1986 Plymouth Horizon 2.5L Turbo Swap

The 1973 OPEC oil crisis had a dramatic effect on the American automobile industry. An embargo with oil-exporting countries of the middle east caused a shortage of crude oil which is refined into gasoline. The shortage in turn caused gasoline prices to skyrocket and rationing to go into effect.

In response to customer demand and new Federal Emissions Standards, the “Big Three” automakers went to work building a new generation of cars that were smaller and more fuel efficient. Chevrolet introduced the Monza and Citation, while Ford debuted the Pinto and the Fiesta. Not to be outdone, Chrysler introduced their new compact, front-wheel drive model in 1978: the Dodge Omni (and its badge-engineered cousin, the Plymouth Horizon).

While these cars satisfied the new emissions regulations, they were about as exciting as overcooked noodles. The Omni/Horizon was particularly bad, with three of its four engine choices producing less than 100 horsepower. (Chrysler later recruited Carroll Shelby to make a high performance version called the Dodge Omni GLH, but that’s another story).

I should mention that as a child, my parents had a Plymouth Horizon – a grey 4 door model that we called “the Piece of Junk” due to its constant issues. So when I saw a beige 1986 Plymouth Horizon at the Scottsdale Pavilions car show, I almost didn’t bother checking it out. However, I’m glad I did!

You see, this is no ordinary 1980s econobox – it’s actually the ultimate sleeper car. This enterprising owner has swapped in a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine from a 1990 Dodge Shadow. It’s also running 13 lbs of boost courtesy of a Garrett T3/T4 turbocharger with a water-to-air intercooler.

The Chrysler 568 5-speed manual transmission with a 6-puck clutch and a 3-inch stainless steel exhaust with Borla XR1 muffler only add to the driving excitement. When he puts the hammer down, I bet this car will really get up and move (assuming it can hook up with those narrow tires).

What I love about this car is that it looks completely normal from the outside. No cool wheels, no tinted windows, nothing to indicate that it is modified in any way. It is truly the ultimate sleeper!