Rare Oddity: 1981 Dodge DeTomaso

With only 619 editions produced in their last year of being offered, this 1981 Dodge DeTomaso is a pretty rare ride. It can be found here on craigslist in Ringgold, Georgia, about 20 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The seller is asking $7,850. Thanks to Ikey H. for sending in this tip!

The Dodge Omni 024 decked out in DeTomaso trim was not exactly the most potent vehicle to have been touched by Italy’s house of DeTomaso, but they’re somewhat unique. Plymouth offered a similar package on their Horizon TC3 known as the Turismo. Both cars were based on the more pedestrian and pragmatic Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon, a product of Chrysler/Simca and arguably the first big-selling affordable American front-wheel-drive cars. I know, Cord and GM made front-wheel-drive cars many years before the Omni and Horizon, but they didn’t sell in the same numbers and they weren’t exactly affordable for the masses.

The Dodge DeTomaso was basically a trim package, consisting of wheel flares, a bigger chin spoiler, lots of DeTomaso graphics and flat black paint, and the signature stainless steel roof band.

The package also included a four-spoke steering wheel and sport shifter but, unfortunately, this one has an automatic transmission (insert screeching sounds here). Albeit, a very good 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite transmission, but still, the 4-speed version knocked 2.5 seconds off of the 0-60 time and had to make it much more fun to drive. This example looks great inside and out to me, I don’t really see a major flaw anywhere. There’s a reason for that, the seller says that this car has been totally restored inside and out! At a selling price of $7,850, someone is losing their shirt if this car has been totally restored and is selling at that low price!

The engine is standard fare for the 1981 Omni O24 DeTomaso, as in the only one available: Chrysler’s 2.2L inline-four with a mere 84 hp and 111 ft-lb of torque. This car only weighed in at around 2,300 pounds, but 84 hp is still on the low side, to say the least. It’s more in keeping with the Omni sedan’s economy and practicality virtues than any performance attributes. What are some other cars or trucks that you can think of that were mainly graphics packages and no performance upgrades? Let us know in the comments.


  1. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Eh, why?

    Not attractive, not particularly sporty, generic underpinnings….

    Having a famous name, does that equate to desirability? Not for me….
    Someone will like it, and kudos to them, diversity makes the world turn.

    Like 14
    • KenB

      YOUR opinion; I think these are quite attractive… certainly not fast, though.

      Like 1
  2. Moparman Member

    The Omni 024 and Plymouth TC3 were good looking cars (before they enclosed the rear window on later models, IMO). The De Tomaso package was only an attempt to make it stand out more (“Charger 2.2”,stripe pkg for example). It’s obvious that the seller is a Dodge/Mopar lover; I see a Shelby, a Rampage, a Neon, and a Daytona, and possibly a Chrysler TC. I wonder what else may come up for sale…GLWTA! :-)

    Like 8
    • Ron L.

      I bough a brand new TC3 first year they came out, 1979. Yellow and black two tone with yellow honey comb wheels and white letter Eagle GT Radials (13″ of course!) I spray painted those back wing windows black from the inside, looked real sharp on the outside.

      Nothing but problems with the VW motor, by the time I was done with the car 6 years later it was drinking almost a quart of oil per fill up.

      Like 1
  3. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    It looks as if the designers were trying to capture the essence of the DeLorean. It’s obscure and surely rare, which doesn’t mean desirable, I know. I like it though and that interior is the perfect blend of a seventies style dashboard and and eighties seats and trim.

    Like 3
    • CJinSD

      This car came to market as the Omni O24 and Horizon TC3 during 1978. There weren’t too many Deloreans running around at the time. Are you suggesting that Giorgetto Giugiaro copied Chrysler when he penned the DMC-12?

      Like 3
  4. Jon

    The under hood shot makes me ask what they mean by restored? That radiator brace, and hood latch support looks crusty. I know it is probably only surface rust, but it looks like it could use some help.

    Like 7
  5. Mark-A

    So much Alfa Romeo in the design to my eyes, GTV & the front looks like it’s been “modified/updated” from the EU Opel Manta. I’d still have to get eyes on before consideration, another case of low production numbers & rarity NOT making a vehicle worth much more than an equally disappointing car from almost any manufacturer.

    Like 2
  6. Maestro1 Member

    It’s unique with none of the DeTomaso power and probably refinement. I drive my cars so i would have to pass on this one because if I got hit in traffic or otherwise I’d never get it fixed properly. So someone buy it and enjoy.

    Like 2
  7. Bmac

    My dad had an 81 omni that I “borrowed” a lot when my cars were under repair or junked.
    That car withstood some extreme beatings
    The motor would rev to what seemed like 6500 rpm’s
    Took it off road plenty of times with the FWD
    would spin 180’s with the E brake and would also use that for drifting corners.
    For 2yrs it never had a problem, until one of those E brake drifts went bad in the rain and it T boned a pole.
    Fun little car

    Like 4
    • Mark-A

      The folly of youth, I reckon we ALL did pretty much the same thing when we were younger (coz let’s face it, we knew everything & were convinced that we were all invincible before reality hit us!) I have a soft spot for a 1983/4 Euro Mk3 Ford Escort 1.6 Ghia as it was the first car I drove without an instructor present)

      Like 4
    • T Smallwood

      Loved my 81 Omni, my first car. Also did donuts with the E brake, and drifted before I knew what drifting was. Offroaded with it, never had any issues with it.

      Was pulled over one time doing 110mph in a 55. The officer said, do you know how fast you were going? I said, No, my speedometer only goes up to 85 but it was bouncing like crazy! He said, you were doing 110! I said, I didn’t think this car could DO 110, he said, neither did I –he gave me a ticket for 85mph. Good times.

      Like 5
  8. Mark M.

    What a waste of a strong name with pony engine and horsepower, al least Shelby models were turbos and pretty quick .

    Like 2
  9. Skorzeny

    They should have called it the Pantera Jr.

    Like 1
  10. Mopar one

    It is surface rust for sure, if you look at it close.

  11. JoeNYWF64

    I would think anyone driving a Pantera seeing THIS thing on the road would LHAO. & possibly give the driver “the bird”.

    Like 2
  12. W.b. Geee

    Had a TC-3 black, manual with the Volkswagen engine. Drove it a lot,cheap used car purchase off the back roll of ‘ bargain cars’. Great economy car with unusual problems, had a roll pin that held the steering shaft to the rack, eventually you had 4 inches of free play before the steering wheel actually pointed the car in the right direction, the distributor cap was unusual design and suddenly you would be running on 3 cylinders due to the cap sheering off one of the contacts, rubber carburetor spacer, one day in the chatter bumps on a dirt road and the carb fell off, bungeeing it back on to get home…. still drove it long distances flawlessly, nothing but good memories….

    Like 1
  13. Superdessucke

    Nothing was sacred during the 1980s Chrysler Revolution. They sullied the DeTomaso name, the Shelby name, the Mark Cross name, the Daytona name, the Charger name, and the Maserati name all in a span of just a few years!

    Like 8
    • Superdessucke

      And if you’re a classic Chrysler luxury car fan, don’t forget the Imperial and New Yorker names affixed to glorified K cars!

      Like 6
      • Troy s

        I completely agree with you, super, drastically different cars from the Mopar camp, some of those names seemed humorous on the front drive little cars. However, those are the wheels that kept Chrysler from going under water back then.

        Like 1
  14. TinCanSailor

    Badge engineering at its height! I had an 85 Charger 2.2 with a five speed manual. Not a bad car, but it had all the 80s quality issues! I think 0-60 times were about 10 seconds or so.

    • Susan McKee Member

      I had an ’86. Fun little car though. Manual absolutely required as it was too slow with the automatic.

  15. Lynn Dockey Member

    still a dog charger, second biggest POS i owned. Number 1 was a 1980 TR-7

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