Junkyard Find: 1981 Plymouth Horizon Miser

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Even while importing Mitsubishi Colt Galants and badging them as Dodge Colts, Chrysler looked to its European outposts to find an additional suitable econo-commuter to sell in North America. The Hillman Avenger aka Plymouth Cricket hadn’t worked out so well, and nor had the Simca 1204, but the Simca/Talbot Horizon under development in the middle 1970s looked very promising. Soon enough, an Americanized version made it into production, making its debut here in the 1978 model year and staying in production all the way through 1990. I’ve documented quite a few of these cars in junkyards, but the super-economical Horizon Miser had eluded me… until now.

In the dark years right after the 1979 Energy Crisis, many car buyers felt that avoiding gas lines via extreme fuel economy was a worthwhile goal, and so Chrysler made an extra-stingy version of the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon known as the Miser. Today’s Junkyard Find is one of those rare cars.

Several engine types went into the Omnirizon during its long production run, with the Chrysler 2.2 taking over completely starting in the middle 1980s. At first, the 1.7-liter Volkswagen EA827 went into all these cars, giving it the same heart as many Rabbits sold here.

By 1981, Horizon buyers could opt for the Chrysler 2.2 and its mighty 84 horses; if you wanted the super-gas-sipping Miser, however, you had to get the 68-horsepower VW 1.7 and the four-on-the-floor manual transmission.

Even though this is the miserly Miser, it still has these disco-style tape stripes (much-faded by the bright High Plains sun).

Was it better than the 1981 Dodge Colt/Plymouth Champ? All we can say is that it got the job done with a certain European flair lacking in the rebadged Mitsubishis.

George Kennedy wasn’t going to allow America to be pushed around any longer.

Why buy Ford’s World Car when you could have a genuine French American econobox?

For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, visit The Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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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  • Ah_non_e_mouse Ah_non_e_mouse on Jun 15, 2021

    The student minister at our church had one of these in 1981 (think it was a Dodge Omni). She went to get in the driver’s door and the door handle fell off in her hand ! Think it was about 1 month old.

  • Tane94 Tane94 on Jun 18, 2021

    Chrysler was a 2 engine company in the early 1980s, the 2.2 and the venerable 318 v8. Later, Chrysler offered upsized Mitsubishi 4 cylinder engines and the 3.0 v6 as options. But that 2.2 was durable and super easy to work on.

    • MyerShift MyerShift on May 16, 2022

      Riiiight, because they quit making the Slant Six and 360 V8's. Oh wait, no they didn't!

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