What is it about this little car that endeared it so much to me? A common little hatchback, unassuming and utilitarian? Allow me to explain…
I was going to college, and the Monte Carlo had donated its engine for my truck. Once the fall came, it was time to start looking for another cheap winter beater. A friend of my father had recently bought a new car, and was selling his old Horizon. Was I interested? I went to look. An ’85 Horizon, 2.2 L/5 speed combination, in need of paint and some rocker panel work. It started right up, with no smoke or valve or piston clatter. The clutch was slipping, so that would have to be attended to. I could have it for $200. The price was right, so I bought it. The clutch was replaced by a friend of the car’s owner for another hundred or so dollars, and we picked it up. I was impressed. We fixed up the body, gave it a coat of blue paint, and called it a day.
The car was peppy on the road, so much more so than the Cavalier and Acadian previously owned. It seemed to me, anyway, to have power delivery similar to that of the F-100 with the 300 six – in that it had lots of torque on the pull away, but not much above 3500 RPM. It didn’t have power steering, but the steering wasn’t really heavy at all. The shifter had some play, but shimming the bushings in the rod-based linkage with some plastic helped a bit.
The car held other revelations as well. Despite having as what I remember as an odd driving position, sitting low with seatbacks that did not come up anywhere near straight, it was comfortable enough. The car, despite not having power steering, did have a full gauge cluster, complete with a 160+ KM/H speedometer, and a little green triangle light in the right hand gauge pod that’d come on to get you to shift early and save fuel. It had intermittent wipers. The armrest would slide out of the way when the park brake was applied, and the first decent cupholder I’d ever seen in a car – ahead of the shifter was a little bin, with a sliding cover. Under that was another plastic plate that’d take two Tim Hortons coffee cups. I fell in love with the little car. I tinkered a bit with it, giving it a tuneup. I noticed what looked like liquid in the secondary barrel of the carburetor. The throttle plate had siezed closed, what with the car being used in town all the time. Upon cleaning it and freeing it up, the car had quite a bit more power.
The car served me well. Two years back and forth to college, to work terms, trips to the provincial capital of Halifax – over 400 KM away. The car never failed to start once – not in the cold, not in the wet, or even in the depths of winter. It was fun to drive, economical, and reliable. The narrow little 13 inch tires allowed it to go in amazing amounts of snow.
All good things have to come to an end, and this one came to an unfortunate one in my eyes in retrospect. The car had developed a rhythmic thumping noise, which would diminish with a little bit of pressure on the steering wheel, either right or left. As I had recently gotten a work term through university with the computer department of a federal agency in Halifax, Dad determined the car should be checked over by the family mechanic. He diagnosed the differential was at fault, and the car was parked. Looking back with the benefit of experience, I suspect it was just a set of inner or outer tie rod ends at fault, and the car could have been easily fixed. However, given my father’s distrust of Chrysler products, and his love of General Motors products – he figured I should get a good, reliable GM product…and my uncle just happened to have something that fit the bill.