Oh yeah, now this is a unique one, ain’t it. Every once in a while I enjoy building kits of supposed “great” cars, which ended up being failures or legendary for their unreliability, or in this case of the wonderful front wheel drive Chrysler K and L-platform era; “dull“. MPC made a fair few of these little kits in the early eighties, which included the L-platform Dodge Charger, the Dodge Omni/024(the predecessor) and the eventual Shelby Charger GLHS(Goes Like Hell S’more) that Carroll Shelby took a interest to and actually turned into formidable race and drag cars.
All the way through the eighties, MPC made variations of the Omni and Charger kits, some custom, some factory stock but with the Shelby options. All in all, these kits were from a much stronger era for MPC, where the kits were packed with parts that would go together somewhat alright instead of what we can now only describe as “like AMT, but worse“. I’ve slammed MPC time and time again for producing lazy molds and kits that are a struggle to build, if not in some cases just not fun, but I really can’t ever fault them for variety. And with the Omni/Charger kits, they infact aced it on both variety as well as quality.
This, though, is not a Shelby Charger. This is a ’81 Omni. There’s no mincing words about the quality of the car, especially this one which came with the legendarily slow 1.7L Volkwagen inline four(the ’81 onwards 2.2L I4 from Chrysler improved the ride and speeds significantly), but it was a direct answer to the second fuel crisis in 1979 when yet again the signs came out and burbling V6’s and V8’s roared around on gas station lots waiting in line. Along with the Dodge Omni Miser, Dodge Aries and Dodge Colt, the Omni 024 was meant to be European under the hood but American on the road. Fitting pretty much the entire idea of Detroit’s mentality at the time of “just buy an American car, it’ll be as good as a European or Asian car“.
Granted, it was nothing like that. The car rusted terribly, the brakes were terrible but lo and behold, despite the heap of flaws, for the money you spend you did get a decent car and the I4 engine(whether 1.7 or 2.2) actually did what it was meant to. It saved you a ton of fuel, got you around and if you had luck, the car didn’t rust away on your driveway and could one day be your kids ride, it has flaws but it could always be fixed. MPC meanwhile kicked off 1980 and 1981 with two kits based on the Omni 024 – and both attempted to “cool” the cars up significantly, cause this was in the era that Detroit was very upset with itself, OPEC and Japan(holy shit were they pissed off at Japan, public destruction of Japanese cars, Japanese people being shunned, attacked and in extreme cases even killed, they weren’t great times).
Forgive me for the history lesson, but with these little cars and the respective kits, this day and age, it helps to get some of the context on how these things came to be and how they’re actually really unique, if not a reminder of a dark time in automotive history.
Anyhow, little gritty racers is what the 024 and TC3 were meant to represent and MPC tried to do so with this kit, giving it the “Silver Bullet” treatment and the other kit was given what I can only describe as some absolutely ridiculous Pike’s Peak like front bumper scoop and giant wing. And like I said, Detroit wasn’t having it and to some extend, neither was the public – The car sold… poorly. Not awfully, just nowhere near the hopes. In the same year, the “Omni” name was taken off and given its own lineage and the car was now just the Dodge 024, which was about as catchy as a fart, but y’know, desperate times.
This kit too had some extras, wire-wheels, louvers for the side windows(but not rear, weirdly enough even though the ‘other’ Omni 024 kit from MPC does have them) and all sorts of extra bits to make the car stand out more sporty. It’ll start to remind you of a slightly ‘Americanized’ Volkswagen Scirocco and honestly, nothing wrong with that sentiment. It comes with all the parts to make it a bog standard, simplistic Dodge Omni hatchback or turning it into the sportier slightly more custom 024. It even has some weird relic pieces where the tires of the car are both available in normal rubber, or casted plastic. But I digress, the quality is top notch.
There’s something odd about the eighties when suddenly kit production hit a new height in quality and detail from all the large companies, but AMT(once it became AMT Ertl) and MPC saw the biggest leaps. From somewhat low quality but still very detailed kits to high quality casts with good builds and loads of detail all around. The tiny, puny and now even downright forgettable engine has well over 15 pieces dedicated to it and even then there’s more to customize with, like chrome headers, turbo intake(on this I4 though? What?) and more.
To an extend I did wanna show the kit some extra love cause it’s actually a really, really decent kit coming from the MPC guys so I for instance gave it a set of nicer wheels. A set of Foresight Ventures Indy 500 mags from Forward Resin, a reputable resin caster from the States that sells wheels for damn near nothing. Applied a coat of a Mercedes color, smoke silver with a few clear coats over it. Originally intended to go with red but then though, nah, this is sportier and prettier to a degree. Fashioned a spoiler out of the front air-dam cause the actual tail wing is… shoddily cast and hardly fits(it’s a typical MPC product, it’s meant to “sleeve” over the tail end but just gives two giant ugly edges you can see under) and just kind of shoved it together from there on.
To be fair, it is a very simple build, it has three pieces for the rear axle, around five on the front and it’s all a little clunky when it comes to attaching the wheels and the engine rests on the trans-axle in a way I can only describe as resting a pallet of bricks on a twig. But despite that, it does all kind of go together well. Especially for a MPC build. Especially. There’s even some room for improvement; the headlight slots are completely open and you can easily replicate some square headlights with some translucent plastic sheeting, black paint, and some chrome backings fashioned from a chrome sprue. I don’t have any plastic sheets so I just rolled with it, but it’s possible so that’s nice! Finally non-chrome headlamps if you want it! Though it takes some effort on our end, but at least it is a possibility.
On top of that, I used some decals from the ’68 Dart and ’69 Charger Daytona kits to give it a sliiiightly improved look that isn’t downright dull, in reality the cars have O24/024 decals behind the front door and on the tail gate but of course MPC didn’t add any of those when they created that uh, “Silver Bullet” design. No license plates either, so, figured a couple of classic “Dodge” logos on the side and the red logo plate on the back would make it look somewhat more finished.
The only two issues with the kit, the ones that stand out at least is the fact that the chassis and the body have severe issues meeting and this was meant to play out with the fender flares that I didn’t add, so it looks… a bit off with a bit of the chassis sticking out underneath. The second is that the hood floats on the body and just doesn’t fit, it doesn’t help that of course a thirty six year old kit has warped somewhat so the hood now doesn’t even meet the front.
It’s a weird little time-piece. With the ’80 Citation X-11 I left it as stock as could be given that the box came with all the pieces and decals to make it so but on the Omni 024 it was hardly possible, it didn’t have the rear louvers to make it a 2.2 or even a DeTomaso(kid you not, Alejandro de Tomaso’s company did a styling package for this thing, the wheels are on the sprues even!) so it’s hard to make it into any of the more uh… “performance orientated” Omnis, Jesus Christ did I just type that about a freaking inline four rust bucket? Yup, I did. Anyhow, it’s to an extend a far nicer build than its distant cousin the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare and comes out looking twice as nice even though they’re in reality only two years apart in terms of tooling.
’81 Dodge Omni 024 specifications:
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: Silver