It became a tendency in the late 1970s to bestow optimistic-sounding names on increasingly scrunched-down and browbeaten cars that were at best proletarian-geared “transportation modules” about as enjoyable as day-old coffee and stale bagels. The theory was that people might be able to feel better about themselves by negating reality—like replacing “stock boy” with “sales associate” or saying Middle East “peace process.”

In the old days, when driving was something to be looked forward to, cars were named after vigorous animals or given names that at least suggested something positive, such as speed or graceful athleticism. Impala, Barracuda, Tempest, Monte Carlo. A man could proudly tell his buddies about his new Fairlane GTA or the Challenger 340 Six Pak in his garage. Even station wagons had great names like Biscayne, Vista Cruiser, Estate Wagon, and Park Avenue Ultra.

But what, exactly, is an “Omni”? According to Webster’s dictionary, it’s more a prefix than a word in its own right: “A combining form meaning all, everywhere.” As in “omniscient” or “omnipresent”? Perhaps Chrysler’s advertising and marketing people figured that people might look upon the Omni as being the “all-car” that answered every transportation need. Except, of course, deriving any enjoyment whatever from the trip. This was a car to slug to your soul-sucking daily grind at the Shoe Outlet, mall food court, or after-hours gig as a minimum-wage security guard. All-miserable would have been much more accurate, but it wouldn’t fit on the fender.

As for “Horizon,” well, things were looking pretty dim if all you could afford was a cube-shaped little drone-mobile that marked you as a loser living on the periphery of the service-sector economy. Being seen in this car was a more effective route to maintaining a celibate lifestyle than hiking up some obscure Himalayan peak and living with Shao Lin Buddhist monks.

Weirdly enough, one of the fastest cars of the mid-1980s was a modified Omni—the Omni GLH and GLH-S. “GLH” stood for “Goes Like Hell,” and it wasn’t a lie. Carroll Shelby of Mustang legend had a hand in putting the package together and even allowed the use of his name to help pitch the car. The GLH packed a turbocharged punch and as much as 175 horsepower in the GLH-S, which could cover the standing quarter-mile in less than 15 seconds. That was exceptionally quick for the time, right up there with V-8 Camaro Z28s and 5-liter Trans-Ams.

But it was just a powerful—and still ugly—Omni.

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