Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge Neon Performance
Many of these tips were provided from 2000-2006 and some may be outdated, though most are probably still valid.
"Quick hit" from the Neon owners' forum
Dom wrote: " I have made my own cowl vent, ram air induction for the stock airbox (+ stock replacement K&N filter) for my 95 SOHC 5 spd, using 2- 45 degree, 3 inch elbows (for RV waste disposal) and a foot of 3 inch flexible air tubing. I cut a hole in upper firewall, underneath cowl vent opening to fit an elbow and glued the other one into airbox. It's very efficient and is used in Nascar...I've bored and polished the stock exhaust manifold and matched the exhaust ports and gasket. (The 2 outer ports were half squared and smaller.)I've also done the obvious like bored and polished my aluminum intake manifold and throttle body to match, removing the power steering, added Mopar performance wires, high flow catalytic converter, Dynomax muffler...The one mod that seemed to help most after all this was, opening up, matching and polishing the intake ports. In stock form, the ports are very rough, uneven and restrictive... "
Carl Felice wrote: The 2.4 liter engine swap in my 1998 R/T is the best upgrade I have done by far. All my 2.0 DOHC harness worked. I used all my OEM parts, including manifolds, intake, pipe, exhaust, and I am getting a 14.8 ET 1/4 mile on the stock 185/60r14 tires. I've been doing Neons for 8 years. My other favorite Neon I have owned was a 2001 ACR that I ran consistent 13.6 et on street slicks.
The 2.4 engine modification
Carl Felice wrote: “The 2.4l swap in my 1998 Neon R/T is the best upgrade I have done by far; I did the swap and all my 2.0 DOHC harness worked. I used all my OEM parts, including manifolds, intake, and exhaust, and I am getting a 14.8 ET 1/4 mile on the stock 185/60R14 tires. Even my honda buddy is quite impressed. I've been doing Neons for 8 years. My other favorite Neon I have owned was a 2001 ACR that I ran consist ant 13.6 ET on street slicks.”
Comprehensive performance guide from Anthony Thomas (email@example.com)
(Minor additions from Gary Howell)
The Neon aftermarket is growing rapidly. New products seem to come out everyday. You can build anything you want. From an 8 second quarter- mile to a "nice" street performer that can blow the doors off cars costing two or three times as much.
This update also covers all 2nd generation models, (2000-up) so it supercedes [in Anthony's opinion] the current performance section located on the 2nd generation page of this site.
There's a lot to update so let's get started, shall we?
With the introduction of the Neon SRT-4, the 2003 Mopar Performance catalog has been delayed because they want to finish the first round of upgrades you can get for this fanatic car! The 2002 catalog is still available if you need it. A full catalog listing is available at Neon.org Forum - Link.
Here are continuing projects in the print media -
- Continuing of Sport Compact Car Magazine's Project Neon Series
- All issues of Mopar NOW! Feature Neon how-to articles
A list of available back issues of Mopar Action and Mopar NOW will be listed in the next update.
P4876667 - Neon Performance Modifications
This book is generally looked at as a disappointment. It gives you basic setup and information about the Neon and how to set one up for auto crossing and road racing, but that's basically it. Most of the information is available on-line. So unless you have limited net access or find the book really cheap at your local Chrysler/Dodge dealer don't bother
Stage One -- The Basics
Neons ('95-'99) suffer from a poorly designed, from a performance standpoint, air intake system. Performance, for a relatively small amount of money, can be improved by installing a K&N Filter. They are available both from Mopar Performance and your local auto parts store. Usually found for about $30, its worth about a 3-4 hp improvement over the paper filter. Owners have reported an "aggressive" sound coming from the engine (by removing the top of the air box on 2000-up Neon). If you are thinking about any modifications, you should start here first. (Note: for '97-'99 owners, I would not remove the intake scoop from the engine compartment of your Neon, unless you like that "open element" filter noise. You don't gain any performance from removing it, only a filter that gets dirty faster)
For a 2nd generation Neon, the air intake resonator should be removed at this time. It doesn't hurt performance or cause anything to happen. Its main function is to reduce intake noise for non-enthusiast. If you're reading this page, you don't need it. I have personally gained 3hp over stock with a K&N filter and the resonator removed.
If your Neon has more than 60,000 miles, then you should also replace your plugs and plug wires. Stock OEM wires are 7mm, which isn't bad. You can replace them for around $25, but for a little more MP 7.5mm competition wires are a better choice:
- P4876546 1995 2.0L SOHC
- P4876510 1996-2001 2.0L SOHC
- P4876511 All 2.0L DOHC
Magnecor wires are considered by many to be the best ignition wire you can buy. I would consider these if you don't mind paying a little more money:
- PN#40223 - 1995-1998 SOHC (#45223 for 8.5mm)
- PN#40381 -- 1999-2001 SOHC (#45381 for 8.5mm)
- PN#40231 -- 1995-1999 DOHC (#45231 for 8.5mm)
Crane, MSD, Accel and Moroso are available for both SOHC and DOHC engines. Check with the manufacturer for availability.
There have been many debates over the years about which spark plugs work best in Neon engines. I suggest the OEM Champions (RC9YC) for anything but the highest boosted or nitrous injected engine. NGK FR series plugs seem to work well also, but tend to "die" quicker and need repeated changing. Good for boosted cars and nitrous oxide however.
For those that have a little more money to burn, the best upgrade so far dollar for dollar, is a CAI (short for Cold Air Intake). These are the best available on the market:
- ICEMAN Competition Intake (All years)
- AEM Competition Intake (All years and SRT-4)
- Mopar Performance Cold Air Intake (ICEMAN, '95-'99 only)
- K&N Generation 2 FPK kit ('95-'99 SOHC only)
- Volant Cold Air Intake (2000-up)
- Injen Racing Division Intake (2000-up)
All these intakes carry a CARB E.O number, which makes them legal for use on smog control vehicles. There are some others out there such as the Kirk that requires the relocation of your stock battery and doesn't carry a CARB number.
*If you're serious about performance stay away from those chrome-plated "hot air" intakes
SOHC owners, you can add about 8-10hp from changing your muffler to a high-flow unit. Straight-though type mufflers work well for this application. This muffler design produces the best hp and torque numbers. It shouldn't cost more than $120-$140 installed. Also make sure your muffler size is around 24" or roughly the size of your stock muffler. This will keep the sound low enough for you to enjoy your exhaust without the police ruining your fun. If you live in an area where you get a lot of snow and salt on the road, I would really consider a stainless steel muffler from Dynomax (Ultra-flow), Magnaflow or Edelbrock (RPM series). Those that live in a more weather friendly part of the
I suspect that an even bigger improvement can be gained from installing a high-flow muffler on 2000-up standard Neon. The factory reduced exhaust pipe diameter from 2.25 inches on 95-99 cars to 2.0 inches on 2000-up basic Neon models. This change was made in an effort to make the current Neon appear more mature than the previous generation (i.e. quieter).
Instead of running down to your local muffler shop, you can always order a simple bolt-on rear section exhaust. 15-20 minutes and you're done!
- Thermal R&D (PN#M501)
- Ravin (PN#VP1706)
- Borla (PN#14856)
- Brospeed (PN#248-315)
- Genie (PN#413194)
- Vibrant (PN#1706)
- Mopar Performance (PN#5249861)
2000-up SOHC (not including RT/ACR models)
- Ravin (PN#VP1718)
- Brospeed (PN#112-262)
- Vibrant (PN#1718)
- Mopar Performance (PN#5007559)
* Thermal R&D, Pacesetter and Borla (also offered though Mopar) make a cat-back exhaust for 2000-up Neon. They all feature new 2.25 piping. R/T and ACR Neon already have a 2.25 exhaust system. ÊThermal & Borla (though Mopar as well) have rear section systems for these cars.
The reason I left DOHC owners out of this is because you already have a nice muffler from the factory; thank Dodge for wanting a good exhaust system for the stock classes in SCCA Showroom Stock competition. If you can find one, cheap, it's a nice upgrade for SOHC Neon also. DOHC owners should move on to Stage 2 upgrades before changing the exhaust.
For weekend warriors that drag race, Neons are known for suffering from wheel-hop during hard acceleration from a standing start. If you want to knock-off about .2-.3 tenths off your ET and another .3 tenths off your 60 ft. times, try the MP Motor mount (P5007027-All) and Bobble Strut (P5007028-All).
The new motor mount is stiffer than the OEM unit, but still can suffer from tearing. To combat this and to further stiffen your engine mounts you can install these inserts:
- PN#4-501 Front mount
- PN#4-502 Right mount
- PN#4-503 Rear mount
- PN#4-1901 All three mounts
Engine mount inserts are also available from:
- Energy Suspension
- Rex Inserts
Your final option is to fill your mount(s) with various hard compounds. Deyeme Racing makes filled motor mounts in varies stages of stiffness.
2000-up Neons don't suffer as badly as 1st generation Neons do. You can still get some wheel hop. To prevent this Energy Suspension and REX inserts are available.
This is by far the best low cost modification you can make to your Neon. Wheel hop is prevented and the stiffer mounts allow smoother, crisper shifting. You also gain a more "solid" feel under braking and cornering. The additional vibration is well worth the improvement in performance.
With these modifications, I've seen many SOHC and DOHC Neons in the low 15's in the 1/4 for less than $500!
Not bad, huh? Now go scare some 4.6L SOHC Automatic Mustangs ('97-'98) and some of those pesky imports! Up next is part two.
Stage 2 - bolt-on modifications
With the stage one completed, you should be making around 118+hp at the wheels with the SOHC ('96-'99 will make slightly less in some RPM ranges do to the camshaft change after the '95 model year) and around 122+hp at the wheels with the DOHC. More importantly your torque should be over 120lbs at the wheels.
These modifications are a little more involved, but not beyond a good novice mechanic:
Adding a larger throttle-body from an automatic transmission Neon (52mm vs. 49mm) or boring your stock throttle body out will help boost output on a DOHC Neon by about 5 hp or more across the whole RPM range. RC Engineering and Howell Automotive can bore your stock throttle body out to about 57mm. You can also purchase billet throttle bodies up to 60mm. Having a throttle body too big can hurt overall performance, so unless you seriously changed the air flow characteristics inside your engine, I wouldn't use anything bigger than 55mm throttle body.
Gary Howell wrote:
"49mm TB flows 252 cfm
52mm TB flows 283 cfm
55mm TB flows 317 cfm
60mm TB flows 377 cfm
At 8200 RPM a 122 cubic inch engine will need 290 cfm at 100% volumetric efficiency, using the formula ((Max RPM/2)*Displacement)/1728. Rule of thumb is to go 10% over because a naturally aspirated engine can go above 100% volumetric efficiency because of cam overlap, header design, etc. Go above that and you kill low end because of reduced velocity, go below that you starve the engine for air at top end. 110% is volumetric efficiency is 319 cfm."
Based on this, 55 mm does seem to be the option for naturally aspirated (non-turbo) engines.
As for automatic Neon throttle bodies, you can find them easily at most junkyards for around $70 or less. When you perform this swap be sure to replace the new throttle body's sensors and cams with the ones from your stock unit, if you want to retain stock drivability. You also want to pay attention to placement of the throttle-body on the manifold. You might gain a little more if you push it closer toward the center of the intake manifold. Make sure you port-match the throttle body to your intake manifold for best performance.
In the past I have stated that this modification helps DOHC owners the most and should really be avoided by SOHC owners. I have recently learned that a 57 mm throttle body on a mostly stock SOHC Neon gained about 5hp overall. Again, you really need to port-match throttle body to the intake manifold for best performance. That seemed to make the difference from before when the average was about 1hp over stock.
*A full story and dynojet results are available at Sport Compact Car magazine
Under drive pulleys have been used on V8s with success for many years. No reason why it wouldn't also work on a Neon right? Using one of these releases drag causes by your water pump and other accessories. By slowing down your accessories you gain hp and torque. It's really noticeable off the line. The increase in horsepower and torque is dependant on how much power the engine was making in the first place. The more power you have, the more effective the pulley. On mostly stock SOHC or DOHC engines however, the increase is about 5-7hp depending on model year
Here are some under drive pulleys on the market:
- Unorthodox Racing
- TTI Racing
- Mopar Performance
- RVM Performance Products
- Auto Specialties Performance
For serious racers some of these pulleys are available for single belt use, which would only turn the alt. For those that want the best of both worlds can get an Unorthodox Racing convertible Street/Race pulley (PN#30100100). The center pulley comes off for racing and can be re-installed when you're ready to drive home.
Another area that can be addressed on the DOHC engine is cam timing. Seldom does the factory use the optimum centerline the cam(s) need when building the engines. You can index them yourself for next to no money with a simple degree wheel, but I've found that cam sprockets make life a lot easier. They are marked clearly and are easy to adjust quickly, unlike the factory cam sprockets.
Here are the available cam sprockets: (The SOHC sprockets work on 2000-up Neons)
- Unorthodox Racing
- Fidanza Flywheels
- Speed Lab Racing
(Again for serious racers Unorthodox makes a lighter version of their sprocket)
AEM has tested their cam sprockets on a DOHC Neon, which also had the AEM cold air intake and a prototype of then new Mopar Performance exhaust system. Before the cam sprockets, this DOHC Neon made 124+hp at the wheels. After the sprockets were adjusted for 4 degrees retarded (on both cams), the Neon responded with 131+hp. But that's not all...
The DOHC engine instead of falling on its face after 6500 rpm pulls up to Redline strong! With this setting it made more power from 4750 to redline than the stock cam timing did. You might not get the same gains on your Neon, but it's worth looking into.
With your Stage One modifications and the few upgrades here, your DOHC Neon should be in the 130+ area and maybe as high as 140 hp at the wheels. That's about 150 hp, the factory rating.
*DOHC owners - Want 12hp the easy way? All you need is a stock automatic Neon throttle body and some elbow grease.
- Starting with only new plugs and a K&N drop-in filter -- 114hp and 111ft of torque
- We added the automatic throttle body and got -- 120hp and 113ft of torque
- Finally we removed the AC/PS drive belt from the stock pulley. Result -- 126hp and 117ft of torque
If you gasket-match the throttle body to the intake manifold, you'll gain a bit more. See how easy that was?
*These are repeatable results and done in the heat of the day at SHO Shop in
I haven't forgotten about you SOHC owners... Being one myself (four times over), I searched for some easy and cheap gains for us too.
Installing a cam sprocket is only worthwhile if your stock cam timing wasn't correct to begin with. It should be set at 110 degrees straight up. The DOHC engine is more sensitive to cam timing. You might want to check to see if your OEM cam sprocket has skipped a tooth. I would only do this if I were going to replace the timing belt (DC recommends 100,000 miles).
Adding a header is the next logical step and is worth about 4-6 hp. Most of this power is added to the mid-range and top end of the rev range. Currently the only CARB legal headers on the market come from Mopar Performance (street header- P5249856 SOHC, P5249973 DOHC) Borla (2000-up) and Hedman (uncoated PN#36050-DOHC #36060-SOHC). Pacesetter also makes a header, but is not smog legal in some states. Check with your local smog inspection station before purchasing this header.
Most of these headers require a minor modification to the exhaust pipe, but can still be installed in about 3-4 hours.
A few Neon owners have opted to have their header ceramic coated by Jet-Hot or HPC, it's a worthwhile investment that saves headers from rusting and improves there performance. Hedman and Pacesetter also offer coated versions of their headers.
To take full advantage of your Stage 1 and 2 modifications, pickup a Mopar Performance PCM for about $200. These replace your OEM power train module, are emissions exempt in all 50 states and require the use of 92-93-octane premium fuel. The rev-limit is moved up (about 7200 in the SOHC and 7400 in the DOHC engine), along with more advanced timing that improves low-end torque and throttle response.
- SOHC Manual Transmission P5007033 1995, P5007035 1996, P5007037 1997-99
- DOHC Manual Transmission P5007034 1995, P5007036 1996, P5007038 1997-99
Kenne-Bell offers reprogramming of 2000-up Power train Modules for $395
*One 2nd Gen Neon owner has complained of not getting what he wanted for the price he paid. Kenne-Bell offers a money-back guarantee. But you should be COMPLETELY clear about the changes you are requesting. So changes may require the car to be present during reprogramming. If you want just a basic upgrade, I recommend you request the fuel curve modified, bump the rev-limiter to 7200rpm and adjust the timing for 91-93 octane fuel, depending where you live.
A/FX Manufacturing also sells reprogrammed PCMs for all years, except 1995. They are available at Howell Automotive, but are not smog-legal. It gives you all the features of the Mopar units and produces a little more hp in upper rpm range (mainly from even more timing advance). There are race only versions available with more advanced timing and ignition curves. They are available for '96-99 DOHC and SOHC Neons. The Race version is just that because it allows you to remove your catalytic converter and requires the use of a header for best results. Some people with the "street" A/FX computer say they have passes smog with the unit installed, but I don't think the extra 2-3hp the A/FX makes over the Mopar is worth the additional cost. But it's up to you….
*It is rumored that A/FX will release reprogrammed PCM for 2000 models only
All of these modifications could be installed in less than an afternoon. At this point SOHC powered Neons should fall around 125-130hp and DOHC Neons should fall between 130-135hp at the wheels. With some minor weight reduction and drag radials high 14's are not out of the question for DOHC Neon. For SOHC Neon however, you need a little more help.
The next round
For your next round of modifications if you own a DOHC or '96 SOHC with an aluminum intake manifold, I would recommend having your cast intake manifold modified by GUDE/Bullfrog Racing or any competent cylinder head service. It should run around $200 for port-matching and smoothing out the casting as much as possible without cutting the manifold. If you haven't got your throttle body done yet, then you can get it bored and port-matched to the intake for an additional cost. This is good for those handy with a Dremel or similar tool and for those on a limited budget. You can also make some of the same modifications to the composite (plastic) SOHC intake manifold with less dramatic results.
The Extrude Hone deburring and finishing process works great on cast aluminum Neon intake manifolds. Air flow testing of a stock intake should be around 810 cfm. That's with most of the casting "flash" taken out by hand. After the Extrude Hone process, that same intake pushed out 1013 cfm. What's so great about the EH process is that it can do what human hands can't, which is port/polish the entire intake manifold's upper runners and make air flow in each runner as even as possible. Before EH process, the manifold showed various cfm readings from each intake runner. Each runner varied as much as 10%. After the EH process, all runners where within 2-3cfm of each other or less than 2%.
Both types of modifications made to these manifolds give you much improved low-end torque and throttle response and allows more power (the hand ported manifold to a lesser degree of course) to be made beyond the original 6500rpm "flat spot" in DOHC Neons. With either manifold, the torque band was much wider and flatter. The DOHC engine now wants to scream on the top-end! You get strong pull right up to the fuel cut-off (7200 rpm). This is a very worth while modification for any DOHC Neon. A few cars with this and some of the modifications listed earlier are making well over 130 hp or 150+ hp at the flywheel (most falls into the 132hp -138hp area at the wheels).
This IS the "real" bottle-neck in the prevention of gaining additional hp from the DOHC engine. Combining Extrude Hone with traditional hand porting works even better!
The next round
This is where the gains from bolt-on performance stop. Some of the parts or modifications mentioned here might be beyond the novice enthusiasts but are still considered Stage 2 modifications.
Changing the camshaft(s) is the next step. Stock Neon camshafts are very mild when compared to other engines in its class. More aggressive cam timing is needed to take full advantage of the 420a's well-designed DOHC cylinder head.
Crane makes excellent camshafts for both engines.
For internally stock engines I would recommend:
- PN#158-0010 for SOHC engines
- PN#180-0010 for DOHC engines
Crower makes excellent camshafts, but for DOHC engines only.
I would recommend this grind for internally stock engines:
The other grinds require increased compression and additional work on the cylinder head. If you don't plan on any further modifications to your engine I would stick to these camshafts.
SOHC owners might be lured by the turbo grind specs. Please read this very carefully --
The SOHC engine makes most of its power between 4000 and 5600 rpm. The stock camshaft makes peak power around 5500-5600rpm and then falls rapidly. Crane's non-turbo cam adds power across the rev range and extends power pass the stock peak. It also makes more power from 5500 to 6500rpm where the engine needs it most. Even with the rev- range allowed by the Mopar or A/FX PCM, the turbo grind makes most of its power well pass 6500rpm where the cylinder head doesn't offer any additional flow. It's simply the wrong choice for your application.
DOHC owners have another option here. If you plan on using nitrous oxide injection, I recommend Crane's: PN#180-0012 or Crower's: PN#64451.
Both these camshafts require upgraded valve springs due to higher lift. I don't recommend Mopar Performance Springs for aftermarket camshafts. They are great for stock or mild aftermarket cams, but once you setup to more serious camshaft, heavier springs are needed. Both Crower and Crane make upgraded valve springs. This would also be a good time to upgrade the entire DOHC valve train with PT Cruiser spec replacement parts. These lashes and roller rockers are much stronger than what came in DOHC engines during its production run in the Neon. If you upgrade your camshafts, do this FIRST.
We are now running into the limits of the stock cylinder head, intake manifold and short-tube headers. SOHC engines at this point should be around 135-140hp with DOHC engines checking in around 140-145hp. You can pick up some additional power by cleaning and balancing your fuel injectors. This process will allow each cylinder to produce the most horsepower by equalizing fuel flow.
For East Coast Neon owners -- Marren Motor Sports
For West Coast Neon owners -- RC Engineering
You can pick up 4-5hp for about $100. Not bad!
Neons are tuned to run conservative for non-enthusiasts. To get the most out of your modifications, you need some control over fuel flow and ignition timing. Aftermarket PCMs are tuned more aggressively than stock, yet still aren't tailor made for your car and the changes you have made. You need the power of these tuning tools to get the most out your changes.
Adding a Crane or MSD ignition will increase ignition output, but you cannot advance the ignition timing beyond what the PCM will also. MSD also makes a programmable version of the DIS-2 with fully programmable ignition curves, but you're still limited by the PCM. The stock ignition will do fine with internally stock engines. Installing an ignition amplifier will increase power between 3-4hp overall, allow the engine to run smoother and use a wide spark plug gap.
*For drag racing and Solo 1/2 both basic ignitions offer Stage 2 rev control for better launches.
Adjusting fuel flow can increase power by decreasing or leaning out the fuel mixture. This can be done two ways -
- Manually with a fuel pressure regulator
- Electronically with a fuel management computer
Using a fuel management computer like the Apex'i Super AFC, HKS Super AFR or Split Second ARC1, you have far more control over tuning that what an adjustable fuel pressure regulator will give you. On average you can pickup 6-8 additional horsepower using one of these devices. It also leaves the door open for any modifications you might make later.
You can also use a piggy-back engine control unit such as the Perfect Power SMT-6, UNICHIP, or Split Second FTC-1 These offer MUCH more control than a simple Super AFC does and adds the power of full ignition control, within the parameters of the PCM. You won't have the 2 stage rev-limit of a MSD or Crane ignition, but you gain more tuning power. [Note: Mariano Torres wrote that the Greddy E-Manage did not do much for spark control and could do some damage.]
Kenne-Bell can not only re-flash 2000-up Neon PCM, but also 97-up Neon as well. ASE replaces your soldered e-prom with socket version and can program ANY parameter you see fit into the PCM. This might be a good option for those that aren't looking to make a lot of changes later to their engine. Some tuning from either company might require the car to be at these locations. Plan on spending some time on a dyno near your home town and phone calls between you can KB or ASE if you want your car tuned correctly. Or expect you spend your PCM back at least once for an adjustment. Tuning with the factory PCM can be a pain in the ass at times. But if you gotten this far maybe you should forget this and consider what's next.
Stage 3 - Advanced Engine Performance
With both engines were at the crossroads of performance...
Monitoring engine performance becomes more critical at this point. You're tuning closer and closer to the edge of detonation to squeeze the last ounce of power from your engine. There a few ways to monitor what's going on while the hood is closed.
If you haven't installed at least Water Temp, Oil Pressure & Fuel Pressure gauge you're asking for trouble. You need the proper gauges to aid in tuning and to let you know of a potential problem with your engine.
That's not the only way you can monitor your engine and its many sensors. The age of mini-computing has allowed us to leave the laptop computer at home and give a PDA another use outside the office. Since all Neons are OBD-2 compliant, you can use OBD-2 monitoring software. Several are available for downloading and you only need to purchase a cable for under $70 in some cases.
Here are some of the available programs:
- Virtual Dashboard
- Auto Tap
- Palmer Performance Engineering
- CJ-2 (Package Includes a Handspring PDA with software pre-installed)
This is the most advance way for you to monitor your engine function and sensors. It allows you to data-log your PCM while on the race track, dyno and erase codes that might come up during the installation of aftermarket parts. By knowing what code comes up, you can easily solve the problem. These have become very valuable tools in high performance tuning. I highly recommend using this type of software.
Programmable Engine Management:
To get the most out of any modification you for here on, you need control of the ignition and fuel systems. For some of the heavy modifications, it might be best to step beyond the piggy-back systems that I listed earlier. While you can almost totally override control of the stock or modified PCM with piggy-back units or even go as far as having a new e-prom burned for the PCM. You'll end up spending more money and still not have the amount of tuning power available in units such as Electromotive's TEC-3. These should be considered if you're looking to make the most horsepower possible and yet still have reliable transportation. However in the process, you might loose several functions of the factory PCM. If you don't mind loosing such functions, then using one of these units will reward you handsomely.
The TEC-3 is one of several units available. Choice should be based on which unit your tuner prefers or what functions you're looking for. I recommend the following ECUs *
- DTA (TTI Racing is SUPPOSE to have a direct-plug version available)
Blueprinting alone will pick up a few more ponies, but with the additional cost of machine work, I don't think it's worth it alone. I would do this in addition to what other changes that would be made to the engine while it was apart.
Depending on how far you go, you might be reaching the point where your OEM fuel injectors are not supplying enough fuel. If you have installed a fuel computer to help dial-in your bolt-ons from Stage 2/3, then you can also use larger injectors and not cause a "rich" tuning condition. The biggest injectors any factory or aftermarket PCM are 24lbs or about 270cc.
You need to increase your compression ratio to run any of the "hotter" camshafts that Crane and Crower (for DOHC Neons) offer. Increasing compression is also a fairly cheap modification and is usually a win-win proposition. The only downside to higher compression is using higher-octane fuel. The stock compression ratio in the SOHC engine is 9.8:1 and it's 9.2:1 in the DOHC. 11:1 is a good compression ratio for either engine if you plan on running it mostly on pump gas. You might need to install an MSD or Crane ignition if you haven't already. Detonation is bad for any engine. Even a bad tank of gas can spell doom for your modified engine. These ignitions can prevent this by allowing you to retard the timing a few degrees. In most cases you'll only retard after 4000rpm in both engines and only about 2-3 degrees at the most. Using a Piggy-back control system or Stand-Alone engine management will give you more tuning options. You can always leave the Crane or MSD box for its 2 Step function.
For a really hot street engine, 12:1 compression is ideal. At this point I would consider replacing your stock pistons with better units from KB. Hypereutectic pistons are stronger and lighter than cast pistons, although not as strong as forged pistons. They also cost less than forged pistons or brand new replacement pistons from the dealer. This can provide a solid foundation for your high output engine. You also don't have to mill your head any further than .050 with a 10.8:1 piston. This will achieve close to 12:1 compression. You will now need either programmable engine management or an aftermarket ignition to fire your high compression engine. You'll have to run about 5-6 degrees of retard to keep your engine together, but for the money it's a solid power increase. Forged Pistons can be used also, but are a bit "loud" during cold start up and tend to burn more oil than cast or hypereutectic pistons. If you don't plan on turning your Neon into a track-only car, the KB's will do the job.
ÊElectromotive's Neon TPK system is no longer available. But you don't need individual throttle bodies anymore to get max power on the street. INDY Cylinder Head of
SOHC Owners -
Once considered the "redheaded" stepchild in the world of Neons. The SOHC engine has had the last laugh. Besides the new SRT-4 turbocharged Neon, the SOHC engine is the only other engine available. The DOHC was axed for budgetary reasons. I've been trying to tell people for years that everything being equal, the SOHC can provide just as much power as the DOHC engine. The parts are now available to make 180-190hp without any additional machine work or cylinder head porting.
180+hp SOHC Recipe *
11:1 or 12:1 compression (aftermarket pistons needed)
Magnum SOHC Cylinder Head or Ported standard SOHC head
Crane 0014 or 0016 camshaft & matching valve springs
INDY Intake manifold or Magnum Intake manifold
Long tube header (Phatridz, Blackdog or Hytech)
Stage 1 and 2 modifications
Reprogrammed PCM combined with Piggy-back engine control or Stand-Alone engine management
More power is possible. On record there are at least 3-4 daily driven SOHC Neon making over 180hp at the wheels. I have seen only one dyno sheets to prove this, but Nate Greer has blasted 13.6@102! Very few DOHC have run faster trap speeds. This truly impressive and we have only just started to see the full potential of this engine. The revenge of the SOHC is on!
DOHC Owners -
DOHC Neon on the other hand doesn't really need a ported head to reach 180hp. Running 12:1 compression, Crane/Crower cams, INDY intake manifold and some tuning are all that are needed. You can reach 200hp a lot easier now that the INDY intake has come on the scene. You might need additional cylinder head work to get up to 200hp, but it can be done and still be very streetable.
*For the 2003 season Scot Mohler is a member of Darrell Cox Racing and Team Mopar! He took the 2002 NOPI Pro Stock title, finished 4th in the NHRA Pro Stock class and ran a limited schedule in IDRC and IDRA (
Exhaust Systems -
Short-tube headers are not great horsepower producers. The Neon engine needs a real header. A properly designed long tube header for either the SOHC or DOHC engine is worth over 12hp on an otherwise stock engine. There are two on the market current. The Kirk Racing header is an older design but still produces good power numbers. However the Phatridz and Hytech header are the best choice.
*Some of maybe think, "How come you didn't suggest this earlier?" It's because NONE of these headers are smog legal and to get the most out of them, you really need to use some bigger camshafts and ported cylinder head. These are purely racing headers.
This is also where your stock 2.25" exhaust piping becomes an obstacle in the quest for horsepower. There are a couple of cat-back exhaust systems for Neons available.
Unfortunately, these exhaust system come with outdated turbo style mufflers. The Dynomax cat-back is by far the most popular exhaust for Neons and uses I think the best of the turbo style mufflers (Super Turbo) but if you were serious about power output, I would use the piping (2.5) and use a better muffler like a Dynomax Ultra-flow, Edelbrock, Magnaflow or some other type of straight-though muffler.
For more information on building a high horsepower SOHC or DOHC engine --
Neon Specific Tuners:
- CNNP Racing
- Howell Automotive
- Forward Motion
- Modern Performance
There are a few Neon turbo kits available now. They are available for both SOHC and DOHC engines from -
- Hahn Racecraft (95-99)
- Turbo Performance (95-up)
- CNNP Racing (95-up)
Turbo manifolds are available from Turbo Performance, CNNP and TTI Racing if you want to design your own turbo system.
You can run between 8-12psi on a stock Neon engine if the proper precautions are taken. If you buy one of these kits, slap it on your Neon and run 12psi, you'll sure to break something sooner if not later. At the VERY minimum, this is what I would add to my turbo system --
- MSD or Crane ignition (to retard the timing under higher boost levels)
- Electronic boost Control unit (Blitz, HKS, Apex'i or Greddy)
- Clutchmasters Stage 3 clutch or something similar
- Driveshaft Shop Stage 2 axles (Drag racing? Get Stage 3s!)
- Dynomax cat-back intermediate pipe and straight-though muffler ('95-'99 Neons only)
- Upgrade your blow-off valve if you're using a Hahn kit
Adding these will add to the life and performance of your turbocharged Neon.
Len Ayala's (first) Neon is one of the fastest in the world with a top time of 9.55@150 He still uses the same exhaust manifold from the Hahn kit only with a 20G turbocharger on his 2.4L DOHC engine. His Neon also features a unique induction/intercooler system. Now that his first Neon is no longer a street car, he purchased another Dodge Neon for street duty. After putting the finishing touched on his new street Neon he took it out to a local Import War event. He made it all the way to the final round. His best ET of the day was 11.97@121 making his new car one of the fastest street-driven Neon in the country! Great Work Len and Hahn Racecraft!
Darrel Cox currently owns the fastest and quickest Neon in the world driven by Mike Crawford at 8.56@163mph. He built the 2.4L DOHC turbocharged engine at his own shop, Darrell Cox Racing. The engine is controlled by F.A.S.T engine management system. He also built the 2.4L turbocharged engine found in former Ford Focus racer Shawn Carlson's New Mopar Dodge Neon.
Nitrous Oxide -
Many people think using nitrous oxide as cheating. While I won't jump on my soapbox about this, I will say that more and more Neon owners are looking toward the "throttle in a bottle" for cheap performance. You can run anywhere from 50hp-100hp on a stock Neon engine in good running condition.
A 50hp shot on a 5spd stock SOHC or DOHC Neon will run high to mid 14's on street tires easy. If you could use it in first gear, you should be able to get low 14's. To do that, you need slicks. On a '96 and later Neon you'll need to upgrade the clutch to use slicks and nitrous together (when using more than a 75hp shot).
With only Stage 1 modifications and a 75hp kick from nitrous oxide, you can have a very quick car for less than $1,000 invested.
ÊJust to show you how effective Nitrous can be, Scott Kornish with an internally stock 2.4L DOHC engine, Stage 2 type modifications and Crane cams, makes about 160hp at the wheels and runs mid 14's at around 93-94mph in the &Mac185; mile. Add some slicks, Nitrous Express Maximizer progressive nitrous control unit and a 100hp shot of nitrous oxide, the results? 12.4@108mph. Not many turbo Neon run that quickly and just goes to prove that nitrous-oxide can be the answer in your quest for big horsepower.
Nitrous kits range from $400-$1300 and they come complete. But you need to add a couple of options to have a safe, yet very quick system. A Neon Nitrous FAQ is being constructed and will be available soon.
There are four Neon-specific nitrous-oxide kits available - when this was written, from Nitrous Express, Nitrous Works, Nitrous Oxide Systems, and Venom (VNC-1000 and 2000). All things nitrous-related can be found here -- http://www.n20.org/
*Both of the world's fastest Neons use turbocharging and nitrous injection
Everybody thought it was possible. Everybody said it could be done, but nobody has tried to until about 8 months ago. Now it's one of the hottest topics on neons.org. Yes! You can swap a 2.4L DOHC cam engine into the Neon. What are the advantages? More cubic inches, more torque and almost all the 2.0L DOHC parts work making it one of the easiest engine swaps around. One of the best ways to get more power is to increase engine size. By adding almost half a liter to the 2.0L DOHC engine, it gained over 30 addition pound feet of torque and only lowered the rev-limit by a little.
Swapping in just a 2.4L DOHC engine into DOHC Neons will drop your ET's into the low 15-second area. All of the performance modifications that work in the 2.0L work even better in the 2.4L engine.
The 2.4L is also ideal for racing. Darrell Cox's 8-second turbo Neon uses a 2.4L engine. Scott Mohler uses a bored 2.4L DOHC engine in his ACR this season and with further tuning and changes from last year makes almost 300hp at the wheels.
Swapping the 2.4L is still fairly new, so if you're considering this swap, Dodge Specialist makes a kit making installation a snap. TTI Racing also offers the special passenger mount spacer needed to install the engine. Currently this swap only works in '95-'99 Neon with the DOHC engine. SOHC owners can make this swap also, but you need to find a DOHC PCM and all the other necessary bits needed to make the swap possible.
The 2.4L engine bolts right into the PL2000 (2000-up) Neon chassis! Just go to your local Dodge/Chrysler dealer and request a full set of Neon SRT-4 engine mounts. Then compare them with your current 2.0L SOHC mounts. Change what's needed and a PT style engine should fit without any problems. However, the new problem is how to control your new engine. You might be able to use a PCM from the same year PT Cruiser. This is still being researched. When a full answer is known, I'll post an update ASAP. I'm sure some would still rather opt for 2.4L DOHC power over the underdog SOHC engine. But given the extra weight Neons picked up with the 2000 year model change, it's understandable.
If you have any of these modifications, we would like to hear from you and so would many other readers of this page. You can contact either the Webmaster or me. So far I'm very disappointed. Nobody has sent in any suggestions or comments about the changes they have made with their car and share them with others. Please if you have done some of the things listed on this site, we would like to hear from you.
Next update I'll finally add that Suspension Tuning Guide I have been promising for awhile now. I might also be able to give you a look into what it takes to make a Dodge/Plymouth Neon competitive in Street Touring auto-cross Neon. I'll also add that Automatic Transmission build up guide. A lot of things have changed since I have started writing this page. I have had 3 Neons since then and I am currently without Neon again. Don't worry, though a final decision hasn't been made, there's a strong chance I'll be getting yet another Dodge Neon. I won't tell you what model or what year though.
- allowen.gif shows Owen's DOHC ACR after all the mods listed on the dyno sheet
- barryrun.gif shows the gain with the under drive pulley
- scottsrun.gif is his first run (222 hp)
- scottsrun3.gif is the 228hp run