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Hidden Heroes: Chrysler Neon R/T

Published 22 November 2019

The Chrysler Neon was never a car that was going to set the world on fire, but buried within its normally tedious model range was a rather unusual variant. 

Introduced to the UK in 2001, the Neon R/T (for Road and Track) was a sporty variant of the sedentary sedan, with 150bhp on tap. 

That might not sound a huge amount, but thanks to the Chrysler’s relatively light weight, it was faster from 0-60mph than a Volkswagen Golf GTi, with a top speed in excess of 130mph. 

It sounded quite fruity, too, with Chrysler’s performance team equipping it with twin stainless steel exhaust pipes and a sports silencer, which sat rather incongruously with its plain and rather uninspiring cabin, though it did at least get leather sports seats and a stitched leather gear knob.

Chrysler Neon RT (2)

After all, a manual transmission was your average US car buyer’s idea of sporty and was a feature not found on other models in the Neon range, which were offered with auto as standard.

Uprated springs and dampers and a faster steering rack completed the package under the skin, with the rest of the tweaks being purely cosmetic - 16-inch alloys, front fog lamps and a rather incongruous boot spoiler finishing it off.

By rights, the Neon R/T should have been awful. The car on which it was based was certainly short on redeeming features and the R/T makeover smacked of lipstick on a pig, but those who bought R/Ts were quite defiant.

It was, after all, a very cheap car for the space and performance it offered and the modifications were done for a reason. In the US, the Neon was also sold in SRT4 guise, which was more performance-oriented and designed for track homologation, so there was some substance to the underbody tweaks.

Chrysler Neon RT (3)

Whisper it, but despite its gawky looks, the Neon R/T was a strangely rewarding car to drive. Not a true great by any stretch of the imagination, but more than the sum of its parts. 

The difficulty, though, is finding one. Of the 1250 imported to the UK, only 65 were still taxed and registered by the midpoint of 2019, and the dwindling number of survivors is only going one way. 

Comments

barrie crowther    on 24 November 2019

Chrysler Neon: What is the matter with you writers promoting fast powerful cars. Everything will cost more, insurance, petrol, wear and tear, and be totally anti-social in these days of climate change. Promote low polluting cars and do us all a favour; in other words grow up.

Edited by barrie crowther on 24/11/2019 at 15:41

Ian Basford    on 25 November 2019

Had a new NEON as a company car - it was on the road for 2 weeks out of the first 5 months - I would list what they had to replace but its quicker to say what was not replaced - the wheels and the bodywork

panskid    on 28 November 2019

Quite liked these as being something different. Also, to first poster banging on about the environment, get a life, it's hardly a McLaren you doofus

Edited by panskid on 28/11/2019 at 19:34

Ian Litchfield    on 19 July 2020

Absolutely super little sports car. Had mine now for 19 years, was going to scrap it last year but decided to spend a ton on it and restore it. The engine didn't need to be touched, 110K miles and as strong as ever, 250K is not unusual on these motors, they are very strong. In all that time it never let me down once. Now it's super rare and nice to drive something a little different.

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