Chrysler Horizon is First Produced

The Horizon, was a subcompact automobile developed by Chrysler Europe and was sold in Europe between 1977 and 1985 under the Chrysler, Simca and Talbot nameplates.

A derivative version of the Horizon was also in the United States under the Dodge and Plymouth marques until 1990.

The Horizon was designed by Simca, the French division of Chrysler Europe in the 1970s and introduced in 1977. It survived in various guises until 1990. In France it was initially sold originally under the Simca brand, whilst elsewhere in Europe it was initially badged as a Chrysler (including the United Kingdom, where it fitted into a Chrysler range which also included former Hillman models). As a result of the acquisition of Chrysler's European car division by Peugeot in 1978, both the Chrysler and Simca brands were dropped and the car was then sold under the Talbot brand in all its European markets.
The Horizon, or Project C2 as it was known inside Simca during development, was intended to be a "world car", meaning that it was designed for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic, but in execution, the European and North American versions of the vehicle actually turned out to have very little in common.
Born largely out of the need to replace the ageing Simca 1100, the Horizon was essentially a shortened version of the larger Alpine model, giving the vehicle an unusually wide track for its length. Featuring the familiar range of Simca-designed 1.1, 1.3 and 1.5 L OHV engines, and torsion-bar suspension, the Horizon gained praise for its crisp styling, supple ride, and competent handling. It was voted European Car of the Year in 1979. Its launch saw to the end of the 1100 and the rear-engined Simca 1000.
The Horizon was the first British-built hatchback of this size — launched two years before the Vauxhall Astra, three years before the European Ford Escort Mark III and five years before the Austin Maestro. It did not officially replace any of the British Chryslers, despite being a similar size to the traditional rear-wheel drive Avenger saloon and estates which had been on sale since 1970 and did not finish production until 1981.

The North American versions of the Horizon were known as the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. Although they appeared to share the same external panelwork as the European Horizon (the panels were in fact not interchangeable), they were vastly different mechanically — using a larger engine (of VW , then PSA origins on the early versions, replaced by Chrysler's own "Trenton" I-4 later) and MacPherson strut suspension at the front instead of the more complex torsion bar arrangement. They also sported much heavier looking bumpers so as to comply with stricter US safety legislation. Despite the car's European origins, then Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca played this down, emphasizing that features such as the trip computer and electronic ignition were of American design.

In Europe, the Horizon had a turbulent existence. The collapse of Chrysler Europe in 1978 and its subsequent sale to Peugeot meant that the car was hurriedly rebadged using the exhumed Talbot brand for the remainder of its life.
In 1981, Series II models were introduced, with some minor improvements. By then however, the Horizon was becoming increasingly uncompetitive next to rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf, Opel Kadett-D/Astra and the third generation Ford Escort. The rattly and unrefined ohv engines which had been carried over from the Simca 1100 were largely to blame, while body corrosion was a serious issue, at least until Series II, giving many cars a short service life.
The series two Horizon launched in 1983 had a 5 speed gearbox, and badged series II 5 speed. The bumpers were painted black and the rear windscreen was smaller, because the parcel shelf was raised to increase the size of the boot. Some models had an electronic LED 'econometer' which lit up several lights around the edge of the speedometer dial, There was also an LED tachometer on top of the range models which was a row of green,yellow and red LEDs and was positioned atop the steering column.
The Horizon was then updated in 1985, with different interior trim again slight changes to instrument dials and door cards were to make the car look more modern. Fewer paint colours were available and fewer models. Many of the late cars (built between 1985-1987) were painted in an un-sympathetic pale green or cream. Horizons had initially been available in more adventurous colours including orange, but the 1970s era had passed.
A Talbot Horizon turbo concept car was produced in 1984 with a full cream leather interior and sporty body kit, the car was designed at the Whitley design centre, Coventry. The Turbo Horizon is very different to those models once seen out on the street and is kept at Coventry Transport Museum, Coventry England.
Due to corrosion problems there are few left, Horizon is now a rare sight with possibly less than 200 surviving examples in the UK.
Some very good low mileage examples can be found, the Horizon is now a very good usable classic with many spares available.
The main production lines of Talbot Horizon were Poissy factory in France and Ryton in England. It was also manufactured in Spain and in Finland by Saab-Valmet from 1979 onwards. The Finnish Talbot Horizons integrated many Saab components, especially in the interior. The Saab-Valmet factory also made a series of 2385 cars that ran on kerosene or turpentine.
The Horizon was produced in France and also Britain (where production had begun in the 1980s) until the end of 1985, and in Spain and Finland until 1987, when it was replaced by the Peugeot 309, a car developed in the UK, originally destined to be sold as the Talbot Arizona. The end of Horizon production in 1987 also marked the end of the Talbot badge on passenger cars. However, the North American version of the car continued to be produced until 1990.
The PSA XUD9 diesel engine of 1905 cc diesel engine was fitted to certain models of the Horizon, which was the first example of this engine available in the UK. All UK diesel Horizons were made in Spain. The Peugeot-Talbot brochure of October 1984 shows the only diesel Horizon being the LD1.9, the XUD9 engine only available in the Peugeot 305 GRD as well. The Horizon was not the first diesel in the Talbot family of cars with the Chrysler 180 in Spain being powered by diesel.
The Peugeot 309 continued to use the Horizon range of Simca based engines in early life, until replaced with the more modern Peugeot TU engine in 1992.

he Horizon was simultaneously launched in Europe and the USA in December 1977. Chrysler had had ambitions that the Horizon would become its world car, loved by everyone from Italy to California. However, disappointing sales and Chrysler's own troubles soon put paid to that idea. It was developed to replace the aged Simca 1100 range. However, the 1100 lived on for four years after the Horizon was launched, simply because Horizon estate car, panel van and pick-up derivatives were not developed.

The limited nature of the Horizon’s development was a pretty accurate reflection of the generally weak state of Chrysler’s European operations. It was built initially in France and America but was not produced in England until the 1980s. And the European and American versions may have looked similar but under the skin they were very different pieces of machinery.

Building on success...

The British Chrysler Alpine and French Chrysler-SIMCA 1308 had been the first comparatively successful result of the Chrysler Europe policy of producing a single range of cars that would fit into the UK and snugly as it did France. The previous attempt – the British Chrysler 180 series and French Chrysler 1609/1610 – had been a total failure! The process of "Europeanisation" did not go as far as devising a single name for all markets…

Euro integration for Chrysler...

Despite having taken full control of the Rootes Group and SIMCA in 1967, both operations were left to pursue their own destinies, without any real pressure coming from Detroit to merge. Although each company was renamed to reflect their new owners (i.e., Chrysler UK, Chrysler France and Chrysler España), the British and French divisions continued to build and market cars under their existing marque and model names. The reasons for this are hard to fathom, but were probably down to the corporate policy of Chrysler's US President Lynn Townsend, who believed that a European presence was required, not a European model policy.

By the beginning of 1975, the quaint notion that each country could be left alone to get on with its own thing was rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The UK operation continued to lose huge amounts of money and sales had been sliding alarmingly. Chrysler in France, on the other hand, had been going from strength to strength, thanks to the success of the 1100. It was decided that the Alpine/1308 story (British style, French engineering, pan-European assembly) should be repeated across the range. During the development of C6 the amalgamation of British and French design teams had worked rather well, and there was no reason to believe that this system would not work equally as well for the smaller car.

A model strategy for Chrysler’s European line-up was drawn-up, and a sound future policy was devised. Based around three cars, the policy would cover all of the market sectors that SIMCA and Rootes had been actively competing within...

Chrysler C2: Front wheel drive SIMCA 1100 replacement, to fight in the Volkswagen Golf class. Emerged in late-1977 as the Horizon.

Chrysler C6: Front wheel drive SIMCA 1500 replacement, to fight in the Ford Cortina/Taunus class. Emerged in late-1975 as the Alpine/1308.

Chrysler C9: Rear wheel drive Chrysler 180 replacement. Emerged in late 1980 as the Talbot Tagora.

This plan was rational, but it did little to address the British situation, and because of this, none of these models were directly conceived to replace the Avenger and Hunter models. The other anomaly was the Chrysler Sunbeam, which Chrysler in the UK were cooking up at Whitley to keep alive the Linwood plant in Scotland. Although conceived to fight in the supermini sector, its rear wheel drive platform meant that it would have a very short shelf life. However, Chrysler could at least try and market the Sunbeam as a replacement for the Imp and SIMCA 1000.

Project C2 - Chrysler's Golf

After mocking up several different C2 drawings, it was this one that gained managerial approval in November 1974. (Picture: www.allpar.com)

In 1974, and following the SIMCA 1100 replacement project being defined as the C2, Roy Axe's team at Whitley began working on the new car's styling. Roy Axe had a clear idea in his mind of how the new car should look, and was very aware of the importance of looking like a smaller brother to the soon-to-be-launched C6 (Alpine/1308). By mid-1974, four C2 proposals had been prepared for management viewing, and from these four, a single one was chosen for further investigation. The final design that was chosen dropped the SIMCA 1100 theme in favour of a clean, crisp and very Golf-esque design. From early on in the design process, it was agreed that the C2 should be sold in the USA becoming Chrysler’s first purpose designed World Car.

With the co-operation of the European design teams in Britain and France with their counterparts in Detroit, Chrysler were hoping to have a modern sub-compact on the United States market before any of their American competitors. It would allow Chrysler to respond to the new American legislation reducing the fuel consumption of cars and to meet the ever increasing onslaught of the Japanese.

This meant that the C2 would need to incorporate styling and design elements that would help with the ‘federalization’ process. Executive designer on the C2 project, Curt Gwin explained why the Horizon sported what seemed to be such oversized wheelarch lips: "Many surface adjustments to our approved design were required but the most significant one was to increase front fender wheel lip flares to accommodate the tyre chain clearance requirements in the USA." The wheelarch flares were normally sized on the original design! Many owners of scuffed Horizons would no doubt rue that piece of transatlantic rationalization in subsequent years...

By 1976, development of the C2 and its proposed variations C2-short and C2-saloon version was well under way and the package was looking good in both European and US specification. The style had evolved slightly from the final clay of November 1974, but only in minor detailing, which had been defined by Chrysler in the USA. As anticipated at the start of the program, much of the existing SIMCA 1100's hardware was carried over, most notably, its engines, gearboxes and suspension. Effectively designed around the 1100 base, the Horizon nevertheless incorporated many of the refinements already utilised in the Alpine.

The original 1118cc 1100 engine was used, along with the 1294cc and later in the car’s life 1442cc versions from the Alpine. A 4-speed manual transmission was lifted straight from the Simca 1100. The car was however to be wider and have a longer wheelbase than the 1100 to allow for more interior room. Similar seating to the Alpine, being large and soft in the French style, was fitted. During the gestation period of the C2, rival European producers were also working hard on their Volkswagen Golf clones. By the end of the 1970s, it became clear that Chrysler had been on the button with the Horizon packaging, judging by the size and style of the rivals that had appeared by that time...

Horizon takes a bow...

To press home the "World Car" message that Chrysler were trying to get across with the Horizon, the car was officially launched in Europe and the USA on the 7th December 1977. In the UK, it was marketed as the Chrysler Horizon (since 1976, all UK cars were Chryslers), whereas in France and much of Europe (where SIMCA was much stronger), it was called the Chrysler-SIMCA Horizon.

In the USA, Chrysler presented the C2 in two forms: the Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni, and although these American variations looked similar to their French cousins, there were many differences under the skin! For example, the European Horizon used torsion bars for its front suspension, as did its predecessor, the 1100. On the Detroit Horizon the torsion bars were replaced by MacPherson strut front suspension. Ironic since Chrysler had pioneered the use of torsion bar suspensions…

Chrysler's own financial problems might have overshadowed the launch to a degree, but the Horizon was given a warm reception in Europe. The Horizon was launched as the SIMCA 1100's replacement, and the press (especially in Europe) were quick to proclaim the design, "an Anglo-French triumph", even though, under the skin, there was little to differentiate it from the SIMCA 1100. Although the Horizon was marketed like the Alpine as a brand-new car it was more a facelifted 1100 than a cut-down Alpine. However, the styling and packaging hit its intended market dead on, and it seemed that Chrysler Europe would have a bright future.

The European Car of the Year panel awarded the Horizon with its highest accolade - Car of the Year 1979. Remarkably, this would prove to be Chrysler's second CoTY winning car in a period of three years, although the Horizon only narrowly beat the Fiat Ritmo/Strada into second place. According to the Car of the Year website, the Horizon was a car of uneven ability, marred by its ageing components: "Born as Chrysler Simca Horizon and later known as Talbot Horizon, this was the last new model from the French manufacturer under Chrysler group’s control before PSA’s takeover. Heir of remarkable Simca 1100, the five-door hatchback was a practical, unpretentious family car, appreciated for its sturdiness, ride comfort and a safe roadholding that was the trademark of previous Simca. Slow, stiff steering and a weight that marred somehow performance were concerns for some jurors."

That is not to downplay the Horizon's achievement. Given Fiat's track record of producing CoTY winning cars, to knock its car into second place was impressive. Lee Iacocca, boss of Chrysler, was certainly proud of the achievement, but ensured that the press knew that the Horizon was more than merely a European car: "The 50 leading auto writers of Europe ..... gave the (Car of the Year) award to the new Simca Horizon .... because of the technological innovations on that car - like automatic transmission, and on-board computer, automatic speed control, electronic ignition, and electronic trip computer. European technology? No way. They were all developed by Chrysler engineers in this country and then made available to our French company for use on the Simca Horizon."

While the C2 had perhaps been developed internationally, the final products that went to market were distinctly different. In America the Plymouth Horizon and its twin, the Dodge Omni looked different from their European counterparts, featuring a different dashboard, stronger bumpers and "federalized" lighting. Chrysler had had a hard time legalizing the Simca engines, especially since none had been imported to the States since 1973. It would have cost too much to make it meet American emissions standards and was also a very unrefined and rough engine. The initial engine used in America was the 70bhp, 1.7 litre unit from the Volkswagen Rabbit because it was already smog tested and because it was readily available.

When Chrysler sold its European operations in 1978, part of the deal included a 1.6 litre engine to be supplied by Peugeot for the U.S. Horizon. The Volkswagen 1.7-litre engine with a Chrysler-made head was used from the 1978 model year through to 1983. In 1979, Chrysler’s own 2.2 litre engine was ready and at first augmented, and eventually replaced the smaller European engines, including the 1.6-litre Peugeot engine, introduced in 1983 and dropped in 1986.


EncyclopediaThe Horizon, was a subcompact automobile developed by Chrysler Europe and was sold in Europe between 1977 and 1985 under the Chrysler, Simca and Talbot nameplates. A derivative version of the Horizon was also in the United States under the Dodge and Plymouth marques until 1990.
Origins

The Horizon was designed by Simca, the French division of Chrysler Europe in the 1970s and introduced in 1977. It survived in various guises until 1990. In France it was initially sold originally under the Simca brand, whilst elsewhere in Europe it was initially badged as a Chrysler (including the United Kingdom, where it fitted into a Chrysler range which also included former Hillman models). As a result of the acquisition of Chrysler's European car division by Peugeot in 1978, both the Chrysler and Simca brands were dropped and the car was then sold under the Talbot brand in all its European markets.

The Horizon, or Project C2 as it was known inside Simca during development, was intended to be a "world car", meaning that it was designed for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic, but in execution, the European and North American versions of the vehicle actually turned out to have very little in common.

Born largely out of the need to replace the ageing Simca 1100, the Horizon was essentially a shortened version of the larger Alpine model, giving the vehicle an unusually wide track for its length. Featuring the familiar range of Simca-designed 1.1, 1.3 and 1.5 L OHV engines, and torsion-bar suspension, the Horizon gained praise for its crisp styling, supple ride, and competent handling. It was voted European Car of the Year in 1979. Its launch saw to the end of the 1100 and the rear-engined Simca 1000.

The Horizon was the first British-built hatchback of this size — launched two years before the Vauxhall Astra, three years before the European Ford Escort Mark III and five years before the Austin Maestro. It did not officially replace any of the British Chryslers, despite being a similar size to the traditional rear-wheel drive Avenger saloon and estates which had been on sale since 1970 and did not finish production until 1981.