Once the Dodge Omni/ Plymouth Horizon, front-wheel-drive econoboxes that began life as Chrysler Europe designs, proved to be strong sellers in North America, Lee Iacocca and his poker buddies decided that a pickup based on the Omnirizon platform would be a fine idea. The result was the Dodge Rampage and its Plymouth-badged sibling, the Scamp. I found one of those cartrucks in a Denver-area wrecking yard a while back.
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.
Today’s Rare Ride was inspired directly by this comment on the Question of the Day, where I asked which car brand you’d bring back from the dead if given the chance. Commenter Menlo suggested the oft-forgotten Talbot, and specifically a unique vehicle they used to make.
Now we can all learn about the Matra Rancho.
The French have always had a penchant for doing things a little differently. Take Matra, for example.
The Matra R530 is a medium range air-to-air missile normally fitted to the Dassault Mirage fighter jet.
The Matra M530, on the other hand, is a mid-engine sports car. Of course, that was no coincidence, as the first real Matra sports car was named after the missile built by the same company’s weapon division.
Yet the company’s abnormal conventions didn’t end at naming a mid-engine sports car after an infrared homing missile, making Matra one of the more interesting — albeit obscure — footnotes in French automotive history. The company went from producing front-line weaponry to winning the Formula One title in five years, won Le Mans three times on the trot, and produced some of the first minivans. Yet, at the height of their power, they hung up their automotive jacket and today they produce….bicycles?
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.
Who would have thought, in the late 1960s, that the future held front-wheel-drive Chargers, based on a French platform? Or that Carroll Shelby’s name would be on some of those cars? The Shelby Chryslers aren’t worth a whole bunch today, which means that non-perfect ones show up in cheap self-serve wrecking yards all the time; we’ve seen this ’87 Daytona Shelby Z, this ’86 Omni GLH, this ’85 Shelby Charger, and this ’84 Shelby Charger so far, and now I’ve spotted a very rough but still recognizable ’87 Shelby Charger in the San Francisco Bay Area.
During my recent trip to Sweden, I took in a Folkrace, saw many old American cars on the street, visited a farm full of restored classic Chryslers, and, of course, went to the junkyard. We’ve seen this 1966 Toyota Crown station wagon and this 1963 Ford Taunus 17M at Bloms Bilskrot in Söråker, and now here’s a very rusty example of a car that was popular in Europe but never made much of an impression in North America: the Simca 1000.
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.
The Simca-derived Omnirizon platform led to some sportier-looking variations as the Malaise Era ground to a close. The hatchback-coupe Dodge 024 and Plymouth TC3 became the Charger and the Turismo, respectively, in 1982. Turismos were never plentiful, and these days they’re nearly extinct. Here’s a rare example I found yesterday at a Denver self-serve 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.
40-year-old cars have an edge on the Index of Effluency, LeMons racing’s top prize. Chrysler products also have an edge. And, of course, French cars have a huge edge on the IOE. When you race a car that’s simultaneously 40 years old, a Chrysler, and French… well, just keep it running most of the weekend and the big trophy is likely to go home with you.
I find it impossible not to get obsessed with the idea of a 1960s Chrysler product with factory-installed Ardun-hemi-headed Ford V8-60, and now TTAC reader Paolo has sent us some photos of his extremely clean Esplanada.
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- Ajla There is inventory on the ground but as pointed out it is generally high dollar trims of high-dollar models and at least around here dealers still aren't budging off their mandatory nitrogen tires and Summer weather protection packages.You aren't paying '21-'22 prices anymore but it's still a long way to go.
- Slavuta Every electric car must come with a film about lithium mining
- Sobhuza Trooper Drop a good, high-strung German engine in this and you'd have American flair with German repair costs!
- Kwik_Shift I'll just drive my Frontier into the ground as planned. Possibly find an older "fun" car to collect.
- Lorenzo The solution is so simple: if the driver shifts into neutral without applying the parking brake, the horn sounds and lights flash until the parking brake is applied. After the third time, the driver should be insulted by a voice saying, "Shouldn't your wife be driving?", or "Where did you get your license - Dollar Store?"