Hooniverse Weekend V.I.S.I.T Edition: An Inbred Chrysler, a and a hot naked Italian

The Charles II of Chrysler Europe

At the height of its power, the House of Hapsburg controlled almost all of modern-day Europe. Their bounds stretched from the early emperors of the Holy Roman Empire to 20th-century Austria, an 800-year reign stretching from Spain to Bohemia, Hungary to France. But decades of inbreeding, convoluted marriages, twisted relationships and intermarriages brought the dynasty down into a shadow of its former self. Rather like Chrysler’s strange, twisted existence in Europe—minus the sweeping domination, of course.

Smart cars don't got nothin' on this.

Reading about the history of Chrysler in Europe is not a light task to undertake. It is a labyrinthian tale of global business and obscure brands, disappointing cars and divisions on a seemingly meteoric rise cut down in their primes. It will give you a headache. There will be a pop quiz. No, you cannot check your notes.
The House that Walter Built never achieved the success of Ford Europe or GM’s various holdings, but they sure tried, dammit, as Chrysler snapped up France’s Simca, Britain’s Rootes Group, and Spain’s Barreiros. Try asking someone what a Rootes Group is today, and they’ll probably believe it’s a union of disgruntled plumbers. The Hapsburgs had the House of Bourbon and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Chrysler Europe held aloft Hillman, Sunbeam, Talbot and the Spanish-built Dodge Dart—a fine parade of brands, none of which exist anymore. The Hapsburgs controlled Europe through carefully-arranged marriages: Chrysler eventually got sick of the whole ordeal and unloaded everything to Peugeot—but not before foisting the Horizon onto us Yanks as the infamous Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon twins.
We tend to hold European cars as a secret Valhalla of motoring excellence, as paragons of efficiency, reliability and motoring joie de vivre. And in turn, we give GM and Ford guff for not bringing their European (and Australian) cars over here, a trend that is only currently being reversed thanks to the thousands of voices that cried out in terror on message boards (and were suddenly silenced). But how many can tell you that your uncle’s turd-olive ’85 Omni that’s the butt of all the jokes at your family reunion was Europe’s 1979 Car of the Year? And would it be a surprise that you’d laugh at them? Yeah, not such a laughably rusty shitbox now, is it?
The Simca Horizon (and subsequent Dodge/Plymouth variants) was never the sales success that could keep Simca afloat, and, as a result, it has all but disappeared from the roads today. Transformed into steel filings and Finnish toilet-seat hinges, it takes a real madman to still maintain one. This particular Horizon was parked in front of a motorcycle shop on the Via Cavour, one of Rome’s busiest streets. Real estate is limited in this part of town—and Europe in general—so it’s somewhat less surprising to find an Aprilia rolling chassis stashed on the street next to this Horizon, because there’s too many cars and bikes inside. After all, where else would you leave it?
Any more naked and we'd have to check IDs.

After a few days walking from my hotel to the Coliseum, I’ve noticed the that the car changes positions every afternoon, but always in front of the shop. Clearly the vehicle of a madman who enjoys working on rare Aprilia singles and, when he has the time, keeps his faithful Simca “Omnirizon” in shape. (Say…did they ever hear about the turbo option? No? Then who says European cars are better?)
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  1. DeadinSideInc Avatar

    A pedantic point of clarification – the Omni/Horizon twins share few actual parts with the Talbot. Engines, suspension, transmissions are different as were many of the body stampings.

  2. Feds_II Avatar

    Gawd I miss rome…
    As you come down the spanish steps, turn Left. About 100 ft down there will be a glove shop on your right. This shop houses a very fine selection of both leather- and string-back driving gloves. Reasonably affordable too.
    Also not to be missed: Santa Croce. Believer or not, the vibe in that church is almost unbearable.

  3. tonyola Avatar

    A correction. Talbot was not an active brand under Chrysler Europe, though the Rootes Group owned the rights to the name that was last used (as Sunbeam-Talbot) in 1954. After Peugeot took over the remains of Chrysler Europe, all of the Chrysler, Simca, and Rootes cars still surviving were sold under the revived Talbot name beginning in late 1979. The later Tagora and all-Peugeot Samba were also marketed as Talbots. Peugeot killed off the Talbot marque in 1986.

  4. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    I had an other idea about hot naked italian, was more thinking of a Cicciolina or somebody like her.

  5. junkman Avatar

    Don't forget that this car shared a large portion of its mechanical bits with the Matra Murena, which wasn't so shabby.

  6. Manic_King Avatar

    Hahaha@European Car of the Year.
    Pinko lefty car hacks carefully choosing another catastrophic car from the likes of Fiat or Renault. Usually cars that seem to be better than usual from these makes ("maybe, just maybe this time it's okay") but after a year or so it's clear that they will need a lot of parts and service before and/or after warranty expires.
    And always careful not to promote more expensive makes (where the hell is 3-series or any BMW?), fearing some kind of class war probably.

  7. scroggzilla Avatar

    I currently exist in some kind of automotive black hole where no less than 6 Omni/Horizons run free on local public roads. They range in condition between "rust bucket" (5 of the 6 really) and one that has clearly led a garage queen existance. Perhaps they're all dead and just haven't puttered on to automotive heaven like those "Lost" people.

  8. muthalovin Avatar

    "House of Bourbon"??? I need to be there. Badly.