1st Generation Neon- is it worth it?

Home  \  Domestic Cars  \  1st Generation Neon- is it worth it?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what I want to get when I go to buy a car. I want something that is relatively fast, and could be fast without too much work. Also, I have to be concerned with something that is fast, but is low profile so it'll fly under the parents' radar. I figured that a Dodge Neon would be good for this, but considering their shady reliability record and mediocre crash rating, would the car be worth the money? I mean, is it worth spending enough money to get the power to a level I would want it? :roll:

posted by  Patrick

I dont really know much about Neons as US cars really aint my thing, SuperJew, is the guy to answer this one as he has a Neon..If I was you I'd seriously consider buying the Neon as I know there;s room for tuning capability and in the parents eyes it's a safe, reliable (to an extent) family car :thumbs:

posted by  Cliffy

Patrick, a 2.0 16v Ford Focus might be a better bet. The early American ones are meant to be shady themselves though.

posted by  snoopewite

Early Neons had some head gasket issues, most of which have been fixed by now. The 150hp versions are pretty peppy, and you could get an ACR version (American Club Racer) that was designed specifically to go road racing and autocrossing (which thousands did, very succesfully). The ACR could be had in both 2 door and 4 door form, which really makes it insurable AND would "fly under your parents' radar."


There is a great aftermarket base for them, and it's now cheap and easy to make them rather rapid, and still be great daily drivers.

However, they WERE base level economy cars, designed to be inexpensive, so don't look for Mercedes levels of fit and finish, or luxury materials. That's not what they were about.

These guys http://www.howellautomotive.com/Howell/Store/catalog/catalog/product_info.p hp?products_id=870

Are the best source of performance knowledge fo Neons. A friend of mine here in Baltimore was sponsored by them, and his daily driver Neon R/T was a serious monster.



Video doesn't make it look all that fast, but 13.7 at 98 mph in a normally aspirated, no nitrous, daily driven 4 cyl Neon is nothing to sneeze at.

posted by  ChrisV

I too recomend the Ford Focus for what your trying to do and the type of car that your tryin to do it in. Neons to me aren't very good cars and they have a record of being plastic.

posted by  DJ Nonsense

Well, you could always go for a ford taurus(what year is gen 3?) they have more torque than the neon( meaning more pulling power) they accelerate just as well, and if you get an sho model, you have it made :)

posted by  soloman02

Define "being good cars" and "record of being plastic."

Little hint. All modern cars have pretty much equal amounts of plastic in them. Exceptions being cars like Saturns, Fieros, Lotus', etc., that have plastic resin skins also.

As I said, the early Neons had problems with head gaskets, but most of them should have had the fix performed, and it's not really an issue now. Very early ones also had issues with trim bits having sub-par fastners, and the water-based paints that the EPA required of them had issues with delaminating (which can be fixed).

But for the price, they are actually quite good. They aren't going to be top line luxury cars, but shouldn't be expected to be. They HAVE proven to be very good at various forms of motorsports, from autocross to road racing (which is what they were designed to do) to SCCA Pro Rally and drag racing.

posted by  ChrisV

When I say being good cars I mean performance wise.

And I really didn't mean "plastic" literary. What I meant is they tear apart easiser than some cars. Like your Saturns and not to mention one of the worse makes of cars IMO the Kia. But thats my opinion :2cents:

posted by  DJ Nonsense

Well your opinion isn't based on reality, so you might want to examine it a little closer.

The cars were almost literally designed to go road racing and autocross, including having factory parts specifically for them AND factory sponsirship of numoerous racing series In stock form, they aren't drag cars, but I've shown how they can be rather rapid for very little money. I really don't get how you can state they aren't good performers after that. In fact, there is one in the Grassroots Motorsports $2004 Challenge that is a 13 second quarter mile car AND autocrosser AND daily driver for under $2004 total... How can that be a poorly performing car?


As for the "tearing apart" again, I have to disagree. You have no proof of that, and I have a lot of knowledge of the fact that they don't "tear apart."

If you're going to enter a discussion of relative merits, you need more than your "opinion" when dealing with people who have decades of experience. I can point you to car after car after car that doesn't match your "opinion," and I really don't think you can prove your "opinion" to be factual. Or is it more important to have an opinion, no matter how factually wrong it is, rather than actually know what you are talking about, or learn a bit of reality?

posted by  ChrisV

You have a good point. You can show me thousands of cars hell I know many cars that don't fit my opinion on the Dodge Neon. But we are talking about Neons not other cars. I know many Dodge Neon owners that take fairly good care of the car and something ALWAYS happens to them. This from what I have seen for myself.

If I were to prove these things as far as the people I am talkin about I would be going out of my way. But I do agree with you on the Motor Sports Challenge thingy. But I have a question? Is this before or after the modifications? :mrgreen:

posted by  DJ Nonsense

Thanks, ChrisV. I must say, to whoever posted about the Taurus SHO? No offense, but my integrity can only handle so much pain, and a Taurus is simply too much to take. I fear that I feel much the same way about a Focus. Thus far I've found myself more than skeptical of Ford's, and I'm certainly not their biggest fan.... which can be blamed solely on my father, who will buy nothing for himself other than Daimler/Chrysler products. Now, I might consider a Ford ZX2, but again I must pose the question, is there power enough to be mined to make it worth my while, before the ZX2 is "Found On Road Dead"?
Also, I am a big fan of Saturn's SC series. Actually, more of a fan of the SC2, because I really couldn't handle 100 horsepower in the SC1. I know that Saturn is the cheapest company overall to insure after Volvo, and they are as reliable as Domestic Cars seem to get anymore. I would love to have an SC2, but as far as I know are rarely tuned and I wonder if that's an indication of their potential. Opinions, anyone? By the way, thanks to everyone for the information on the Neons. I've always liked the 1st generation Neons, and not I'm pretty sure I'd want one.
**Uber-random question**- How much would a body kit that looks decent for a Neon go for? I know that on Pimp My Ride the body kit they put on a '92 Civic was $6,500.... which I will never be able to afford, so "holla" back! :hi:

posted by  Patrick

So was I. When I said I could show you many cars that don't fit your opinion of Neons, I meant that I could show you thousands of Dodge Neons that didn't fit your opinion. I never talked about cars other than Neons.

Does it matter? If the total cost out of pocket is two grand, does that mattter if youy're talking a stock, or slightly modded example? In either case, it is a Neon that is doing these things for two thousand dollars total.

That's the bottom line. No matter when talking about a stock or modded car, the FACT is your wallet is the one making those decisions. What do you get for your money? If the Neon wasn't a good performaning car, then you couldn't GET what that Challenge car was for a total of 2 grand.

posted by  ChrisV

1st generation neons had a VERY bad name in the auto market. But this does not go for all neons. If you are considering a SOHC automatic, with more than 100,000 kms on it forget it. Even though it may be cheap you are getting what you pay for. You are going to have lots of tranny problems and a list of others..If you can find yourself an r/t which comes with the 150 hp DOHC then go for it. Or you can also look for a 97 sport or expresso since this was the year that the car got an upgrade to the 150 horse DOHC. I would highly recommned the manual transmission though. A 97-98 Neon expresso or sport with about 70 000-80 000 clicks will set ya back no more than $4 500 bucks, keeping in mind that I am in Canada so for you americans that would probably be like $12 :hi: . Now that's value! Recently I have been doing some car shopping and found 98 honda civics with 150,000 kms on them for $9,000+ :screwy: I know they are good cars and their re-sale value is obviously very good but come one who the f*** would actually spend 9 grand for a base 6 year old civic with that much k's on it? RIP OFF.
Best of luck.

posted by  1997expresso

Ok, I can offer some info from personal experience..:) I drive an race a 98 Dodge Neon. It was origionaly a SOHC. (granded I've swaped for DOHC and upgraded a lot of other parts) A few good points...I got it ad an unbelievable price. All cars are going to have problems. Nice thing about the Neons-you know ahead of time what they're going to be. (IE: engine gaskest/Oxygen sensor/EGR valve) I knew these were going to go bad-so I replaced them before it was an issue. Problem solved, no suprices. I'm not sure where you got the safety info, but I can tell you I've been in 5 accidents in mine (I street and drag race it) and It's held up beautifully. I was even rear ended at 45mph once. Car wasn't even totaled. They get exellent gas milage, and have a ton of things you can do to them. With about 3 yrs work I have a 10 second drag car. (granted-this is far from stock) Also, as an insurance agent I can tell you it has an exelent rating and a bonus lower rate. They're also easy to work on. Good luck with your decision!

posted by  Female racer

10 second drag car? WOW that is one bad-ass neon. My 97 is all stock. I was considering doing some performance upgrades to it but I am not sure where to start? I hear that replacing the throttle body is a good start and an Air Intake is gonna give it some more power aswell. Am I taking the right path in upgrading my Neon's performance?

posted by  1997expresso

Wow... where did you pull that out of??

Ok let me clear some stuff up. First of all.. the whole SOHC thing is complete CRAP. Also.. the 1st gen having a bad name is also completely untrue. You canucks got it all screwed up. First off, the neon is EXTREMELY reliable. The ONLY reason everyone has this bad image of them is because of the head gasket problem they had in 95-98. HOWEVER.. it was recalled and they SHOULD have been upgraded with the new MLS gasket. Any mid 98 and newer will have it. If you need to know how you can tell if your car has it, let me know and i'll snap a pic of the little tab it has with my digicam.

Secondly.. these engines do not fall apart.. i dont know why everyone has this idea in their heads. Go to neons.org and find out for yourself. My neighbor has a 96 sohc automatic with 320k MILES on it.. origional engine and transmission.

My 99 r/t only has 57k miles, but the only single problem i have had thus far in almost 6 years now is the passenger side power door lock electrical connection got bad.. just has to clean it up and all was better.

The neon gained popularity because of its success on the track.. as was mentioned before. Everyone is recommending the focus.. sure its a great car but if you want the biggest speed bang for the buck, the neon (1st gen) is a much better choice. My sister.. who is moved out now (im 21 still livin at home) has a focus SVT. My r/t can outrun and out handle it.. this is when it was still stock. The neon also accepts mods very well... cheap too. Example.. the 5-speed neon uses a 49mm tb.. an easy upgrade is to grab one off an automatic 1st gen neon which is 52mm.. a quick and cheap mod. Also.. there is the "3.0 cai mod" ...which is taking the intake snorkle off of a 3.0l dodge caravan and adapting it to work as a CAI on the neon.. it gives almost the same gains as an iceman.


My first stop for neon parts.

I could write for days more but i wont.. i just stumbled across this while searching for some turbo parts.

On a side note.. are you looking for a "cool" car or a "quick but cheap car" ..because that comment about the Taurus SHO.. ooohhhh man you deserve to be hit! Who the heck cares about it being a "taurus" ...it isnt really.. its a taurus body with an all aluminum yamaha engine in it. The 89 SHO did the 1/4 in 15.2 stock. I know cars like the maxima can do that now.... but you gotta remember... this was in 89.. from an unsuspecting family car.. doesnt it send shivers down your spine?? My R/T can do those times.. however the stripes that come stock with that model completely ruins the whole "sleeper" idea. Ok i need to shut up.. midterms.. need to study..

97expresso... yeah your on the right track. Are you ATX or MTX? Sohc or Dohc? If Sohc.. picking up a muffler off of a DOHC will add about 3-4hp at the wheels. THe sohc muffler is extremely restrictive. Also.. if mtx pick up an atx throttlebody. Also consider the 3.0 intake mod. From there, you can pick up a header for about 130. Dont buy a chikira for the neon.. it offers the same power as the stock manifold. After that i would recommend adding a UDP from modernperformance, then adding a Moper Performance PCM. Talk to the boys at www.neons.org ...go to the forums under 1st gen and ask them. But first check out their archives and FAQ.

posted by  yoster

heres a neon that can do high 9 sec's with out nos, and low 9 sec with nos

www.modernperformance.com they have all the sweet stuff for neons! howell automotive is also good, www.howellautomotive.com

posted by  Neonlover04

http://www.forwardmotioninc.com/ <--- that has the neon with the 9secs sorry about that, the other one is a good site too

posted by  Neonlover04

Your Message