By on January 11, 2021

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Quite a few hallowed (and not-so-hallowed) Detroit brands got axed forever during the decade of the 2000s (whatever we’re calling it now— the Noughts? the Oh-Ohs?), and the one that went to the slaughterhouse first was Plymouth. Starting in 1928 (not-so-coincidentally, just a couple of years after the birth of Pontiac), Americans and Canadians could buy low-priced Plymouths with the same running gear as the costlier Dodges and Chryslers, and life was good. Then the outlines of the brand became increasingly blurred as the 20th Century waned until finally just one Plymouth was left: the Neon. Last week, we saw one of the very last Pontiacs ever made, so we’ll follow that up with one of the final Plymouths.

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, build tag - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe absolute last Plymouth to come off the assembly line was a Neon built at Belvidere Assembly in June of 2001. Today’s Junkyard Find was built in February of that year.

The Dodge Neon stayed in production all the way through the 2005 model year. Chrysler had become so eager to shed the Plymouth brand by the late 1990s that the Voyager minivan got plastered with Chrysler badging midway through the 2000 model year (after the November 1999 announcement of Plymouth’s impending termination), though the who-cares-anyway 2000 Breeze continued to stagger, zombie-style, into Plymouth showrooms for much of that year. The mighty Howler could have provided a little lift for Plymouth, but it appeared before the world with Chrysler emblems in 1999.

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, seats - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt may be red on the outside (except for the swapped-on silver hood), but the days of Bordello Red interiors in low-end Chryslers were long gone by 2001. This car appears to have upholstery provided by the same vendor responsible for the seats in prison buses.

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith 132 horsepower from this 2.4-liter SOHC four, the second-generation Neon was a bit quicker than its low-trim-level Civic and Corolla competitors.

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe three-speed automatic transmission in this car extracted most of the fun out of that engine before it could reach the wheels, though. The two-pedal 2002-2005 Dodge Neons got four-speed automatics, with only the Toyota Corolla CE and its Chevrolet Prizm twin remaining with three-speeds into the 2002 model year.

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen you see rusty water stains all over the engine compartment of a car in the junkyard, you can assume the engine in question died from a blown head gasket followed by a few weeks of running straight water as coolant while the car’s final owner cycled through the various stages of Magical Overheating Thinking™ (my cousin’s neighbor says it’s gotta be the radiator cap… maybe it’s the thermostat…) and superheated steam hissed out of the weakest points in the cooling system. Eventually, the tortured engine finally seizes up and the junkyard gets a phone call.

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAdios, Plymouth! We’ll remember you for the cool stuff, not the ’01 Neon.


Chrysler didn’t bother to advertise the Plymouth Neon during its last couple of years, so here’s a somewhat disturbing TV commercial for the ’01 Dodge Neon R/T.


Earlier in the Plymouth Neon’s life, buyers could choose between HI and YO. So edgy!

For links to 2,000+ additional Junkyard Finds, Treasures, and Gems, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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36 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Plymouth Neon, Last Gasp of the Plymouth Brand Edition...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Neons still on the street are much rarer than GM J-bodies around here.
    But the ones still alive always have the cloudiest “car cataract” headlights of anything on the road today. Must have had some highly reactive plastic formulation.

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    In the category of “cars you used to see EVERYWHERE, and now you see nowhere”.

    I swear back in the day Neons were so ubiquitous you would have thought they were government issue. They’ve all but completely vanished from the roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The blown head gasket was why. It was Chrysler chairman Bob Eaton, a GM lifer Iacocca chose over Maximum Bob Lutz, who insisted on paper head gaskets, AND the cheaper headlight lenses that clouded over. He then sold out Chrysler to Daimler (for Chrysler’s $12 billion cash reserve) and retired with a bundle.

      • 0 avatar
        A Scientist

        Yeah, I figured as much. While I can understand that you don’t have to go with the most expensive, robust materials, I’ll never understand “cheapening out” on parts that are VITAL to an engine’s survival. I find it ironic that European luxury makes seem to be notorious for this (looking at you, Mercedes balance shafts, Porsche IMS bearings, and BMW…well too many to list for BMW). Then again, I’m not a corporate bean-counter either, so…

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I was thinking of the final couple cycles of the Cavalier as roaches who have not quite survived the carpocalypse. My brother had a Cavalier and a Sunfire that lunched their timing chains.

      • 0 avatar
        johnnyz

        I think those were the Brazilian OHC motors.

        I think the chevy iron duke 4 was weak but durable.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Foley

          johnnyz, you are correct. The Iron Duke used timing gears, not a chain, and the gear on the camshaft was fiber reinforced plastic and often failed around 150k miles. The gear is only about $30; however, it should be hydraulically pressed onto the camshaft, so the labor to replace it is expensive – often more expensive than the rusty Pontiac 6000 it’s in is worth.

          Who has two thumbs, had a few Fieros, and knows way too much about the Iron Duke? (gestures at self) This guy.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      In the category of “cars you used to see EVERYWHERE, and now you see nowhere”.

      Man, that is some truth right there.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Not missed. Great idea but poor quality and made in Mexico.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Ok but many were made in Mexico. In spite of where the Neon was made it was a piece of junk. I worked with a guy that bought one new ended up giving it away and then bought a Toyota. Chrysler, Daimler-Chrysler, FCA, or Stellantis whatever they are called are rolling dumpster fires.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Surprisingly clean interior, for looking so beat up on the outside…

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I had a Stratus with the same kind of seats and fabric, and the interior held up great. The fabric was not the hard scratchy stuff you see today, it was slightly fuzzy, but thick and cleanable. The interior plastics tended towards hard, but they were easy to clean and reasonably rugged. Small detail, but the Stratus also had the same HVAC controllers as shown here, and I always thought they were simplicity perfected, and I like they they did the A/C. BTW, the A/C output was excellent.

      • 0 avatar
        eng_alvarado90

        former cloud car owner here. My Stratus held up good enough through the three years I owned (hande me down from parents). It ate through brakes but it was a comfortable car overall. Surprisingly, the dash/instrument cluster didn’t crumble to pieces nor cracked.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    5th picture: Are those the World’s Shortest Spark Plug Wires?

    (And just one coil, reasonably priced.)

    • 0 avatar
      johnnyz

      One coil with two separate circuits.

      So, there were always two plugs firing. Good for emissions and cheap for production.

      I’ve seen some Asian cars with spark plugs mounted on the exhaust manifolds? Toyota or datsun?

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I dated a girl who drove a Dodge Neon SXT in “PM” yellow. Hers was a stick. I gave her a lot of grief about it during the short time we dated, pointing out the odd cost cutting items – I was completely dumbfounded by the power front windows and roll up back ones.

    One night we were heading somewhere in separate cars, me in my Dakota R/T (5.9 V8), and we got to an empty stretch of road and we both gassed it at the same time.
    I stopped talking smack about the Neon when I couldn’t pass her.

    Crap car though. She was smoking hot.

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    I think Canada got a Chrysler Neon for one year after Plymouth was axed.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      In global markets they were sold as Chryslers. In the period from the 90’s to 2010 it was not unusual to see them when I was visiting Paris, Copenhagen, and around Switzerland, maybe London too. And many Voyagers on the road at that time.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    I do remember when the first generation came out as the “Japanese car killers” that would right the trade balance. Even the Japanese press were excited, hoping that a more competitive small American cars will mean the end to the constant pressure from Washington DC.

    Then, the first batch of the cars came to Chrysler Japan and the media started sampling the cars. The reaction was that of shock, that this was supposed to be Detroit’s best answer against the Corolla and the Civic.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    My only experience with a Neon of any sort was my friend’s 1998 Dodge when I was the devastated driver. That thing did NOT like acceleration onto 494 with 1000 pounds worth of passenger.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    My grandma purchased one of those brand new (the Dodge one), it was burgundy, 3 spd auto, crank windows, tape player. She only put about 20K miles through the years and dealer serviced it once a year. When she passed, one of my aunts inherited the car and drove it for a while but she wouldn’t keep it for long; the just-retired salesman from the dealership they got the car from saw it parked outside and made her an offer for the Neon.
    That guy got the cleanest 2001 Neon you’d ever imagine. It was about 14 years old at the moment but the car only had about 25K miles, its factory Goodyears with about 50% thread, all its crappy OEM wheel covers spotless upholstery and overall cleanest interior of any Neon as well as some of its new car smell (unmistakenly Daimler Chrysler era) still there.

    Who would’ve thought such shitty car would bring me back such good of a memory?

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I wonder if this was one of those Neons that had the electric windows on the front doors only.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Part of me remembers the power window switches being mounted in the center console (and only in the center console) which would mean smaller wiring harnesses running to the doors [less cost, less weight].

      (Not sure if I trust that memory.)

  • avatar

    The only Neon to leave the factory with a 2.4L engine was the SRT4 with the Turbo 2.4L. All other neons had a 2.0L. 1st gen cars had the option of a 132HP SOHC or a 150HP DOHC. 2nd gens got the 132HP SOHC while ACR trimmed cars received a 150HP SOHC ‘MAGNUM’ with a hotter cam and an aluminum intake manifold with PCM controlled switchable intake runners.

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    Should have made a Neon Maserati TC.

  • avatar
    markf

    3 friends of mine swore off all American cars after owning a Neon. What a POS.

  • avatar
    Raddion

    I see Neons every day. Three of them in fact, and searching hard for a 4th!!

  • avatar
    amca

    I recall the first generation of Neons were built without Dodge and Plymouth brand badges and shipped to the dealers where the brand badges were applied. Bingo – no need to segregate two bunches of otherwise identical cars at the factory before shipping.

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