79 Dodge Omni O24

Why dont I have more pictures of this car, I'll never know. Theres no way to describe how cool of a machine I had built out of a little nothing-mobile.

I picked up the Omni for $400. It was grey with dark grey stripes, it had a plaid interoir with woodgrain, and a little VW motor that wouldnt quit. I had (and still have) detailed plans of how I was going to cut the roof off it, and construct a removable / pieceable hardtop for it. I bought it and brought it home and got out the jig saw. My mom was home and caught me heading to the garage. She wouldnt let me cut the roof off until I talked to my uncle who worked on cars. So, I called him and he said that if I did it, it probably wouldn't twist up in to a pretzel because it was front wheel drive, but he surmised that I'd have trouble with the doors closing after a few months, as the roof was a major structural part of the car and it would sag in the middle without the roof. He told me to see a welding shop about it. They quoted me something like $1000 to re-inforce the frame. There went that plan out the door. In any case, I decided to go to town on other things. I smoothed out the bodywork, including removing the exterior door handles, filling in where they used to be with body filler and then putting in electric solenoids which opened the doors by remote control. This worked about 30% of the time. I bought the cheap solenoids from JC Whitney, and they didnt work well at all. I normally had to climb in to the car through the hatchback. This got embarassing when I was at community college which had a small parking lot and people would wait for my parking spot. I'd have to climb in through the hatch, climb up to my seat, rip off the door panel, manually pull the release, get out, shut the hatch, then go. Nice.

The worst story of it all, was when I took the car to Long Island to go find a party my friend was throwing. I got off of work at 11pm, so I didn't get there until 3am. Everything was closed in the city of Montauk where the party was, a nd I couldnt find Monroe street which is the street the hosue was located on. I did find a development that had every street named after a president, and it was loosely in the area where the directions led so I assumed it had to be in that general area. However, I could find no Monroe street. It was dark, I could barley see the signs, so I thought I'd pull over and rest for a bit, maybe an hour (by this time it was 4am) and it'd be daylight soon. I left the radio on so I wouldnt fall asleep, and climbed in the back seat to rest. I guess I woke up sometime around 9am with the radio off. I saw someone walking a dog nearby, and figured I'd ask them directions. I clammered to the front, and tried to push the button on the center console which activates the electric solenoid to open the door. No dice - the battery was dead. So, while still having my feet on the back seat, I leaned over and rolled down the window (thank god it wasnt electric) and popped out and shouted to the lady (who was now a little far away) if she knew where Monroe street was. Her dog starts barking and runs towards me, I panic and try to get in the car but slipped and sort of fell hanging out the window. The dog came up and licked my face, and the lady said she didnt know where Monroe street was, but she knew it wasnt in this neighborhood. I asked her if she had jumper cables and she said no. I was stuck. Or so I thought. I was parked at the top of a hill, so I put the car in neutral (it was a 4spd manual), jumped out through the window, and began to steer it down the hill while pushing from outside. I was temped to jump in right away, but I knew I only had one shot at this. I kept running and kept pushing. Finally, when I was about at a good sprint, I jumped up and climbed in through the window, while tring to keep the car from steering itself off the road. Clutch - Shift - Clutch - Success! No problem, I was on my way.

To make a long story even longer (something which I am notorious for), I made it to the party and the car worked great all weekend. Doors worked fine, and everyone was impressed with the car.

Well, I made it back to philly just in time to work a shift that would go for the next 32 out of 40 hours. When I finally got done, it was 8am, the morning after my second 16-hour shift of working the Genesis concert, and I was headed home. I was beat and exhausted. I had also left my lights on 16 hours earlier. This is where I learned that the hatch was the best way to get in, and also learned that the door panel on the inside could be ripped off to open the door if you were mad enough. It did a little damage, but nothing that couldnt be hidden with electrical tape. The only people in the parking lot were a bunch of stoners sitting on the hood of their car, completely parited out. There were about 5 of them. I went over and asked them if they had jumper cables. "Naaaw, man, sorry". Ok, then I asked if they could give me a hand pushing the car to start it. "Uhhh, Naaaw man, sorry". Right, thanks. So, here I was, stranded. If I smoked, I would have taken a seat on the hood. But all I wanted was my bed. I had one choice. The parking lot was perfectly level. I was going to have to push it fast enough to get it going and pop-start it. So, I geared up to push a not-so-light car across a level lot to a speed that was necessary to pop-start, which I reckoned was about 10mph. Thats pretty bookin, especially for pushing a car. I opened the door, and then clicked the latch so the door wouldnt shut on me - I didnt want to have to climb in through the window and lose speed. I pointed the car in a direction with no light posts, got behind the car and I got running and after a good 60 seconds jumped in and tried it. No luck, and I was out of breath. I sat inside my car while the stoners giggled at me. With every ounce of determination, I turned that car around, and decided to push it like my life depended on it. I ran that thing so fast, I'm surprised it held together. I ran up, jumped in, and BAM!, it started. I pushed the button (which resets the latch), then closed the door, and gave the finger to the stoners (now cheering) as I drove off. They probably still wonder if that really happened or if they just hallucinated it.

Back to the car. I painted it black, which turned out pretty good for a $150 paint job. Real good in fact. I tinted the windows and put on a real thin neon-blue pinstripe. Very thin. I liked the contrast, but didnt want something tacky. Inside, I found the perfect black/grey seat covers that covered the plaid, and then removed all the pieces that had woodgrain and carefully masked them and painted them grey so they were grey and black. Then I custom constructed a center console out of plywood (MDF) and vinyl. I made part of it (which housed the stereo) removable so that when I went to the inner-city, I could take out the part that had the Alpine in it, and replace it with the part that had the Sparkomatic. Something which got me a second place in a sound off, and the vote for most creative install. It was sort of like having a removable head-unit that could be swapped with a different removable head unit. I also custom made a speaker box that housed 2 6x9"s and 2 8" woofers, and 3 amps. You could fold down the rear seat to have them fully exposed. Apart from installing a sunroof (no leaks!) it pretty much stayed stock.

I got tired of the old thing and wanted something new. My parents said that I wasn't allowed to get something new until it died. So, I agreed. I would just have to try to kill this thing. I beat the hell out of this car relentlessly. I showed no mercy. One day, as I rounded a corner at about 35 mph, I slammed it in to second gear, and something went in the transmission. When in put the gear in 1st, it was in 3rd gear. When I was in 2nd, it was in 3rd, when I was in neutral or reverse, or any gear, it was in 3rd. Even 3rd. Nice, I was one step closer to a new car. I limped it (in 3rd gear) to a shop nearby and told them not to fix it, but just to give it an estimate. I was sure it would be more than $400 and I could justify scrapping it. The next day, I bought a Mustang and started to go to town. A day or two after that, the shop calls me and asks if I could come pick up the Omni, it was fixed. I was irate. They said that it was only a grommet, and at $15 for parts and $15 for labor, they figured I wouldn't mind. I couldn't believe it, this thing wouldn't die. I ended up driving it a bit longer while I worked on the Mustang, and then got in a minor accident, damaging the driver door. I replaced the door with one from a junkyard, and left the handle on there. It was too much of a pain to have the electric doors anyway. I ended up selling it to a friend for $750 who didn't know how to drive a manual, and he killed the clutch a week later, then sold it for parts the day after the door fell off. Guess I should have used the proper bolts.

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