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.
After the Oil Crisis of 1973, Chrysler didn’t have the resources needed to design and build a subcompact economy car from scratch. Fortunately, Chrysler’s Japanese ally, Mitsubishi, was willing to ship over plenty of cars to be sold as Dodge and Plymouth Colts (we will not discuss the wretched Plymouth Cricket aka Hillman Avenger at this time). The Colt didn’t get front-wheel-drive until 1979, though, so Chrysler USA turned to Chrysler Europe for the Simca-designed Horizon platform and began selling Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons in 1978.
Here’s an early Horizon in a Denver self-service yard.
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.
Members 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.
No, that’s not a typo— Chrysler made the Simca-derived Omnirizon all the way until the 1990 model year. I’ve been looking for a final-year example of an Omni or Horizon for quite a while now, and I finally found this one in a Denver self-serve yard over the weekend.
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.
Yesterday’s Junkyard Find was one of the better-known examples of the Simca-based “Omnirizon” platform, and you still see 80s Dodge Chargers here and there. What you won’t see often is today’s Junkyard Find, a first-year Plymouth Horizon. I found this one languishing in a Denver self-serve junkyard.
Is time slowing down? Just fifteen years separate this 1960 Imperial and the Horizon’s birth. Or was it just that Detroit was terribly slow to embrace the inevitability of modern European design? Better late then never, because not only were the Horizon and Omni the first proper small cars ever built in Detroit, they also saved Chrysler from irrelevance and bankruptcy just in the nick of time.
The passenger car-based mini pickup niche is as old as as the Crosley Roadside, if not older yet. It’s also a highly ephemeral one, that seems to repeatedly draw car makers to it like moths to the flame. And the results are about the same: here today; gone tomorrow.
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