David B’s adventures with his newly bought 1996 Dodge Neon ACR (part 1)

Isn’t Craigslist great? You can find all sorts of unwanted goods that people want to get rid of or barter for pelts and furs. Since the return of my old 98 Sport Coupe into the hands of Modern Performance by way of employee John G, I’ve rekindled my love for the first gen. The 95-99 Neon has been the car that started it all for me and it is endearing in many ways. The car is fun, cheap and easy to find in the for sale market. Well, if you’re looking for a 2000-2002 automatic Neon it’s easy. For the first generation hounds, we’re usually looking for a specific set up. The dual cam, manual, coupe. Not that other variations can’t be great but this is fantastic starting point. Then one day one of my weekly Craigslist searches of my city yielded a 96 Neon. ACR. With a 2.4 swap. For $300. Yes please.

I contacted the seller and enlisted a friend with a truck to accompany me to his home. The Neon was out front and looked great. Classic first gen lines with the lack of side molding and sport wheels looked great. ‘Foglamps in the bumper?’ I thought, definitely the first thing to get trashed. A quick peek showed them to be cheap aftermarket units that weren’t connected to anything anyway. The ad had mentioned that wiring needed to be completed and a new clutch cable installed for the car to be done. In taking over someone else’s project you’re at their mercy most of the time and have to trust they’ve done what they said and more importantly that they’ve done it right.

The seller started off with explaining the ACR saying “This is one quick machine, it handled great thanks to the Konis.” Wrong, its a 96 which means Arvins. I was looking at the non-adjustable tops as he was telling me this. “You’ll need to flip the cam sensor since it will be out of time.” Since he told me earlier that the engine still had 2.0 cams, also wrong. It was apparent I wasn’t going to learn too much by talking and decided to just do the deal instead.

A quick look around and few hundred dollar bills later, the front of the ACR was on the dolly. Getting the car home and pushed into the garage I took a better look at things. The interior of this car is in good shape but really dirty. The cluster makes a bold claim of 64,000 miles which the owner could not verify or deny. He estimated closer to 90,000. The sight and feel of being in the driver’s seat of a first gen is like seeing an old friend again. I can’t help but crack a small smile.

David B's 1996 Dodge Neon ACR

Tomorrow, we discuss the work David B started to perform on his newly acquired 1996 ACR ! Drop by tomorrow to read up and see pics!