By on February 2, 2015

03 - 1988 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMembers of the Chrysler L-body family, based on the Chrysler Europe/Rootes Group/Simca-derived “Omnirizon,” are not uncommon in American wrecking yards these days; why, we just saw this ’87 Dodge Shelby Charger a few weeks ago. However, the true Omnirizon— the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon— those are getting more and more rare as the 21st century grinds on. We’ve seen this first-year-of-production ’78 Horizon, this last-year-of-production ’90 Horizon, and a few in between, and now I’ve found this grimy-looking ’88 Omni in a frozen Denver yard.
11 - 1988 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot at all related to the Mitsubishi-based Dodge/Plymouth Colt of the same decade, the Omnirizon was a simple, cheap, front-wheel-drive appliance that sold pretty well for years past its seeming obsolescence.
05 - 1988 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn 1988, a new Omni four-door hatchback (the only model available) listed for $5,995. The wretched Subaru Justy DL two-door hatch was just $5,695 that year, while the barely-qualifies-as-a-car ’88 Yugo was only $4,199. It was worth paying the extra for an Omni.
13 - 1988 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one looks to have spent a decade or so sitting outdoors with the windows down, so there won’t be much worth buying out of its interior.
15 - 1988 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Simca and Volkswagen engines that went into the early Omnirizons were gone by 1988, replaced by the Chrysler 2.2. In 1988, this engine made a pretty-decent-for-the-time 93 horsepower.
04 - 1988 Dodge Omni Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill any parts get pulled off this car before it goes to The Crusher? Probably not many.


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66 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Omni...”


  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    It was called the Omni America by then. America.

  • avatar
    Onus

    My Friend had one of these until a year ago, in New England none the less. Loved it. His family had a thing for the Horizon so they went out of their way to find another one when there first one got damaged in a crash.

    • 0 avatar
      Sixray

      I actually have a friend with a similar story. His parents had two of them, and when they finally wore out and kicked the bucket they went out of their way to find two newer ones in good condition to replace them. There seems to be a lot of brand loyalty towards the Omni series.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I used to work with a guy that had the Plymouth version. It was immaculate. He detailed it just about every day and kept it in better than new running order. I always thought it was a shame he didn’t put that kind of energy and affection toward something a little more deserving, like just about any other car.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These weren’t bad little cars, the Chrysler 2.2 made them easier to live with vs a Tercel or Civic.

    They weren’t very fun to fix though, lots of one-way plastic tabs including the tabs for the grille.

    You gotta love the “vintage” styling and the thick protruding metal bumpers. Having driven both I’d take an Omni over a Neon for beater use.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      The tabs weren’t one-way, but locked in place with an expander pin: to release, you pushed the pin downwards, then pulled the fastener out, reassembling it while you worked on whatever was behind the panel you were removing. During reassembly, you reinserted the fastener and pushed the pin back down to secure the panel or cover in place.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Either you did that or you broke the fasteners in the process by accident, nearly every Omni-Izon I’ve seen has had one of them broken.

        I will say that despite weird design choices like this, my Horizon was easily the better car compared to the underpowered hair dryer Toyota that replaced it. At least the AC still worked…for a while.

  • avatar
    threeer

    My cousin’s first wife’s father (follow that one!) had a dealership an loaned her one of these for a while when her Alfa went down. I actually rather liked the like Omni. Seats were (from what I recall) comfy and for all of 93 HP it wasn’t bad.

  • avatar

    They were honest no frills cars. Something harder to come by today in the more technology is better mentality consumers have.

    No longer options (to my knowledge):
    Stereo, AC, tilt wheel, >100 hp, occupant safety, 15″ wheels, and I’m sure a plethora of other heavy, expensive things that have become cheaper to make standard than to option for various reasons. But they do have real cost, both upfront, down the road, and on fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      EMedPA

      My grandmother had one of these back in the early 90’s, and I got to spend some time behind the wheel driving her around as she gradually gave up driving. These were simple, useful cars, and if they weren’t ever on my short list, they were a good choice for basic transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You can still get some pretty bare cars today if you want, Sentras can be had with manual windows, and theres plenty of small hatchbacks with just 100h like the Mitsubishi Mirage.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    If I recall, the “Omni America” was the cheap stripper model they used to advertise for $4995 or $5995. I was looking at used cars in the $3k value at the time (I wanted affordable transportation for my senior year in HS and for college). I figured it was worth a look.

    If my memory holds, it had crank windows, a 4-speed manual, and no A/C at that price. Other than the A/C I couldn’t have really cared less. When I went to the dealership in Southfield, MI, they had a lot full of Omnis. There was one white “America” model buried 4 cars deep in the back corner of the lot. They moved other cars out of the way but when they went to start the one I wanted to see it was completely dead. It had apparently been sitting there for a while.

    The salesman told me to wait that they would get it started. That would have been fine, but then he went into a hard sell about me needing to put down a deposit since these cars were just flying out of the showroom and I didn’t want to miss out. I ended up buying a used 1981 Celica with 75k miles on it for $3,200 and never regretted it.

    That said, as many of these as I used to see on the road back in the day, I can’t recall even seeing one in years.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      The America version was no stripper; A/C and automatic transmission were standard across the entire line, along with a rear windshield wiper/washer, rear glass heater, and AM/FM radios were found in all models. As Chrysler explained at the time, the tooling was paid for, so why not crank out a bunch of bargain basement models and keep them in the market? Loading them up with what would be extra cost options from the other automakers kept them competitive, and they still boasted interior room that shamed everything else in its size segment.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    If I recall, these cars had a safety issue with the steering. I can’t remember the details of who did the testing, Consumer Reports? One of the insurance institutes?. Anyway, the test was when driving straight down the road, flick the steering wheel in one direction. The steering wheel is supposed to snap back to the straight position. In the Omni, it over corrected then began to oscillate back and forth to the point of causing a spin-out, if not corrected by the driver.

  • avatar
    Karl M

    Stephen Colbert would be appropriate to remake that commercial.

  • avatar
    Gregg

    I had a 1978 as soon as they were introduced. Ordered it the way I wanted, which included the high line interior and a stick. I wanted another VW Rabbit but the 1970s uber-inflation had driven that MSRP up too much. The Omni came with a VW engine. The A/C failed within 6 months. I kept it four years before trading it in on a Toyota. By then all the doors were rusted out on the bottom and the computer had a glitch that would cause the car to stop and not start for several minutes. The problem was never identified and thankfully the thing kept going on the trade-in test drive. It was a roomy for its size, versatile hatchback, but hardly reliable or durable.

    • 0 avatar

      The earlier cars had troublesome VW motors. The Chrysler 2.2 is a hardy little bugger. Rust is what it is for the period. I have a pretty rusty 82 Rampage, my hood is so rusty it sags badly when propped up on just one side.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        My ’90 Horizon has so much rust in the back that a decent kick would make bits of metal drop off, not quite as bad as a Toyonda of the time but still not the greatest.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I had that “feature” on my 87 Nova too! Didn’t even have to pay extra for it.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Ah yes, the rare Chevy badged Toyota that could be had in a Citation-ish hatchback form.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Unfortunately I didn’t get the hatchback, I had the sedan. I’ve seen the hatchback and it looks rather nice, but it also looks even MORE like a Toyota than the sedan version already did. Somehow.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Don’t forget, there was a later version 5-door hatch Corollo-Prizm too. Always looked so spacious.

            http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Cars-Geo-Prizm-hatchback_02.jpg

            That would be quite a garage. A 5-door Nova AND Prizm. Round it out with an Austin Maestro and you’ve got 15 doors of fun.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The 2.2’s had there issues. Many had leaking head gaskets and pin knock. Some earlier examples suffered cam issues. Most leak oil out of the valve covers and the carbureted version could be miserable with higher mileage and are tough to get running right. But you didn’t very often see one outright fail or blow up which earned them as somewhat reliable motors for the era.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I’ve forgotten the name of the Actor in that commercial but he was popular in the late 1960’s…..

    Time has show that these were pretty good if very basic devices .

    This one looks decent apart from sitting abandoned too long .

    Is that a _Sanden_ AC compressor ? .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    1987 Omni was my first car. Had it for nine days before overcorrecting after panic braking and flipping it into a ditch.

    I can testify firsthand that seat belts save lives, and the roof strength of this machine is no joke.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I came across a pristine Omni recently in a supermarket parking lot. Malaise brown with beige/yellow OMNI graphics on the rocker panels, it was perfect. I can’t remember the last time just seeing a car cheered me up so much, knowing someone cared enough about that POS to take such good care of it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Not much worth saying on this boring box :P

    But last night on Ebay I noticed a Plymoth Caravelle – which seems to be the Plymouth manual windows version of the New Yorker K-Car. Never heard of it before!

    Makes me wonder why, by the late 80s Plymouth didn’t get a sedan like the Fifth Avenue and the New Yorker/Imperial. Seems like their lineup in the early 90s before the cloud cars and Neon would have been mighty sparse.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Well, let’s see how good my memory is:

      * Horizon
      * Reliant
      * Voyager minivan
      * Caravelle
      * M body Gran Fury

      Had to sneak a peak at Wikipedia at this point:

      * Colt
      * Sundance

      Not a bad lineup for it’s day, and not bad cars either; just looking a little dated next to the Ford offerings.

      Plymouth at the time was the working man’s offerings; Chrysler the luxury, Dodge the peformance. So Plymouth’s lineup made sense.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Hmm, I guess they did keep the GF until what, 90. I’m sure the Caravelle was gone by then. And the rest hold over until 93 when the Neon was born.

        They sure did stretch everything out. In my mind, the Horizon, Colt, and Sundance were the same thing. And the later Sundance is a Spirit, and a LeBaron. I dunno what a Reliant is, a square little K like the Aries I’m guessing.

        (Trying to do all this without looking anything up, for funs.)

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          No, the Sundance and the Spirit were built at the same time. The Sundance did indeed replace the Horizon; the Colt also continued to soldier on.

          The Spirit replaced the Relant; a more rounded body over the Reliant mechanicals. I owned a Reliant wagon that Dad bought as a lease return; later a Spirit was the first car I bought on my own. It was far better than the Reliant; it was hooned pretty bad when I sold it in 2005 but it was still running and had well over 200,000 miles on it.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I thought the Spirit was the Dodge version and the Sundance always said Plymouth on it. And there was a Shelby Spirit called something else. I really liked those LeBaron sedans when I was a kid. Thought they were quite fancy.

            LOL Reliant wagon – like that Dodge one with the “Hemi” engine which was a Junkyard Find!

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            “LOL Reliant wagon”

            Laugh if you want, but it was an eye opener; which is why Dad ended up buying three of them for his kids.

            Compared to the 1974 Fury III it replaced, it could hold as many passengers, about as much stuff in the cargo area; but get twice the mileage. And it handled like a go-cart; which the Fury handled like a battleship; I had fun tossing it on one particular back road.

            It also had a decent stereo in it. Main negative was all the plastic interior trim with the exposed screws squeaked; took several rounds of tightening to get it to be quiet.

            It was tinny compared to the Fury; but a great car in every other respect. And hey, it looked like a Mercedes 190, right?!?!

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          The Sundance was a P body and was identical to the Shadow. The Acclaim was a Spirit/Lebaron.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          That’d be an amusing chart, RWDs and Mitsu-derived models aside, 80’s Chryslers are all K-Car variants in my book.

          Though looking at todays “modular platforms” I argue that Chrysler was ahead of their time.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            They certainly succeeded in making both shortened (Shadow/Sundance) and lengthened (Dynasty/New Yorker/Fifth Avenue) versions of the platform.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Three different frontdrive platforms

            “L” Platform

            Dodge
            1978-1990 Dodge Omni
            1979-1982 Dodge Omni 024
            1982-1984 Dodge Rampage
            1983-1987 Dodge Charger
            Plymouth
            1978-1990 Plymouth Horizon
            1979-1982 Plymouth Horizon TC3
            1983 Plymouth Scamp
            1983-1987 Plymouth Turismo

            “K” Platform

            1981–1989
            LeBaron
            Town and Country
            Executive
            Aries
            400
            Reliant

            “E” Platform

            1983-1988 Dodge 600
            1985-1988 Plymouth Caravelle
            1983-1984 Chrysler E-Class
            1983-1987 Chrysler New Yorker
            1988 Chrysler New Yorker Turbo

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @Lie2me- THANK YOU! Finally somebody in the thread got the lineups right and took the time to lay it out. The Omni/Horizon and their derivatives were indeed a wholly different, and older, platform.

            For the rest of the extended K-car family, there was Spirit/Acclaim (A-body or a stretched K) and Dynasty (C-body, another stretched K). Shadow/Sundance were P-bodies (shortened K). And don’t forget the first generation Caravan/Voyager minivans were stretched Ks too. Lots and lots of cousins at the family reunion!

            The K derivatives were competent runners in their day although nothing special. Towards the end of the 1990s they pretty much all offered a choice of 2.2 or 2.5 Chrysler fours or the 3.0 Mitsubishi V6. Solid beam rear axle and MacPherson strut front. Nothing special. It was the eighties. Chrysler got an amazing return on that platform and had a lot of steady business building and selling a lot of very ordinary cars based on it.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      There was also a short lived LeBaron GTS/Dodge Lancer in the mix, slightly larger than the Sundance/Shadow and similar in appearance. I believe the Sundance/Shadow came after these.

      • 0 avatar
        AmcEthan

        I owned a 1993 Plymouth acclaim gold edition. 3 speed auto, Mitsubishi v6, red exterior, red interior, gold grill, trim, and rims. Got amazing mileage, was nearly unkillable, and pretty quick compared to most sedans of the time. It was even decent off road lol. Bought it with 156,000 miles for $1,100 at a dealer in town and sold it with 187,000 miles for $2500 to a older man that works with my dad. Didn’t do any work to it other than oil changes and tbh it was one o the best cars I have ever owned. IMO it had the best factory radio I have ever seen or used. Great and roomy little car.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Nice catch, Exfordtech. And how could I forget the LeBaron GTS/Lancer when my mother’s bestie had one of those (decades before “bestie” was a word, heh). She even had a Class I trailer hitch on it and used it to tow a sailboat a couple hundred miles each summer to their vacation spot. That four door hatchback had enough room for the kids, the dog, and luggage while being verrry stylish!

        Powertrain was the trusty combination of the shake-and-bake 2.2 and A413 Torqueflite.

        Lee Iacocca famously had the roof removed from one of these cars and thus heralded the rebirth of the affordable convertible in the U.S. market.

        Kids these days have no idea, no idea!

  • avatar
    KindaFondaHonda

    I bought A brand new 1987 Plymouth Horizon America in May 1986. Basically had a new car for 18 months. It was the first new car I bought myself (second year in college). My very first car was a 1983 Chevette CS 4-door my parents surprised me with for my 16th birthday.

    Anyway… bought the Horizon (Garnet Red Pearl) for OUT THE DOOR at exactly $7000. Not stripped. It started at $5495 and I added AC, and the two option packages offered (lots of niceties). It was loaded with everything but the automatic. I got the 5-speed (never drove a stick before – my dad taught me in a parking lot after taking delivery… how’s that for confidence!). It had PS/PB/AC/Full gauge pkg/full console/highback corduroy velour bucket seats/rallye wheels with trim rings/remote mirror/carpeted door panels/rr wiper-washer & defroster/full trunk carpet with carpeted cargo cover/tinted glass/am-fm radio/velour headliner/int. wipers, st. steel exhaust and a 5/50 warranty. Like I said, loaded for 7 grand OTD. Deal of a lifetime.

    The thing that made that car so great was the 2.2 litre engine mated to the 5-speed. It was really quick and fun to drive. It never labored with the AC on (unlike my Chevette which labored all the time). I do wish it had been fuel injected in the cold Northeast winters back then (it was carburated). But I loved that powertrain.

    I added a sunroof, Corvette-style dual mirrors, Bosch foglites,BBS cross-lace wheels, Infinity II cassette system w/equalizer (directly from the Fifth Avenue), four new speakers, MOMO leather shift knob and boot, leather wrapped wheel, blacked out the vertical bars in the “Plymouth” grille, and added a chrome exhaust tip. The car looked like a sort of Shelby-ized Horizon- without the stripes. Wish I could post old pics, ‘cuz I would.

    Was it super refined? No. Better than the Chevette? Immensely. Better than a Civic? Nope. But it was reliable for the few years I owned it. Yeah, little things broke off here and there… it was a Chrysler for God’s sake. But it was a neat little car. People need to see these cars in the time period they existed instead of 2015.

    I loved that car (for what it was).

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I remember my folks buying an 87 Horizon brand new with a 5 spd. We didn’t keep it long and I’m not sure why, I’ll have to ask. I remember thinking the upshift light was kind of cool ( I was 10).

    I do remember the Conquest TSi in the dealers showroom and picking up the brochure to it. I kept that brochure longer than that car was sold.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I learned to drive in one of these, but in the ’85 or 86 model year version. I remember that little green up shift light. It was your basic ’80 econobox, it replaced my mother’s VW Rabbit as it was basically the same car but with an extra set of doors. However I remember the VW have much better interior materials then the Dodge. But the Dodge was more powerful. My mom’s Omni was grey on grey and about the most boring thing possible… but it taught me how to drive stick so I wasn’t complaining. Now the Shelby GLHS version was one of the greatest hot hatches ever.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The tight engine bay made these tough to service. My BIL had a Horizon 2.2, and it remains the only car on which I’ve replaced a fusible link.

    Miraculously, here in western PA I still see a few of these on the road.

    Take a look at the photo of the vacuum diagram for this Omni.
    Then compare it to that of the Civic of the same era: “https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Civic_Vacuum_Diagram-All.jpg”

    I’d take an Omni any day.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Did some version of the Omnirizon actually get flush “aero” headlights or is that just a common aftermarket upgrade?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can picture what you’re talking about. I’m pretty sure there was a flush headlamp version in light blue around town when I was a kid (around 88).

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Simca-Talbot Horizon in Europe had flush headlights and at least a few people managed to make them work on US models.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        The car I saw probably just had plexiglas covers, but I do rather like the larger flush headlights of the Euro Horizon over the inset ones of the US Omnirizon.

        I dunno if it was just a regulations thing, but European cars all seemed to get “aero” headlights before American ones. Audi 5000, for example.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          America did not allow those style headlamps until 86 I think. It’s why the 87 5000 had the aero lamps. And why the Taurus came out with them in 86.

          And why Citroen had such trouble selling cars here – they had to retrofit all their headlamps to suit the US light regulation.

          I said all this pre-research. After, I find this per Wiki.

          “Sealed beam headlamps were introduced in the United States in 1939, and became mandatory from the following year until the 1984 model year.”

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I had a 1986 if i remember correctly Paid $200.00 for it. Had the VW motor with the automatic trans. Needed drive axle replaced it was slow but always started. Good city car got about 3 years out of it and the transmission went south. Sold it for $100.00 and fellow put in a used transmission and got a few years out of it. It was cheap but solid and drove OK. Come to think about it was a great deal.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan now has a 1978 Dodge Omni (apparently to talk about the 1973 gas crisis, by comparison, it is parked alongside a 1973 Chrysler Newport). I remember reading an article about the revamped exhibit, and the automotive curator stated that the Omni was one of the most difficult cars to find (which is why the museum example has a huge dent in the hatch). These cars were treated like beer cans: grab one, suck everything you can out of it, then grab the next.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    We sold many of these cars. The earlier carbureted 2.2’s were miserable and tough to get running right. The later FI models were better but always seemed to have trouble with sensors failing and check engine lights illuminating. The 3 speed transaxle was decent but many were neglected and didn’t like shifting out of first gear requiring the good old trans X treatment and service. Many needed new axle shafts and motor mounts and the 2.2’s were sure leakers with many needing new head gaskets. When you got a good low mileage example the customer was usually pretty happy with there purchase. The higher mileage more used up models- not so much.

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