When buying cheap cars under 1000 dollars the choices are limitless. However some stand out more than others; these “All-Stars” stand out for a number of reasons. Some are just great cars and others lets say are just plain cool or fun to own, so I wanted to start showing some love to the greatest of the great beaters out there.
Profile: Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon
OK so this one has some bias with me, because I owned one. It was dirt cheap, served my purposes well, and put up with all the stupid abuse that only a 16 year old kid can dish out. From 1978-1990 During the “K” car years Chrysler built these shoe-boxes to be cheap and economical as an answer to the VW rabbit and Golf models. The Omni/Horizons even share most of the characteristics of the VW competition with a 5-door hatch design, rear beam axle, and a 4 cylinder motor that in the base models provided “adequate” horsepower enough to at least be faster than a bicycle. However one reason these cars are special is that for limited production Carrol Shelby (don’t think I need to explain who he is) partnered with Chrysler to produce two models the GLH and the GLH-S, which stands for “goes like hell”. These models received brake and suspension upgrades as well as turbocharged engines. The rarest of the rare GLH-S models produced a factory rated 175hp enough to embarrass a few mustangs and camaros.
Now that we have some history lets review a few of the finer points of Omni ownership. First of all they’re cheap. I mean really cheap examples exceeding $1000-$1500 are only the cleanest of the clean or the rarest of the rare turbo models. Perfectly good examples of base models as well as some turbos can be had all day long for a few hundred bucks (although the recent demand for gas savers may drive prices up). These little shoe boxes get around 40mpg and the parts are just as cheap as the cars. One great thing about the “K” cars is that they made so many off of virtually the same platform so parts from everything from a Lebaron to a Caravan can fit in these cars. My experience from owning one was that it was simply tough as nails, surprisingly comfortable (these might be one of the few 80’s American cars that had an interior that wont completely fall apart) and it was fun to drive. These cars share the same concept as other fun to drive hot hatches like the GTI and Civic and most of the best performance parts are available from where else but Mopar. So if your looking for a nice cheap beater that’s good on gas and fun to drive the crap out of an Omni is a somewhat forgotten, but very available choice. omnivoid