Junkyard Find: 1981 Plymouth Horizon Miser

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 plymouth horizon miser

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 [s]French[/s] American econobox?

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

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3 of 37 comments
  • 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!

  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.