Junkyard Find: 1978 Plymouth Horizon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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.






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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 We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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