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The Omni that Goes Like Hell…

When I was a young lad in the early 1980’s I remember doing grocery runs and school shopping at Bamberger’s in my moms ‘81 Dodge Omni. Now I was too young to know at that time how important cars such as the utilitarian Omni was for car makers in the late 1970’s and early ‘80s. Truly this time period could be classified as automotive dark ages, with ever increasing laws and regulations creating an atmosphere so difficult many companies simply shuttered their factories forever. Every once in a while, however, a glimmer of hope emerged in the gloom of mass-produced pedestrian cars. Sometimes something unique and fun slipped through corporate pencil pushers and a gem was created. In this case, it is a 1985 Dodge Omni GLH found here on Craigslist in Burlington, Vermont.

A far cry from the base Omni and its sister the Plymouth Horizon, these turbocharged hot hatches boasted 146hp from its 2.2-liter power plant. This is more than enough to get you to the grocery store at more than a brisk pace and return you home before the ice cream melts. This particular GLH is said to have numerous new parts installed which include new brakes, tires, and water pump. The seller does indicate the car has been a rolling restoration of sorts that was “saved” from the scrap yard. The cars body panels look fairly solid, with faded paint, however, it is noted that the floorboards need rust repair. No underside photos are provided to tell how bad they are. Like all cars from the Northeast, a thorough rust inspection is a must.

The interior looks serviceable, trimmed in typical 1980’s fashion. A new headliner is apparently needed, as are some odds and ends as stated in the add. A good cleaning will be in order and while no photos of the seats are given, the seller states there are rips which will have to be addressed.

If the engine runs well as the ad claims this may be a neat addition to anyone’s oddball stable. When was the last time you even saw a standard Omni on the road, much less a GLH? I think any soccer mom who likes a little quirkiness in their day, would more than enjoy one of these!


  1. RoughDiamond

    As crazy as it probably sounds, this is truly a bucket list car for me.

    Like 14
  2. JoeNYWF64

    This should have only been a 2 door with back seat optional. Imagine what a pinto, vega or gremlin would look like with 4 doors.
    Try getting into the back seat of a chevy spark or other current subcompact or even compact …
    Also thought the original ford fiesta was cute.
    Too bad the US didnt get this version, tho i still can’t figure what the phony side “vent” window is for – give me full door glass styling! …

    Like 1
  3. Classic Steel

    Only comment on Omni VW engines
    “Never get them hot or bye bye head’ and hello troubles

    It’s a neat ride and looks like a fun banger to drive …

    Like 2
    • Rx7turboII

      I thought the vw engine was only in the 78 79 80 cars….the 2.2 I swear is all mopar…anyone know for sure?

      Like 2
      • Ex-Trenton Worker

        For sure the 2.2L is all Mopar. The VW engine was a 1.7L. When the Omni launched in 1978 model year, that 1.7L was the only engine option. I know the 2.2L debuted in 1981 model year but the VW 1.7 continued through 1984 model year. I worked in the 2.2L engine plant in 1986 – 1988 (Trenton Engine).

        Like 2
      • Rick A. Loera Member

        The 2.2 is Mopar. My friends 84 Shelby Rampage had the normally aspirated 2.2 4 cylinder engine with a 5-speed transmission. My other friend had an 85 2-door Shelby Charger with a turbo 2.2 4 cyl that made 146HP. Both very fun cars.

        Like 0
  4. Spontex

    Simca-Talbot Horizon in France

    Like 0
  5. Ben T. Spanner

    This has a Mopar 2.2. I had one with a VW motor. In my opinion the Mopar version had better drivability vs the VW. Had it new for 3 years,so no reliability problems. Only repair was a $20 alternator “rebuild”.

    Like 2
  6. Josh

    There is a guy out in Central/NE Ohio with a yard full of Omni/Horizons. He’s had them for at least 15 years now, maybe twenty of them.

    Like 3
    • Rob

      I’d love to get his contact info if you have it

      Like 1
  7. glen

    I had an Omni back in the 80’s, not the GLH, but it was a standard transmission.I guess the next owner thought it was an automatic because he didn’t change gears and destroyed it driving down the highway!

    Like 2
    • Gay Car Nut

      LOL! The next owner of the car had obviously never driven a car with a manual transmission. He apparently never operated a clutch pedal.

      Like 1

    Missing the glove box door, shouldn’t be to hard to find

    Like 1
  9. Miguel

    These things are also worrisome.

    Missing headliner, and some small interior rips. Floor panels will need some work to pass VT Inspection, although it took a sticker last year. Currently needs a battery, which I may end replacing by the time you read this. Other than having to jumpstart the car (because of the dead battery), it runs and drives just fine.

    Like 0
    • CanuckCarGuy

      The $4K asking price also seems out of step with the condition of the car… especially when floor work is required. Half of that asking price would be more realistic, given the “to do’ list.

      Like 1
  10. Miguel

    This is worrisome.

    title status: missing

    He says he saved it from the scrap yard which I take to mean he bought it out of a junkyard.

    This means he doesn’t have a title or if you can get one it will be a salvage title.

    This will not be a collector car, so if you can get it cheap enough, just drive it.

    He will have to explain how he got plates in his state if the title is missing.

    Like 4
    • Superdessucke

      I would get this and beat this thing to within a centimeter of its life. the right front tire is already visibly out of camber. It would be a blast as slam this thing in the corner full on and see how much further you could get it over, or a ridiculously hard left to maybe even straighten it?

      Who cares about the lack of title? Just have fun.

      Like 1
  11. Davis

    My brother had an orange Omni. Very easily got stuck on even the lowest of snow windrows, a bit of forward/reverse rocking got it going again.

    Like 2
  12. MVLG

    I am enamored with this little golden nugget of a commuter car. Much like any loyal follower of Chrysler Corp. , I pine to own a Super Bird or a Dodge Charger, but these cars have become so inflated in price that owning one is more of a dream than a achievable goal.

    This car not only simple to work on, but, its economical 4 cylinder that looks sinister to boot. With enough perseverance and proper savings, I can hopefully own this car at some point in the future.

    (Turbo Woosh Noise).

    Like 1
  13. Dusty

    bought one new … it hauled my family around and gave me good service …. it was a good car

    Like 1
  14. Injuhneer

    I remember seeing a test mule in Kokomo, IN.

    I had a hotted-up 914 and this little Omni left me in the dust.

    When I caught up to the car it had a decal on the rear window:


    Like 4
  15. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking car. At the time, I didn’t find the Dodge Omni as attractive as its twin, the Plymouth Horizon. Today, I find them both to be good looking cars. I’d buy one myself, particularly with GLH performance gauges, if I hadn’t already bought a car. And $4000 sounds like a great price for anyone looking for a starter collector car one could drive everyday. :)

    Like 0
  16. Ken Nelson Member

    Two of us at Dupont worked with molar egineers back then. He saw development work on these & called then “son of rabbit”, so Vw inspired them

    Like 0
  17. bill walters

    Bambergers. You must have lived in Hackensack or thereabouts.

    Like 0
  18. SquareLeft

    First, let me note that the 1985 GLH was the first one with a turbo. The 1984 GLHs were normally aspirated 2.2s with some bolt-on performance equipment. Back in the mid-to-late ‘80s, the ’84 GLH was the hot ticket for Production class in SCCA ProRally. At the time, I was co-driving for my buddy Bill and we were sponsored by his business. He bought a lightly rolled ’84 GLH to replace our VW GTI, which was getting tired. Through a friend who was a Dodge dealer, we found out about a program that Chrysler had in place to get more of their cars into various forms of racing. We hauled the little GLH up to a building on the outskirts of Detroit and dropped it off… The building was stocked floor-to-ceiling with FWD performance parts for Omnis, Chargers, etc. Six weeks passed and, for a very modest sum, we picked up our GLH – now equipped with a roll cage, reinforced suspension and a gorgeous aluminum skid pan for, probably, half the cost of what we would have spent to do it ourselves.

    We rallied the car for several years until Bill got involved in a rather contentious divorce. He sold me the GLH for a song, with the provision that he could buy it back if I decided to sell it. That was close to 30 years ago and the little Dodge is still in my garage! It hasn’t competed in a stage rally since ’92, but I have run some ‘performance TSDs’ with it since then. We started a ‘referb’ of the car in 2001, but family issues sidetracked the project, so it’s been sitting patiently, waiting for me to get time to finish the wiring and brakes. If you’re still reading, you can get the whole story at:

    One last comment: These cars are cheap to buy right now and aren’t really competitive any more in stage rally and autocross, but that doesn’t make them any less of a kick to drive. They’re great fun to toss around on back roads and you’ll never get bored – the torque steer will keep your eyes wide open!

    Like 4
  19. dyno dan

    Skoda, Polski, Lada and Trabant Oh My! drove an Omni in Germany
    and up against these eastern European super cars, it was right lane only.
    Blew the engine twice. fortunately a Renault shop was able to sandwich a R-21
    engine/trans in it. never did run right. finally found an engine/trans in Stuttgart. Drove it back to Schweinfurt and on the way to the housing area the engine let
    go again. Not to be outdone, we replaced the head, filled it full of 90 weight gear oil and drove for about 4 months. I went back to the states, and last I heard it became an end table by an m-88! Fun Times

    Like 0
  20. Todd Priest

    I’d love to have it if I had a place for it.

    Like 0
  21. Robert Sproul

    Title missing should Be the biggest deterrent

    Like 2
  22. David Miraglia

    Better a cheap Omni than a Cheap bus….

    Like 1
  23. PRA4SNW

    Late to the game on this one.
    I owned an ’86 GLH-T new for about a year before I totaled it doing something stupid.
    What a fun car and a super sleeper. If a decent one could be picked up cheap (cheaper than this one), it would be great to re-live a little of my past, without the accident of course.

    Like 1
  24. Gay Car Nut

    @ PRA4SNW: I agree. I remember these cars. I would’ve bought one for myself at the time if I had a driver’s license. I found them more attractive than the VW Golf.

    Like 1

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