The Truth About Cars » omni http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:11:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » omni http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Still Thinking About A Small & Sporty Car: On To Something http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/still-thinking-about-a-small-sporty-car-on-to-something/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/still-thinking-about-a-small-sporty-car-on-to-something/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776041 I’ve spent the past few weeks examining the possibilities. Some of you might remember an article or two that I wrote back in January about my desire to find something sporty and fun to drive once the family and I get safely relocated to our new digs down Leavenworth way. A few folks who read […]

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I’ve spent the past few weeks examining the possibilities. Some of you might remember an article or two that I wrote back in January about my desire to find something sporty and fun to drive once the family and I get safely relocated to our new digs down Leavenworth way. A few folks who read our fine website contacted me by e-mail to offer up various vehicles that meet the requirements I set and I had a good time imagining myself behind the wheel of each and every one of them. One of those cars struck a special chord with me and its owner and I have exchanged several emails in the weeks since. I am thinking now, should fate somehow not manage to intervene in the best laid plan of this large but mousey man, that I might take some of the mad amounts of money I make writing for TTAC and purchase it. Don’t tell my wife.

I don’t feel bad about my scheme, really. We have two drivers in my house and only two vehicles. Some people think that’s normal, I suppose, but I’m the kind of guy who likes to have a back-up. Today, for example, I emerged from my home in the pre-dawn hours to find that the battery in my Pontiac Torrent was dead flat. Maybe it’s my own fault, I was working in the front yard and the kids, who demanded to be outside with me, decided it was too cold and, rather than simply go back inside, demanded to be put into the car to play. I like it when the kids play in the car, after all I spent a lot of my time as a kid playing driver and it’s an interest I want to encourage, but when they flip a switch and leave the lights on all night it can be problematic. Since it takes time to re-charge a battery I’ve ended up spending the day at home and that wouldn’t have happened if I had some kind of small, fun to drive, sporty car just sitting there as a back up. See my logic? I know my wife will…

Of course she will, right?

Of course she will, right?

Anyhow, the real reason y’all hit the jump wasn’t to find out that I let my kids play driver, it was to find out just what car is the subject of my machinations and that car is (ready for it?) a one-owner 1983 Shelby Charger. The car was purchased at Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, MD on July 20, 1983 for $9435 and recently came out of storage to receive an extensive rust repair and repaint. Underneath it has all new brakes and shocks and, while the engine internals haven’t been touched, it also sports a new clutch, oil pump and timing belt. The transmission has been swapped out for a stouter, recently rebuilt unit from a turbo car and the shift knuckles have been upgraded from plastic to steel. Over all, the car sounds really well sorted and the photos I have received back-up the sellers assertion. The best part is, without being so crass as to discuss numbers in public, the price is right.

shelby charger

Naturally, I’m excited, and I’ve spent a good deal of time over the last few weeks learning everything I could about the 1983 Dodge Charger. It turns out I knew a lot less than I thought I did. For one thing, I had just always assumed that all Shelby Chargers were turbocharged. It turns out, however, that in 1983, the first year Shelby decided to slap his name on a car that, up until 1982, had been called the Omni 024, the car was still much closer to its econobox roots that it was a fire breathing muscle car. The 2.2, which had entered service in late 1980 as a part of the 1981 model year, originally made just 84 horsepower.

Realizing the limitations of the cars he was working with, Carroll Shelby hedged his bets and, according to Peter Grist in his book “Dodge Dynamite: 50 Years of Dodge Muscle Cars” that “The main parameters were to have as good a handling FWD car as there is anywhere, that it be unique in appearance, and that it perform adequately.” The car certainly looks unique, its hard to miss a Shelby Charger’s wild graphics, and by all accounts Shelby’s people were able to work real magic with the car’s suspension as well. The High output engine that was created, however, only managed to eke out 110 horses. A few years later, of course, the addition of fuel injection and turbo charging would add many more ponies to that rather modest number, but this car marks the beginning of the process that would eventually lead to those things. That makes it, I think, special. Now, the only question is if I can control the urges that would have me try and preserve it or simply use it as God and Carroll Shelby intended. I’ll be sure and give it my best shot.

shelby charger 1

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Plymouth Horizon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1990-plymouth-horizon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1990-plymouth-horizon/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=704962 No, that’s not a typo— Chrysler made the Simca-derived Omnirizon all the way until the 1990 model year. I’ve been looking for a final-year example of an Omni or Horizon for quite a while now, and I finally found this one in a Denver self-serve yard over the weekend. Would you believe an airbag in […]

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11 - 1990 Plymouth Horizoni Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinNo, that’s not a typo— Chrysler made the Simca-derived Omnirizon all the way until the 1990 model year. I’ve been looking for a final-year example of an Omni or Horizon for quite a while now, and I finally found this one in a Denver self-serve yard over the weekend.
06 - 1990 Plymouth Horizoni Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWould you believe an airbag in this cheap little car, as early as 1990? Standard equipment for the ’90 Omnirizons!
05 - 1990 Plymouth Horizoni Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin5-speed, factory tach, no rust, only 114,325 miles on the clock.
12 - 1990 Plymouth Horizoni Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinVery, very rare, and an interesting bit of history, but not really worth saving from The Crusher.
17 - 1990 Plymouth Horizoni Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIf you want to split hairs, the Omnirizon outlived the original Chrysler K platform by a year (though cars based on the K were built until 1995). By 1987, the Chrysler 2.2— originally developed for the K-cars— was the only engine available in these cars.
Even with the airbag, the last-year-of-production Omnirizon wasn’t much different from the original 1978 version. The new Dodge Omni does it all!

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1983-dodge-rampage-prospector/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1983-dodge-rampage-prospector/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489429 Even as the K-cars became a huge success, Chrysler didn’t give up on the Simca-derived Omnirizon platform. In fact, the 2.2/2.5 engine helped extend the Omnirizon’s life until the 1990s. We’ve seen a fair number of Omnirizon-based Junkyard Finds, including this ’78 Horizon, this ’84 Turismo, this ’85 Shelby Charger, this ’86 Omni, and this […]

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11 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven as the K-cars became a huge success, Chrysler didn’t give up on the Simca-derived Omnirizon platform. In fact, the 2.2/2.5 engine helped extend the Omnirizon’s life until the 1990s. We’ve seen a fair number of Omnirizon-based Junkyard Finds, including this ’78 Horizon, this ’84 Turismo, this ’85 Shelby Charger, this ’86 Omni, and this this Shelby-ized ’86 Omni GLH, and now I’ve managed to find one of the rarest of all: the pickup-truck Omnirizon!
01 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis truck came fully loaded with options, including cruise control, air conditioning, clock, and Prospector emblems.
07 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSporty red-striped bucket seats!
14 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler was very proud of their all-Detroit 2.2 engine (no Mitsubishi, Hillman, or Simca genes in the 2.2), and this truck is covered with 2.2 emblems.
19 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe chunky DODGE emblem on the tailgate would make more sense on a 3/4-ton pickup, but it still works here. Remember, 1983 was the last year of the Malaise Era, with a new optimism appearing in Detroit vehicles.
21 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Rampage couldn’t haul much of a load— you don’t want to shift too much weight to the rear on a front-wheel-drive vehicle, anyway— but it was quite useful for hauling of lightweight items.
22 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ll need to let the members of the Haulin’ Ass Plymouth Scamp 24 Hours of LeMons team know about this truck, since I’m sure they always need parts.
America’s first sports pickup!

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Omni http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-omni/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-omni/#comments Tue, 21 Aug 2012 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456857 Even after Chrysler debuted the company-saving K Platform in 1981, the older Simca-derived Omnirizon continued to be built in large quantities. Sightings of te Dodge Omni, Plymouth Horizon, and their many siblings and cousins are very rare today, but I still run across the occasional example in the wrecking yards. We saw this ’78 Horizon […]

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Even after Chrysler debuted the company-saving K Platform in 1981, the older Simca-derived Omnirizon continued to be built in large quantities. Sightings of te Dodge Omni, Plymouth Horizon, and their many siblings and cousins are very rare today, but I still run across the occasional example in the wrecking yards. We saw this ’78 Horizon not long ago, plus this ’84 Turismo, and today we’ll take a look at an even later Omnirizon.
You could buy the Omni until 1990, just a few years after Chevrolet stopped building the Chevette. By that time, the straight-outta-1978 lines of the Omni were looking embarrassingly dated.
The Chrysler 2.2 engine had replaced the Simca and Volkswagen units used in earlier models by the time this car was built.
This car was about 1/100th as much fun to drive as the Omni GLH, especially with an automatic transmission slowing it down. Still, it functioned just as well as a Colt or Aries in the Point-A-to-Point-B driving world.

14 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1986 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Plymouth Horizon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/junkyard-find-1978-plymouth-horizon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/junkyard-find-1978-plymouth-horizon/#comments Sat, 26 May 2012 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=446120 Yesterday’s Junkyard Find was one of the better-known examples of the Simca-based “Omnirizon” platform, and you still see 80s Dodge Chargers here and there. What you won’t see often is today’s Junkyard Find, a first-year Plymouth Horizon. I found this one languishing in a Denver self-serve junkyard. This car was the first true subcompact car […]

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Yesterday’s Junkyard Find was one of the better-known examples of the Simca-based “Omnirizon” platform, and you still see 80s Dodge Chargers here and there. What you won’t see often is today’s Junkyard Find, a first-year Plymouth Horizon. I found this one languishing in a Denver self-serve junkyard.
This car was the first true subcompact car Chrysler ever built in North America, and it (along with its Dodge sibling, the Omni, and the French-market Talbot/Simca Horizon) was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Prior to the Omnirizon, the only subcompacts sold by Chrysler in the United States had been rebadged Mitsubishis, Hillmans, and Simcas, all built overseas.
The Plymouth Horizon was an Americanized version of a Chrysler of Europe design, and it wasn’t any more miserable to drive than other front-drive subcompacts of the late 1970s (e.g., the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Rabbit, Datsun 310). If that sounds like faint praise, remember that expectations were lower during the depths of the Malaise Era.
The ’78 Horizon listed at $3,976, which was actually 200 bucks more than a new Plymouth Volaré two-door (but $250 less than a new Rabbit). With gas prices and inflation soaring year after year, however, the gas-sipping Horizon looked like a good deal next to the much thirstier (and not much roomier) Volaré.
You see some odd little luxury touches in this otherwise minimalist econobox. Look, “wood” on the glovebox door!
The Omni, Horizon, and their L-body variants continued production in the United States until 1990. By that time, the mid-70s-ness of the design had become a bit embarrassing for Chrysler.

14 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 01 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 02 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 03 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 04 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 05 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 06 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 07 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 08 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 09 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 10 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 11 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 12 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden 13 - 1978 Plymouth Horizon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Omni GLH http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-omni-glh/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-omni-glh/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418369 You’d think that the Shelby-ized Dodges of the 1980s would be sought-after collector’s items nowadays… but you’d be wrong. The Omni GLH/GLHS had to be the best performance-per-dollar deal of any new car you could buy during the mid-to-late 1980s, but its humble Simca origins and disposable nature mean that surviving examples aren’t worth fixing […]

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You’d think that the Shelby-ized Dodges of the 1980s would be sought-after collector’s items nowadays… but you’d be wrong. The Omni GLH/GLHS had to be the best performance-per-dollar deal of any new car you could buy during the mid-to-late 1980s, but its humble Simca origins and disposable nature mean that surviving examples aren’t worth fixing up once they get in rough condition.
The ’86 GLH had 146 horsepower, weighed 2,295 pounds, and listed at $7,918 (or just over 16 grand in 2011 bucks).
Compare that to the ’86 Honda Civic Si, which had 91 horsepower, weighed 2,033 pounds, and sold for $7,999. OK, fine, we’ll admit that the Civic had build quality a couple of orders of magnitude better than the Omni and it handled better, but: 55 more horsepower for $81 less! Spend about 11 grand, and you’d get the ridiculously overpowered GLHS, which came with 175 horsepower and ran 14.7-second quarter miles right off the showroom floor. That blew away the Mustang GT and IROC-Z Camaro, and came very close to beating the ’86 Corvette.
Check out that screamin’ red interior. What’s not to love about a Rootes Group four-door hatch with Dodge badging, Carroll Shelby influence, and lots of boost? Apparently, this car’s last owner didn’t feel that way. Right now it’s in a Denver self-service yard, but the next stop will likely be a Chinese steel factory.

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Curbside Classics: Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni – Detroit Finally Builds A Proper Small Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/curbside-classics-plymouth-horizon-and-dodge-omni-detroit-finally-builds-a-proper-small-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/curbside-classics-plymouth-horizon-and-dodge-omni-detroit-finally-builds-a-proper-small-car/#comments Thu, 11 Nov 2010 17:10:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=372239 Is time slowing down? Just fifteen years separate this 1960 Imperial and the Horizon’s birth. Or was it just that Detroit was terribly slow to embrace the inevitability of modern European design? Better late then never, because not only were the Horizon and Omni the first proper small cars ever built in Detroit, they also […]

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Is time slowing down? Just fifteen years separate this 1960 Imperial and the Horizon’s birth. Or was it just that Detroit was terribly slow to embrace the inevitability of modern European design? Better late then never, because not only were the Horizon and Omni the first proper small cars ever built in Detroit, they also saved Chrysler from irrelevance and bankruptcy just in the nick of time.

Before we turn the clock back and rediscover the origins of Omnirizon twins, let’s briefly put that fifteen year span between the Imperial and Horizon in perspective:

Thirty five years separate the Horizon from this 2010 Golf. Has automotive evolution really slowed down that much? Unfair comparison, perhaps. Well, there is no 2010 Imperial to compare it, since that species long ago became extinct. And the Golf does loom large in the Horizon’s existence. Or is it the other way around?

Our timeless main story begins with the Simca 1100 (at the left on the top, and right on the bottom, mislabeled as an R12). This photo is here courtesy of allpar.com, which has an excellent article about the birth of the Horizon by its creators here. We see it in a comparison of the C2 Horizon’s proposal with the brand new Golf . The C2 was the intended replacement for the Simca, and it’s easy to see that they (Simca, C2) sat on the same platform and followed its general shape.

When the Simca 1100/1204 first appeared in 1967, it set the template for the modern hatchback small car. It was the true winner of our CC virtual 1971 Small Car Comparison, and one of the first cars to employ that template was the 1975 VW Golf. Some of the Chrysler fan-boys at allpar argue that the Golf imitated the Simca. Conceptually yes; stylistically, the  photo above is the damming evidence that once the Golf appeared, Chrysler’s fine tuning of their C2 proposal was deeply influenced by it, to put it politely.

The final of our comparison photos: the evidence is all too obvious, right down to the kink in the rear door. Well, if you’re going to imitate, the original Golf was certainly a good model, and it was a sight cheaper than hiring Guigiaro, like VW did.

The development of the Horizon has other compelling aspects beyond the cribbing. As the headline says, it was the first time one of the Big Three pulled its head out of its ass and decided that a modern FWD European design did actually make more sense for a small car than the crap it came up with by itself: the Chevy Vega, Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin. In case you’ve forgotten, click the links, but in a nutshell, Detroit was obsessed with the idea that small cars needed to look like a shrunken Mustang or Camaro. Combined with RWD meant that they were atrociously cramped, especially in the rear. Perhaps they were punishing their buyers for being so stupid to want a small car instead of a real car.

It didn’t have to be that way, and cars like the Simca 1100 and the Golf showed the way. Certainly, by today’s standards they are quite small indeed, perhaps like a Fiesta or less. But at the time, when even cars like the over sized Nova were none too roomy, this was a revelation. And the Horizon was bigger than the Golf, by far the roomiest of any small car at the time.

Chrysler, fortunately lacking the funds to join the Vega-Pinto debacle, looked to its European subsidiary for a life-line, having already been convinced of the Simca 1100′s capabilities, despite its poor sales in the US and reliability issues. In a very closely coordinated effort, Chrysler undertook a three-way development effort with its French and British units. That presented huge challenges, given the substantially different priorities and the metric-inch divide. But the body was fine tuned on both sides of the continent, and for the fist time ever, digital scans of the clays were exchanged via satellite. A first, and not bad for 1975.

It became clear early on that the US version would be a very different car except for the basic body. Well, at least that was shared. The Simca’s supple but more expensive long-stroke torsion bar suspension was jettisoned for more pragmatic MacPherson struts in the front. Americans just didn’t deserve or wouldn’t appreciate that famous French ride. On the other hand, the Americans wisely stayed clear of the Simca engine, which was generally fragile and usually developed terrible valve clatter within 20k miles or so. In another nod to the Golf, Chrysler instead bought engines from VW, a 1,7 L version of the Golf’s 827 engine. Chrysler added its own manifold and cantankerous carb, foolishly eschewing fuel injection for several more years.

The Americans also developed the front automatic transaxle, a miniaturized TorqueFlite, which turned out to be pleasantly similar to its big brother reliability wise (whew!). And it brought its electronic prowess to both versions, with the first popular priced trip computer. Of course, the domestic version got an interior more in keeping with the um…slower to develop taste of Americans at the time. Still, it was a refreshing place to sit in the late seventies era of bordello interiors, with excellent visibility and decent ergonomics for the times.

Either way, the Horizons on both sides of the Atlantic were well received by the press, both winning respective COTY awards. That may have meant more in Europe, where it’s voted on by hundreds of auto journalists. Still, the American press and public reception was pretty universally positive, even though it was clear that the Horizon was not a Golf in certain key respects, mainly in the handling department. The Omnirizon’s suspension was Americanized in more ways than one. Its handling was decent for the times, but just neither actually fun nor inspiring.

Maybe that was a worthwhile trade off for the American versions’ much better rustproofing; the Euro Horizons were some of the worst rusters ever, and there may likely be less than 200 examples left on the whole continent. I’m sure I could find that many in Oregon. Our city water and electric utility had a fleet of them until just a couple of years ago.

Of course, those were undoubtedly from the latter years of the Omnirizon’s long US run from 1978 through 1990. And typical for American small cars, they slowly got better and better, later adopting the Chrysler 2.2 L four, fuel injection, and a 1.6 liter Peugeot engine as the base mill. Meanwhile though, cars like the Civic, Corolla and Mazda GLC/323 were evolving at a much quicker pace.

So even though the Omnirizons were pretty progressive when they arrived, time in the eighties was not standing still. The Japanese upsurge kept Omnirizon sales in check, although in its first three years it averaged over 200k units and some 1.8 million were sold during the whole run. Those first couple of years were critical, because Chrysler was in the depth of its brush with bankruptcy, largely in part because its big cars were obsolete or stinkers.

But it wasn’t just the sales numbers alone. Without the Horizon and Omni, it’s highly doubtful Chrysler would have been able to develop their K-Cars in time and on budget, or at all. Chrysler had a huge head start with the Horizon and its fwd transaxle, and Lee Ioacocca could prove to his Washington DC bankers that he really did have that leading edge fwd technology, the equivalent of GM and its Volt today.

Of course, the legendary hi-po versions of the Omni developed with Carroll Shelby can’t be ignored here, although the odds of finding one on the street are slim indeed. But starting with the 1984 GLH (“Goes Like Hell”), the VW GTI had a wild and woolly competitor. The first version was actually the most GTI-like, with the 110 hp tweaked 2.2. The optional 146 turbo version was already something different altogether. But then the GLHS appeared with an uprated 175 hp turbo. A crude and rude little beast it was; the wildest combination of torque steer and turbo lag bang for the buck.

The Omnirizon twins did nothing to stave of the Japanese invasion of the coasts or dissuade VW lovers from their Rabbits, but they did finally expose heartland Americans to what a proper small car could be, including a fitting hot-rod version of it. For that, it deserves a special place in my history book. And if Chrysler had kept developing it properly, my last combination picture could be comparing an original Horizon with a 2010 Horizon. Oops; make that a 2010 Omni.

No such luck; Chrysler decided small cars should look like a trucky SUV. Well, the Caliber’s replacement will be based on a European Fiat. So maybe automotive time hasn’t slowed down; it’s just running in circles.

More new Curbside Classics here

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Curbside Classic: 1982 Dodge Rampage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-1982-dodge-rampage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-1982-dodge-rampage/#comments Thu, 11 Mar 2010 15:48:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=348538 The passenger car-based mini pickup niche is as old as as the Crosley Roadside, if not older yet. It’s also a highly ephemeral one, that seems to repeatedly draw car makers to it like moths to the flame. And the results are about the same: here today; gone tomorrow.  If we exclude the quite compact […]

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The passenger car-based mini pickup niche is as old as as the Crosley Roadside, if not older yet. It’s also a highly ephemeral one, that seems to repeatedly draw car makers to it like moths to the flame. And the results are about the same: here today; gone tomorrow. 

If we exclude the quite compact early sixties Falcon Ranchero, then the mini-revival started with the 1978 Subaru Brat. Now that really was conceived of as more of an odd-ball 4WD SAV (sports activity vehicle) with its rear-facing seats (to get around the chicken tax) than even any pretense of serious load carrying potential. We’ll have one visit here soon. But it caught VW’s eye, or maybe they were already experimenting with Golf-based trucks when the little Brat appeared. In any case, VW thought there was potential in convincing American pickup drivers to squeeze their beef-fed bods into a half-Rabbit sized cab.

The resulting VW Rabbit pickup appeared in 1979, built at VW’s new Westmoreland PA  plant. It appeared at the right time, just before the second big energy crisis, and the diesel version is a true cult mobile (also coming to CC soon). But it never caught on with the real pickup crowd, and its body dies were were sent to (former) Yugoslavia, where it became the Caddy.And as of 2006, they were still being built in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Chrysler must have thought that VW was on to a hot new trend, and developed this Rampage to meet that great unmet demand. It’s based on the Horizon/Omni twins, which coincidentally were heavily influenced by the Rabbit/Golf to start with. But instead of using the Omnirizon sedan sheet metal, Chrysler decided to go the sporty direction, and use the front end of the coupe versions, the Dodge 024 (later Charger) and the Plymouth TC3 (later Turismo).

The Rampage appeared as a 1982 model, and a presumably reluctant Plymouth clone named Scamp made a one-year only appearance in 1983. And the wild Rampage lasted one year longer, through 1984. Rampages are not exactly common anymore, but the Scamp is a true rarity these days.

Even though it had the sport front end of the 024/Charger, the Rampage could be a practical little hauler, like this one. It was rated for 1145 lbs, making it a legitimate half-tonner. It sat on an extended wheelbase, with a heavier rear axle. Of course, a heavy load in a FWD truck has its inherent limitations. Power was the ubiquitous 2.2 liter K-car four, but the 1.7 VW four might have been available. There’s not a lot of detailed history readily available for these cars.

This Rampage looks like it’s found an appreciative long-term owner, who favors the practical side of its personality. I’ve never seen a Rampage with these “saddle bags” before. And it likes to hang around in this parking lot with the big boy pickups.

The other extreme side to the Rampages’ personality was the Shelby Rampage, which was actually not built by Chrysler, but by a dealership. All of 218 were built. Of course, the FWD car-based pickup refuses to die, and after Honda jumped in with their Ridgeline, Chrysler showed the Dodge Rampage concept in 2006. Not that there’s anything mini about these latest exercises.

More new Curbside Classics here

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