Nicest One Left? 1987 Dodge Omni

By the late 1970s, Chrysler Corporation was in big financial trouble. Its cars weren’t selling, mainly because they hadn’t kept up with the rest of the industry. Enter the L-bodied Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon, two sub-compacts that arrived about the same time as Lee Iacocca and helped pull Chrysler’s chestnuts out of the fire. Together, they would go on to sell two million copies in the next 13 years. This 1987 Dodge Omni is a nice survivor, something you don’t see every day. Along with a ton of spare parts, the auto is in Indio, California, and available here on craigslist for $3,750 OBO. Thanks to our reader “numskal” for bringing this tip our way!

The Omni/Horizon pairing (1978-90) would be the first U.S. Chrysler products assembled with front-wheel drive and a transversely mounted engine. The design originated with similar automobiles built by Chrysler Europe, so the cars had something of an imported look to them. They were built by Chrysler in Belvidere, Illinois, and later in Kenosha, Wisconsin by American Motors after AMC had joined the Chrysler fold. The success of the L-bodies allowed the company to get sufficient funding to continue to develop its heralded compact K-car program, which also served as the basis of the first mini-van, another hit sponsored by Iacocca.

Horizons outsold their Omni counterparts, but the latter saw 110,000 units made in 1987 alone, the year of the seller’s car. He/she bought the car from its second owner in 2018 and has only added 4,000 miles since then, bringing the odometer reading to under 52,000. We’re told this Dodge was sold new in California and has stayed in the state ever since, helping it stay rust-free after 34 years. The body and paint aren’t perfect with a few little dings, but overall, it looks solid for an automobile whose siblings have mostly moved on to the scrapyard by now.

Under the hood resides a 2.2-liter Inline-4 paired with an automatic transmission, and we’re told both work as they should. To help ensure the continued survivability of the little car, the seller purchased a parts car and harvested a bunch of stuff that might come in handy later. That collection includes an extra hood, hatch, doors, wiring harness, and grille along with a spare engine and transmission. All of this comes with the deal.

Unless there’s an Omni/Horizon club out there where owners can congregate with their cars, you don’t see these around much anymore. Especially one that might be in the running for “the nicest one left” competition. If you were looking for an inexpensive economy car to fill the need for a 2nd or 3rd car in the family, why not give this little vehicle a look. It may have survived for a reason. And the price is right.

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Comments

  1. Dan

    I bought a 1984 Omni GLH and a standard 1989 Omni brand new, these are great cars and are very underrated. But this one has Plymouth Horizon tail lights and K car wheel covers. With all the spare parts this thing might just have been pieced together. I would look at this much closer before putting my money down.

    Like 13
    • Rafael

      I am the owner of this car and while I apricate the article I was not asked if my listing could be used along with my pictures. Changes in the car and you think it should be look at closer? Why did people ad aftermarket parts to there cars back in the day? To make the car like the want it to look. Aries Caps looked better than the pitted beauty rings that were on it when I bought it. And the reason for the Horizon tail lights is because I like amber turn signals. Just like I have done with my Dodge Neon, the export models had Amber turn signals and I changed them on that car too. Spart parts came from an 89 Horizon that had no title as I planned to have spares for a car that already is hard to find. Come look at it before you make judgment.

      Like 14
  2. Willie1

    Engine looks like a 1981, first year for the 2.2L. I think by ‘87 they were black maybe even had fuel injection.

    Like 3
    • Rafael

      Engine is black, I painted the Valve cover Chrysler blue when I changed the gasket since the cork was leaking. 87 was the last year for carbureted, they went to TBI for base Omnis in 88. Everything in the engine bay is original to this car. Believe me I wish I could junk alot of the emission components and sorry excuse of a carburetor and make it more peppy but good old CA emission testing…

      Like 7
  3. Ed H

    He’s not asking too much for some freak who would like to have one of these.

    Like 4
    • Stevieg Member

      I would be that freak. This, unlike my 1979 Cougar, would definitely fit in my garage.

      Like 8
  4. Ben T Spanner

    I bought a new one in 1980, with 2 tone paint and a fuzzy interior. It replaced a 1977 Acord, also bought new. My wife was an outside salesperson with a local territory. The Horizon did fine. The AC was better than the Honda. Ours had a VW engine with a carb, vs the VW fuel injection. No problems.
    In 3 years it got a set of tires and an alternator. The interior wore like iron. The exterior paint was thick enamel, and in 3 years of Ohio weather, it had no rust.
    I saw Plymouths with Dodge logos on the rear at the dealershp, so maybe the wrong taillights came from the factory. I doubt the dealer would have worry about it.
    I don’t think these had collapsible steering columns, so they got deep dished steering wheels.

    Like 7
    • nlpnt

      Taillights are from an older model, it has the amber rear signals that only the first couple years came with. If they work it’s a worthwhile upgrade in my book; if they don’t (and the brake lights still flash) then replacing them is a matter of sourcing the parts, once those are in hand the rest is plug-and-play.

      Like 1
      • Rafael

        Its the same thing that I did to my 1997 Dodge Neon using Export tail lights, you isolate the signal wire and ground, leave the running lights alone, and run the stop lamps off of the 3rd brake light. Break the connection at the column so the signals don’t act as stop lamps as well. No hyper flash and they all work as they should. Some people in prev comment thought it was a pieced together not realizing that maybe someone likes the older look.

  5. Troy

    So this thing has under 52k miles yet he still felt the need to acquire a parts car. They were throw away cars when new but you could still pull 150k miles out of it before you had to many problems.
    This is what you get your newly licensed teen driver so they actually have to pay attention to their driving.

    Like 7
    • Rafael

      You never know what may happen, can’t find these in junkyards so if some idiot tries to break my window, I like the fast that I have one I can go and grab. I keep spare parts for all my cars.

      Like 6
      • DON

        Its a car that sold a lot, but they were classed as throwaway cars , and you’re right, parts today are going to be hard to find . The first time the buyer needs a part that you saved, he’ll be thankful you did !

        Like 3
  6. Lance Platt

    I have written posts in praise of the American car industry for building the stylish and affordable Vega and Pinto even if the execution fell short until later model years. Chrysler was late to the party but the Omni and Horizon filled the USA subcompact void until the end of the 1980s.The early engines were weak but the 2.2 proved successful in a small car. The styling is timeless like a VW Golf and affords a mix of headroom and hatchback space.Jusr imagine rolling up to a car show of antique Model T Fords and 1955-57 Chevys and newer Camaros in this Horizon? The little Dodge would draw lots of attention. There would be stories of every parent and aunt and friend who had one of those because they were affordable and dependable and had fwd traction. This offering has dings but is definitely worth a serious look.

    Like 10
  7. Steve

    Good car until I rolled it on the belt parkway in Brooklyn NY. It was a rental. Oopsey

    Like 2
  8. SaabGirl900

    As Dan points out, the taillights are from a Horizon…specifically an early (1978-1980) Horizon. The right outside mirror is either aftermarket or from a 1990 L Body; prior to ’90, all L Body O/S mirrors were round.

    L Bodies were great cars. I had 4 of them, and wished that I had hung onto my ’85 GLH Turbo and my ’89 Horizon. My ’83 Turismo had the 1.7 litre VW four and a four speed…..it surely wasn’t fast, but I got 40+ MPG and the car would run on anything coming out of a pump labeled “gasoline”. Any L Body with slushdrive is going to be painfully slow…..you time zero to sixty with a sundial, not a stopwatch. Up here in New England, the tinworm would eat them alive…..and body integrity (door handles, locks, etc) were not particularly sturdy. Yet, I loved mine……they were nearly indestructible and went in snow where mere cars feared to tread. In point of fact, the only cars that outdid the L Bodies in the snow are my Saabs…….

    Like 7
    • Rafael

      Yup I changed the tail lights because preferred the look of the older ones. As far as the mirror this did not come with one from the factory as there is no outline for one like the driver side door like there is on the passenger so this was an ad on.

      Like 2
      • Rafael

        Sorry got that mixed up, the passenger door does not have the recessed outline for the mirror like the driver side does. Must of cost a few bucks more from the dealer to have both mirrors.

        Like 2
  9. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking car. I remember when the Dodge Omni and its twin, the Plymouth Horizon were offered back in the 1980s.

    Like 5
  10. flynndawg

    i would be embarressed to be seen in this ‘tin can’, im a old fart, and ive heard for years that a car was suppose to be an extention of 1’s personality… these have no personality… sad little throw away tin cans…

    Like 1
    • Stevieg Member

      I disagree with you. If my cars are extensions of my personality, I’m bipolar lol.
      I would buy this just because you don’t see them around no more. I had a Horizon TC3 I sold here about a year & a half ago. I really liked the car, other than with the 1.7 liter engine it wasn’t capable of modern freeway speeds lol.
      This one with the 2.2, along with 2 extra doors, would be way more practical. I would consider this for daily duty.

      Like 7
    • Rafael

      Good for you, because people that see me driving it love it, and it reminds them when they had one back in the day, and are happy to see one still on the road today.

      Like 5
  11. DON

    Its a car that sold a lot, but they were classed as throwaway cars , and you’re right, parts today are going to be hard to find . The first time the buyer needs a part that you saved, he’ll be thankful you did !

  12. Marshall

    I had an 84 Plymouth Turismo with the 2.2 and a 5 speed, then needed 4 doors, so got an 86 Hrizon, with the same set up. It was a fun car to drive and was fantastic in the snow. It was also very easy to work on, as I did my own maintenance and most repairs. Had 186,000 miles on it with very few issues. The one thing I had to do a few times was to replace the valve cover gasket, as they were prone to leaks, but it was an easy repair and the gaskets were only $10. Whoever buys this one will definitely have a great little car!

    Like 1
  13. Spudoo

    I like that the actual seller is commenting here. Even if he got drawn into the conversation by Barnfinds simply harvesting his Craigslist post for their own amusement and profit. Hopefully the seller benefits from this as much as Barnfinds benefits from the clicks. That said, I think this is a fair price for this car…which may yet to have reached its peak resale value, but I guarantee that 10 years from now, when someone finds this “article”, the thinking will be along the lines of “Good lord, these things were SO CHEAP in 2021. I wish I had bought it then.”

    • Rafael

      Yea the first part I was not to happy about, my friend saw it on facebook and asked if that was my car. Still have seen no benefit from it being on here as far as selling.
      I feel it was the right price for a complete rust free CA car. Some people are asking $5K for one that is in New your and has rotted floor boards….
      Someone that appreciates the history of these budget Malaise era cars will buy it.

      • Stevieg Member

        Rafael, I have sold a lot of cars because of this website, and I pay to have my cars listed here. You got yours here for free lol. Any advertising, especially free advertising, is good advertising lol.

        Like 1
  14. Jack Gray

    I had a new ’86 Horizon Duster with carburated engine, what a POS. Dealer’s service department could never get the carburetor right, it even stalled when I pulled out of their lot a half mile down the highway IN traffic! Only had 32,000 miles when I dumped it in ’90 for a new Ranger p/u that I kept for 12 years with a lot less problems. An ’85 Plymouth Caravelle had the same engine, but was a turbo fuel injected. Only kept that thing 4 years, too many things needing repair, including the turbo. Dumped that for an Olds Cutlass.

  15. SaabGirl900

    Rafael, I am glad that you saved this car and took good care of it. If I lived closer, I’d be out looking at this car in a heartbeat, slushbox or not. I miss my L Bodies…..they may not have been a Mercedes, but then, maintenance on a Horizon or Omni didn’t cause you to empty your bank account as a Benz would…..

    Like 3
    • Rafael

      I see the people that are complaining that there POS. Maybe they never worked on them or have the knowledge on working on cars.
      Mine runs great after figuring out how these cars work, and it could run so much better if I did not have to keep all the emission components on but CA smog.
      Its a nice car to driver around town, but a little uncomfortable for someone that is 6’5.

      • Jack Gray

        My remarks were my own opinion regarding the Chrysler products of the mid 80’s. It was most unfortunate that the 2 vehicles mentioned were not covered under the Florida “lemon” laws at the time. The repair and/or replacement of parts that failed in less than 4 years of ownership were not something a non mechanical person could take on . The repair estimates in both cases totaled almost $5000 and it was felt trading was the only option at the time. Chrysler quality had not met my expectations at the time and MY opinion still stands. Sorry if my comments offended anyone as I know there a lot of true MOPAR folks out there.

  16. jwaltb

    Nicest one left?
    Hahaha, keep up the good work, Russ!

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