1990 Dodge Omni


Our friend Julie Smith bought this car for about $800 a few years back, after the clutch finally wore out on her old Toyota Tercel in Chicago. At the time, she needed something that ran, cheap. This was it. Several years later, she found herself with a half-reliable Escort and a new Civic. And a (fully-registered and insured) Omni rusting away in the apartment complex parking lot. Since the plate wasn't actually visible, they threatened to tow it. In response, she sold it to us for $199.95. (Okay, the asking price was different, but we wrote out the check in that amount.)

It has a bent rear axle. In empathy, the tires are all either cupped to hell or worn through to the steel cords, if not the threads beneath. It shakes pretty good above 50 mph. The exhaust leaks, preventing one from turning the fan on at all. But dammit, it only cost $200, and it runs. And that makes a world of difference. Added bonus: I can park it at work, where they are in fact just a bit picky about having nothing but DaimlerChrysler products in the salaried lots. Another bonus: I can park it in any neighborhood and just not worry about it. Hell, even if a fella were to be so hopped up on drugs that he'd steal the thing, it's not like I'm going to cry over it. This would also prevent me ever from considering again that I should get it re-painted. (It seems Chrysler cheaped out on the clear-coat, which leaves those hazy fringes before it flakes off completely. Shiny gray, pasty white, then dull gray. Mmmmm.) What do you think, maybe construction orange? "Nitro" yellow-green? I bet there's plenty of that leftover from the 1995 Neons...

So that's the Omni. "Nice car," as a group of men sitting on a Detroit curb once commented.

I forget if I ever did any work on the thing, apart from cleaning it and trying to fix the rear-view mirror when it fell off in the sun one day. Maybe I replaced a tire or two with junk yard tires, but I can't remember for sure. It was sold to a Detroit neighbor, Ray Smith, who I think managed to pay me $100 of the agreed-upon $400 price. He tells me it died and got taken to a salvage yard. Surprise, eh?