Neons

Dodge - Plymouth Neon Racing

Main First-Generation Neon Page | Main Second-Generation Neon Page

The Neon — whether it be a Dodge Neon, a Plymouth Neon, or a Chrysler Neon, SRT4, first or second generation — was one of the most successful affordable stock racing cars of its time, not to mention the hottest entry-level performer of the 1990s. Bone stock, a base street car would easily outperform pricier top-level Civics and Corollas, beating all comers in Grassroots Motorsports’ shootout.

racing neon

One premier source of Neon performance was Gary Howell, who ran AFX Manufacturing and Howell Automotive; he sponsored a number of cars, including the world’s fastest SOHC Neon (a drag car owned by Randy “Gizmo” Williamson). He may have been the largest manufacturer of underdrive pulleys, smaller and lighter versions of the main accessory drive pulley which cut drag from the alternator and air conditioner. This brought the equivalent of a 6 - 10 horsepower gain, not huge but also not too expensive. (They do reduce power to the alternator and air conditioner, generally not an issue except in heavy traffic.)

One of the more interesting performance Neons to hit the street was fitted with a 2.2 R/T (Turbo III) engine, good for 224 horsepower in stock trim, which pushed the heavy Spirit R/T to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. The later Neon SRT4 would provide similar performance straight from the factory.

World’s fastest Plymouth and Dodge Neons

Fastest automatic

This 1995 automatic, outfitted mainly by Gary Howell but raced by Randy Williamson, ran a 12.401 second quarter mile at 109 mph. Street legal, this Neon kept its stock sheet metal, with a stock block, custom JE pistons, and modifications to make them fit and work well. The crank had six pounds of counterweights removed, and an ACR DOHC computer replaced the SOHC one to get a higher speed limiter without advancing the timing. The head was ported by Gary, with oversized valves and a Crane 158-0012 cam (using an adjustable cam gear). Howell’s own 55 mm throttle body lets more air in, keeping the stock plastic intake (the Neon was the first car to use plastic intakes).

The turbocharger system was made by Hahn Racecraft: the prototype for their Stage II kit, it used a modified Mitsubishi 16G turbocharger with 22 pounds of boost and a front-mount intercooler. Details were in the Summer 2002 edition of Mopar Now! magazine.

Fastest overall Neons

Kevin Flint's 1998 Dodge Neonvia Anthony Thomas: The fastest Neon belongs to Darrell Cox’ Phatridez/Mopar Performance Neon; his old Neon had a best time of 9.24@157. Their new SRT-4’s best time at NHRA’s World Finals in 2003 was 9.34, the quickest pass ever by a second generation Neon in time trials. It later ran 152mph (in a semi-final round) for the fastest trap speed by a second-generation chassis. This car runs an three-speed automatic built in-house by Phatridz.

Len Ayala’s Hahn Racraft Neon has run the best of 9.44 and 147 mph with a 2.4L DOHC engine and 3 speed automatic transmission. Len’s Neon was the first Neon into the 11s and 10s also without the help of wheelie bars, hitting 10.55@134 while still being a street car that was driven on the weekends; it was constructed on a limited budget.

Kevin Flint achieved a 11.46 second quarter mile at Rockingham Dragway on September 16, 2003, with his daily-driver (yes, he commutes in it) 1998 Neon. Equipped with a five-speed, SOHC engine, and turbo, it also has power locks, windows, and sunroof, but no passenger or back seat. He won all four races at Rockingham that he has entered, including Imports at the Rock. In summer 2004, he had the fastest SOHC street car; after putting in an automatic, he won Imports at the Rock (April 2004) and Battle of the Imports (May 2004), the latter with a 10.71 @ 124 mph on the 1/4 mile track.

Neon: fastest naturally aspirated domestic car?

The fastest naturally aspirated Neon belonged to fellow Team Phatridz member Scott “Mo Daddy” Mohler, who took the 2002 NDRA Pro Stock championship in only his second years of racing full-time. He finished second in the defunct NIRA All Motor class championship last year and another second in the IDRC All Motor Class last year. He also had a two year winning streak at Rivercity Raceway in San Antonio, TX (IDRC 01 and 02). His car was powered by a stroked 2.4L DOHC engine and 2001 spec Neon R/T 5 speed transmission.

Summary of Neon championships

The Neon ACR has been one of the most successful grassroots racer ever, with over 20 National titles in Solo and Road Racing to its credit. We just started in Rally this year (written in 2002), and to date, the Dodge SRT-4 has won two events on the SCCA circuit and is leading the Manufacturing Championship.

SCCA Pro Rally SRT-4 - Group 5 Class

  • Sno-Drift 3rd
  • Cherokee Trails 1st
  • Oregon Trail 2nd
  • Rim of the World 1st

The Neon ACR (American Club Racer), launched in 1994, was aimed at Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) drivers. Neon ACR models won three consecutive national titles in SCCA Class C Showroom Stock events from 1995 to 1997.

SEASON ROAD RACING PRO RALLY PRO SOLO SOLO II SUPER SOLO
1994 . . Steve Brolliar (ES) Steve Brolliar (ES), Jean Kinser (ESL) .
1995 Erich Heuschele (SSC) . . . Lynne Rothney-Kozlak (DSL)
1996 Paul Bonacorsi (SSC) . . Brian Priebe (DS), Lynne Rothney-Kozlak (DSL), Wendi Allen (ESL) Lynne Rothney-Kozlak (DSL)
1997 Neal Sapp (SSC) K. Kaumeheiwa (P) Mark Daddio (DS), Steve Brolliar (ES) Mark Chiles (DS), Laura Molleker (DSL), Jean Kinser (ESL) Jean Kinser (ESL)
1998 . Trevor Donison (P) Mark Daddio (DS), Steve Brolliar (ES) Mark Daddio (DS), Laura Molleker (DSL) Steve Brolliar (ES)
1999 . . Mark Daddio (P5), Steve Wynne (ST), Tim Dennison (DS), Jerrette Zoner (L1) Mark Daddio (DS), Laura Molleker (DSL) Mark Daddio (DS)
2000 . . Danny Shields (DS),
Steve Wynne (STS)
Danny Shields (DS),
Lynn Collins (DSL)
.
2001 . . Mark Daddio (DSP) Mark Daddio (DSP),
Ann Heller (DSL)
.

Racing Plymouth and Dodge Neon production highlights (courtesy Chrysler):

(Years are model years unless noted otherwise.)

1995: Introduced in January 1994 as a 1995 model. Neon sedan ACR (American Club Racer) built starting in February 1994; continued through the 1999 model year. Joined in July 1994 by the coupe, which also continued through 1999; ACR coupe had the 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, SMPI I-4 engine (150 horsepower, 132 lb.-ft. torque).

2000: Second-generation Neon model introduced in January 1999 as 2000 model (production started in July 1999). Completely redesigned suspension and steering systems, all-new interior and exterior and brake system upgrade. Modified five-speed manual transaxle, new second- and fourth-gear ratios added.

2001: Motorsports Edition models re-introduced in September 2000 as 2001 models. March 2001 introduction of an ACR with high-output 2.0-liter Magnum® four-cylinder engine, adjustable suspension damping, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

2002: Plymouth no longer sold. Four speed automatic added (badly chosen gear ratios).

2003: Four speed gear ratios changed for better driving. Turbocharged SRT-4 appears.

2004 news

Team Mopar kicked off the 2004 SCCA ProRally season with flying colors and showers of snow, sweeping victories in all 2WD categories in the 32nd running of the Sno*Drift near Atlanta, Mich., Friday and Saturday.

Doug Shepherd and co-driver Pete Gladysz piloted their Dodge SRT-4 to first place in Overall 2WD competition and a similar victory in Group 5 competition, courtesy of their 2h, 7m, 34s navigation of the 113-mile, 19 stage circuit. Their time was an impressive seventh overall behind all-wheel-drive entries, which have a fundamental acceleration advantage on surfaces covered in snow and ice.

"On these roads, a 2WD car has wheel spin all the way up to 100 mph in some places," Shepherd said. "The SRT-4 has outstanding handling, so we could out-handle the all-wheel-drive cars where we couldn’t out-accelerate them, and that kept us in the top-10 [overall]."

Chris Whiteman and co-driver Mike Paulin were the easy victors of Group 2, thanks to their total elapsed-time of 2h, 22m, 16s they earned driving their Dodge Neon SXT. It was the pair’s second consecutive class victory and second straight Sno*Drift Group 2 win.

Don Jankowski, who won last year’s Sno*Drift with the help of Gladysz’ navigation and Mopar power, brought his SRT-4 home second in the Group 5 standings, this time with the help of co-driver Ken Nowak

2012 and beyond

“trat50” wrote, “Neons have won the past 2 IMCA Supernationals (2012 and 2013). The IMCA Sport Compact class is dominated by the Dodge Neon and the Chevy Cavalier.”

The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), organized in 1915, claims to be the oldest active automobile racing sanctioning body in the United States. Kathy Root purchased the organization in 1996; it is aimed at grass-roots racing. They describe the Sport Compact class as:

A barebones class, truly entry level, the IMCA Sport Compacts are not race cars, they are cars that race. They can be purchased off the street or at a salvage yard. Then you gut them, put in the safety equipment, and go racing. This division is for younger drivers, not those that want to get out of late models or modifieds. It’s perfect for kids in high school, as there is a minimum age of 14. No one in this division can be licensed to compete in any other IMCA division.

In November 2016, Chris Greenhouse and Brian Johnson drove their 2001 Dodge Neon SRT4 to victory in the two-wheel-drive class in Québec’s Rally Défi.  With around twenty competitive timed stages,  spanning several towns in the Laurentians and the MRC Papineau, this internationally renowned event is part of the Canadian Rally Championship (CRC) and the North American Rally Cup (NARC).

dodge-neon-greenhouse-web

Chris Greenhouse began as a co-driver in 2005, and switched to primary driving in 2006. He has tallied a remarkable 28 class wins at both the national and regional levels, is a five-time Central Region Group 2 champion, and won the Group 2 Regional Cup Championship in 2009. Greenhouse recalled, “I was watching TV years ago, I saw cars the size of shoeboxes doing 100 mph down a road the size of a driveway. I said to myself that I just had to find out more about this. I then became a co-driver at 2005 Sno*Drift.” In 2011, he scored three podium finishes in the Rally America 2WD class, including a stunning, come-from-behind victory at STPR.

“We were in a Group 2 Neon and although we were still running regionals...we scored a third, second and a first in three different national entries.” His most frightening moment was in the Lake Superior Performance rally, when “We did a 360-degree, high-speed spin on Brockway Mountain. But we didn’t hit anything!”

Greenhouse upgraded to an ex-factory Dodge Neon SRT4 in 2012, and continues with his goal of winning the 2WD National Championship. 

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


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