In 1978, most people would have had substantial difficulty keeping a straight face if saying “Dodge Omni” and “high performance” in the same sentence. With only a 1.7 liter Volkswagen engine initially available, anyone seeking a Dodge Omni (and its cousin, the Plymouth Horizon) was also seeking fuel economy and cheap transportation.
In that vein, these cars truly delivered. It could easily be argued that these little cars are what kept Chrysler afloat during the lean years of 1978 to 1981, as initial sales volume of the Omnirizon was around 182,000 units. With sales consistent during 1979, compare this to 1979 sales of the Dodge Aspen at roughly 140,000 and St. Regis sales of just under 35,000. By the end of production in 1990, Chrysler produced almost 2.5 million Omnirizon’s of which nearly 1,000,000 were Omni’s.
As a side note, there was a two-door derivative, called the Dodge Omni 024 and Plymouth Horizon TC3. 1979 saw 120,000 of these go out the Mopar sales door.
By the early ’80’s, when the malaise of the 1970’s was starting to wane, the word “performance” was worming its way back into the automotive vernacular without being accompanied by snickering. Chrysler, seeking to get a piece of the action, sought the help of the late Carroll Shelby.
The Shelby massage was first seen on the 1984 Omni with the introduction of a 110 horsepower 2.2 liter 4-banger. This was the initial punch.
1985 saw this taken to the next step with a turbocharged, 146 horsepower version of the familiar 2.2 liter. For a car weighing just over 2000 pounds, this was a very potent combination for the time. Dubbed “Omni GLH” for “Goes Like Hell”, this car stuck around for 1986. Around 11,000 were made for the 1985 and 1986 model years. All GLH cars had special wheels and blackout trim.
I found these triplets in red, black, and blue behind the locked fence of a closed storage unit. The blue one was the most elusive, as I could not see much more than what is seen in these pictures. The black one is a 1985 model as it lacks the third brake light; the other two are either 1985 or 1986 models.
Shelby would provide more vigor for the Omni with the GLHS (standing for “Goes Like Hell and then Some”) in 1987.
While these appear to have been hibernating for a while, I would wager it may not take much to get them roaring again.