Junkyard Find: 1987 Plymouth Horizon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1987 plymouth horizon

Chrysler 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.

Most European and Japanese cars of this era had gone to six-digit odometers, but Detroit stuck with five-digit tradition until the 1990s.

The 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.

This one appears to be pretty well optioned. Automatic transmission, to siphon away some of those 96 Chrysler horses.

Air conditioning on a mid-80s econobox is an uncommon sight.

The 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?

The 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.

The pride is back!

As you’re reading this, three of your beloved TTAC writers are participating in the 24 Hours of LeMons race at MSR Houston. Sajeev and I are judging, Jack is racing. This one runs a straight 24 hours. What could possibly go wrong?

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  • BlizzardWizard BlizzardWizard on Oct 19, 2013

    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!)

  • 85plymouthhorizon 85plymouthhorizon on Oct 20, 2017

    Great article! I just recently bought a 1985 Plymouth Horizon and "restored" it as much as you can. It hadn't run for 2 years and was just sitting in a yard. After MANY hours and a few words that can't be posted here the car finally runs and with a new paint job looks brand new. I am still looking for a few parts to complete the restoration. Wondering if anyone here knows of any junkyards that may have a few '85 Plymouth Horizons where I could get parts off of. Thanks!

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  • Redapple2 I want my 5 minutes bck
  • Paul Alexander I'd love to buy a car without infotainment.