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Great-Grandma’s Car: 1979 Dodge Omni

“Whoever thought a new kind of four-door car could turn so many people on? Ah, but this is no ordinary car we’re talking about . . . it’s an Omni. And that makes all the difference in the world.” So says a brochure for the 1979 Dodge Omni. It was a handy car for sure. The seller has this example posted here on Facebook Marketplace in Henderson, North Carolina and they’re asking $3,500 or best offer. That’s a steal for a car with so much Cars & Coffee potential. Here is the original listing, and thanks to Bruce F. for the tip!

Given current prices for vintage vehicles, I can’t believe this Omni is only $3,500. Remember now, it isn’t 1994 anymore, values have gone up and this is no longer a $1,500 car in this condition. We haven’t seen a 1979 Omni before here at Barn Finds but we’ve seen other years, along with a few Plymouth Horizons. Those of us who may or may not be muscle car fanatics love seeing anything unusual here – hopefully, you will indulge us.

Chrysler Corp offered the Dodge Omni and its sister car, the Plymouth Horizon, from late 1977 for the 1978 model year until the end of 1990. In this model, the Omni and Horizon only came in this four-door hatchback body style, but I was wondering what a two-door sedan might look like… The companies offered a two-door version, which we’ve seen here many times, the Dodge Omni 024 that evolved into a Charger, and the Plymouth Horizon TC3. I like the chunky little four-door cars myself, who’s with me?! Hello?

I was hoping for a nice fabric interior, but the vinyl bucket seats look good as does the back seat. It’s hard to get a good look with such small photos but the only thing that stands out for me is that rather than a manual transmission, this one has a three-speed TorqueFlite with a console selector. Hey, it was bought new by the seller’s great-grandmother in 1979. I mean, not that great-grandmothers can’t use a clutch but after reading the seller’s description it makes sense. My wife’s mom had this same car in the same color and it was trouble-free for her.

Sadly, there are no engine photos but this 55,000-mile Omni should have a Volkswagen-sourced 1.7-liter SOHC inline-four with 77 horsepower and around 85 lb-ft of torque. It has new gaskets and a new battery and everything works, including the AC. The seller says it may need some work to bring it to daily driver status, most likely due to it not being used regularly. This looks like a nice example for hardly any money in 2024. Have any of you owned a Dodge Omni?

Comments

  1. JCA Member

    Blue paint, blue vinyl and blue hair?

    Like 38
    • Motorcityman

      Detroit Lion car!

      Like 4
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Fun write-up Scotty. I’ve come to realize that there are at least a few of us here who like to see the economy cars of the past make appearances at Barn Finds. This one looks good, and is cheap. I dig the old-school-style exterior passenger door mirror. Your two-door chop looks good.

    Starting when she was in her 60’s into her late 70’s, my mother-in-law’s daily driver had a manual transmission.

    Like 37
    • NHDave

      Bob, gotta say that I always enjoy your comments. Thoughtful, well-written, with many interesting—and accurate—insights into the vehicles featured. I definitely look forward to your “take.” Keep it up!

      Like 10
      • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

        Thank you for the kind words.

        Like 7
    • Neil R Norris

      It’s only a deal if you want it. LOL

      Like 6
  3. HoA Howard A Member

    “The new Dodge Omni does it all”,,,a hefty claim, it couldn’t pull a 53 foot reefer, but it was exactly what anti-foreign car holdouts were waiting for, an American econobox. Foreign cars were a younger persons deal, grandmas were still USA compliant, for fear of confronting the late husband in heaven, and I bet half of Omni/Horizon sales went to elderly women, while gramps New Yawker sat in the garage( only to be featured here 40 years later) The Omni was a good car, not great, but filled the void as our transportation world changed. No info screens, no heated/chilled cup holders, just a freakin’ simple car. What ever happened to that? With over 2.5 MILLION Omni/Horizons sold, Plymouth more than Dodge, I’d say it was a veritable success.

    Like 25
    • Steve

      Howard A’s comments always make looking at Barn Finds posts worthwhile.

      Like 2
  4. alphasud Member

    Wow! This is more rare than a Ferrari. Interesting that Dodge needed a VW Rabbit engine to compete with a Rabbit of all things. I remember my uncle has one like this in gold. I agree Scotty $3500 is a no brainer for a cool throwback and a great Cars and Coffee conversation starter. The Omni/Horizon has a interesting story of co development with Chrysler of Europe which was sold off to the PSA group so not only did the US version of the car get the VW sourced engine it later also received a Peugeot 1.6 for a couple years along with the 2.2L K car engine. I just find it fascinating that we have come full circle and now the Chrysler Corporation is now part of Stellantis formerly the PSA group.

    Like 13
  5. Carman4733

    Sold quite a few of these in the mid ’80’s to the last year, 1990 in my 38+years at a Chrysler dealership. Many were sold via bid to the power company and local governments. One I sold to the Ohio Power Company came in with a Plymouth Horizon grill and front nameplate and Dodge Omni tailights and the rear nameplate, Omni. They accepted it the way it came at first, affectionately combining the names Horizon and Omni, dubbing it the Hornie! The bosses had other ideas, and with a new grill and front nameplate, became a full fledged Omni.

    Like 2
  6. Nelson C

    I like this car a lot. Simple and unpretentious although well optioned in a 1979 kind of way. My first one was an ’81 TC3 ordered with little more than sunroof and rear defrost. Heck, I went back for a locking glove box and day/night mirror. Our second was an ’88 America with auto air am/fm and the better seats. Nothing to turn heads but dependable little soldiers just as the Dodge brothers would have wanted.

    Like 11
  7. Mike Bender

    I have thought several times Chrysler should offer a bare bones car for people who just need a reliable ride.

    I worked where this car was built. I remember at one time the “Omni America” was offered and it sold like hot cakes. It was basic transportation. Only options I can remember was power steering, A/C, and radio.

    If I remember correctly the basic “America” cost $4000 new in 1988. You got front drive, 2.2 Liter four cylinder, 5 speed manual trans., and that was it.
    Some employees bought those to drive to work. several ran for almost 200,000 miles before they gave it to kids or sold it outright. Some were bought new to send kids to college or work in a different state.

    Like 2
  8. Sam61

    One of our neighbors had a silver horizon with maroon fabric. Very practical/utilitarian vehicle. Chrysler should developed a wagon. Our family had a Mercury Lynx 3 Dr hatchback with a manual. I read somewhere that the Horizon/Omni was somewhat of a re-work of a Simca. $3500 sounds like a deal…daily driver, show on the weekend.

    Like 11
  9. Roland

    These were originally designed by Simca, in France, I think. The “two box” design was a new idea then, as exemplified by the VW Rabbit, Fiat, and others: an engine bay and a passenger compartment that included room for stuff, but no trunk. A friend had one with close to 300k miles on it. Most rusted away before major mechanical failures occurred.

    Like 7
  10. TomP

    The super rare Omni’s were Shelby and Detomaso Omni’s.

    Like 4
    • Bill

      I Remember The Shelby Ones the Glh and Glhs with the manual gearbox and the turbo 2.2 in fact later on down the line Carroll Shelby took it a step further and made the Dodge Shadow csx a neat little 2 door version of the dodge Shadow

      Like 0
  11. TomP

    $3500 for this car?? Hmm, I have a super rare Mercedes SLK Copper Designo and a beautiful Tambora Flame Rover LR2 for sale for the same price, and I can’t even give these cars away. I’m just not grasping how someone will buy this Omni in today’s economy.

    Like 3
    • RacerX

      Meemaw’s ride!

      Like 0
    • Ed

      I call BS on that. Both of those vehicles average sale price is close to double this car unless yours are beat with very high miles. I am sure you would have no problem giving them away. I will hitch up the trailer for that depending on location. This Omni will sell. Look at the responses here. I just sold my 300C hemi with 125k on it for $6k. It is true collector and used car prices have come down but they have stabilized a bit and only retreated back to where they were pre pandemic in most instances. As for the economy, it is doing fine and every index or measure is performing very well or trending in the right direction. Has inflation taken a bite out of people’s pocketbook? Yes, but it is cooling and wages are up to offset it in most instances. We stayed out of a recession with some good decisions and luck. Consumer confidence has been on the upswing and look at the deal the UAW was able to secure. $3500 for a nice transportation and conversation piece is a good deal if you like the car. As a owners of many classic cars I am optimistic.

      Like 6
      • TomP

        The economy is doing fine?? On what planet is this economy located? Instead of regurgitating what you read on your screen, take a look out your window to see whats really going on.

        Like 11
      • Smokey Smokerson

        Credit card debt at an record highs. Anyone on this board that is a manager has a list of names that will no longer be employed in the coming few weeks. The chickens are coming home to roost very soon and the bottom should be dropping soon as folks start looking to liquidate.

        Like 3
    • luckless pedestrian

      Ha… I know people that spend more for wheels, tires and car audio. If this car had 3 pedals I’d be interested… Cheap nostalgia trip for me… …and things are doing just fine in my neck of the woods.

      Like 1
  12. Guy Wind

    We had a 79 Horizon with some kind of seat/interior upgrade. We put over 120,000 miles on it until stolen – seriously – someone stole a Horizon. Got it back in bad shape electrically – made it go away. I beat the livid begeezuz out of that car – redline since it was a toddler. I got 36 MPG on the Hwy .. when I behaved. Really nice seats. Had to replace CV boots, tires, brakes once, and basic maintenance.

    Like 3
  13. Dave Brown

    My boss bought one of these new with fake wood sides. I laughed. I bought a new LeBaron coupe. He was very jealous. Screw economy. Style wins!

    Like 3
  14. Mike Fullerton

    My dad owned a ’81 Horizon and an ’83 Omni. Dad never drove the speed limit, always at least below by 5 mph. The ’81 had the VW and manual transmission, (don’t remember if it was a 4 or 5 speed). It had a cloth interior but otherwise bare bones. By driving very conservatively he got 44 mpg. With my lead foot I managed 41 mpg on the interstate (78 mph). The ’83 had auto, ps, and pb so mom could drive it. She knew and did drive a manual until arthritis set in. I owned a ’85 Horizon, manual and bare bones. You could beat it and it just kept going. Had to trade it after a year because the 4th kid was on the way.

    Like 7
  15. Richard

    You don’t see these much anymore
    I bought a Horizon Miser in 1982, with the 1700 engine, and a 4 speed manual. It was a dependable car, great on gas. I got 100K trouble-free miles from it.
    I traded that for a new Omni in 1987, with 2200 engine, and a 5 speed. That one was a lemon. I got rid of it in 1989, and bought a Mazda 323. I’ve driven Japanese cars ever since.

    Like 4
    • Bill

      You Mention the great gas mileage your 82 miser got there was a time manual was the only way to go they were said to be better than an automatic in terms of gas mileage the days when a small 4 and a 4 speed manual would get you 2 weeks out of a Tank of Gas if you did it right and didn’t hot rod the heck out of it.

      Like 0
  16. RoadDog

    I drove one of these back in Driver’s Ed. It was no powerhouse, but it could hold it’s own when highway driving.

    Like 3
  17. MikeR

    I had a 79 Plymouth Horizon which I bought for $3000 in 1982 with 20k miles. I was in graduate school in upstate New York at the time. It drove reasonably well, got super gas mileage, and was an economical daily driver – when it ran. But I have never owned such a poorly built car since that one. I would have to carry one or two spare distributor caps because they would crack when you drove them in the rain. The door handles would snap off if it was too cold, so I would have to carry spares of those. The steering system had to be completely rebuilt at 30k miles. When I finally sold the car in 1986 with 60k miles (for $400), the floor had completely rusted through. It served its purpose and got me where I needed to go for a few years, but no way would I spend $3500 on one today. People are going crazy spending money on old cars that were POS back then and still POS today.

    Like 1
  18. Michael Gaff

    And I had a Simca. Just bragging. Three speed on the column and I had a ball with it on dirt roads around Kendallville, Indiana. I later had the Omni and would sleep in the back while my wife drove us to Chicago from Fort Wayne. I was flying night cargo as a FedEx contractor and needed my sleep. Perfect car for the missions.

    Like 0
  19. Bruce Fournier Member

    I had a 79 plain jane standard shift in beige with vinyl interior. Dont remember what I paid, not 2k I’m certain. That time i was still living in Maine, and this was my first front wheel drive and that car could plow some snow, great on gas and gave me 191k until i let the kids have it to bang around in the north 40. last i knew its still there somewhere

    Like 2
  20. Jeff

    We had the same beige 79 when I was a kid and I agree, with some snow tires on the front, it was an absolute beast in the snow. I can still see my mom cruising up a hill in a Pittsburgh blizzard like it was any other day…great memories!

    Like 0
  21. Big C

    These were the beginning of the “world car” disease. That made our American manufacturers believe that what worked in Paris and London, would work in Poughkeepsie. It was also the death of what used to be known as styling.

    Like 9
  22. Jeff Zekas

    One of the guys I worked with at the State Highway department, Kevin, loved these cars and bought two of them. According to him, they were very reliable. Of course, this is back in the old days, when 100,000 miles was considered good for most cars. Does anyone know what year they changed over from the VW to the Chrysler engine?

    Like 2
    • Bill

      I want to say around 84 85ish because from 86 on the only engine choice was the 2.2 78 through 83 was when they had the vw engine and Peugeot engine

      Like 0
    • Richard

      In 1983-’84 a Peugeot 1600 engine was used. Starting in 1985, the 2200 from the K-car was installed.
      I had a ’82 with the (carbureted) 1700, it was a bulletproof mill. I later had an ’87 Omni with the 2200. The choke malfunctioned, and the dealer could never really fix it. It burned oil, too.

      Like 0
      • Guy Wind

        We had an 82 Horizon with the Mitsubishi 2.2. Our 79 was. VW mill.

        Like 0
  23. shelbydude

    Yeah… I have an 85 GLH. Pumped up beyond the later GLHS specs with the stronger 568 trans equpped with a Quaiffe LSD. I think these cars are the real “sleeper” whether off the line or on the winding road.

    Like 2
  24. Dan

    I recall renting a fair number of Omnis during vacations in the mid to late 80s and they were as nimble as Honda Civics and VW Golfs of the era. Because this has a VW engine, fuel injection should be an easy add and for chump change you’ll have a nice driver that’ll attract crowds at C&C.

    Like 1
  25. Robert Park

    Dad traded in the Pinto wagon for an Omni. Sold it a year later.”These are the most uncomfortable seats I’ve ever had in a car.”

    Like 4
    • shelbydude

      Yes, the original seats were nothing to shout about, but not the worst I have had the pleasure (or not) of using. But that is why I installed seats from a Shelby Lancer into my GLH.

      Like 2
  26. Troy

    After you teach your teenagers to drive this is the kind of car you get them so they actually have to pay attention to the road and don’t have computers telling them when its safe to Chang lanes and they actually have to look backwards to back up

    Like 3
    • Ed

      Actually, I prefer my kids to drive with today’s latest safety technology. We aren’t going backwards. Granted, I taught them the old ways.

      Like 0
      • Nelson C

        Sadly, few kids appreciate their first car or yours for that matter. The first rule of children and cars is that they should earn them. It doesn’t mean the car will survive but there’s a lesson in sweat equity. I was fortunate that my daughter gave me back the car that I let her use through HS and the following year. She announced she was following a guy out of state and I got my old Plymouth back. Following year it went back to her when they needed it. The boy’s car I got back too. But that’s a different story. That one got sold.

        Like 1
  27. Lance Platt

    The space efficient 3 box design used by the VW Rabbit and Golf was immensely sucfessful for Chrysler in Europe too. So the Omni and Horizon made perfect sense in the USA. The later 2.2 version is a much better choice for automatic and air conditioning equpped cars like this one. I love the 4 door styling and the blue color. Only thing close today is my Kia Soul. It is indeed nice to see older economy cars!

    Like 2
  28. Lance Platt

    Actually a 2 box design in a hatchback!

    Like 0
  29. chrlsful

    as Roland sez ‘one of the 1st “world cars”.’ Y? because more’n more of the WHOLE process wuz farmed out (cars all ways had, well almost, Parts from other countries, ideas, etc.). Here they went offshore for Upper Fdunctions (office guys).

    Like 1
  30. Carbob Member

    I drove one of these as a company car for a few years back in the early eighties. I got upgraded from a Chevette. And it was a significant upgrade. I liked it. Very dependable and it rode nicely with decent acceleration and stopping. Stopped a whole lot better than the Chevette. Plenty of room for four and surprising what you could carry in it. If I was in the market for a good little DD; I would snatch this up in a heartbeat. This one won’t last long.

    Like 1
  31. SaabGirl900

    The L body actually morphed out of a Talbot…..the Talbot Horizon, which looks amazingly like an L body, but almost none of the body panels interchange.

    Chrysler started installing the 2.2 litre engine in the L body in late 1982, if my memory serves.

    My first brand new car was an ’83 Turismo with a 1.7 litre engine. I ordered the car with only an AM-FM stereo as an option. The car had a four speed (five speed wasn’t available until December of 1982) and couldn’t catch cold in the winter. What it could do was get phenomenal gas mileage and the hatch was huge. I ended up with four L bodies…..a GLH Turbo, an ’89 Horizon America and I bought a ’90 Omni for my height challenged Mum.

    I wish I still had all four of them…..they weren’t perfect, but they were the right car for the times.

    Like 4
  32. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    My Dad, a Chrysler guy, bought one of these for my Mon, new in ’79. I remember 2 things: it was an unattractive 2 tone beige / brown, and the awful smell of the all plastic interior.

    Like 1
  33. John H.

    Great Scott!! A doppelganger for my driver’s education range car. Somehow after doing 20 MPH on the range course in the Omni, it allegedly prepared us for the mean streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan whilst driving the 76 Chevy Caprice estate (battle) wagons. Nothing could be further from the truth!! I also appreciate Barn Finds for the highlighting the unsung vehicles of our yutes.

    Like 4
    • Shaun

      I had a 92 Caravan to battle the mean streets of Grand Rapids during Driver’s Ed. I owned a 1986 Omni though. No complaints other than the Omni was jinxed.

      Like 1
  34. Andy Johnson

    My son has an 81 that was my Grandparent’s back in the day. Waiting on a rebuild. Popped the #4 piston when it overboosted. The 2.2/auto was swapped to a 2.5turbo/5spd combo. Makes for a much funner car but with the old economy car looks.

    Like 0
  35. nlpnt

    First car I ever drove after getting my permit was Mom’s ’86 Horizon, Driver’s Ed car was an ’89 Escort so I got to do an A/B comparison. The Mopar had better seats. To complete the circle I learned stick on a Chevy Sprint which too, had better seats than Fomoco – structurally, that is, since the Sprint’s upholstery was all-vinyl.

    Like 1
    • JCA Member

      You should have compared them to an ’83 or ’84 GTI or GLI with the Recaro seats. Now those are seats

      Like 1
  36. Larry

    Ordered same ‘79 new, VW engine and 4 speed. Decided everyone was choosing Burgundy, so changed my mind to the Flame Orange! Same wheels. Tan vinyl. Served me well and a bit of fun. Drove around RWD cars stuck on snowy hills. Minor rear end smack from major Boston news radio personality…the morning after the famous weatherman’s retirement party.

    Like 0
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Larry, who was it? Curious minds from the area want to know.

      Like 0
  37. Marshall

    I had a 1984 Plymouth Turismo 2.2 with a 5 speed. Fun little car that ran really well. We needed a four door so in 1986 we bought a new Plymouth Horizon. Same set up. Had that car for a long time- she ran really well and was quite a fun little car to drive. Only real issue we had was it went through valve cover gaskets, but they were very easy to replace. I think I put in three of them over the course of 169,000 miles. Had it until 1993 when we had to get a bigger car, but always have fond memories of them. The Turismo was Spice Brown with camel interior and the Horizon was Dark red with red cloth interior.

    Like 3
  38. Mother on Hubbard

    I was a car salesman in 1997 for Dodge when these first came out. They sold themselves. I remember we were even getting $$$$ over window sticker MSRP. They were very good cars, guess that’s why over 2 million were sold.

    Like 1
  39. Jimbosidecar

    I bought a new Omni in early 1981. VW based engine and automatic with air. It was really my wife’s car and she drove it until Chrysler introduced the mini vans. Traded it in for a Voyager. It had about 70,000 miles using nothing but gas and oil and filters. Very reliable car.

    Like 3
  40. Allen Member

    My son had an ’85 Horizon; my daughter, an ’86 Omni. “Detroit’s best-kept secret” I called them. That 2.2 liter engine was a winner, and with a manual five-speed – fun, surprisingly fast, cheap to run, and incredibly durable.

    The cars fell a bit short in the interior appointments category, but given all their other virtues, they could easily be forgiven for that. The moral of that story is don’t put a 150,000-mile interior in a 300,000-mile car. Both of these cars ran nearly 200,000 miles before we sold them and subsequent owners reported they were still running years later.

    BTW, another thing we need to teach youngsters is to check the oil! At least on old cars. Most kids don’t have a clue about that any more – with predictable results.

    Like 3
  41. Roland Schoenke

    My dad, not great grandma! Had a plymouth Horizon ’78. Learned to drive on it, 5spd first fwd car I experienced, fun.

    Like 0
  42. Brad H

    Had one exactly like it. Same colour even. Good little inexpensive car. My ex wife had tears in her eyes when I got rid of it. If it were closer I’d buy it.

    Like 2
  43. Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. Although I was way too young at the time to drive a car, I remember the Dodge Omni and the Plymouth Horizon. Plymouth being my favourite of the two. I’d buy the Plymouth, provided it came with a gauge cluster package.

    Like 1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      There were zero differences between the Dodge and Plymouth versions of these cars, as far as I know.

      My parents had a Horizon and I had an Omni.

      Like 1
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        My cousin had one back in 90s.

        Like 1
  44. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    For $3,500, how is this car still for sale? Seriously?

    Like 1

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