My 3-year-old daughter Evelyn is a budding automotive journalist who has shown quite an interest in cars. When I brought home my 1986 Plymouth Horizon, she was intrigued and confused by the new addition to the family garage. Here are a few unprompted comments she’s made about my Horizon, along with my analysis of what I think she meant.
"Why did you get this car?"
Great question, Evelyn. As I’ve explained previously here on Oversteer, when I saw that someone actually saved and preserved a disposable economy car that was never meant to be saved, I really wanted to experience it. I wanted a time capsule of what regular, everyday driving was like for the common American 30 years ago, and I wanted to compare that driving experience to the one I’m used to today.
"This is a big car."
Evelyn noticed that for a car that’s considered a subcompact, it has an awful lot of room. When she’s sitting in her car seat in the back, she has a good amount of legroom. Also, the greenhouse of the car makes it feel big, with outstanding visibility in every direction. This was long before any regulations about rollover accidents, so the Horizon has these skinny little pillars with no airbags in them that hold up the roof of the car and don’t do much else. If she thinks the Horizon is big, she’ll be blown away by the minivan that will inevitably join our fleet someday.
Astute observation, Evelyn. I think what she meant when commenting on the car’s color was the stark turnaround at Chrysler at the time the L platform was introduced. You see, when the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon came out in 1977, it was a turning point in the corporate philosophy at Chrysler. They recognized that with changing regulation and evolving tastes in American drivers, they had to adapt. They couldn’t keep the company afloat just by selling hyperbolic muscle cars in outrageous colors. They needed a good, small car that people wanted to drive if they were going to compete with compact imports in any meaningful way. The gray paint on my Horizon represents that. It’s a symbol of Chrysler’s restraint and subtlety, which — although perhaps a bit boring — may have saved the company even before the Iacocca years.
Actually, you know what? This isn’t the original paint. This car was originally blue. So I guess it’s possible she was just pointing out the fact that the car is gray.
"This spins around and around. Can I spin it around and around?"
With this comment, Evelyn was referring to the manual crank windows on the Horizon. This is something she’s not used to, and she finds it very entertaining. Rather than pushing a button, opening the window is like a little game. She finds it especially fun when we’re in a hurry or if it’s really hot out and I just need her to get in her seat.
"I like this car!"
Evelyn’s final verdict is that the 1986 Plymouth Horizon is a good car. I think she even called it "cool" at one point. Frankly, I think she enjoys it for many of the same reasons that I enjoy it. Despite its lack of technology, visual flair or exciting performance, this charming old hatchback is just a fun car to ride around in. Find a Plymouth Horizon for sale