1990 Dodge Omni
|Also called||Plymouth Horizon|
|Assembly||Belvidere, Illinois (1977–1990)
Kenosha, Wisconsin (1985–1988)
|Body and chassis|
Dodge Omni 024
Plymouth Horizon TC3
|Engine||1.6 L Simca 6J I4
1.7 L Volkswagen I4
2.2 L K I4
2.2 L Turbo I I4
|Transmission||4-speed Volkswagen manual
5-speed Chrysler manual
3-speed A404 automatic
3-speed A413 automatic
|Wheelbase||99.1 in (2,517 mm)|
|Length||163.2 in (4,145 mm)|
|Width||66.8 in (1,697 mm)|
|Height||53.0 in (1,346 mm)|
The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon were subcompact cars produced by Chrysler from December 1977 to 1990. The Omni and Horizon were re-engineered variants of the French Simca Horizon, and were the first of many front-wheel drive Chrysler products to follow, including the Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant and the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager/Chrysler Town and Country.
The Dodge Omni and the Plymouth Horizon were front-wheel drive, five-door hatchbacks, introduced by the Dodge and Plymouth divisions of Chrysler in North America in 1977 (for the 1978 model year). The Omni and Horizon were the first front-wheel drive cars produced by Chrysler, and among the first American front-wheel drive cars to sell in large numbers. (Previous front-wheel drive American cars such as the Cord 810, Cadillac Eldorado, and Oldsmobile Toronado were low-volume luxury cars.)
The Omni and Horizon were loosely based on the Horizon, a subcompact car designed by Simca, the French division of Chrysler Europe, and built on the then-new L platform. It survived, in various guises, in Europe until 1987.
Born largely out of the need to replace the aging Simca 1100, the Horizon was essentially a shortened version of the larger Alpine, giving the vehicle an unusually wide track for its length. The Horizon, or Project C2 as it was known inside Simca during development, was intended to be a "world car" (designed for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic), but, in execution, the European and North American versions of the vehicle actually turned out to have very little in common. When Chrysler exited the European car market (and sold assets to Peugeot, which subsequently sold the same car in Europe as the Talbot Horizon) in 1978, Chrysler retained the North American rights to the car, and began production at Belvidere.
Chrysler had previously avoided building a subcompact car, preferring to use branded imports like the Mitsubishi-made Dodge Colt instead. Presented as a significant domestic development, the models were initially priced starting at US$2,500. The Dodge Omni was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1978, and the related Talbot Horizon was voted European Car of the Year in 1979.
The Omni and Horizon appeared at a critical time for Chrysler, when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy and sought government support to survive. In 1978, Chrysler had beaten out Ford and General Motors to the market with a domestically-produced front-wheel drive car to challenge the VW Rabbit. Howefer, the L-bodies miscarried at first, since 1978 was a year of strong sales for larger cars and demand for compacts and subcompacts noticeably shrank. These initial poor sales of the cars contributed to Chrysler's financial woes at the time, but when the company requested federal assistance, the Omni was an important piece of evidence that they were attempting to compete with imports and build small, fuel-efficient cars and might be worth saving. For the three years leading up to the introduction of Chrysler's K-cars, the Omni/Horizon was Chrysler's best selling model line.
The Omni and Horizon had few interchangeable parts with their European siblings. Aside from the heavier-looking American body panels and bumpers, the OHV Simca engines were replaced with 1.7 L OHC engines sourced from Volkswagen, while MacPherson strut front suspension took the place of the torsion bar arrangement found in the European Horizon. The Volkswagen engine used an enlarged Chrysler-designed cylinder head and intake manifold and produced 75 hp (56 kW) and 90 lb·ft (122 N·m). Originally, only the CARB-certified version with an air pump and 70 hp (52 kW) had been available. In 1979 power climbed to 77 hp (57 kW), while by 1980 it dropped to 68 hp (51 kW) and 83 lb·ft (113 N·m) of torque in all fifty states.
The HVAC controls were mounted to the left of the steering wheel rather than in the center stack like in most vehicles, meaning only the driver could adjust the interior temperature. Other Chrysler Corporation products (including the Dodge Charger and Chrysler Cordoba), as well as vehicles from other manufacturers came with instrument panels that placed the HVAC controls in this general location during the 1970s.
Shortly after their introduction Consumer Reports tested the models and reported that it lost control in hard maneuvering. As front-wheel-drive cars were still considered a new idea in Detroit, the allegation received extensive mainstream coverage, including a piece in Time Magazine. Other auto magazines reported no problems and said the test did not approximate real-world driving conditions. Chrysler made modifications that included a steering damper and a lighter-weight steering wheel.
A special, partially equipped, model with extra high gas mileage also appeared, called the "Miser". Chrysler's 2.2 L K-car engine appeared for the 1981 model year as an upmarket option to the Volkswagen engine, mated to a new four-speed manual with an overdrive fourth. It produced 84 hp (63 kW) at first, rising to 93 hp (69 kW) and finally 96 hp (72 kW) by the end of production. The Volkswagen 1.7 was replaced by a Simca 1.6 L inline-four unit in 1983. This engine produced 62 hp (46 kW) and 86 lb·ft (117 N·m), and was only available with a manual transmission. The Omni/Horizon received a facelift for the 1984 model year.
In 1985, Chrysler entered an agreement with American Motors Corporation (AMC) to produce Chrysler M platform rear-drive, as well as Omnis and Horizons, in AMC's Kenosha, Wisconsin plant, because AMC could produce the cars for less money. The 2.2 L Chrysler inline-four cylinder was the only available engine from 1987 onwards. By this point, the L-bodies were consolidated into a single-trim "America" line in the interest of improved quality control and reduced costs. Despite the P-body Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance effectively superseding the Omni/Horizon in 1987, the cars were kept in production for another three years since their tooling had been amortized and each one sold turned a profit.
Chrysler invested in a number of significant changes that ended up being used for only one year; the cars gained larger exterior rear-view mirrors (borrowed from the departed M-body sedans), a driver's side airbag and a mildly redesigned instrument panel, complete with HVAC controls moved to the center.
The Omni and the Horizon ended production in 1990, and were replaced by the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance, which were both introduced for 1987. It outlived the European version by three years; Peugeot had bought Chrysler's European division in 1978 and re-badged the Horizon (along with the rest of the British Chrysler and French Simca range) as Talbots, with production lasting until 1987.
The 024 and TC3 were marketed as sporty cars, although the 77–94 hp (57–70 kW) four-cylinder engines were not powerful and the coupés weighed more than the hatchbacks. The TC3 was renamed the Plymouth Turismo, and the 024 the Dodge Charger in 1983. The last 1,000 Dodge Chargers were modified by Carroll Shelby into Shelby GLHSs.
The ultimate Dodge Omni was the modified Omni GLH. The original name, "Coyote", was rejected, and Carroll Shelby's choice, the initials GLH, which stood for "Goes Like Hell", were taken instead. The 1984 model year was the first year of the GLH, which carried over most of the modifications that had been made the previous year to the Shelby Charger. 1985 was the debut of the GLH-T model with the Turbo I (K) engine option. This engine, at low boost (7.2 PSi) coupled with the car's very low weight (as low as 2,200 lb (1,000 kg)), earned this car its name. The car carried over into 1986 unchanged aside from the addition of a hatch-mounted third tail light, and production was then stopped.
The final 500 GLH-T cars (all black) were sold to Shelby, who used them as the basis for the 1986 Shelby GLHS ("Goes Like Hell Some more"). These cars were modified by Carroll Shelby in California and sold as Shelbys. With 175 horsepower (130 kW) and 175 lb·ft (237 N·m) of torque, the Shelby GLHS was a modified 2.2 with a Turbo 2 setup which included a two piece blow-through intake (the GLH-T was a draw-through turbo design) Shelby ECU, boost raised to a conservative 12psi, T2 turbocharger compressor cover, and a front-mounted intercooler. The short block stayed the same between the GLH-T and GLHS. Further modifications included 205/50R15 Eagle GT Gatorback tires mounted on Shelby Centurian wheels, Koni adjustable struts and shocks, and stiffer springs. Different decals were also part of the package. Silver pin stripes down the ground effects along with "Shelby" decals replaced the standard red GLH-T decals. A "Shelby" decal was added to the windshield and a large "GLHS" decal on the driver side rear sail panel. All GLHS cars came with a numbered dash plaque, Mobil 1 valve cover plaque, Momo shift knob and Shelby leather wrapped steering wheel and A black-yellow overlay sticker was placed at the bottom of the speedometer to read to 135 mph.
Production stopped on February 2, 1990, with a total of 961,508 Omnis/Horizons assembled.
- Mastrostefano, Raffaele, ed. (1985). Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A. p. 249. ISBN 88-7212-012-8.
- Vance, Bill (28 April 2006). "Motoring Memories: Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, 1978-1990". autos canada. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- Hogg, Tony (ed.). "1981 Buyer's Guide". Road & Track's Road Test Annual & Buyer's Guide 1981 (January–February 1981): 93.
- "An inside job on the imports", Road & Track's Road Test Annual & Buyer's Guide 1979, Greenwich, CT: CBS Publications, p. 166, January–February 1979
- R&T Buyer's Guide 1979, p. 93
- "Storm over Omni-Horizon". Time. 26 June 1978. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- "Development of the Chrysler - Talbot - Simca Horizon". Rootes-chrysler.co.uk. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- Griffey, Evan (2007). "Cool Cars We Miss". MSN. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- Sessler, Peter C. (2001). Dodge and Plymouth Muscle Car 1964-2000. Motorbooks. p. 196. ISBN 9780760308011. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
- Comer T., Colin (2009). The Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles. Motorbooks. p. 209. ISBN 9780760335789. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plymouth Horizon.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dodge Omni.|
- Allpar's Omni/Horizon page
- Plymouth Horizon-o-Rama
- Canadian Driver
- Front-Runners.net Road Test (PDF)
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