The car for two worlds – Part 2

On the continent of the Stars and Stripes the Horizon was profoundly changed by the engineers, however, to make it more suitable for the market it was to be imposed on and, also for this reason, it contained few elements in common with the European model.

In the previous article we talked about Chrysler’s C2 project and the key role it represented; we can certainly say it had a difficult task, since it had to be able to attract completely opposite kinds of customers on two different continents. The European Chrysler-Simca branded Horizon had a positive start to sales, which then stalled when the brand-name was switched to the resurrected Talbot marque, under which the car was marketed by PSA following their purchase of Chrysler Europe. The fate of its Yankee cousins, on the other hand, was different, as they were very successful and achieved good sales, helping to save the American group.

On the continent of the Stars and Stripes the Horizon was profoundly changed by the engineers, however, to make it more suitable for the market it was to be imposed on and, also for this reason, it contained few elements in common with the European model. The role of the car was fundamental, given that it had to rescue the fortunes of the Chrysler group, which was on the brink of bankruptcy. The car, developed on the new L floorpan, was part of the first project of compact cars, or K-cars as they were known, for the group, given that up until then the preference for cars to be marketed in that sector was to import cars produced abroad by other brands rather than design new ones from scratch.

As for the changes, the external ones focused mainly on the front, for both the Plymouth-branded version, which amongst other things kept the Horizon name, and for the Dodge-branded version, called the Omni. As for the mechanicals, the Simca engines were replaced by a 1700 cc Volkswagen motor, revised by Chrysler and delivering 75 bhp, and for the running gear MacPherson struts were chosen for the front suspension instead of torsion bars. In 1981 a new 2.2-litre Chrysler engine was introduced, and the power it produced was increased over the years from 84 to 96 bhp in the final part of its life.

In 1983 the Horizon/Omni was revised, bringing the 62 bhp Simca 1600 cc engine to the price-list, only available with manual transmission and which replaced the 1700 cc Volkswagen engine. In 1985 Chrysler started a collaboration with American Motors, then owned by Renault, to produce the Horizon and Omni in their Kenosha plant, as the cost of labour there was lower. This agreement was the precursor to the group taking over AMC, the last of the independent manufacturers in the USA, in 1987, leading to the final disappearance of AMC.

Returning to the subjects of this article, both the Plymouth Horizon and the Dodge Omni survived for four more years after the demise of the European model, finally being dropped from production in 1990 and creating space for the new Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance, which had already been in production since 1987.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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