was so creaky. These were really bad times for automobiles, and if you are honest about it, most cars were pretty lame back then. One plus of these cars was that they seemed to resist the upstate NY road salt better than most other cars.

  • avatar
    Onus

    My friends family has 2 of these. 1 that they still drive.

    Wonderful car. Visibility is awesome!

  • avatar
    dwight

    I had a 1981 Dodge Omni with 4-apeed manual and the VW 1.7L engine, vinyl seats and essentially no other options. Bare bones. One really discerning thing about the car was that its clutch cable would snap every so often. But it was roomy, and it never rusted, and maintenance seemed low (except for the cylinder head but it was under warranty since it was a defect).

    Back then, it was cheaper than a Rabbit, more comfortable and had better driving dynamics than a Chevette and much roomier than a Civic. That’s why they sold as many as they did.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I had one of these in Omni trim (I called it the “Dog-Omni”) with the 1.7 5-Speed. I think it was an ’83 or ’84 bought used from a private owner; dark grey metallic with the red interior. The only mechanical problem that I can remember was having the driver’s side half-shaft bolts loosen and 2 of the 4 sheared off. They were a massive bee-ach to replace. It was a decent car, none too quick, but (as it’s been said) great visibility and maneuverability made it a fun car.

    I remember while driving to work one day (with a cup of coffee balanced in my crotch), I was stopping for someone backing into a parking space on the street, and I was (lightly) rear-ended, spilling coffee all over my pant legs. Incensed, I got out, and went back to asses the damage – the “shock absorber” bumper had lost one of its end-caps, but no other damage. I walked back to the car that had hit me, the driver (a really old guy) had rolled down the window, and instead of being apologetic, looked down at my pants and said: “Holy hell – did you PISS YOURSELF?”. His wife smiled sheepishly from the passenger seat as I looked down at my pants, and I started laughing myself. I said something on the order of “be more careful”, got back into my car and went to work.
    Of course, I was telling that story for a while at work until my pants dried out.
    I remember trading the Omni (which had succumbed to Pennsylvania Tin Worm) in on a 1990 Escort GT – the dealer gave me $300 on a trade; the Escort was on sale: $9,999 – my first new car.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    My father owned a 1989 Horizon. The deal breaker was it didn’t have cruise control. The dealer bought an aftermarket unit and integrated it with the turn signal stalk off of an older Chrysler model out of a junkyard. It looked and functioned as OEM, and he bought the car. He maintains to this day it was the best car he ever owned.

    Based on his experience, I bought a 1993 Dodge Spirit, used, with 60K miles. The resale on these was horrible because of the Mitsu V-6 valve guide issues and the 4 speed self destructing trans. HOWEVER, I had the 2.5 and A604 Torqueflite based 3 speed, basically an increased displacement of the Horizon drivetrain. Both cars gave little trouble and proved to be decent transportation.

  • avatar
    Mr. Bill

    I had a new ’84 Dodge Omni Charger which was the two door hatch version. Pretty sharp looking little car but it quickly became evident to me that I should have purchased something else. My car was an automatic with factory cruise, a/c, and an am/fm only radio, so it was a pretty loaded up car.

    Build quality was so-so and the quality of a lot of materials was very cheap. For example, the carpet in the hatch area was cut crooked and didn’t even have any type of sewn up edges – just a rough cut. Driving with the a/c on it would feel like hitting the brakes when the compressor cycled on and off. Finally, the transmission was slipping before 30,000 miles. I traded it for a used ’86 Thunderbird Elan and never looked back.

    Mr. Bill

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    The automotive curator of the Henry Ford Museum wanted a 1978 Dodge Omni, among other cars, for the newly revamped “Automobile in American History” exhibit. The Omni was, he said, among the most difficult of the cars to locate in clean, original condition; he finally found one from someone who collects Omnis and Horizons. The one on display, however, has a huge dent in the rear hatch under the window.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Chrysler Europe had to do something mid-70’s to compete with the success of the Golf & Polo. The former Rootes Group Hillman Imp from Scotland and the Hillman Avenger (Plymouth Cricket,) weren’t going to do it.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    That’s quite the rockin band y’all got there

    Sanjeev on the multi toms
    JB on guit (Though I heard he sucks)
    MM on ???

    When is the CD coming out?

    Perhaps call it New Horizon. You can tour in a custom Plymouth Horizon with a 440 shoe horned in there while listening to your fave 80s hits on a bastardized Kraco tape player..

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Well, instantly recognized that stereo as the same one from my parent’s old Dynasty. And boy do those seats look comfortable and well padded! Didn’t Plymouth have their own logo at this time? Or just the word on the hood near a Chrysler emblem?

    On a final note – I think they were ALL this color, or silver.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      You could actually tell an Omni from a Horizon at first glance from a distance—the Dodge would have the two bold stripes horizontally across the grille, and the Horizon had 6 “stripes” Vertically from the top to the bottom of the grille, as seen above. AFAIK, the Omni/Horizon was dead long before the Dodge “special” logo/symbol appeared. I *think* those appeared on the keyfobs for the LH-series, as my 94 (last year of sale) Shadow had the standard Chrysler star as its only symbol.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    I HAVE TO KNOW, where in the world did you find that BMW mock shirt? I must have one.

  • avatar
    hawox

    that car was popular here in europe and in my family we had one.

    this thing was criticized for bad handling and low performance, infact i remember it was slower than similarly displaced fiat strada/ vw golf/ kadett.
    but unbelivably the horizon was very well buildt, infact examples remained on the road much longer than other contemporary cars.
    we also had a fiat strada and a volvo 345. the strada was much faster and more agile but was self-decomposing: everytime my father used it some piece fell off, after only 3 years had rust spot everywere.
    my uncle bought the horizon because he didn’t like my mom’s volvo 345 design (now decide what’s worse between the two!!), they were 2 slow cars, around 90mph top speed and glacial acceleration, but much more durable than every other midsize you could buy here in europe. the volvo was more fun to drive but the horizon was very fuel efficent.
    all in all a clever car, much much better than the neon!!

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    Saw a couple of Horizons driving around West Allis and New Berlin, WI this past summer. They were super clean and like new. I don’t have good memories of this car, however. Back in the day, my uncle had a silver Omni with black vinyl seats – not terribly pleasant to drive during the summer or winter months.

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    It’s scary how many of the junkyard finds or their close cousins I’ve had or had use of. I’m currently “restoring” an ’84 K car, for example. I could be half the Crab Spirit stories, if he wanted to write about the same boring guy in different places at different ages, that is.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    That commercial makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

    From what I’ve heard, the 80s wasn’t entirely so wholesome…

    But what do I know. I’m just 21.

    A Plymouth Horizon was what my dad bought after he crashed his Grand National in 1991….*shudder*

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I went from one of these to an ’89 Tercel DX, and considering that they’re both cheap compacts of the time I feel that they’re up for a comparison.

    The Toyota Tercel was definitely more modern looking and was easily more solid in the inside, it was also VERY diminutive compared to the Horizon and its 1.5l was just gutless compared to the Horizons meatier, more crude 2.2.

    Both drove…okay, like every FF I’ve ever driven. The Tercel was easy to park but absolutely terrify…full of character in the highway!, but the Horizon worked just fine, and somehow Corvettes would give it the right of way (thank you protruding bumpers).

    Both had crummy rust protection and neither were remarkable in terms of the materials used, yes Toyotas bottom barrel Tercel has cheap metalplastic just like Omnis of the time, Tercels were just built better (not necessarily designed better though).

    Both had three-speed automatics with the Tercels having been recently re-built, didn’t feel different from the Horizons that would soon need a rebuild according to a local mechanic.

    The OmniHorizons deserve some recognition for being able to sell in the 70’s-90’s with one small face-lift, a slightly different grille. Compared that to the competition which was scrambling everywhere to re-design themselves far too frequently.

    Unfortunately the quirky characteristic Tercels and Omnis would have the same faiths in the 90’s, being replaced by depressing low-quality compact sedancoupes with zero character once so ever.

  • avatar
    BlizzardWizard

    My wife and I have a few of these cars, including two 1990s on the road now and another ’90 as a parts car. The roadworthy 1990 models are an Omni and a Horizon, purchased used in 2010 and 2011, respectively. One came from Illinois and one from New Jersey. Shockingly, both had only a little rust in the floor pans, the rear shock towers, and (on the Omni) the bottoms of the front A-pillars — just about all of which I’ve taken care of (along with lots of other repairs). Although, the Omni has Zeibart to thank for its relative lack of rust.

    Also, both of these cars are overwhelmingly red on red — interior and exterior — far more red than should have ever been allowed by law. The first time I stepped into one of these rouge mobiles, I kid you not, the color literally made me a little sick to my stomach. But then it grew on me.

    All three of these 1990 models came with odometers (6 digit that year) that stopped functioning in the mid-70,000 mile range when the spokes broke off the little plastic gears used that year. I’ve inquired about a few other ’90s on Craigslist and all had the same problem. Head gaskets were another big problem that year. My Omni’s blew out on my drive home from buying it. :( But the automatic transmissions are still going more or less strong in each of them, and they’re each probably somewhere around the 120,000 mile mark. Conversely, the parts car had a manual transmission and was abandoned when its plastic shift linkage came apart.

    In addition to these ’90s, I have a 1987 Horizon that’s sadly been out of commission since its carb went bad and, trying to coax some life out of it in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic, I rear-ended a mega pickup truck. The truck was unscathed but, given the resale value of my Horizon, the insurance company totaled it, and I paid them $100 to hold onto it. 1987 was the last year for the carburetor in these cars.

    I had purchased my ’87 in 2007 with 40,000 original miles on it, and then put another 40,000+ on it, including a round trip cross country trip, before its fateful day in 2010.

    So… besides their nostalgic value for children of the late 70s/early 80s like myself, what can you say about these cars? Good gas mileage (my personal best is 34 mpg on the highway with an automatic), great in rain and snow, great visibility, lots of easily accessible storage space, full sized spare tire, inexpensive parts and relatively easy to work on (which is good, because they’ll need it), and super comfy plush corduroy or solid velour upholstery.

    Also, I believe the 1990 Omnizon was the only car in its class to feature a driver’s side airbag standard. (IMO that was the big advantage relative to the other remodeling that year which unfortunately also put the radio in a difficult place to reach and dramatically reduced the side of the center console storage.) Add one of the 4 point roll bars still manufactured for GLH enthusiasts and maybe some racing harnesses, and you can upgrade the safety of this 2,300 lb. econo-box a good bit.

    Also, if you’re partial to the optional exterior chrome offered on these cars from ’78 – ’82 (like me) and search hard enough to find it (like me), you can even add all of that to a 1990 model, since the upper body panels of these cars hardly changed at all during their 13-year run. (Now if I could just find the old faux wood grain decals!) Center armrests from the GLH and special addition models of the mid 80s are also a sought after upgrade to any model year, although they don’t fit with the 1990 dash/console set-up without some modification, as are the 13″ hubcaps from the K-cars and the 15″ wheels from the GLHs and Daytonas and Chargers of the era. (Near the top of my current search list is the two tone brown corduroy interior offered in ’83 and ’84 only, and if anybody has some extra good chrome pieces, please shoot me a line.) Actually, a hilarious amount of chrome was available for these small cars in the early years — I’m talking about 45 separate pieces, total, and that’s NOT including the chrome bumpers, the chrome side mirrors, the optional late ’70s luggage rack, or the optional late ’70s chrome vent shades! Add the little disco ball I’ve got hanging from my rear view, and you’ve got one shiny Omni (or, as some naysayer might put it: plenty of turd to polish).

    Adding aftermarket Thule or Yakima roof racks with feet that clamp down on the rain gutters (as this car’s owner did) are another great way to add hauling capacity to these cars. I frequently carry a 14′ sea kayak on my Omni that way, and the roof rack on this junkyard find is probably one of the car’s most valuable parts. Another way to add hauling capacity is to find the one trailer hitch still manufactured for these cars and hook up an old Coleman Versa or Caboose clampshell utility trailer — all of which can be done within manufacturer ratings. And believe me, you’ll really get some looks from passersby!

    Lastly, there are two other ways to spot a 1990 from a distance. First, the B pillars and side window frames of the doors are painted the same color as the rest of the car, as opposed to flat black, like they were from ’86-’89. Second, the final model year features rear seats with three-point belts (chest restraint too, as opposed to the basic across-the-lap rear belts of every other model year), the tops of which are visible from outside.

    That’s probably way more than anyone wanted to know, but there you have it. :)

    (Oh, and if any of you NPR enthusiasts want a factory radio from one of these cars, you just let me know — I’ve removed several!)


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