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The 1995-1999 Dodge Neon vs the 1961 Dodge Lancer

While the Neon was revolutionary when it came out in 1994, the same could be said for the Valiant when it first arrived in 1960. We have the specifications for the 1961 Dodge Lancer (a clone of the Valiant), so we can make a comparison between the pair.

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We were surprised on our Lancer test drive by how comfortable the ride was, and by the strength of the acceleration from a tiny 170 cid slant six putting out under 100 horsepower. Yes, the Neon will easily outhandle and outrace the Lancer, but let's give credit where it is due - the Lancer did quite well by the standards of the day, despite overly loose steering and barely adequate brakes. The pushbutton transmission gets points for style, and the body itself is clean and attractive, with an almost Neon-like smile. We were impressed - but, at the same time, we must say that the Neon has such amenities as maintenance-free ignition and fuel delivery systems, front and rear shoulder belts, dual airbags, excellent handling, fuel economy of over 30 mpg, etc.

Without further ado -


1961 Dodge Lancer1995 Chrysler NeonAdvantage
Length188.8172Neon (parking)
Width72.367Neon (parking)
0-60Roughly 12 seconds7.8 - 8.0 secondsNeon
Road clearance5.44.9Lancer
Headroom (front/rear)37.9 / 37.439.6 / 36.5Neon / Lancer
Legroom (front/rear)42.8 / 39.842.5 / 33.9Lancer
Hip room (front/rear)56.8 / 56.950.8 / 50.6Lancer
Shoulder room (front/rear)54.0 / 54.152.5 / 52.3Lancer
Trunk capacity24.9 cubic feet11.8 cubic feetLancer
Std Horsepower/Torque101 / 155 (gross)132 / 129 (net)Neon / ?
Opt Horsepower/Torque145 / 215 (gross)150 / (net)Neon / Lancer

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The Lancer is considerably longer, but the wheelbase is similar to the Neon, giving a handling advantage to the Neon (which is augmented by a fully independent four wheel suspension, MacPherson struts, etc.) The Lancer's length, unfortunately, does not necessarily mean it has more interior space - the relatively unsophisticated, albeit much more durable, slant six requires more room under the hood, and the substantially larger trunk also eats up length, so that the Neon, while over a foot shorter, still manages to have six inches of extra rear legroom. That room makes a real difference.

Other issues

1961 Dodge Lancer1994 Plymouth NeonAdvantage
RideSoft but not sofa-likeRelatively firm, but good for the classLancer
HandlingGood for the 1960sGood for the 1990sNeon
BrakingNot even up to par for 1961Almost up to par for 1994Neon
AccelerationGood for 1961 economy carsBest of class in 1994Neon
Gas mileage25 mpg is good34 mpg is average (five speed)Neon
ReliabilitySlant six is incredibly durable. TorqueFlite is bulletproof. Many maintenance items, though. No distributor, no rotor, hydraulic valves, and fuel injection mean practically no maintenance - but automatic is not as strong, engine mounts are weak, and head gaskets are a for-sure replacement. A/C troublesome.Mixed
SafetyStandard front seat belts. Optional rear belts.Four way shoulder belts. Dual airbags. Side impact protection. Safety glass. Rollover protection. Side demisters. Electric rear defroster. Antilock brakes and integrated child seat optional. Neon

Chrysler 1904-2018

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