Dodge Omni
aka Omni GLH ("Goes Like Hell")
Production 1978-1990
Class Subcompact
Body Style 5-Door Sedan
Length 163.2"
Width 66.8"
Height 53"
Wheelbase 99.1 in
Weight 2400 - 2700 lb
Transmissions 4-Speed Manual, FWD
5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engines 1.6L (98 cid) I4 (1983-1986)
1.7L (105 cid) I4 (1978-1982)
2.2L (135 cid) I4 (1981-1990)
2.2L (135 cid) Turbo I4 (1984-1986)
Power 64-176 hp
Similar Plymouth Horizon
Platform L

Dodge introduced the Omni in 1978 along with its Plymouth Horizon twin as Chrysler's first domestic subcompact cars. Its timing couldn't have been better as another fuel crisis was on the horizon (no pun intended), and up until then Dodge had been relying solely on the Mitsubishi-produced Dodge Colt to carry its subcompact banner. The Omni was based on a European design from Simca, which itself was almost a dead ringer for the Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit in the U.S.). Contrary to popular belief, the the Omni was not a K-car design, it was an L-body (the K-cars wouldn't be introduced until 1981, 3 years after the Omni). It also was the first mass-produced domestic car with a transverse-mounted engine. The Omni would carry on all the way to the 1990 model year with only incremental changes and refinements, and would have no direct replacement.

Here's a quick rundown:

1978-1990[edit | edit source]

The Omni and Horizon debuted for 1978, and immediately received rave reviews from the general public and automotive press (Motor Trend naming the Omni/Horizon twins "Car of the Year"). The sole engine was a 75 hp 1.7L I4 that used a Volkswagen block. Transmissions were a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic. Models were base and Custom. Roof luggage racks, faux-wood side paneling and two-tone paint treatments were available also. Chrysler had hit a home run as far as timing was concerned for these cars, as the only other domestic subcompact cars at this time were the humdrum Chevrolet Chevette and the Ford Pinto. 189,000 of these were sold this year (well over half of those were Horizons).

Even though the 1978 models had a several recall issues, the Omni/Horizon twins still were strong sellers in 1979 (the Horizon again handily outselling the Omni). Sunroofs were a new option this year, and the L-body platform was expanded to include a new coupe model, initially called the 024, while Plymouth called its version TC3. Engine and drivetrain choices remained the same as before. There were no appreciable changes to the Omni and Horizon for 1980.

The Omni/Horizon twins received an optional engine in 1981, the 84 hp 2.2L I4 that debuted in the K-cars. This gave the cars a much needed power boost - no longer did their 0-60 times have to be measured by a sundial. The base cars were called Miser now, intended to compete more directly with the baseline Chevrolet Chevette Scooter and Ford's new Escort, which replaced the Pinto. A 5-speed manual became available for the first time this year, and was available on both the 1.7 and 2.2 engines. The woodgrain-panel option was discontinued, and a new Euro Sedan option became available, which recieved the usual blacked-out trim and chrome treatment. Not much news to speak of for 1982, other than the introduction of the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp neo-pickups that were based on the 024 and TC3 coupes (which were based on the Omni and Horizon). In 1983, the base Volkswagen 1.7L I4 engine was replaced by a 64 hp Peugeot-built 1.6L I4. The 024 and TC3 coupes are renamed Charger and Turismo respectively. The rest of the line remained largely unchanged, other than the slow-selling Euro Sedan option was dropped. The 2.2L I4 remained an option and received a 10 hp boost to 94. The Plymouth Scamp would be discontinued this year after only a 2 year run.

Things started getting interesting for the Omni in 1984. The lowly Misers were dropped, and a new GLH model became available (GLH meant "Goes Like Hell", being the brainchild of none other than Carroll Shelby), doing wonders for the Omni to shed its otherwise staid, conservative image - and clearly gunned for the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, which was the "hot-hatch" to beat at that time. The GLH had a high-output 110 hp 2.2L I4 and was available only with a 5-speed manual. It was available only in black, and also borrowed the Shelby Charger's 50-series tires and 15" rims. Special ground effects along with Bosch fog lights were also added. All models also got revised dashboards, but the basic shape remained unchanged. The GLH package was not available on the Horizon. The Dodge Rampage neo-pickup also would die at the end of this year.

The GLH got even hotter in 1985 with the addition of a 146 hp turbo option, and revised ground effects made the car look more serious (even the magazine advertisements read "No More Mr. Nice Guy"). Colors were expanded this year to include silver, blue, maroon and gold in addition to the standard black. Turbo models got an off-center blacked-out rectangular vent in the passenger side of the hood. The 110 hp engine remained standard. The 1.6 and base 2.2 engines carried on as before in the lesser models. In 1986, the ultimate GLH was produced, and was called the GLH-S. This had a 175 hp turbo intercooled 2.2 engine, along with adjustable Koni shocks and Goodyear Gatorback tires. Only 500 of these were made, were (of course) all black and all had a monogrammed Carroll Shelby dash plaque with a corresponding production number. To put things in perspective, this GLH-S put out 100 more horsepower than the base engine did in 1978. Regular GLHs and Omnis (and Horizons) continued otherwise unchanged, but all models received the mandatory Center High Mounted Stop Lamp.

Chrysler had originally planned to drop the Omni and Horizon in 1987 to be replaced by the new Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance twins that debuted this year, but Chrysler changed its mind largely due to the car's continued strong sales in spite of their now-10-year-old design. The party was over, however, as far as the hot GLH was concerned, as that model was unfortunately discontinued. The base 1.6L I4 engine was dumped too, the only engine available this year was the much-more popular 96 hp 2.2L I4, and would remain so throughout the rest of the Omni/Horizon production. Both models were now offered in value-oriented America packages, which made many previously optional items such as power steering, brakes, AM/FM stereo and rear window defroster now standard - as well as a substantial across-the-board price cut. All instrument panels gained a tachometer, oil pressure and volt meter gauges this year as well as revised gauge graphics.

Fuel injection was made standard in 1988, and the horsepower rating dipped slightly to 93 from 96. The Charger and Turismo coupes were dropped this year, and the America value packages now made their way to the Aries and Reliant in addition to the Omni and Horizon. Despite their now advanced age, the Omni and Horizon continued to be strong sellers, even with new competition from GM and Ford, as well as Nissan and Toyota. The Omni and Horizon stood pretty much pat for 1989, other than some minor engine tweaks to further quiet its operation.

Even though 1990 was the Omni and Horizon's final year, there were nonetheless some significant changes, a bit uncommon for models this old. A driver's side airbag was made standard, the rear seats gained shoulder safety belts and the climate control system was also revised. Other than that, the cars remained the same as in 1989 but the America moniker was dropped - as was the car itself after this year. There was no direct successor to the "Omnirizon", as the Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance would now become Chrysler's smallest domestic-built cars.

Main Competitors[edit | edit source]

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