Automotive tastes in the scene can, to some degree, be looked at regionally. Hondas are big in the West, Diamond Stars are hard hitters in the heartland, old schoolers populate the East Coast, and Supras and RX-7s are scattered all over. There is crossover at work here for sure so chill on the e-mails. Another regional car is the Neon. Practically non-existent in Southern California for anything other than a beater rental car proposition, the right coast has embraced the Neon, and for good reason. The Neon's upgraded engine is the Pentastar boys' 2.0-liter A420 DOHC four-cylinder. The A420 sports a stock direct-fire ignition and generates 150 peak horsepower and 132 ft-lbs of torque right off the lot. Factor in peak power and overall price, and one would be hard pressed to find a better deal on wheels.
At the 2000 NOPI Nationals, a Neon club was on hand and we appreciated the enthusiasm wrenched into the dozen or so cars in attendance. Two were turbocharged, which really caught our eye. In the direction that things seemed to be going, it was only a matter of time before a purposely built Neon drag car would hit the scene. That car is here, and it has made a big impression.
Phat Ridz and Forward Motion, a company that has been tinkering with FWD Mopars since the 2.2-liter turbo engines of the early '80s, earned their pay for the week on this one. Phat Ridz shop manager, Darrell Cox, is listed as the owner of this 1998 Neon, which started its two-year transformation in 1999. Bought at a salvage auction for $2,500 the Neon has been through a number of incarnations. First, it was an all-nitrous proposition that ran 11.65 with a five-speed manual gearbox. Due to driveline problems the five-speed was swapped for a Neon 31TH automatic transmission and Forward Motion torque converter. While down for the driveline surgery, the engine was pumped to 13:1 static compression engine. A whopping 200-shot of nitrous was also added to its bag of tricks and the Dodge laid down a best of 10.38. In the off season prior to the 2001 campaign, the A420 was pulled and stroked to 2.4 liters and the groundwork for a turbo system was laid. Displacement was increased by lengthening the stroke from 3.24 inches to 3.94 inches, with GRP connecting rods and a lightened stock crankshaft. JE pistons were employed to reduce compression to a more boost friendly 10.0:1.
With a stout bottom end at the ready, attention turned to airflow. The A420 head was treated to Forward Motion's Enforcer 3 state of tune, which included ample porting, polishing and upgraded components. Rev valves and Crane springs and retainers ensure smooth high-speed operation. The big airflow provider is a Forward Motion Enforcer 3-spec turbo that sports a .60 A/R compressor housing with the tried-and-proven 60-1 wheel and a .63 A/R hot side with a Stage 5 wheel. A Spearco liquid-to-air chiller cools the charged air before it enters a trick sheetmetal intake fabricated by Forward Motion. The remainder of the turbo system consists of a Turbonetics Racegate, Turbo XS boost controller, three-inch exhaust pipes from the turbine back and a Darrell-designed cast iron manifold.
Fueling is handled by an Aeromotive A1000 pump and Aeromotive regulator that feeds 95 lb/hr injectors while spark is enhanced by a Crane box.
The A420 is kept in tune by a Speed Pro engine management system wired up by Darrell and tuned by Forward Motion's Mike DeMoss. The Speed Pro system is a sequential injection unit that runs an individual ignition coil per cylinder set-up that is similar to the stock Neon offering. This fact made the transition to stand-alone control all the easier.
On the suspension side, Afco springs and shocks provide the dampening while Bogart Dragonfly Stars and Mickey Thompson rubber provide the traction.
The Neon certainly seems to have a good deal of traction and, therefore its pilot, Mike Crawford, often has his hands full maneuvering the 2,120-pound car down the 1320. Crawford pilots the Dodge from a race-spec cockpit with a single Kirkey race seat and G-Force harnesses keeping him planted.
With only a handful of 1320 runs under its belt in turbo trim, the Neon has blasted through the threshold of Quick Class legitimacy--single-digit e.t.s. The car broke off a 9.78 at 142 mph at the NHRA Englishtown event. The event was rained out but it is clear that the imports have a true adversary from the domestic side of the force. Beware young Skywalker.