Thanks for the response, yes one difference is they done away with the EGR "crap" in the head. Was wondering if everything else is the same.Welcome to Allpar. Not a direct interchange. There were engine changes between the 1st and 2nd generation Neons. I use the Mopar reman catalog for part interchange info. It doesn't tell me what is different, just that they are different enough not to share a common part number. See p. 135 here:
http://www.schematicsforfree.com/archive/file/Automotive/Maintenance/2009-10 Mopar Manufactured Parts.pdf
If it is strictly off-road, why not just disable the EGR? Beware of pre-ignition/pinging issues under load without the EGR. High Octane fuel may help with this.
The 1st gen Neon had more tricks available to it than the 2nd gen. The 1995 cam was supposed to be hotter and I put the '95 head on my '96 along with a stick-shift, 2 1/2" exhaust and the Mopar Performance racing PCM.
Some tricks can be applied to the 2nd gen. Good reading and info:
Mopar Performance Neon Modifications (at http://www.manciniracing.com/mopenemobo.html )
High Performance Dodge Neon Builder's Handbook (at https://www.cartechbooks.com/high-performance-dodge-neon-builder-s-handbook.html )