(first posted 1/28/2013) It’s rather remarkable that this car managed to appear when it did. In late 1978, when Chrysler Corporation was in the depths of its worst crisis to date, this swoopy, rebodied Horizon coupe debuted–and indeed, continued on through many years of production. You would never know how common these cars once were, as nearly all of them have disappeared from the face of the earth. But there’s still one in my neck of the woods.
Before we begin the TC3’s story, we have to go back to its source: the 1978 Plymouth Horizon. Along with its badge-engineered Dodge Omni sibling, these mini-Mopars brought FWD fuel efficiency to Chrysler Corporation’s decidedly thirsty and out-of-date lineup–and all thanks to Simca, which Chrysler had purchased in more flush times. Thanks to their familiarity with space-efficient, fuel-efficient cars like the 1204 (CC here), the resulting “Omnirizon” duo were a fresh breath of air compared with the bulky mid-size Fury and that recall-champeen, the Volaré.
It may have looked suspiciously like a Volkswagen Rabbit–and indeed, utilized a VW-built, 1.7L (104.7 CID) inline four–but the Horizon sold well. I’m sure that came as a relief to many C-P salesmen, who previously had to convince customers to purchase a Volaré over the much more modern Ford Fairmont, or the 1971-vintage Fury over a newly-downsized Malibu or B-body Impala. Finally, here was a Mopar product people wanted rather than settled for! The $3,976 five-door hatchback sold a healthy 106,772 units in inaugural 1978, but didn’t stand alone for long: The companion TC3 sport coupe joined it for the 1979 model year.
The Horizon TC3 was basically a 96.7″ wheelbase, 2+2 coupe version of the Horizon five-door. It shared much with its sibling, including its 70-hp, four-cylinder engine, transmissions and much of the undercarriage. Nonetheless, it certainly appeared different on the outside, and looked very modern for the late ’70s. One you got behind the wheel, though, you knew it had a lot in common with the five-door, with which it shared the entire dashboard. Interiors and exteriors were suitably colorful; after all, this was before Silver Car Fever overtook motordom.
At a starting price of $4,864, the 2,195 lb. sportster cost a bit more than the more Rabbit-like Horizon. Naturally, a wealth of factory- and dealer-installed goodies were available for a price. While the 70-horse engine was no hot-rod powerplant, I imagine it performed somewhat decently considering the TC3’s light curb weight. Actually, it was the sportiest thing to be found in C-P showrooms and a model sorely needed by Plymouth, as the mid-size Fury had departed in 1978.
In 1979, in the Plymouth corner of the showroom, you had the Volaré (at least it was available in coupe, sedan and wagon versions), the Horizon five-door and the Horizon TC3–and for cars, that was it, unless you count such captive imports as the Sapporo (CC here) and Arrow. Poor Plymouth: Just a few years earlier, they had the Fury, Barracuda, Belvedere, Road Runner, Satellite and luxury VIP. Now at least they had a fun, sporty offering like this in their shrunken product line. By late ’70s standards, the TC3 was a nice little sports coupe. Just don’t confuse it for a GTX or ’68 Barracuda Formula S.
As I was checking out our featured CC, I was surprised to see the Horizon badging. I didn’t know the early ones were anything other than TC3s. Even after writing for CC for over a year–and being a car nut of the highest order for the previous thirty-one–I can still learn something new! This one still has what appears to be a factory-installed sport stripe. Obviously it is faded, but I think it was originally navy blue, silver and white. Although the paint is equally faded, it appears to be Cadet Blue Metallic, a 1979 factory color.
Despite costing about $400 more than an equivalent five-door Horizon–a not insignificant sum back then–the TC3 sold respectably in its first year, with 63,715 built. No doubt many were loaded up with lots of appearance and comfort options, including stripes, two-tone paint, power steering, power brakes and A/C. Seats came in either cloth or vinyl. The Premium Interior Package, shown in red in the third and fourth photos from the top, turned your TC3 into a near-Cordoba inside. Just don’t ask for Corinthian leather. Our CC here has the standard Custom all-vinyl trim.
A Premium Appearance Package, Sport Package and Rallye Equipment Group were also available. The latter included a rear spoiler; rally wheels, with bright lugnuts and trim rings; and sport suspension. As far as engines were concerned, you were stuck with the 1.7-liter four, but you could specify an automatic if you didn’t want the standard four-speed manual.
The original owner (who perhaps is still the current owner) must have worked at the Rock Island Arsenal, as indicated by the faded but still distinctive sticker on the left side of the bumper. My parents were members of the Arsenal Golf Club in the ’80s, and I remember that their Volvos had similar ID stickers to allow access to the base. By the mid-’90s, they did away with them, and you simply told the guard at the front gate where you were going. After 9/11, they got ID cards instead of a sticker.
Here’s a fun fact: this car was sold by the same local C-P dealer as another 1979 Mopar product featured here on CC, this 1979 Chrysler Newport. It’s cool to imagine them sitting on the showroom floor together!
Here’s the back seat. As you can see, GM was not the only company that used Multi-Fade™ interior components in the ’70s. The vinyl is in very nice shape, but the moldings have faded to a dirty-white/gray color. Initially I wondered what the button on the interior panel was for, and then I realized that it must be the release for the fold-down back seat.
I first saw this car back in 2007-08, when I would frequently take Iowa Street in Davenport to get to work. I tended to avoid Brady Street, as I didn’t care for the five-minute traffic lights that are rife along that arterial road. So one day I took a slightly different route, and saw this light blue TC3. This was in my pre-camera-in-the-car, pre-CC days, but I remember thinking that that was a rare bird these days. Just a few weeks ago, I remembered that there was a neat old car in that area (I didn’t remember that it was a TC3, just that it had been something interesting), and I had to check and see if it was still there. I was fairly sure it would be–it just had the look of a car that has been a part of the neighborhood for a long time–and I was pleasantly surprised to see it in the very same spot.
And check out that blue vinyl interior! You can tell from the nice seats and ample fake wood on the dash and doors that the TC3 was a cut above the regular Horizon in its standard, no-frills version. And check out that copy of Der Spiegel on the passenger seat. For a minute I thought I was in Eugene! Another thing you won’t see on a late-model car is a floor-mounted automatic, sans console.
The Horizon TC3 continued much the same for 1980, when 67,738 were sold. In 1981 a no-frills Miser model was added, but sales stumbled, first to the tune of 36,312, and then to an all-time low of 12,889 for 1982. However, that was pretty much the same story for every other make: Due to the ongoing recession, no one was very interested in buying a new car, least of all at the current double-digit interest rates. Yikes!
In 1982, the coupe lost its Horizon moniker and became simply TC3. The very next year it was renamed Turismo. Also appearing in ’83 was a sportier “2.2” model, which received a 94-hp, 2.2-liter inline four in place of the 1.7. In addition to the larger engine, it received a fake hood scoop, stripes, “2.2” decals and rallye wheels.
I would also be remiss not to at least mention the Turismo’s pickup pal, the Scamp. These cool vehicles were offered for only a short period of time. While the Dodge was available between 1982 and 1984, the 1983-only Plymouth variant was especially scarce. A neat idea and cool utility, these have always reminded me a bit of the VW Pickup sold at about the same time.
The Turismo carried on for several more years, earning itself a 1984 slight facelift with a smoother nose and other minor changes. Also available was a Duster Package with “Duster” decals on the front fender and 13-inch Rallye wheels. The niece of my parents’ friends used to babysit me in the mid-to-late ’80s and she had a Turismo like this one, though I don’t remember if it was a Duster or not. I rode in it at least once, and I remember thinking it was pretty cool.
Between 1984 and 1986, the Turismo sold in the high 30K- to low-40K range despite minimal changes. It was a nice package: a reliable Horizon with sportier sheet metal, two doors and an attractive price. The last ones were built in 1987, when less than 25K came off the line. By that time, the price had risen to the tune of $7,199.
But like all cheap and cheerful cars of the ’70s and ’80s, many of them were used, abused and then disposed of. They used to be everywhere, but this blue example is the first one I recall seeing in nearly ten years. Good to know at least one is still on the road!
It is easy to forget how advanced these were in 1979. Remember that Ford was still offering the Pinto and Chevy was still offering the Monza. IIRC, the Toyotas and Datsuns were still rwd as well. When this car came out in 1979, I was sure that Chrysler’s problems were over. Unfortunately, no.
One minor nit – Chrysler did not purchase whole VW engines, only 1.7L engine blocks. The 1.7 blocks were supplied under an agreement that was limited to 300K units per year. The Omnirizon was in such demand (particularly in 1980-81 at the height of high gas prices) that Chrysler could have sold many, many more, but their engine supply was limited and VW was unwilling to supply more blocks. The 2.2 was a Chrysler engine, and once production got up to speed (and after the K cars were supplied) the 2.2 was put to work in these as well.
I believe that the engines turned out to be the weakest link in these cars over the long term, both the 1.7 and 2.2. They were quite good against corrosion and as we can see here, the interior materials proved to be quite durable. I think that there were also a lot of nickle and dime issues on these as well. My mother bought an 80 Horizon sedan (same colors in and out as this one, only with navy blue lower sides) and it was a decent car, though not a great one.
A great find. It’s funny how some cars immediately bring up old pangs of love. This one does it for me.
Just so no one gets the wrong idea, by blocks, you mean long blocks, including the head and all the internal components. In other words, the complete engine, minus all the peripherals, like the manifolds, carb, and such.
I had remembered press accounts from the time. I checked Allpar, and you are mostly right. Allpar called it a short block that was shipped to the Trenton engine plant, where manifolds, fuel delivery, and timing sprockets/belts along with all peripherals. There were also apparently quite a few changes to the L body engine block casting compared with the engine going into Rabbits (mainly to accommodate different transmissions and different underhood dimensions), so it was not the simple drop-in that I had remembered. I had also forgotten that it was a cast iron block. Now that I have done my homework, I know the subject better. 🙂
You got me intrigued; Allpar actually calls it a “short engine”, which is certainly an apt description, if perhaps not a very common one. Or maybe it is?
The way I’ve always know it is a short engine is the block and reciprocating assembly, and a long engine is the complete engine less manifolds and accessories.
My first new car was purchased in 1979 at age 20. Parents wouldn’t cosign but I had a trusting aunt who helped out. I was in college, living on my own and working as a waiter on weekends to pay my bills. Mine was just like the brochure cover with the brown tweed seats. Wife and I honeymooned in that car in 1980. I couldn’t afford the Camaro, Firebird or Mustang and felt this car at least looked fast and sporty even if it wasn’t. Traded it in 1982 for an Oldsmobile Omega, what a dud. Traded that in ’84 for Dodge Daytona, similar style as Tc3 but larger and more powerful.
I spotted a good stuff at http://www.hamtramck-historical.com/vintageRacing/1985Cuda/1985Cuda-01.shtml Some guys at Plymouth taught of using the 2.2l Turbo for the TC3/Turismo and revive the ‘Cuda name as a counterpart of the Shelby Charger of that era but Caroll Shelby was opposed to this idea and there still one surviving prototype running.
Awesome. Too bad they never rolled these out!
It is getting pretty rare to find one of those sporty Mopar 2-door hatchbacks. Considering it’s age, that one looks quite good, especially the interior. While home on leave from the USAF in 1978 or 1979 I looked at one of these that was the very similar Dodge model, the Omni 024. Although I never got around to test driving one, I did actually consider the purchase of an 024 based on the excellent fuel mileage. But, was a little too fond of my red,1973 Charger Rallye 340/automatic with a factory sunroof, which was still in great shape and good running condition, to think of getting rid of it to get something more fuel efficient. As mentioned previously, in December of 1987, I did purchase a blue, 1986 Shelby Charger which was seriously great fun to drive.
In 1984, my wife wanted a new car to replace her tired old 1974 Camaro. We dropped by the C/P Dealer one weekend and she fell for a new Turismo, black with red and orange decals and stripes, 4 speed with the 2.2, rally wheels with Goodyear Eagles and dirt cheap. We bought it the next day. It was a little hot rod from my recollection and fun to drive. A couple minor issues that the dealer was unable/unwilling to resolve were the only problems I can recall. It had a constant, annoying buzz in the dash at a certain rpm range. The fix was to disconnect and fill the speedometer cable tube with grease. This was only good for 3-5,000 miles and after 2 or 3 trips to the dealer under warranty, i started doing this myself. The second was a water leak in the cowl when it rained that flooded the passenger floor. The dealer had the car several times to fix the problem with no success. I finally took it apart myself and after applying caulk to the air intake, no more leak. I couldn’t believe how simple the fix was and I am sure no one at the dealer even looked at it.
This was my last experience with Chrysler. Crappy dealer = Crappy car reputation.
We traded it in after a couple years when my daughter arrived. It was too much of a pain to work the kid carrier in the tiny back seat so we moved on to a 4 door and to Ford.
Four years ago come May 5th, I purchased a 1984 Plymouth Turismo (base model) for only $100 after its second owner’s son failed to follow his late mother’s instructions to take the car to a shop and have the timing checked and instead chose to listen to his friend’s advice on setting the time resulting in his breaking off the end of a round file in cylinder #1 of which he could not get it out.
I ordered a new head gasket for it, removed the head and the broken piece of the round file. I then replaced the head gasket and re-installed the head. Since that time, I have had almost no problems with the car and it is still running good with a little over 263K miles. It still gets great gas mileage and rarely if ever needs any oil between oil changes. This little car has been the best $100 investment I think I have ever made. However, I do need a left front fender and a right windshield wiper motor (transmission) for it. So if anyone knows where I could find one since there are very few of these wonderful little cars on the road, please contact me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please and thank you in advance.
When the TC3/024 came out they should have been a revelation in what a compact economy car could be, but somehow they just didn’t catch on as they deserved to. The only complaint I had about these was that the steeply sloped hatchback robbed cargo capacity at the car’s very end, and IIRC it was too easy for tall back-seat riders to lean back just a little and crack their heads on the glass.
After posting earlier, I came to a conclusion: Somehow, the Omnirizon was the only new Old-Chrysler vehicle launched in that era without horrific glitches. We all remember the 76 Volare, the 79 R body – horrible quality disasters at launch-time, particularly since there was a lot of carry-over from older models. The 1981 K car was also pretty good out of the box, but there was a new sheriff in town and everyone knew that the company was riding on the car. The Omnirizon of 1978-79 was a surprisingly successful start of a brand-new vehicle at the end of the Riccardo-Cafiero era at Chrysler.
The 1978 Omni/Horizon (along with the 1975 Cordoba) were the two, brief successes that Chrysler had in the seventies, neither of which were hardly enough to compensate for the myriad other marketplace failures, particularly right after the 1973 Oil Embargo pretty much wiped-out the US’ appetite for traditional big cars. Chrysler simply didn’t have the resources to be able to downsize their highest profit big cars as quickly as Ford or GM and were saddled with dinosaurs which, in industry parlance, were ‘glued to the showroom floor’.
But the Omni/Horizon sold well (essentially the 4-door VW Rabbit) and went a long way to helping Chrysler get the loan guarantees it needed to survive. For the time, they weren’t bad cars, certainly no worse than anything else (and better than the upcoming X-car Citation).
An interesting design feature was that the HVAC controls were located to the left of the steering wheel, meaning passengers were at the mercy of the driver for any temperature adjustments.
The Cordoba had the benefit of launching in the fall of 1974 as a 75 model, which was about a year before everything really started to unravel. Lynn Townsend certainly knew when it was time to get the heck out of Dodge (so to speak). When he retired in 1975, he chose John Riccardo and Gene Cafiero as co-chairmen. Those two hated each other and everything went completely to hell. What few things had been working well got gummed up. From what I have read, the internal workings of the company were a disaster. Iacocca later said that if he had possessed any idea of how bad things really were, he would never have taken the job. Almost nobody from the old Chrysler management survived 2 years under Lido.
My favorite Riccardo story is when the Roadrunner became a hit (don’t know if he was onboard with it before or not), Riccardo was a junior Chrysler exec and wanted to make an entire Roadrunner model line, i.e., Roadrunner 4-door, station wagon, etc.
I read Iacocca’s statement on how bad the company was when he took over, too. Unfortunately, it’s a nice safe thing to say. If he restores the company to solvency, it makes him look like a miracle worker (which is what happened). If he had failed, well, it would have just been a case of “It was too far gone for me to save it”, which is exactly the excuse Iacocca gave for the abysmal ’81-’83 Imperial debacle, i.e., “It was too far along for me to stop it”.
Personally, though, even though it might not have originally been his idea, I think Iacocca was behind the last full-size Imperial coupe 100%. It was exactly the kind of car he was famous for championing (think Chrysler Continental Mk III), particularly the Frank Sinatra editions.
FWIW, Sinatra was smart enough to forego actually taking a free Imperial – he went with a Lebaron wagon. Gregory Peck (another Chrysler cheerleader at the time) wasn’t so lucky. His free Imperial was constantly breaking down on the LA freeways.
I’m not sure why, because I’ve only ever ridden in a 4-door Omnirizon or one of these 2-door hatches a handful of times, but I have a real affection for these little boxes. They are on the short list of everyday old cars that I watch for, hoping one day to find an original survivor in very good nick.
>>Somehow, the Omnirizon was the only new Old-Chrysler vehicle launched in that era without horrific glitches. <<
Road & Track did an owner's survey around 1980. As I recall, R&T said the Omnirizon had the second worst number of problem areas they had ever surveyed. They noted several owner comments, including one who "was sufficently discouraged to suggest that Chrysler be allowed to fail". I recall seeing a lot of the 4 doors on the road with the rear wiper frozen in midwipe.
Were they that worse than the other front drives at that time? VeeDubs burned oil and had a lot of electrical gremlins. Hondas rusted out in 3-4 years.
I test drove a TC3 with manual trans in Feb 80. The car seemed willing enough on a 4 mile or so loop. Only thing I didn't like was that I couldn't pull the key out of the ignition when I was done. The salesman said their was a "key release button" that had to be pressed to remove the key. Ended up buying something else though.
Wow, I really didn’t expect to be right… ish. I forgot these were originally called TC3s on the Plymouth side.
My first car was a 1984 Turismo 2.2, complete with flashy red/orange tape stripes proclaiming that fact all over the car’s light silver over dark gray two-tone. Dad bought it for me in November 1991 off the back lot at Quality Lincoln-Mercury off “L” Street. November 1991. 68,000 miles, if memory serves, and one owner – a schoolteacher.
Mine was completely loaded, including an automatic (sadly I didn’t learn to drive a manual until a few years later) and a HUGE removable glass sunroof. The car was in amazingly good shape, with only two noticeable dents throughout and a few minor door dings, but it was a mechanical nightmare – all engine fluids leaked from it in various capacities, and the engine wouldn’t hold a warm idle. It wasn’t long before my joy in having a car of my own was overshadowed by the pain of ownership.
The first week I had the car, a friend of mine replaced the blown-out Chrysler cassette deck with a $30 Kraco. On the way home from his house in Papillion, I stopped by our mechanic’s shop so he could once again adjust the idle to prevent the car from stalling out at every stoplight. Setting the idle to 1,000 rpm “cured” the problem, and also made shifting into gear an interesting ordeal, but at least the damn thing would now only stall at every third stoplight or so. That made it fun driving home from the shop during a rush-hour blizzard, though the car was amazingly surefooted on snow and ice. I’ve never owned a better winter driver.
I had the Turismo for less than a year. Once my family moved down to New Mexico in July ’92, it was nearly impossible to keep the 2.2L engine running in the high altitude, and the prospect of driving it 33 miles each way to school wasn’t an appealing one. It was replaced by a ’92 Geo Storm, and sat parked for several months until an Albuquerque mechanic bought it as a project. I occasionally saw it around town for the next four years.
At the time, it would be fair to say that I hated my first car… but if I ever find one in decent shape, I’d absolutely love to have another one.
I bought a new 81 Omni in 1981 and found it to be a very comfortable car for a small car. Seemed to ride as well as a large car and the seats were first class with interior finish to match in our upscale model. We drove it from Ohio to California and back very comfortably in its first year. However, someone above did mention nickel and dime issues and mine had these by the boatload. We kept it about 3 years and being tired of the continuous repair bills, I then traded it for a used 81 Toyota Corolla wagon that was far less comfortable but free of frequent repair needs. That was followed sometime later by a used 84 Toyota Cressida wagon. The Cressida was one of our favorites though I do recall that none of the Japanese cars we owned over many years were anywhere near as comfortable as the 81 Omni. Even the 93 Nissan Maxima we owned for 10 years and 250,000 trouble free miles fell short of the Omni in ride and seating comfort.
I had one of these, in its 1984 iteration known as the Dodge Charger. This was my first new car and it looked quite sharp sitting there under the lights at Freeman Chrysler-Plymouth in Lumberton, NC. However, its good looks could not be matched by the absolute lack of quality and miserability in driving it on a day-to-day basis. Vibrations, leaks, and a definite feel of “putting on the brakes” when the air conditioner compressor cycled on and off led me to trade it off for an ’86 Thunderbird in 1987. Funny thing, my best friend had an ’85 Dodge Aries with the same 2.2 engine and her car was much smoother than the Charger. The strong selling point was the 5/50 warranty – but as I argued with the dealer who was at a loss for fixing the problems: “what good is the warranty when I spend every day I have off in your service department and you cannot find and fix the problems with this car?”
Funny thing about the 84 charger and “its good looks could not be matched by the absolute lack of quality”. In ’84 my wife and used to watch reruns of the 60’s spy series the Avengers on MSG tv late night. The only sponsor they had was Mitsubishi. I guess falling asleep listening to the relentless commercials had subliminally convinced us to go buy a new car and trade in our 75 Dodge Dart. We stopped in at the then new Mitsubishi dealer and road tested the 84 Cordia Turbo. We liked it and the dealer said, “why don’t you take it home for an overnight test drive”, a common tactic back then. We agreed but I was a Mopar guy at heart and we had to go by a Dodge Dealership owned by one of my former employers. Sitting on the lot in the front row (the same front row a few years later we would see our next car an 88 Dodge Raider) was a brand new Red 84 Dodge Charger. So We pulled in and I convinced my wife (not a fan of the Dart) “Let’s test drive the new Charger ” The Salesman was so happy to see someone pull in actually want to go for a test drive. He got the keys and for the next agonizingly long 5 minutes he tries to start the car. It cranked and cranked and cranked and cranked over and over but it would not start. It had a full tank of gas so it was some sort of engine trouble. So off we went with a new Mitsubishi leaving a sweating red face Dodge Salesman behind.
What a fantastic find and a great write up. I learned to drive on a later one (1986) but always liked the look of these early ones a bit better.
My sister’s first car was the twin of this one, a Dodge Omni O24. Don’t remember the year, but it was the same blue color and pinstripe even. I think it had a split grill if I remember right.
It was pretty advanced and good looking for it’s day but ended up being a pile of junk. Literally. As in it had to be hauled to the junkyard.
I bought the Omni 024 version – my first new car after graduating college in 1982. Paid insane interest rate – 21.5% IIRC. My dad was a C-P guy, even bought an Aspen and kept it for many years (much to my sibs chagrin). My memory of this car is that it was light, very tossable, fast (for the day) and most importantly, cheap. Ate tires like crazy. Local dealer was terrible (not surprising considering the shape C-P was in back then). My future (and now ex) wife nearly totaled it a year after I bought it and it never ran right after that. Thinking back on it – it is amazing that she walked away from that wreck (spun out on ice – hit 2 guardrails and was hit by another car). She wasn’t wearing a seat belt and the only significant injury was to her leg from breaking off the floor mounted stickshift.
Nobody said the obvious yet? Fine then, I will…
Greatest. Commercial. Ever.
Ugh….the 80’s started off with so much promise musically. That was painful to watch/listen to.
Darn, you beat me to this, I was going to post it!!!
I Love The 80’s!!!
Wow. I wonder if that commercial ever actually sold Dusters.
My ex-wife had a 1984 Turismo-2.2 litre & automatic. It wasn’t a bad car, although it had its quirks (destruct-o-matic driver’s side door handle, snap-o-matic window drank handles, the sourced-from-Saginaw bind-o-matic steering rack). It was a fantastic utilitarian vehicle-put the back seat down and you could cram in an amazing amount of stuff. It came in handy camping and all of the times we moved. Performance was decent-this was the first american-made small 4 cylinder car that could take being hooked to an automatic. Fairly fun to drive. Unfortunately, the first owner subscribed to the mud-puddle-water-for-coolant school of maintainence-it manifested itself in head gasket problems before we traded it in. I’d still like to have another one.
I think I might’ve seen one or two of these growing up in the early 90s, but it could’ve been a Charger, there were enough of them around. Seeing these pics of the early model, I actually like this car. If someone was nuts enough to restore it some, they’d have a sharp little car. I find it interesting that it’s a “sporty” car yet has the hint of luxury with woodgrain on the dash. Just noticed the old-style Dodge(?) symbols on the taillights, nice touch.
Actually, that’s the Plymouth “frog’s legs” emblem. The Fratzog was three of the Forward Look “darts” in a circle.
The Plymouth logo of the 60s/70s was supposed to be a rocket, nearly a copy of Oldsmobile’s.
Der Spiegel in North America?!
Doch! Warum nicht?
I’ve yet to find one of these to shoot, but just a week ago a brown Duster version went by my on the street. Now that was uncommon, even in its day. I didn’t have time to even get one shot of it, but I know it’s out there somewhere, and being driven.
I found these to be a considerably less successful design than the Omnirizon four-doors. Of course, I think the Golf is rather brilliant, so its most faithful imitator would is bound to get good marks from me. But these coupes come off rather clunky, crude and disjointed, from a body design POV. It starts with the excessive front overhang, an unfortunate foreshadowing of things to come. And the shovel-nose front end design is crude. And it’s boxy, even though it tries not to be. I appreciate them for their funkiness, but not for any intrinsic good taste.
I agree. I think the ’84 redesign was more cohesive than the original, particularly with the simpler C-pillar design (that also killed rear side vision) but the four-headlight nose only emphasized how narrow and ungainly the body was:
I remember when that redesign came out – it reminded me of the front of my 1975 Monza.
I’d have to agree with you (Paul) on the styling on the two-door. Disjointed may be the best word in your description. There are nice elements, but nothing connects them properly.
Even the names for these cars were disjointed. Mopar simply didn’t use alpha-numeric names at the time, and the TC3 and 024 were the only examples. And what the heck did the numbers and letters stand for? Possibly the most pulled from the air alpha-numeric names ever. The Plymouth should have been Duster from the start. Dart would have worked for the Dodge.
I was the demographic for these cars, being my high school and college years. When occasional thoughts of trading my big old barges in for something efficient would occur, it was hard not to look at the value proposition of the Mopar L bodies, but the two-door never would have made the cut.
I had a buddy who owned a store. He loved his L-body Duster, including the easy to load cargo area. The long hatch made it easy to hump stuff over the side instead of straight-arming from the back.
The Omni/Horizon were decently competent cars overall, and showed a bit of Chrysler’s potential for engineering serviceable, small, FWD cars.
In addition to mine, I remember riding in three others when I was a kid – beginning with what had to be an early-production Omni that my family drove to the 1978 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. I was 3-years old, but I distinctly remember the interior (dark blue with woodgrain) and being intrigued with the three-spoke, deep-dish steering wheel.
Sometime around Fall 1987, my family rented a Horizon to drive from Omaha to Scottsbluff. There were only four of us (counting the family schnauzer) and of course I was a lot smaller than I am now, but it was an extremely comfortable ride for the seven-hour drive. My mom raved about the high-back cloth bucket seats.
About a year later, my dad took me to school in a black Charger demo. The rotating door locks are what stood out to me from that one; I thought they were rather dumb.
I could be wrong but we got a car like this from Simca with Talbot badging recalling the Rootes owned brand of yore sort of a last ditch attempt to salvage something from the stupidity of Chryslers European missmanagement tour. How many solid brands did they take down?
“Just a few years earlier, [Plymouth] had the Fury, Barracuda, Belvedere, Road Runner, Satellite and luxury VIP.”
Actually a decade earlier, 10 years, not ‘a few’. 1969 was last VIP, and 1970 was last Belv.
By 1979, the muscle car era was a distant memory and gas prices were all people could chat about.
True on the VIP and Belvedere, but Satellite, RR and Barracuda lasted to ’74, and the VIP’s replacement, the Gran Fury, lasted to ’77.
They did bring back an R-body Gran Fury for 1980-81 so that Plymouth would have a full-size car, but most of those went to fleet buyers.
Being in Rock Island IL, I can see this as an original owner car. Omni-rizons were all over northern Illinois, since the L car plant was in Belvedere, near Rockford.
I went to college in DeKalb IL from 81-85, and many classmates got L cars as first new car. If gotten new, heard no compaints, but peers with used L’s had issues. By mid 80’s the late 70’s ones were dying, and were costly to fix. One friend swore off FWD cars because of jalopy O24.
I was a big German Rabbit fan back then. The Omnirizons were interesting cars because they were exactly like they seemed, a combination of German and American. For instance the engine was almost as sweet as the Rabbit’s even though it was carbed and had a longer stroke. The steering wheel was gigantic and dished like an American car and there was push button HVAC where the German car had sliding levers.
They lacked the tight and solid feel of the Rabbits so I never became a fan.
It was weird that these had power steering (unusual for such a small car back then) and the steering wheel tended to self center very aggressively.
I remember that sensation quite well. It was particularly noticeable for a guy used to 60s Ford and Mopar power steering systems.
I always liked the looks of the 024/TC3 but found them cramped for my 6’2 height.
In 1980 I bought a 79 Omni dealer demo car that had about 3500 miles on it.
All things considered it was a pretty good car.
Peppy ,fun to drive ,and even with an automatic transmission it returned decent gas mileage.
It also never had the stalling / accelerator sticking problems that my sisters 78 Omni suffered with.
Of course all of this is dredging up painfully repressed memories of the very very nice 74 Plymouth 360 Duster that was basically given away on trade to the Dodge dealer for this Omni
My mom had an ’84 Omni 4-door with the 2.2 engine and a 5-speed stick. Not a bad car, though the 2.2 was a little stubborn on a cold day. The 5-speed had a heavy clutch and the usual clunky cable shifter, but it worked all right once you were used to it. She put it in a ditch after 2 years and got an ’87 Sundance with the turbo 2.2 and the same clunky 5-speed. The Omni was the first of several Mopar vehicles she owned over a 25 year period, and she got all of them through my (now retired) brother-in-law, who was in management at Chrysler Canada and was able to hook her up with off-lease executive driven vehicles. She got good service from all of them, but she now drives a Honda CR-V.
This is a great find Tom! I haven’t seen one of these in quite some time.
My parents had a 1980 Omni five door. My dad brought it home to my mom in early 1983 to replace a well worn 1972 Impala. The Omni was a manual, mom didn’t know how to drive a manual. Needless to say, she learned.
It was a cute little bugger, silver with red cloth buckets. AM radio, no AC. But it did have a clock and a little light that lit up the ignition switch.
I think the lack of AC and the fact that the trans had some issues is what caused dad to trade it a year later for a 1982 Aries.
Chrysler was one of the first to light up their ignition switch, my 77 New Yorker had a light on the ignition. My friends mom bought one of the last Omnis as a replacement for her well worn Datsun wagon, it was like an 87 Omni?(?) and even then I recall it was like a brand new 70’s car.
That was a longtime Mopar feature – my 71 Scamp had it as well. I liked it a lot.
My first car was an ’85 Omni with the 2.2 and 5-speed. I had one friend with an older 024 with the lethargic automatic and another friend with a ’79 TC3 with the 4-speed, and they both had the weak 1.7 motors, so I was very thankful for my motor and tranny. Carb was a POS, though, even though I had it rebuilt. Finally the family got a new ’93 Sable and I inherited the ’89 Omni America with the fuel-injected 2.2 and 5-speed and nice full-back cloth seats. Wow, what a difference fuel injection made! Drove it for four years and traded it with 122,000 miles for a ’91 Spirit, the biggest mistake of my life as that one promptly blew up seven months later with 90,000 miles on it.
A 1983 Turismo 2.2 just like the one in the “rally checkpoint 2” photo was my very first new car purchase. That was after my older Omni 024 was totaled in a wreck. Those, plus the folks’ first-year Omni, and my brother’s later Rampage racked up a lot of fun and dependable miles for our family. Fun to drive, and we drove ’em hard. Never felt the need to rally them, but we lived out in the middle of nowhere, so just getting to town offered plenty of fun roads.
As recent as 5 years ago, I had a co-worker, about 6’2″, who drove a 4-door Horizon sedan which was in amazingly good condition. It was clean and well cared for inside and out. Not sure what year he bought it (used), but it was very low mileage. Back in the mid-’80’s, also had a co-worker with a Horizon sedan which I rode in once. Even got to drive it (an automatic) on one occasion, though I don’t recall what my impression of it was. Will also say that my 1986 Shelby Charger was the single most fun-to-drive car I’ve ever owned. And, sure I’ve owned quite a number of bigger and faster cars, But, the Shelby Charger being smaller and lighter, and being nimble and easy to maneuver while offering above average power for the time was a superb package that was just a blast to drive. Would definitely love to find another one in great shape, but think I could also be happy with one of the Charger 2.2 hatchbacks with a stick, or even one of the earlier 024 models; would of course also include a Turismo or TC3.
I owned a ’79 Plymouth TC-3 during college and for several years after – it was a good little car with the VW block and 4 speed. It wasn’t a rocket but it was fun to drive…i had the orange/black combo so it looked sportier than it was. I remember it as a comfortable car, basically dependable but beset by some electrical issues. Fortunately, the car wasn’t too heavy and i could push and steer at the same time when i had to in order to get it off the road, or one time – through town- with help from a couple of friends. It was probably the end of the line for simple set ups under the hood that you could actually reach into and work on without taking skin off of your hands and elbows. Sadly, mine died on a spring break trip at a drawbridge when someone rear-ended me going about 50 mph…the full size spare set into the floor of the hatch acted as a cushion which helped lessen the effects of the impact.
My dad bought a new Omni 024 in 1982, Mustard yellow with the VW 1.7L and an automatic trans, power steering, power brakes, air cond. and am radio. He drove that car hard for 150,000 miles in 4 years and traded it for a Reliant K station wagon. The 024 was a tough, dependable car but when we traded it in, it was about dead. Many years later I bought a used 1989 Plymouth Horizon with very low mileage. It had the fuel injected 2.2 L engine and it was one of the best cars I have ever owned. I wish I still had it.
My grandma’s last car was a 1986 Dodge Omni. I inherited it when she stopped driving. It was one of the best cars that I have ever owned. Nothing fancy, but decent, reliable transportation.
If Chrysler had made only a few improvements over the life of the L-bodies, their reputation would not have been so dismal.
I bought a new ’79 TC3 1.7 automatic not long after they were launched, and by then the stupid Consumer Reports charge about wildly whiplashing steering wheels was already hurting sales. I tried many times to duplicate the problem, and found it impossible. The little cars had a few recurring problems like broken door handles and sloppy manual shifters, but the quality of mine was comparable to the VW Rabbit…right down to the oil burning problem that hit at about 70,000, and the noisy front wheel bearings that I replaced at 50k.
I traded the ’79 for an ’82 with a 2.2 and automatic, and the performance improvement was huge. It was also a lot more comfortable with better seats and sound proofing. Gas mileage for my commute averaged around 32, compared to 34 for the VW powered ’79, but the better engine more than made up for the mileage difference. At 80,000 I gave the car to my daughter, who put that many more miles on it before trading for a new Acclaim. I installed new struts for her at 100k, but the engine and transmission were still running strong.The door handle issue remained, and I was told by friends that the manual transmission linkage was still sloppy.
I then bought a new ’87, loaded with the premium trim, best sound system and power steering. What a difference the power steering made! This one averaged 30 mpg, so I paid for the luxury in two ways. At about 40,000 miles I experienced the common carb issues and learned just how expensive those Japanese carbs were. Other than that, the old door handle problem was the only thing I could complain about. I sold the ’87 to a friend who pushed it well beyond 100,000 miles before it began to fail.
If Chrysler had improved the steering wheel location, fixed the door handle problem, upgraded brake performance and put a fuel injected 2.5 under the hood, I would have bought another one, but opted for a Sundance when the 2-door hit the showroom. As far as I know, despite several half-hearted attempts, they never did fix the manual shift linkage.
My favorite thing about the L-bodies was the TorqueFlite transmission. Never once did any of the three have a transmission related issue. Gas mileage was also a bragging point. All three of mine would exceed 35 mpg on trips, and a friend’s Omni America got as high as 45, while averaging 41 on one trip. This was without computers and fuel injection.
I bought a new Omni 024, 80 model yellow with black stripes sunroof and plaid interior. For the price, the car was a great value. I kept it for four years and put over 90k miles on it. Outside of routine maintenance items, the only failures were a door handle and gas struts for the hatch. The VW sourced 1.7L engine wasn’t a powerhouse and the shifting was a bit loose and sloppy, compared to a buddy’s 280ZX, but the car was half the price of the Z. I traded it for a new 84 Firebird which was a total POS. I would have taken that 024 over the Firebird any day of the week.
My dad’s 78 Omni was wild…steering column jumped around and the whole dash rattled at idle, outside door handles broke repeatedly, it was complettely worn out at 60,000 miles. The chestnut colored upgraded vinyl seats held up beautifully though, and the interior door trim was soft vinyl too. It got traded in on an 82 Cutlass Supreme.
Even though this is its equivalent identical twin cousins from Dodge, this is what going beyond the Horizon means.
The Dodge Omni O24 paved the way for its successors such as the YES a subcompact Dodge Charger (which was actually a mildly rehashed version of the Omni O24), The Dodge Shadow, the 2 versions of the Dodge Neon, the Mitsubishi Lancer/Outlander Sport based Dodge Caliber and the Fiat based Dodge Dart which was almost two feet longer than its predecessor the Dodge Omni 4 Door Hatchback and 9″ longer than the Omni O24. It has been said that the Dodge trademark brand most especially the Dart may soon go into greener pasture much like its slightly cheaper cousin Plymouth almost 15 years ago. The Horizon TC3 and Turismo (its version of the Charger) were replaced by both the Plymouth Sundance and just the first generation of the Neon prior to its extinction.
Memory Lane time for me!
I owned a 1982 TC3 Turismo. I remember I paid $7150. For 82, I believe turismo was a TC3 package. It had the 2.2, but no two toned paint, hood scoops or giant decals. Mine was maroon with tasteful gold pinstripes. Larger 14″ steel wheels, with 60 profile tires, a rear spoiler and upgraded corduroy like upholstery. Other than that, mine was stripped. I think power brakes were the only option. 4 speed manual transmission, manual steering and no A/C. The pictures of the backseat showed the fabric panel by the armrest. That was removable and I upgraded ‘big’ 6×9 3-way speakers. Searching the web tonight I cannot find a copy. This was the same time the Charger had the big stripes down the side. I liked that mine was more subtle.
What fun I had driving it, but it was not reliable. I would get vapor locks and it would die. I’d have to wait hours for it to cool down before it would start. Front bushings failed around 60K and led to dangerous handling. But it would run all night 4000 RPM at 85 MPH!
Loved your take on this car, but there are a few points I’d like to make. I bought a TC3 new in April, 1981, and it was just a Plymouth TC3. Nowhere does Horizon appear on the car, or on the title or registration. Also, mine came with the 2.2 engine as an upgrade option, and an extra $400 got me a factory installed sunroof.
I still have the car, and it was driven and inspected until last week, when a hole was found that had rusted through under the rear seat. The rest of the car is perfect, especially mechanically. Well, scratch that – it needs a new left front wheel bearing, but that’s no biggie. This car was babied throughout its 33 years and 74,000 miles. Since I no longer can weld steel plate and heavy work like that, I’ll have to put it on eBay. Look for it, maybe next week, and you can see more pictures. Or I can email them if you like.
I have a 1981 TC3 that looks like it was in the showroom yesterday. Bought it new in April 1981 for $7101. Has a 2.2 engine (they did have them in ’81!), a factory sunroof and factory spoiler. Runs like a top. There was a carb problem with the 2.2s, but we fixed all that decades ago. She drove this car until last week, but I asked her to take it off the road because I discovered a hole that had rusted through in the rear. Yes, these were prone to underside rusting. So I either have to get out some sheet metal and put in some work, or sell the car when she’s not looking.
I have an 81 TC3 with a V8, 5 speed, 8 3/4 rear. The car is a blast to drive. It does well in the 1/4 mile and in the twisties near where I live in western SC and still gets 26 mpg.
Did your TC3 appear in the August 2000 issue of Mopar Action Magazine by any chance?
I have one of the light blue ones. It has been up graded from the 1.7 l to a 6.0 liter Mopar V8. The weight is only 100 pounds more, so handling is stil superior. It has a 5 speed, and sure grip differential. I also threw away those useless rear seats. The balance is good close to 50-50 front to rear.
I had the 81. Mine was the hottest car Chrysler made that year with a 2.2L engine, a spoiler, high performance tires and fancy decals on the side. It was labeled a Horizon TC3. It was actually a really good looking car for its day. I got mine with the automatic. I kept it until at around 180,000 km the cam shaft started to wear out. I donated it to the automotive program of a local high school. The biggest issue I has was that it ate a couple starters.
A few days after the warranty ran out the transmission had a major failure put the dealer got it covered anyway for a deductible that I think was $100 or so.
I have the 1.6L engine (Peugot) in mine with a 4 speed transmission and I have had absolutely no trouble at all with my car and I bought it used for $100 going on 5 years ago now. I did have to replace a head gasket because of having to take the head off to remove a broken piece of a round file that the previous owner’s son had broken off in the cylinder. Once I put it back together, I have never had any more problems with it until recently when I noticed that it didn’t have the power it once did. I’ve done a tune up to it and tried higher quality fuel but that doesn’t seem to help it much. If anyone reading this has any reasonable suggestions, please feel free to let me know. My email address is email@example.com
This entry brings back memories.
In the summer of 1982, I bought a new California-spec ’82 Turismo 2.2. It was the dark red color shown in the photo of the ’82 at the top of this page (5th photo up from the bottom) but ours had the top of the line OEM finned alloy wheels with white letter Goodyears Eagles. I pulled all of the stupid orange tape stripes and stickers off of it as soon as I got it home (dark red with orange stripes? Pul-leez) and it looked much better. It was definitely a sharp little car for its day.
For some perspective, my wife and I traded in our like-new (it being a SoCal car) but horribly anemic 1979 Chevette, and coming out of a Chevette made the 2.2 Turismo seem like a sports car in comparison. Everything about it was a step up from the scarily underpowered, plasticky ‘Vette.
Although it looked good and felt like it had some pep, our Turismo had quality control issues right off the new car lot. The doors, hood, and hatch were misaligned and had to be adjusted by the dealer prior to delivery. During the first year, all of the slats fell out of one of the dashboard vents, the nap from the carpet started coming up in handfuls, and it got a shimmy in the front end which turned out to be cupped tires due to misalignment right from the factory. Welcome to 1980s new car quality control.
Also, during a round trip from SoCal to Ohio to visit family that same summer (’82), it stalled as we were coming over one of the high altitude passes on I-70 in Colorado. Luckily it was right at the top of the pass and I was able to put it in neutral as it stalled, and as I tried over and over to restart the engine, we coasted at freeway speed for over a mile, down an exit ramp, through the green light at the bottom of the ramp, around the corner, and right up to the bay door of a full-service gas station (remember those?).
I got out, popped the hood, and as one of the mechanics walked by after filling someone’s tank, I told him that our car had stalled at the top of the pass. He just shrugged as he continued on by and said, “It’s a Chrysler. It vapor locked. They do it all the time around here. Give it a few minutes to clear out and it’ll start.” He was right, it did, and we continued on our way. For the rest of the trip, while at high altitude if I felt it was about to stall (gas pedal getting limp), I’d let off the gas and shift into neutral for a few seconds to avoid a vapor lock stall. This was a brand new car, mind you, but it was the ’80s and issues with new cars weren’t unusual. Other than that, it ran well the rest of the trip.
In 1985 I traded it in on an almost new ’84 Mustang GT.
Correction – it was the summer of ’83 and an ’83 Turismo 2.2, not ’82. Derp.
When I was in High School (81-85) my best friends girlfriend had a 83 Dodge version. 2.2 with auto. I remember it being ok. No major problems. And it easily ran away from my 71 Maverick with 170/3-speed. Never rode in it, but did ride in a Dodge Rampage his step dad owned. Same experience I suppose. She parked it in her backyard probably around 91/92 and it sat there until 2005 when her mom had the junkyard come get it. She is still friends with me and ex-boyfriend (who I’ve known since September 79) and we talk quite often.
September 1983, walked into Brodlieb Motors in Woodmere, NY and ordered an 84 Turismo out of the book. Got the 2.2 litre/5 speed without the tacky “Turismo 2.2” go-fast tape stripes. Black over gray mouse fur, AC, AM/FM non cassette, and the “tuna” cover as the salesman wrote on the order form. To me, it resembled a junior Chrysler Laser/Dodge Daytona. Had lots of fun trying to find the right gear with that cable linkage shifter; became way too adept at the 2-5 upshift. 2 months before my last payment, got rear ended by a drunk in a rented Ford Escort that was 2 weeks overdue to be returned. Stuffed the taillights into the rear seat and the driver’s door into a telephone pole. Don’t remember the impact, but I somehow managed to shut the ignition, pocket the key, and climb over the console out the passenger door. Went to pick up the plates after a few days observation in the hospital; guy at the wrecking yard couldn’t believe I survived.
I hope I never get hit in my TC-3. Not much metal anywhere. It is damn hard to weld.as it is so thin.
I owned a 1980 TC3. I loved that car. Drove it for over 10 years and 180k miles. I would have kept it longer if I did not have a collision with a utility pole. Mine was not equipped with AC. (Didn’t think I needed it!). The only weak point was the Bosch distributor. Had only one bearing in the middle. It would wear and the rotor would start wacking the hall sensor which would make it run rough. I went through several distributors.
Thanks again to CC for such great articles, which are a trip down memory lane. The memory invoked here is when my grandfather bought the Dodge variant if this vehicle…after the facelift so maybe an ’83 or ’84 model? I am also quite certain it was no longer called Omni 024 at that point, but rather the Charger name was reintroduced (right?)…his was cherry red with red interior and black striping and sport badging. It was his retirement gift to himself and grandma got the burnt siena/espresso Cordoba, all to herself. At about 7-8 years old I remember thinking the little fastback Dodge was a pretty cool car, especially for old Gramps.
Tonight is definitely a nostalgia trip for me. My first car when I came to the US in 1980 was a TC3. There were not that many affordable cars that offered decent fuel economy and a manual gearbox. I preferred the shape of the TC3 over the Horizon so that’s what we got.
The car lasted very well until I detected the knock-on-lock noise that said a front CV joint was going bad. It went to the local dealer for repair and came back just as bad. Dealer said that meant the gearbox was probably the problem and I decided to buy and fit a remanufactured unit. While the engine was out I had it rebored, mostly because I wanted to learn how to take an engine apart, and the reassembled unit ran great. Except we still had the annoying knock. The dealer said they’d swap the gearbox, but it would be up to me to do the labor.
At this point I talked to a Plymouth dealer a couple towns up the road. Bring the driveshaft in and we’ll look at it, because we think we know what’s happened.
Turned out Dealer #1 had merely replaced the tripod bearing which solved nothing because there were deep grooves worn in the housing. Dealer #2 said they always replaced both bearing and housing.
Since dealer #1 refused to acknowledge that they had not done the original repair properly I sued them in small claims court for the cost of the gearbox that they had sold me as a result of the improper repair.
I went to court with the new housing and the old one wrapped in shop cloths. The dealer and his partner stared hard at the cardboard box trying to work out what it was. After telling my story I handed the two parts to the judge and asked if he could see any difference, because the dealer’s mechanics hadn’t noticed any.
His decision in our favor was greeted with a round of applause from those waiting their turn. The dealer told us not to set foot in his business again.
I sold the car a while later and its second owner ran it for years. They were solid little cars, I often wondered though whether Chrysler could have done a better job of training their mechanics on what was at the time a different kind of machine. My experience suggested that some dealers had done a better job of that than others.
Always liked these. Never realized they were so lightweight, which makes me like them even more.
Never understood why Chrysler went for that funky deep-dish steering wheel in these Omnirizon/TChargers, was it carried over from the Simca roots?
I actually helped with the installation of the robot assembly line that welded these cars at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere Illinois. I worked for Unimation, the industrial robot company.
The plant was unbelievably huge.
Chrysler had borrowed money with a federal load guarantee. Lee Iococca was no fool. They used the cash to completely strip the plant bare, and rebuilt it using the latest technology. The plan was to make Chrysler the lowest cost per car producer. The success of this car allowed Chrysler to repay the loans early.
They built only the Omni/Horizon there. This was a revolutionary care that is little appreciated today. This was the first practical American-made front wheel drive car. It took Ford and GM some time to catch up.
I can always be counted on to wax nostalgic whenever a Chrysler L body or K derivative crops up here. They were cheap, they were more fun to drive than one might rightfully expect, and they were everywhere through the mid ’90’s. There were several in my extended family , either as second (or third) cars, as kids cars or as throwaway commuters. They’re universally remembered fondly, both for their strong points and the often comedic value in their failures. For me the Omnirizon is what yesterday’s VW is for Paul. I’d be sorely tempted to bring one home if I found just the right one. Let’s just hope I don’t.
I didn’t see it mentioned, but why were these cars named TC3 and 024? I’m guessing they were the internal development codes assigned to the cars and Chrysler was trying to ape GM’s success with the Z/28.
Sometimes it works, I suppose, but I would have liked to seen regular model names from the beginning (which I guess they eventually acquired with Turismo and Charger). With the names they got, I always wondered about Horizon TC1 and TC2, as well as Omni numbers 001 – 023.
My sister had a 2.2 charger as a first car. It got great gas mileage over 40 on the highway. Other than that it was awful. It had horrible torque steer. One time I was at a y in the road and could not see if anyone was coming thanks to the sporty? Plastic covered rear Windows. I started forward and she told me someone was coming so I gave it the gas and it turned on its own running through a fence and garden and killing a yard knome. This was the second front wheel drive car I ever drove first being a giant Eldorado. I was used to a Ltd. That car ripped the wheel from my hands. I wasn’t holding on tight as I was used to car that didn’t do that. To this day I hate and distrust front wheel drive and refuse to own one. It also rode poorly and bumps and frost heaves in the road became menaces. One time I ran over a frost heave at about 70. One I had run over in the Ltd with no more than a smooth little bounce many times. It almost killed me as it made me hit my head on the roof and almost knocked me out.
It broke all the time. Door handles, carb issues, the window lovers fell off. It was easier to put it in neutral and push it out of a space than find reverse. It was a really awful minimalist car. It got good gas mileage, but the repair and insurance costs made it a fare more expensive car to own than my 78 Ltd. She kept it a couple of years, but had to sell it when I moved away and she broke up with her boyfriend Frank and had no one to fix it. At least the styling was ok and not derivative like the 4 door.
Always thought it was strange that they kept these cars around for several years after introducing the Dodge Daytona (etc). They were almost identical in size.
I had an ’87 Dodge Charger, which is Twin sister to the Plymouth Turismo. It was a fun car and quite reliable. I bought it slightly used with low miles on it. As a young kid I enjoyed it, it was a fun car, but hardly a match to the totaled ’85 Monte Carlo SS it replaced. It held up rather well, especially with a young guy driving it, until somewhere around 70k miles, it started falling apart. I promptly placed a for sale sigh in the window and it was quickly gone, to become someone else’s problem. Great looking little car, peppy enough, and good on gas. Mine was silver.
I needed a car in 1981 and I looked at new versions of all of these.
The smartest thing I ever did was buy a 1972 Dodge Dart for $400. I put in a new radiator and after that it ran perfectly. It got me through to 1985 when I bought a NEW Honda Prlelude. I sold the Dart in the fall of 1986 for $195.
I bought the Prelude in June so I didn’t get the Fuel Injected 1986 model in September.
My grandparents neighbor had a blue one like this (it might have been a dodge) many years ago.
I had completely forgotten about the Horizon coupes! I had to take a second close look at the first picture and confirm my puzzlement by scrolling down, as I had not commented on this article the first time around.
These prefigured the Daytona by years, but I thought they were rather interesting when they came out.
However, something about them just looked cheap and had this cobbled together look about them that their four door hatchbacks didn’t have, at least not as bad. Perhaps it’s the overabundance of sharp angles, which are cheaper to manufacture than complex curves and bulges, even for that time period.
They did not age well, but how many (cheap) cars from that era did?
These always seemed like cheap and cheerful cars. I actually prefer the cars before the ’84 restyle (by which point the G-body Daytona / Laser twins seemed to render them obsolete, anyway).
I looked at one of these as a new-to-me purchase (in trying to unload the unloved family Tempo I had inherited), but my buddy Fred talked me out of it. Said they seemed like “flimsy” Chevy Monzas (which, themselves, hardly seemed like robust beasts). Pretty soon, Fred and my brother would say “ping” (for the sound of something breaking or snapping) when we’d see one of these in traffic.
These days, the looks of a yellow, early-model 024 or TC3 really do it for me.
My Dad bought a red Omni two door (but not an 024)… Probably a 1980 or 1981. White vinyl interior. I can still remember the smell even though I wasn’t more than 3 years old. He loved the gas mileage, and I hated that big glass rear window letting the sun in on my head. He sold it to a friend and I cried when he sold it. It destroyed itself two weeks after he sold it.
While the design may not be the most coherent thing ever, I still like it–especially the window arrangement in the rear. That distinctiveness was lost when they went with the huge blanked panels in the ’84 restyle though. There is an appealing lightness to the design, due at least in part to the crisp origami angles and the huge glass area.
Never drove one or had one in the family, but the family of a good friend of mine had a close relative of this car, a red Charger coupe. Not sure of the year. I do remember the rear seat being kind of claustrophobic, even as a 9 year old kid. I much preferred their other vehicle, an early 80’s K5 Blazer.
I actually bought one of these cars new in 1979 when I was 19. It was the “fire orange” with blackout bottom stripe, spoiler, honeycomb alloy wheels and a 4 speed manual. The dealer added a sunroof. Rally package I think they called it. I paid $6,200. It was a lot considering how little I could have paid for a Ford Pinto.
I drove it until 1985. I had added a digital stereo and 6×9 speakers in the back in each of those inset panels in the rear seat. It was in perfect condition when I traded it in for a 1985 LeBaron GTS Turbo. It had 96,000 miles on it when I traded it in.
I loved that car. I got Goodyear GT radials and it sure could take a corner with those sticky tires. I remember paying $400 for a set of those tires. No small sum in 1979!!
I’ll never forgot get my TC3! It was a head turner.
While I had my share of family cars over the years, I’m back to fun cars. I now drive a Subaru BRZ, which in a small way reminds me of the fun I had in my TC3
My mother bought one of these in 1982. She was concerned that her 72 Duster was getting on and she wanted a new car. She was 67 at the time and recently retired and I suggested the 4 door, but she liked the look of the TC3 in orange, and as she said, she wouldn’t be riding in the back seat anyway. She got the 2.2 engine with the 4 speed. The Duster was the only automatic she had owned, and she preferred to drive standard. She kept it until she stopped driving in 1996. It was not driven a lot, but still it had no major repairs and was completely reliable for 14 years. We sold it to a friend who needed some inexpensive reliable transportation and it served him well.
I’m pretty confident those same window winder crank handles and armrests survived into the mid 1980s in the Mopar parts bin. Too bad they couldn’t spare a couple for the back seat of this Horizon. Thanks for the repost.
When I was 17 I paid $1500 for an Omni coupe. my best friend, at the same time, paid the same amount for a Renault Fuego. The difference in the two vehicles were great. The French car was smooth, stylish, fast, and sleek. The Omni felt slow, boring, and outdated . I coveted the Fuego until it started falling apart in horrific ways. The cooling system leaked. The electrical system went haywire, resulting in a rotten egg smell. I learned to appreciate the Omni. It didn’t matter much anyhow, as I soon totalled it after losing control on a gravel road and rolling it into a ditch.
Back then there was actually a dark metallic blue Horizon in San Francisco with a vanity license plate: BEYOND. I was driving on Oak Street one day and it was right in front of me. I was driving my 1956 Plymouth convertible, not having gotten one of my own two Horizons yet (1978 and 1988).
This is one of those popular common cars that were everywhere, but I had never had a chance to even ride in one. Amazing. Everyone I hung around were getting VWs, Toyotas, Datsuns and Fords. Interesting how in retrospect, you realize that a popular car could be all around you, but you had no experiences with it. Kind of an odd feeling.
Back in the day I bought a rampage 2.2 with a 5 speed and liked it. It ate a carburetor and then fifth gear. So, it was fixed and traded in for a new 89 Nissan hard body that I did not enjoy. I am slowly rebuilding a neglected 89 Grand Voyager SE Turbo mobility van purchased in 17.