Junkyard Find: 1989 Plymouth Horizon America

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon (collectively known as the Omnirizon) was based on a Simca design originally intended for European use and was Chrysler’s first American built, front-wheel drive, economy car. The Omnirizon was cheap, got the job done, and sold very well, staying in the American marketplace from 1978 through to 1990 with few major changes.

We’ve seen an early Horizon and now I’ve spotted this late one in a California self-service yard.

By 1989, the standard 1.7-liter VW engine had been replaced by the Detroit-designed 2.2-liter engine originally intended for use in the many-branched K-Car family tree. With turbocharging and Carroll Shelby badging, the Dodge Omni GLH Horizon sibling was very quick for its time (and probably would lose a drag race to a 2016 four-cylinder Camry, but let’s not dwell on such comparisons).

The America version of the Horizon was a fixed-price version that attempted to steal sales from the likes of the Toyota Tercel and Subaru Justy. In 1989, the Horizon America listed at $6,595, versus $6,640 for the Misery Plus Edition™ Tercel EZ (which, admittedly, was impossible to kill), $5,866 for the breathtakingly underpowered Subaru Justy DL, $5,499 for the Hyundai Excel (which would have been used up by about 1994), or (pause for pained laughter here) $4,349 for the Yugo GV. The Omnirizon certainly was more fun to drive than most of its competition. With a new zero-option ’89 Civic going for $6,348 (if you could find one selling at list price, or even find one at all, what with the limited supply at Honda dealers back then), however, the Omnirizon comes in as the second-best econobox deal of 1989.

The pride’s inside!

Wisely, the marketers didn’t mention the Omnirizon’s red-white-and-blue French origins in these flag-waving ads.

So successful that America buys almost one a minute (it’s not clear whether that’s just business hours or 24/7).

[Images: Murilee Martin/ The Truth About Cars]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Chi-One Chi-One on Feb 18, 2016

    Had an '86 GLH Turbo. Bought with 10K on the clock. Had the presence of mine to buy the service contract as it was my DD. Most fun you can have with your clothes on! Dusted just about everything. It ate the fuel pump as was noted, struts and mounts, A/C components, lots of tires(!) They lost money on that service contract :) Great highway car, rolling in 5th at 70, goose the throttle to pass and quickly you were in triple digits. Even drove well in Chicago winters.

  • 89HORIZON 89HORIZON on Jan 08, 2022

    I am the current owner of a 1989 Horizon, bought in October '88, yes I've had this car straight for nearly 34 years now. I won't be surprised if I'm the longest continuous Horizon owner remaining. Though I doubt anyone is keeping that statistic. Have seen 1 other on the road in the past 10 years or so, and it was even the same Metallic Powder Blue as mine. Yes it still runs. In fact, as my other car, a nearly brand new '96 Explorer is currently in need of an engine, the '89 Horizon is currently my primary vehicle! Nearly everything on the Horizon is original still, and everything mostly works except the A/C, so I suppose I'm going to have to get that engine in the '96 replaced before summer comes, as repairing the A/C on the Horizon would cost about 50x the cash value of the entire vehicle.

  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.
  • EBFlex No. I buy as little Chinese products as possible.
  • John "...often in a state of complete disarray on the roads" What does that mean? Many examples in poor repair? Talk about awful writing.