Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nostalgic Subcompact: Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni

Red Plymouth Horizon in Portland, Oregon
Plymouth Horizon seen in Portland, Oregon.
Subcompact Culture contributor, Ducati Scotty, found the above-pictured Plymouth Horizin in Portland earlier this week. Every now and then, you run across one of these cars, but rarely are they in this good of shape.

The Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni were twins from the Chrysler Corporation. These vehicles were offered from 1978 all the way up until 1990. Assembled in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Horizon/Omni were Chrysler's answer to the Volkswagen Rabbit. However, there's a reason they look somewhat European, and that's because the cars were developed by Chrysler's French division, Simca before the company was sold to Peugeot.

The front-wheel drive duo were powered by the first transversely mounted engine made by a U.S. automaker. Early models actually used a 1.7-liter engine sourced from Volkswagen, with a 2.2-liter Chrysler engine becoming an option in 1981. The VW 1.7 as replaced by a 64 hp Simca 1.6 in 1983, while the 2.2-liter engine soldiered on. Towards the end of its production, the 2.2-liter engine produced 96 hp, and it became the only engine you could get starting in 1987.

Dodge Omni GLHS

In 1984, Dodge hopped into the hot-hatch game with it's Omni GLH, or "Goes Like Hell." version, which made 110 naturally aspirated horsepower, but featured a revised suspension, different wheels, and such. The GLH didn't get its turbo until the following year, when it was force-fed 7.2 lbs. of boost and made 146 hp and 170 ft/lbs of torque. Omni GLH models also had ground effects, different suspension tuning, unique graphics, and 15" aluminum wheels. The 0-60 times were in the mid-to-upper eight-second range, which was quite respectable for the 1980s.

And if that hatch wasn't hot enough for you, in 1986, Chrysler released the Omni GLHS Shelby, which had 175 hp and 175 ft/lbs. of torque thanks to different manifolds and an intercooler. GLHS models also got tinted windows, BOSCH driving lights, 14:1 rack-and-pinion steering, bigger sway bars, larger brakes, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and more. These things were fast, too. Weighing in at only 2,200 lbs., 0-60 times were in the low six-second range—quick even to today's standards. Black was the only color available and only 500 versions were produced.

These cars sold pretty darn well, with peak sales topping 141,477 units in 1979, although sales dwindled to only 16,733 its last year. Regardless, a 12-year run isn't too bad for a car. I still can't believe you could buy a new Omni all the way up until 1990.  Our family owned what I believe was an '80 or '81 Omni, and I remember it well. It was dark blue with a tan interior, and it was great in the snow

The Horizon/Omni twins were put out to pasture in 1990. They were replaced by the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Duster coupe/sedan.

1 comment:

nlpnt said...

That's a really early model - only the first couple years had the amber rear signals and option of the Light Package with fender-mounted signals facing the driver*. I can't see that orange color being offered too long into the '80s either.

*I had an '81 Omni Miser as my first car and wonder how the driver could've seen the right-side one (which mine didn't have) from the driver's seat.