1987 Omni America hatchback

87 Dodge Omni

I bought this car in June of '86, as an early '87 model, and it was my daily driver up until January of 2000. At that time it was hit in the R front (by a tractor-trailer!), and is currently being rebuilt. Sure, it's a cheap econo-box, but I've really come to love this little car. It's by far the most reliable and dependable car I've ever owned, rivaled only by the Datsun B-210. I mean, it's got nearly 180k miles on it right now, yet I wouldn't hesitate to cross the continent with it!
And as an econo-box, it shines! It used to average 34 mpg around town, and could top 40 mpg on the highway, though that's currently down to 31/36 (I suspect it needs a carb rebuild, and it could use a valve regrind, I reckon). It's never stranded me, indeed the only major repairs it's needed have been a head gasket (leaking coolant into the #3 cylinder), half-shafts, front wheel bearings, and an air-conditioning compressor. Of those, only the latter two were expensive ($300 and $700, respectively), since I did the other work myself. Oh, I did replace the trans and clutch, but I discount that as the trans problem was caused by allowing a thumb-fingered caveman who didn't know how drive a stick to drive the car. I replaced it with a used transaxle unit, so that while it was a lot of work, it wasn't really expensive. The clutch was one of those "as long as I'm in there" type of things; at 150k, it looked like it would have went another 40 or 50k miles!
And at 13 years and 180k miles, the car is notable for some of the original equipment it retains; exhaust system (factory stainless steel), brake drums/rotors/calipers, starter, fuel pump, p/s pump, radiator, and so on. I've seen plenty of cars that had to have those items replaced at half the mileage! Heck, I got 100k out of the factory belts and hoses, for crying out loud!
At this point, I'm determined to see just how many miles I can get out of the original engine. 200k is certainly within reach, and my informal goal is 1/4 million miles. Someday, I'd like to totally refurbish the car. I envision it with a screaming fluorescent green paint job, equal-length half-shafts and running gear from a Shelby Omni, and a full Direct-Connection motor, including the "not for highway use" 4-valve head... ;-)
Favorite story; My son and I were heavily involved in model and high-power rocketry for a number years, and the Omni ferried us to meets all around the midwest, and a couple of times to the deep south and the eastern seaboard. Now, some of those high-power rockets were big, and the only way to haul them was to strap them to a roof rack. Once we were cruising through Gary, IN with 3 or 4 big rockets up top (we're talking 6 to 8 foot long rockets here), doing about 80, when I settled in behind a Lincoln Town Car that was going only a couple of mph slower. Hey, I figured, I'll pace this guy, let him get the ticket, if we hit a speed trap. Well, after a few minutes this guy looks in his mirror, looks back down, then almost breaks his neck with a double-take worthy of a Looney Toons short! Those rockets obviously worried him, as he sped up to 90. Hey, what the heck I think, and upped my speed to 90, too. At that point the guy totally lost it, and he floorboarded that Lincoln. I tried my best to keep up, but the Omni will only do a smidgen over 105, and that guy was booking! He was doing 120, at least, I reckon. When he found that he still wasn't pulling away fast enough to suit him, he cut across 4 lanes of traffic and took the next off ramp. I can just imagine the stories he told his bloods, about the sinister black car with Lincoln-seeking rockets on top, which chased him down the Interstate... ];-)

April 2006 addendum: Farewell to the Omni., you were a Damned Good Car.

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