Out of Print: Plymouth's Demise is Seen on the Horizon

1978 Plymouth Horizon Ad
1978 Plymouth Horizon Ad

Back before car blogs, before Al Gore invented the Internet in fact, the primary source of car information was in print. And where you find automotive articles, you’ll also find auto ads. Auto makers still splash their wares across the pages of Road & Track, Car and Driver and the ilk – despite the move in advertising budgets away from traditional media and to this new-fangled Series of Tubes – but not in the volume of the pre-Internet days.
Most of those old car magazines are today doing their part in keeping America’s landfills from collapsing, but some have been squirreled away by crazy collectors, who oddly see some value in them. It’s from just such a collection that we’re able to jump in the way-back machine and take a look at how manufacturers positioned and promoted their product in that by-gone era. Today, we’re looking at an ad for the then-new  VW Rabbit Plymouth Horizon.

Some of the auto makers’ print ads were clever, some were informative, some made you wonder just what the ad agency was thinking. Who could have guessed, back in 1978, the prescience of America Taking To The Horrizon for Plymouth? Thankfully, at least the car in the setting sun image is driving toward the camera, and not away. Still, this ad does a good job of demonstrating, visually, the most salient points of the car- driving through snow shows the security of front wheel drive – then still a kind of exotic setup. The Horizon surrounded by the high school football team expresses its all-American nature, and the family with their luggage is a standard, and very explicit, demonstration of a vehicle’s capacity. And of course, this being from the gas-crunch era, the most prominent copy feature is fuel economy and price. 41 highway and 27 city are hybrid numbers today demonstrating the cost of safety and comfort features demanded in our present cars. And that $3,881 entry price is remarkable when you consider that in less than ten-years time, that amount wouldn’t even buy you a Yugo. There’s nothing flashy or thought provoking about the ad, just a clear and concise message of what the Horizon was intended to be- honest, basic family transportation. All this concludes with the reassurance that Plymouth Horizon Can Handle It.
One thing that is not present in this ad is any promotion of the Plymouth brand, and maybe that is part of what led to their ruination. Once was a day when you could get pretty much the exact same car – less badges – from multiple brands. Didn’t like the way the Dodge salesman was ogling your wife’s boobs, or husband’s biceps while negotiating over that Omni? Blow that dealership off and head over to Plymouth for a Horizon. Sadly, that’s not an option anymore and car buyers will just have to deal with lecherous salespeople, or plan on taking the bus, as Plymouth followed the Horizon into the horizon. And Dodge is on the precipice of doing the same if the Fiats don’t do what the Omni/Horizon couldn’t.
Last thought- why don’t we have economy cars with the option of wood-grain siding any more? Is that too much to ask?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. SSurfer321 Avatar

    The house the wife and I bought was formerly owned by a funnycar drag racer/mechanic. Three car detached garage with heat (now her art studio). When insulating the attic I found 3 bankers boxes full of vintage Car Craft magazines and another three boxes of men’s “entertainment” magazines. I sold the Car Craft, etc. to a friend on another board and donated the men’s magazines to the body shop next door.
    Five years later, I still need to clean the garage attic of old car parts.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      All three bays are her studio? Either she finds inspiration in one or more of your (joint) cars, or you’re truly in love.
      Additionally, you don’t live in the Snow Belt, I guess. 😛

  2. Alf Avatar

    Horizon, because the Rabbit is too powerful and pretty.

  3. Formerlythegreatestdriver Avatar

    I will confess that despite being an all connected all wireless kind of guy I just love going through the car ads in old magazines (especially if they are on yellowing paper portraying cars before the late 90s)….they almost make me nostalgic I guess? And I am born in ’83.

    1. superbadd75, enriched with vitamins and minerals. Avatar
      superbadd75, enriched with vitamins and minerals.

      You people born in the ’80s make me feel old. Don’t even get me started about the guy running around here that was born in ’92.

    2. Armand4 Avatar

      I’m a year younger than you, and I feel exactly the same way. I think part of it is because so many of the cars of our youth (that is, the late Malaise Era) were poorly made, uninspiring, and generally not worth saving, which has led to many of them simply disappearing. Looking through an old magazine reminds you of the cars that were so ubiquitous when you were a kid that you never noticed when they all disappeared.
      Speaking of which, check this out:

      Corner Case Survivor: 1984 Subaru BRAT

      1. superbadd75, enriched with vitamins and minerals. Avatar
        superbadd75, enriched with vitamins and minerals.

        Damn, I loved the Brat! I remember having a Stomper (remember Stompers?! And their competitor, Rough Riders?!) with a Brat body, and I loved that thing!
        As a kid, I was actually a lover of all cars, it didn’t matter. I recall car shopping with my mom, I must have been maybe 8 or 9 y.o., and we went and test drove all sorts of cars! It was like heaven. Cars were just magical to me, no matter how pedestrian they were. I even loved my mom’s Chevette, which was a great car for her for many years. Most people hated those damn things, but I saw beauty in its hatchback shape, the sporty air dam in the front, and the black vinyl bucket seats. I am quite sad about some of the cars from my early days that are hard to find. One of the cars I’d love to have, and I know it’s strange, is an early ’80s 4WD Subaru GL hatchback. They’re hard to find, and when you do see them, they’re usually so rusty and ragged out that it’s just not even worth bothering with.
        Anyway, I could go on about it, but bottom line I know what you mean. Cars back in our day weren’t particularly exciting to most, but we grew up with them, and there is a certain fondness that goes along with that.

        1. FЯeeMan Avatar

          My Dad had an ’81 2WD GL 1800 Wagon. It would go just about anywhere he chose to take it in Idaho. Except up a hill. When you’re in the trucker’s lane and the truckers are pulling out to pass… you know you’ve got a gutless wonder. Other than that, it was a fun first car to drive.
          It finally rusted out and died when he moved to FL for a couple of years.

      2. Formerlythegreatestdriver Avatar

        I think you might have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

      3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        The cars of my youth were largely poorly made and uninspiring, too. I can’t imagine how kids born, say, after Bush took office must feel, with bloated crossovers dominating the landscape.
        (’91, here.)

  4. engineerd Avatar

    Point of reference: $3888 in 1978 is equivalent to $12696 in 2008, according to westegg.com.
    Interestingly, while we often yearn for yesteryear and the cars that came from said year, when you look at what we get for our money now, it’s kind of mindblowing. For $13000 today you can get a Hyundai Accent 4-door with 110 hp, AC, about 100 airbags, TPMS, power steering, power driver seat, and 35 mpg highway.
    Not too shabby.

  5. iheartstiggie Avatar

    I got an engine off of The Samba website. With it came over 100 old Hot VW’s mags, the majority dating back to the 80’s. I know what I’ll be doing tonight!

    1. Prawo Jazdy and The Velocity Trumpets Avatar
      Prawo Jazdy and The Velocity Trumpets


      1. iheartstiggie Avatar

        Naw, I just look at the pretty pictures.

        1. Prawo Jazdy and The Velocity Trumpets Avatar
          Prawo Jazdy and The Velocity Trumpets

          Funny, I tell my girlfriend the exact opposite about porn websites.

    2. engineerd Avatar

      You have stolen VW magazines?

      1. iheartstiggie Avatar

        Yep! and there’s even some hot babes on the front of a few, in full 1980’s poodle hair and original “Gladiators” swimsuits!

  6. superbadd75, enriched with vitamins and minerals. Avatar
    superbadd75, enriched with vitamins and minerals.

    The funny thing about your headline is that the Horizon is actually the car that pulled Chrysler from the brink. Well, that car and a pile of government cash. Hell, that would actually be quite similar to the situation they’re in now if they actually had a car worth buying, and if the government money of toady was just a loan. But it’s not. Good luck getting that back.
    The Horizon wasn’t a bad car when compared to the other compacts at the time. Nobody expected them to be quiet, luxurious, or even comfortable. They were appliances, and all anybody wanted out of them was a low price and high fuel mileage. Truth be told, Chrysler actually had a few decent cars at the time. Cars that were reasonably competitive, in fact. The problem was that they carried them on for too long. You could still get K-Car descendents well into the ’90s, and that was just way too long for that platform to live. Either way, the Horizon is, to me, an example of what a can-do attitude looks like. It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t pretty, and it damn sure wasn’t fast (until the Omni GLH!), but it was competent, it was inexpensive, and it was exactly what a trouble Chrysler corp. needed at the time.

  7. Shadowguitar Avatar

    Every time I go deeper into the boonies of SW Virginia, there’s a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth dealer, according to their sign. I always get a laugh out of it, thinking about how there could then be THREE Chrysler Sebrings. Then I pull over and cry myself to sleep.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      There were three of the sedan that spawned the Sebring convertible, the Cirrus/Stratus/Breeze. I always thought “Breeze” was a good name for a flimsy, underpowered midsize that always seemed to be painted white.

  8. goingincirclez Avatar

    My first car was very nearly one of these things. A frat brother came by with a beater, I don’t even know what year it was. He was ready to sell it for 50 bucks to the first taker, which was me since I was completely enamored with the semi-truck-tire donut embedded in the side. Plus, that whole not-having-a-car thing was really starting to suck.
    Anyway. 50 bucks for a running beater, what’s not to like? The “sole” reason he was letting it go so crackpipe cheap (aside from the fact it was a Horizon/Omni) was he’d busted the ignition key in the lock cylinder and had a hard time getting it to start, and just wanted to wash his hands of the POS.
    “But that lock shouldn’t be a problem” I said, and proceeded to investigate. I busted apart the dash (per his permission/instruction) and removed the ignition lock cylinder. A little further surgery and I’d extracted the offending key remnants and rekeyed the clyinder to match a different key he had – something I had never attempted before. He was suddenly thrilled and paid me fairly for my trouble…
    …and that’s how I traded a Dodge Omni for a case of beer.

    1. Shadowguitar Avatar

      That was one of the best stories I’ve ever heard. I hope I get the chance to get a car for $50 before I graduate.

  9. Luntburger Avatar

    When I was a young lad (maybe 7 or 8 years old), our family of four loaded up our brand-new 1986 Plymouth Horizon (with four doors) with our worldy goods, including two bikes and a utility trailer full of camping gear, and drove from Massachusetts to California.
    A couple weeks after arriving in California, Dad was rear-ended at a red light, and the Horizon was totaled. He was all set to buy another one, then read Consumer Reports. And bought a 1986 Escort GT.

  10. UK Seo Company Avatar

    good stuff :), how long has this blog been going for???

  11. B Avatar

    I remember in 1984 we still had our 1979 brown corolla wagon and they bought a Red 1980 Volkswagon Rabbit Diesel C. Loved both those cars the toyota never failed but the Rabbit always broke down. But the Wabbit did have the quadro blaupunkt With Cassette. Then in 1986 they bought 2 brand new cars, A Baby blue 1987 Plymouth Horizon And the next day they bought a grey 1987 Dodge Charger. Both had the exact same interior and the exact same 2.2 4cyl both automatic. Mom and Dad where so excited because it was their first brand new automatics they ever owned. I remember being excited myself. I was 8 yo, But I cried for a week over the toyota it was like they traded in a close sibling. The Rabbit I did not really care about because almost every time we went out in it we had to walk back. LOL.

  12. B Again Avatar
    B Again

    I also remember driving off dad was driving his brand new plymouth and mom was behind us in her new Dodge. I remember the song on the radio still to this day. Love touch By Rod Stewart.

%d bloggers like this: