Elegant Econobox: 1988 Dodge Omni

Econoboxes tend to get the short end of the stick; yeah they’re slow, small, and (often) ugly… but hey, at least the Omni can claim Carroll Shelby as a fan! Sadly, this 1988 Dodge Omni is not one of the modified GLH or GLHS models, but it’s still a fairly clean example of this fun little subcompact. This one can be found listed at auction here on eBay with no reserve and is located in Chelmsford, MA.

The interior of this Omni is very well kept, with no apparent damage or major wear to the upholstery. The seller does disclose that a portion of the carpet has been cut out, ostensibly to allow the floor pan to have been inspected for rust, but they state the included floor mats do cover it up. As you might expect with any 30-year-old car, there are few little issues that need to be addressed, like the non-functioning driver’s side exterior door handle and a busted tachometer. Still, nothing that would really prevent the new owner from enjoying the car right away and fixing the little things in their spare time.

From ’87 onwards, the 2.2L Chrysler inline-four cylinder engine replaced the anemic VW 1.7 and Simca 1.6 liter engines of yesteryear.  This one is stated to run well with no issues, and is mated to the five-speed manual transmission. For a car that was designed from the ground up to cover a lot of miles without a burning a ton of gas, this one is still fairly light on the odometer reading at only 99k.


While the overall condition of the Omni is well preserved, the car is not without its flaws; sadly there is a bit of rust bubbling up on the door sill and the floor pans are in the early stages of oxidation but there are no through-and-through holes anywhere yet. Overall though it looks to be in decent shape and barring any major surprises right before the gavel comes down on the listing, should go for a very reasonable price. How do you guys think the Omni stacked up against other econoboxes of its day?

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  1. Blueprint

    I remember riding in one of these when they were current, same color as this one but automatic, and I was surprised that it rode like a comfy domestic, far from the Mazda GLC and other contemporaries. The 2.2’s were quite speedy too!

  2. local_sheriff

    That is one ugly car! I’m utterly shocked it was in production for so long, obviously they must have offered something, I just don’t see what.

    I remember these were among the last models made by Chrysler Europe and sold under both the Chrysler, Talbot and Simca nameplates, seemingly depending on what tags the plant had on the shelf on the day of assembly. I think it won some ‘car of the year’ award once, but this was the kind of car typically bought by those who couldn’t care less about cars…they were so-so taken care of,rotted away fairly fast and I don’t think anyone missed them…

    As with all quirky cars I’m amazed this one has survived in such condition, and I respect those who will preserve one – it’s just not something I’d own…

    • Sidney

      I had a 1979, very reliable car except the crummy break in your hand door handles in cold weather. Best snow car I have ever owned too. Pretty, no, but got the job done, that is why they sold so very well. Even the hatch back was great, moved a lot of huge items in that, even a large recliner and a kitchen table. If I could buy this car new again today, I would. Chrysler should start up a factory somewhere and pop these out for 10K, I would take one over a Mitsu Mirage.

      • dweezilaz

        I would do the same Sidney.

      • Sidney

        @dweez, If my local Mitsu dealer can sell a Mirage at 10K complete with air, cruise, a digital radio, and a lifetime warranty,,,,why can’t Chrysler? Young people in dire financial situations, could use an affordable reliable car instead of a risky similarly priced used car. Trouble is, I don’t think car companies want to sell cheap reliable transportation when they got the foolish American public hooked on multi ton four wheelers priced at a highly profitable margin. Besides, Fiat is about to pull the plug on poor Chrysler. Too bad they made the same mistake many other once great car companies made, they bought Jeep. Ahh Jeep, the cock roach of vehicles. After WW3, it will be the only thing still here. A resurrected OMNI makes just too much sense, the tooling and development is paid for. Of course, don’t want to siphon sales from 70K Ram pickups or unreliable Jeeps, would they? The OMNI could be the new Model T or VW Bug for this new impoverished generation.

      • Sidney

        Good point, I wondered about that too.

      • Sidney

        Dweez, a few added thoughts. Maybe the 2.2 engine is a little old, how about the 132 hp 2.0 liter used in the Neon? Wasn’t that used in the Dart at like 150+hp? Think abut that, an old reliable emissions compliant engine that there is cheap paid for tooling that has as much or more zoom then an old turbo Omni GLH! Fix the door handles, I think using less crummy metal would fix that. A nice Bluetooth radio, standard air, maybe cruise, we are done. A five speed is good enough, use the Neon one there too (an improvement from that rubbery old shiftier my Omni had) No need for power windows, but each his own. Could they do it for less then 9 or 10K? I think so. Sit down with the UAW, come to an agreement for a reasonable salary, say 20 bucks and hour with decent benefits. Make it here in America, maybe even the old Kenosha, WI plant where they were last made. Talk about making America great again! We need to bring heavy industry back to these shores, this is a good place to start.

    • AMCFAN

      In 1979 Chrysler was almost in the tank. It was with both the Omni here and the K Car that convinced the American public to take another look at Chrysler which was just about washed up.

      These cars were very good for the times providing both reliability and fuel economy. As evidence of this example provided the owners great service with minimal care. It’s other offerings at the time the Aspen as an example rusted down within a few years. It’s apparent that they were in production for so long because there was still a demand for them.

      Die hard Chrysler people who were driving Luxobarges like the New Yorkers and Monoco’s and the like were driving these in the 80’s. Not hard to figure out.

      Good find

    • mallthus mallthus Member

      As much as the Mopar and PSA versions look identical, they’re actually totally different cars and, at best, fraternal twins. The car was still in the design and prototyping stage when Chrysler was forced to sell their European operations to Peugeot and the final product Chrysler built in the US shared only dimensions, shape, and, for Plymouth, the Horizon name. US cars were built in the US, with heavier steel and the VW engine. Essentially, Chrysler retained rights to the design, but did not get access to the production work that their European group carried into Peugeot.

      And for Europe, there was a very deliberate rationale to the naming structure. When they launched in 1978, Chrysler was, at least nominally, still in charge of Chrysler Europe. As had always been their practice, Chrysler used the Simca name in France and Spain and the Chrysler name in the rest of Europe and in the UK.

      Peugeot didn’t initially know know what to do with their new purchase, having bought the enterprise for the manufacturing plants, not the products or product pipeline. For products that had already been released, PSA opted to brand the Horizon, Simca 1309/Alpine, Tagora, etc, as Talbots, to denote a clean break from the no longer allowed Chrysler marques but also keeping the lineup at arm’s length from the existing Peugeot and Citroen offerings.

      As the product lines being sold as Talbots got further and further from their Chrysler origins and the entire brand’s sales trended down, PSA elected to kill the entire brand in 1984, although, inexplicably, the Fiat Ducato based Talbot Express continued to be sold in the UK into the 1990s as a Talbot.

      • local_sheriff

        Thanks for enlightening me on the differences, as I thought nothing but the light equipment differed across the pond.
        As I understand from many of the comments here the US model appaerantly was a much better product than what was yanked out of the Euro facilities. The quality of this and other pentastar-marked PSA products more or less RUINED Chrysler’s credibility in the European market for decades…

  3. Mark Evans

    wow,such kindness toward a total turd straight from the assembly line.

  4. Had Two

    “There are no smells”

    Gosh, certainly reassuring

  5. Evan

    First (and last) brand-new car I ever bought. Bought an ’89 in August of ’89 when they were clearing ’em off the lots $6000 out the door. A similar Mazda/Honda/Toyota was at least $7500 OTD. But the Dodge had a 2.2 liter engine vs. the Japanese 1.5/1.6, 14″ wheels vs 13″, and 5 gears vs. 4.

  6. CanuckCarGuy

    With an automatic, this was my Driver’s Ed car…I remember the fear of being a passenger, for two other students that’d never driven before. I’d been well prepped and practiced in dad’s ’73 Grand Marquis, so wielding the Omni was a breeze. Dont remember much about the Omni itself, other than it smelled of fear every time I got in!

  7. Robert

    My parents owned one. Bought new my dad sold it a year later. Said it was the most uncomfortable seats of any car he had owned. And his electric taste ranged from a Pinto wagon to a VW Dual Cab Pickup to a Nash Metropolitan.

  8. Tom H

    We bought an 88 Omni in 90 as a family beater. It was fully loaded and had a high trim level – actually pleasant and for-the-time quick. Drove the wheels off it. Achilles heel was the starter being broiled by the micro-clearance of the exhaust manifold.

  9. David Rhoces

    yeah they’re ugly but I owned one for economic reasons …. needed something cheap at the time and it was a good car …. didn’t give me any problems and got me where I wanted to go

    • dweezilaz

      Plus one, David.

      ‘didn’t give me any problems and got me where I wanted to go’: the true beauty in the thing.

      Ironic it’s ugly when it’s a Chrysler product but cherished if it’s a VW Rabbit/Golf in the looks department: similar in shape size and purpose. {And not a copy, well into development before the Golf/Rabbit came out.}.

      It’s elegant and simple and VW still uses the same two box styling decades later.


  10. Ben T Spanner

    Bought a brand new 1980. It replaced a 1977 Accord . The Horizon was better in terms of reliability and body integrity. VW engine with a carb. I believe it was the middle trim level and had a nice comfortable interior which wore very well. In three years it took a rebuilt alternator and new tires plus oil changes.
    Sold it at three years as my Wife’s sales job needed something bigger. This was one of the better of our 40 some cars.

  11. JP

    NJ Bell had a bunch of these for some of their employees. I drove many of them & could not believe the way that they rode & handled for a small car!

  12. Gay Car Nut

    I remember the Dodge Omni and its twin, the Plymouth Horizon. At the time, I found the Horizon more attractive than the Omni. But today, I find them more attractive than anything offered today.

  13. Turboomni

    Dodge Omni,,a face only Carol Shelby could love.

  14. Comet

    Option one: Cut out a large section of carpet to inspect for rust.

    Option two: Using a phillips screwdriver, remove the sill plate and inspect for rust.

  15. gtyates

    My wife and I owned an ’85 model back in the day. Bought it as a former dealer demo with around 4000 miles on it. It was a decent care for what it was, but around 60k miles it began to nickle and die us to death, including a fuel filler hose that ruptured while fueling up one afternoon.. IN Middle TN we do not see a huge amount of snow, but we do see some, and we did find that the Omni actually did really well in show. The next, and last, Dodge for us was a Dodge Shadow around 1992. POS, and Dodge could not seem to get it fixed. Motor mounts failed around 12k, and that was it for me.. fixed it under warranty, then dumped the car.

  16. Barry

    I ordered my 1978 omni before they were on showroom floors.
    It was one of the most economical cars I have owned. I towed a scamp upright
    Camper with it from North Dakota thru Wyoming,Utah,Nevada to long Beach
    California north to Sacramento to Reno then north tp Billings and then back to
    North Dakota. The overal mileage for the entire trip was 24. The speed limit
    Then was 55. On the interstate on a long trip it would make 41. In the six
    Years that I drove it the only problem was the ignition pickup in the distributer.
    Original cost wa $4500.00 because of the things I added.

  17. Tony

    Did some moron really cut the carpet to access the floor? That’s gotta be the stupidest and laziest thing I’ve ever seen.

  18. hatofpork

    OK car-nothing spectacular, but it handled reasonably well in normal driving and got decent fuel economy while carrying a lot of stuff. I had a Horizon for a minute and my mother bought a 2.2 omni. These weren’t meant to be exciting, merely utilitarian. Although Carroll Shelby (notice the correct spelling of his name) loved a challenge-especially if it came with corporate money attached.

    • Turboomni

      My sincere apologies on the spelling !
      Omni’s/ Glh series are not a stellar engineering achievements by any standards. The GLH series even non turbo at 110 hp and new at the time 195/50/15 wheel tire combo was a real eye opener in the handling department. Between it’s light weight and rather fat low profile tires and quick ratio steering this was a hoot to drive. Add a standard turbo 1 engine or a souped up turbo 2 these can be absolutely nuts and frankly dangerous because of the torque steer.
      You tube has a video of the fastest 5 speed manual transmission omni glht. High 9’s in the 1/4 mile.


      • Neal

        Awesome. Thanks for the link.
        I love those “reversed” tires with the wides on the front for a front wheel drive car.

  19. John T.

    This stick shift hatchback is located less than an hour away from me and I gave serious consideration to bidding, but I wanted to see the car first which unfortunately did not happen due to circumstances on my end. With a little over two (2) hours remaining in the auction bidding has reached $1,575 and the car will sell as there is no reserve. I am thinking that the winning bid will be very close to $2,000 if not a little higher … We’ll find out in a couple of hours.

  20. Miguel Member

    Matt, please define your use of elegant in this case.


  21. P Wentzell

    Ah, yes, my small company leased one of these new in 1985 (and a then current LTD, V8, that’s another story). It was a Dodge Omni, in that cream color, inside and out, automatic and air. The little car was really decent, and with the rear seat folded down, could hold a lot of cargo. When the short term lease was up, I was sad to see it go. In another story, a friend from work had one as a family car, a third or forth vehicle, he and his two other siblings used the car. All three, in three separate incidences, ran the car off the road in a soft rollover. All three times, the car landed upright. Each time the FM reception vastly improved! I did see the car a couple of times when he drove it to work, looking at it straight on, the body was canted one way, the greenhouse another. But the damn thing ran!

  22. Whizdbiz2

    We had a ’78 Omni, our first new car (just married in late ’76). It was cheap to own and maintain and got good gas milage, certainly better than the V8 Maverick it replaced. I learned the value of tire rotation for a front heavy front drive car. Only problem we had with it was a carb throttle plate screw decided to back out and become an appetizer for the engine, the plate slipped and jammed the throttle open. Figured the screw got spit out, heard a rattle then nothing. Easy enough to fix but worried about damage that would show up later. Traded it for a new ’82 Accord.

  23. Neal

    Absolutely nothing elegant there.

    Close to me but not something I’d be able to take time to check out anyway.

    Looks like it sold for just under 2K.

  24. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    My parents bought a ’79 Horizon new and I still can remember that putrid new car plastic smell – that thing will all hard plastics and vinyl.

    A far cry from the ’86 Omin GLH-T that I bought new.

  25. Bakyrdhero Member

    That steering wheel though…

  26. Marty Wilke Marty Member

    Of the many couple-hundred-dollar econo crapboxes I’ve owned over the years, this one was a lot better than most. Mine was this same light blue, but a PO had installed two bronze-colored front fenders from a junkyard.

    I didn’t own it long, but it never left me stranded. It was a lightweight cheaply made body, but the car ran and drove well. No regrets. That’s supposed to be praise, I think.

  27. Tom Justice

    Geez, there are far more comments about this car than the AAR Cuda! My best friend in high school drove one of these with the VW engine and an automatic tranny. It was decent basic transportation and since his parents bought it for him new he LOVED it. His only mistake was after it was totally worn out and he was on his own he bought ANOTHER ONE.


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