Junkyard Find: 1978 Plymouth Horizon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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junkyard find 1978 plymouth horizon

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

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  • BlizzardWizard BlizzardWizard on Jun 10, 2012

    Murilee, In which Denver junkyard did you find this little diamond in the rough??? ;) In all seriousness, I'm interested in purchasing some of the remaining chrome trim from this car for a restoration project. So if you could let me know where you found it, that would be awesome. Thanks!

  • DisTurbo DisTurbo on Jun 23, 2012

    I find the Omni/Horizon very interesting. It was so unlikely that the US Chrysler Co. would want a basically European small car for their own, yet that's what happened. Had I lived in the US in the malaise era, and had I only a small amount of money, the Omni is exactly what I would have owned. Maybe I'm sick in the head, but it seems like it would have been a fine city car.

  • MaintenanceCosts I've worked 4-day weeks in previous careers. Unfortunately, my current business requires responsiveness to clients on all five business days, so it's not really an option for me right now.But 4-day weeks are outstanding. The longer weekend leaves you with a true day of rest after you complete all of the errands and chores that we all have to do throughout most of our weekends. I, at least, felt so much better during the work week when I had that third day off. Based on my own experience, I'm fully prepared to believe the studies and anecdotal reports that say employers are experiencing no drop in productivity when they move to a 4-day schedule.
  • FreedMike Pour one out. Too bad FCA let this get stale - I was always a fan of this car.
  • Theflyersfan I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of the license plate. This'll be the hill I'll die on, but I think this was truly the last excellent E-class model (W124). In 1995, for 1996, the W210 "radical front" quad headlight model was released and all signs pointed to this being the first model being built to a price point and not to engineering excellence, cost be damned. Future models were nice looking and had all of the latest tech, but for those of a certain age (read: older), the upright, wood-lined interior with the clickty-click buttons and the aroma of the old leather Mercedes used - that is the Mercedes that some of us remember. For $2,500, this Benz could be an interesting project car for someone with deep pockets and infinite patience. It's cheap enough to where if you get started and then realize that this will nuke the budget, you'd still be able to sell it and recoup something.
  • Tassos These cabrios, while mechanically identical to the sedan Es of the time, were incredibly expensive, $80k when the sedan was barely $40k, in 1990s money. This does NOT mean an $80k car today, but an $160k car or MORE.AND with $160k today, you can get the most wretchedly excessive E class AMG version.(Not the S class AMG 65 tho, this will set you back $250k worthless Biden dollars).Back to this cabrio, it's a great, timeless design that looks and feels solid, yet when you sit in the cabrio, and I did, it does not feel half as safe as in the Sedan or Coupe.The engine is way underpowered compared even to the one in the Es of 10 years later, gas or diesel.They are also smaller and lighter (the sedans) than their 'kids' and 'grandkids"This may make a good COLLECTIBLE 10 years from now. As a daily driver, it is rather spartan today, except for the luxury interior.Again, this is yet another one of Tim's collectibles misposted as daily drivers.PS the Great Bruno Sacco designed this E class series, as so many other iconic Mercs. But you need to have TASTE to appreciate the smooth design.
  • Lorenzo The 300 sedan was the last of the RWD American freeway cruisers. Even the somewhat decontented later year models were still the most comfortable rides on 200+ mile freeway trips. It was also formidable to smaller car drivers: I rented one for two weeks, and not one driver in a Corolla or Civic tried to cut me off! That was a constant occurrence with my Buick Verano.