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.
It was impossible to escape the word “Turbo” in the 1980s.
There were Turbo Aviators and Turbo Hoover vacuums. Turbo was a character on American Gladiators. There was even Turbo chewing gum, which came with a cool mini car poster wrapper. Turbo was a helluva drug in the 1980s, and Chrysler took note.
BMW offered one turbocharged gasoline model. Porsche offered three. But Chrysler? Over a 10 year span, the Pentastar turbocharged its entire car lineup, bringing us some 20 turbocharged models powered by no less than six different variations of the 2.2- and 2.5-liter inline-fours.
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.
I’ve spent the past few weeks examining the possibilities. Some of you might remember an article or two that I wrote back in January about my desire to find something sporty and fun to drive once the family and I get safely relocated to our new digs down Leavenworth way. A few folks who read our fine website contacted me by e-mail to offer up various vehicles that meet the requirements I set and I had a good time imagining myself behind the wheel of each and every one of them. One of those cars struck a special chord with me and its owner and I have exchanged several emails in the weeks since. I am thinking now, should fate somehow not manage to intervene in the best laid plan of this large but mousey man, that I might take some of the mad amounts of money I make writing for TTAC and purchase it. Don’t tell my wife.
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.
Even as the K-cars became a huge success, Chrysler didn’t give up on the Simca-derived Omnirizon platform. In fact, the 2.2/2.5 engine helped extend the Omnirizon’s life until the 1990s. We’ve seen a fair number of Omnirizon-based Junkyard Finds, including this ’78 Horizon, this ’84 Turismo, this ’85 Shelby Charger, this ’86 Omni, and this this Shelby-ized ’86 Omni GLH, and now I’ve managed to find one of the rarest of all: the pickup-truck Omnirizon!
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.
You’d think that the Shelby-ized Dodges of the 1980s would be sought-after collector’s items nowadays… but you’d be wrong. The Omni GLH/GLHS had to be the best performance-per-dollar deal of any new car you could buy during the mid-to-late 1980s, but its humble Simca origins and disposable nature mean that surviving examples aren’t worth fixing up once they get in rough condition.
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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- FreedMike Paging Corey...
- MeJ Seems like every answer here is "no, I don't use my phone while driving except...this, this, and this."C'mon people. Partially guilty is still guilty. Just put the stupid thing away.And, no, I never use my phone while driving. Half the time I just leave it at home because nothing is as important as we like to think it is.
- BklynPete Oh really? I don't recall the Fiesta and Focus getting recommendations when saddled with that awful DCT. Nor are the last generation Taurus or current Explorer and Escape on their recommended lists.
- Bobby D'Oppo I won't pretend that yet another earth-splitting land barge is the type of product that speaks to me, but I do think it's worth anticipating some impressive refinements from a new range-topping "volume" model from Porsche. Will it be enough to alleviate the pain of the combustion-powered Boxster twins' looming demise? Hopefully the answer is "Yes!" for Porsche's shareholders, because for me it's a stretch.
- Jeanbaptiste Seems pricey.