Nov 22

2012 Turkey Award: Dodge Neon

I thought for Thanksgiving we would start a fun tradition. Every year we would name a “Turkey Award” that would go to a car that is just dreadful. This is all in good fun and if you own a car that wins a turkey award don’t get all upset. In fact if you own one you probably think it deserves this award too. So this years “turkey award” goes to…… The Dodge Neon. Of course it does. If you are going to have a turkey award it might as well start with the worst car in the world. So hit the jump for a short profile on the Neon.

The Neon was a special kind of bad. It was cheaply made, horribly unreliable, very uncomfortable, and rattled like a tin can. The Neon was born in 1994 as a 1995 model and it wore several plates from Dodge, Chrysler, and Plymouth in countries all across the world. It’s hard to believe the Neon came from the same company as the Viper.

The Neon had three different engines over it’s life two 2.0L and a 1.8L. The 2.0L engines were quite powerful for the class at 132 hp. Compared to Civics of the era that produced around 100hp. Coupled with a 5 speed manual the car was capable of the quarter mile in about 15.5 seconds. Or about what I could jog the quarter mile in. Ok that’s exaggerating a bit. That was good for it’s class.

The Neon won favor with auto x types because of it’s light weight, power, and spirited drive characteristics. Racers were treated to some special editions over the years. Namely the ACR which featured adjustable dampers, thick sway bars, and a quick steering rack. Today these ACRs are hard to come by because of their favor with racers and the fact that most of them are probably in junk yards because they rusted in two.

The R/T was made only one year and featured many of the same racer upgrades of the ACR but in a more heavily options street car cabin.

The last of course was the SRT-4.

Of course SRT-4 owners will tell you it isn’t a Neon. Well you can shape a turd like a dinosaur but it’s still a turd. Sorry, but your SRT-4 is a Neon. However the SRT-4 was special and is still sought after. It was lightning fast. Not four banger front wheel drive fast but genuinely fast. In it’s day the SRT-4 embarrassed many a muscle car owner with it’s 2.4L turbo engine making 215hp and 245lb-ft of torque. The car came with a limited slip diff, five speed trans, and lots of other racer goodies.

Stock the car did 0-60 in 5.5 seconds and quarter miled in the high 13s. However where the SRT-4 really got it’s gusto from was the load of aftermarket goodies offered by Mopar. You could simply check the options at the dealer and make the car a real monster. It would be nothing to see a 12 second SRT-4 at the track and the guys doing aftermarket parts were really a forced to be reckoned with. All this engineering and performance really belonged in something better then a Neon, but maybe that’s why it was so special.

So the Neon came from humble beginnings, sold by the millions, and ended with a bit of a bang. Still it lives in imfamy as the car industries whipping boy and that is why it is the first recipient of our turkey award.

Photosource: wikimedia commons
SRT-4 photosource: infinitegarage.com