By on September 28, 2015

00 - 1999 Dodge Neon in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee MartinWhen Chrysler went all macho with tough car names, it was partly an attempt to expunge the marketing memory of the cute and happy ads for the Neon. The Neon was much better than its wretched Shadow/Sundance predecessor, but still enough of a disposo-car that junkyards teem with them today. Mostly I walk right by discarded Neons (unless I see something unusual, like an Expresso or an R/T), but this ’99 Neon Sport has aftermarket performance gear to match its stickers and that’s interesting enough for this series.
02 - 1999 Dodge Neon in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee MartinThis car is in pretty good shape and barely cracked 100,000 miles on the clock, so I’m guessing that its engine is toast. Cars like this tend to sit on the street or in an apartment-building guest parking spot (while the owner tries to scrape up cash for repairs) until towed away, and if they don’t run they don’t get bids at the auction that stands between them and The Crusher.
23 - 1999 Dodge Neon in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee MartinThere are B&M Shifters and Sprint Suspension stickers on the side glass, and what appear to be aftermarket springs and shifter in the car. As we’ve seen, most cars with such stickers are just talking the talk.
03 - 1999 Dodge Neon in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee MartinThis one, however, is walking the walk, a little. I thought about grabbing this shifter and making a few bucks, but I don’t have the patience to sell parts to flake-O eBay buyers right now. We can assume that someone scored this at the All You Can Carry For $59.99 Sale soon after I got these photos.
05 - 1999 Dodge Neon in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee MartinIs 1990s nostalgia here yet? Perhaps we’ll see a return of this “spatter-paint” style of car upholstery soon.

When the ’99 Neon makes a move, the rest of the world has a hard time catching up!

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34 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1999 Dodge Neon Sport...”


  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    My sister bought a two door green 5MT neon shortly after graduating college. I want to say 94 or 95. Either way it was a peppy little ride and for her a great car. She managed to get a decade of problem free service from it and way north of 100k on the clock. I can not say if the head gasket was the final nail in the coffin for her or not.

    These were great first time buyer cars, low price and great economy.

    • 0 avatar

      Head gasket and issues with one of the camshafts did my brother’s 1996 Neon in at about 75K miles. It was 9 years old at the time. He traded it on a new 2005 Scion xA. The Neon was more fun than the Scion, but the Scion has made it to 220k and has had no issues.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I do not look forward to a return of squiggle lines and geometric seat fabric. Throw some totally rad teal graphic stripes in there too. They just age so poorly.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/Geo_Tracker_LSi_convertible.jpg
    Tubular!

    When I was in elementary school and this new compact was all the rage, it seemed like a WAY cool car. Especially in lime green or that bright blue. The fun commercials appealed to my inner and outer chubby 10 year old self.

  • avatar
    SCHONHAMMER

    Say what you will about these first generation Neon’s, but I had a lot of fun with the five speed w/ 2.0 liter back in the day.
    Despite the obvious flaws (head gaskets/wiring issues/etc.), I look back on these Neon’s with much fondness and wouldn’t rule out getting another used one.
    I guess I’m just sick and twisted that way :-)

  • avatar

    They used the Neon’s 2.0 in the 2nd Gen Mitsubishi Eclipse, for the base and GS models, which shared a platform with the Dodge Avenger/Chrysler Sebring. That was the beginning of the end for Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    johnharris

    I once scored a 5-speed Neon R/T as a rental car. It was shockingly good. A fine car to rent for a day or two when brand new. But horrors awaited those who owned them.

    • 0 avatar

      Horrors like what?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I had a ’95 Neon for 10 years, almost 100K miles. It was a decent car, with solid reliability and good gas mileage. Getting the MT was key, so as to avoid the 3-speed automatic. It handled well and did all I asked of it.

        At 10 years, I donated it – the clutch was shot and the threat of head gasket failure were enough for me to be done with it.

        In terms of horrors, the most serious was the safety of the vehicle — go the the IIHS site if you are thinking of getting one, and see what happens when it hits a wall at 35 MPH. The frame’s response is accordion-like. The only other horror was the resale value, which was bad, even for a Dodge.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    We had a ’95 with the five speed manual highline. Had the sport suspension. A blast to drive. Compared to cars that we were used to, late ’80’s it was fast. Sure it was cheap, but my last car had 86 hp and heavier, the neon had 132. Other than one head gasket it was reliable. 217,000 miles and should have kept it longer. Many, (most?) weren’t as reliable as ours. Had rentals with the auto, they sucked. Needed a four speed. I never said I should have bought a … with the neon.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Horrible POS from a company that is still making horrible POS cars, nothing ever changes!

  • avatar

    I learned to drive and took my driver’s test on my dad’s ’95 (base, turquoise, with the big gray bumpers). It seemed like a pretty nice car in terms of handling and speed, but all I had to compare it to was my mom’s 4-cylinder Voyager, so that probably doesn’t say much. Unfortunately, it ended up getting totaled when it was t-boned by what had to be the last running Renault Encore left on the East Coast.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Chrysler offered a factory autocross package (ACR) on these that included Konis and ABS delete to save weight and assorted suspension goodies. Now THAT would be a cool Junkyard Find.

    • 0 avatar
      MZ3AUTOXR

      They also offered a incredible contingency package to go with it. Some people earned enough to pay for the car. Fantastic handlingfor FWD.

      Was it the Sport or R/T that was the ACR without the Konis?

  • avatar
    Bored383

    those 1st gen neons were fun cars. I had a 98 R/T that was bought to be a daily driver but ended up taking on a life of its own as a project car (while still being the daily). I’ve had other cheap cars, but the Neon is my favorite of that group. Mine ended up turning a best of [email protected] in the 1/4 mile, on the motor alone

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I had a Neon as a courtesy car back in 97. What I do remember it was a piece of junk.

    The fit and finish was appalling, you don’t see any on the roads here now. They must of all be made into scrap.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    I loved mine! Great service, super economical. It had really soft seats for a ‘cheap’ car, and I drove that thing 200k miles in 12 years.

    Everyone likes to talk about head gaskets and quality issues, but sincerely– what I remember about the head gasket in mine was that it leaked a bit of oil and was repaired in 3 days. The car was just fantastic. Brakes lasted 80k per set and the clutch was fine at 180k whenever I had it replaced for reliability’s sake.

    It was so good I bought the PT to replace it, another unkillable povertybox that’ll outlive the fashion of the day and become fodder for ridicule.

    $5 says this one died of a timing belt that never got changed.

    • 0 avatar
      tinman93

      “Unkillable poverty box”
      I may just change my user name to that.

      I had an ’04 PT that I loved. Just paid it off after 3 years. Trouble free. Right up until I t-boned an F250 that jumped a red light at the intersection.

      The car crashed well. I was driving 50 mph when I hit the truck and only broke my clavicle.

      I still miss that car.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    My employer signed us up for a car safety class at Pacific Raceway here in Kent WA. Supposed to be about safety, yes really!

    We used our company Taurus or rental vehicles for the class, but there weren’t enough of them so because I could drive stick I was assigned the school’s Neon equipped with some mods including roll cage and safety harness.

    Awesome, they finally called me in when it was pitch dark . By then I was the only guy on the track.

    Always had a soft spot for Neons after that.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I once rented one, the 2nd generation version in SE trim. I found it to be roomy with a cavernous trunk decent seats and ergonomic for my 6’2″ frame. Nice gauges and displays considering it was an entry level plus good power from the 2.0L. I could not understand why there were power windows up front but cranks in the rear. Was Chrysler that stingy or were they not able to work a power window motor in to the rear doors? Plus 3 speed auto only when most cars were already offering 4 speed boxes as options on their entry level cars since the mid-90’s or was Chrysler unable to source or build a decent one.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      One of the big goals for the Neon program was to build an ostensibly good car at a competitive price, and still turn a profit. They did, but no doubt skimping on certain things (like rear power windows, and a 4-speed auto), and as we’ve seen, long-term durability, is what’s lead to that.

      Although, knowing how awful the 4-speed Ultradrive was, it might not have been so bad the Neon got saddled with a 3-speed.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        Oh yes it was bad—-the Neon 2.0 was perhaps the absolute worst motor on the market to pair with a wide-spread-ratio 3 speed automatic. Car was an absolute dog with it, something like 3+ seconds slower to 60 than the 5 speed manual. And its low-end response was so pathetic, it made the preceding Shadow/Sundance 2.2L/3speed feel downright peppy (i drove both Neon and Shadow extensively).

        Now, once you started forcing these motors to high rpms, yes, the 2.0 annihilated the 2.2—but considering those rpms were only reachable north of 40mph in 1st (my parents highline could hit 50 in 1st, pedal to the floor, before the 1-2 shift!), so how often were you really going to feel those horses?

        Oh, if only a VVT & L system was available to help this motor’s low-end response and/or an extra cog….as it was, it made the most powerful standard engine on the market in its class (132hp) at the time of its launch feel like the weakest.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    As a former Dodge Shadow owner for 8 yrs I’m here to say they were a great econobox drive to work car. 2.5 L and 5 spd. The only thing wrong was the sucky paint pealing. As far as Omnis go there are still many of them on the road here in NE Illinois. In surprisingly good shape too, for their age. So they must have done something right. I bought a new PT in 2002 and still have it Front suspension parts but little else outside of maintenance parts.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      I had a ’94 Shadow 2.2 with the 3 speed auto. The motor was weak, yes, but it held speed up grades on the highway pretty well, handled very well IMO too. The interior was quite nice. Not sure what the “wretched* comment by the author meant. Was it a great car? No, but it was at the very least competent.

  • avatar
    rave323

    I had a green 1997 Plymouth Neon Espresso sedan. I really enojyed driving that car. If only it would have started when I would ask it to! I got tired of being stranded. The mechanics could noot figure it out. One fix finally seemed to sitck, but, it was too little, too late. I traded it on a certified Camry, which I owned for over a decade.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    A buddy of mine inherited a ’94 Expresso in good condition, and his wife drove it for several years.

    It had the 2.0 with the head-gasket issues, and the peeling paint!

    What was it with these things and the SQUAWKING rear brakes when cold? The car I mentioned did it, a couple of these I drove as rentals did the same.

    Main thing I hated was associating the car with the stupid ad campaign: “Hi!” ::Facepalm!::

  • avatar
    glwillia

    I had a friend who had a salvage-title ’95 circa 2000, with the 2.0L and the 5-speed. He let me drive it (because why not), and I remember being very pleasantly surprised with how much fun it was. Way more entertaining than the Civic and Corolla of the same era, shame about the longevity issues.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    My family bought a 96 sport sedan in forest green.

    12 yr old me was eternally disappointed by the power windows that were only available for front doors and not the rear. SO CHEAP.

    The front power window button were as much of an after thought as you can get… it’s just an extra bulge that got screwed onto the flat door panel. Compared to the integrated switches/door handles of the corollas and civics of yore, the neon felt like a practice car.

    When I was old enough to drive I did get a kick out of the torque steer, though.

  • avatar
    wantahertzdonut

    These burned through their lifespan so fast; I havent seen one in operation in years. I don’t know how these were sold so recently with a THREE speed automatic. I understood they liked eating brakes too.

    Some people lime to prop up the later SRT4, but I couldn’t imagine a worse car to buy used. Between the poor reliability that came standard and knowing a car like that has been thumped on, I shudder at the thought of the daily maintainance.

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