Ownership Verified: Neon Genesis Evangelion: My 1995 Chrysler Neon SE

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This one has been a long time coming.

I've gradually developed a sympathy for Neons. There's an entire subcontext here how they represent an actually optimistic design in the short valley of Not Terrible, which took place post-Cold War, post-early-1990s recession, but pre-2001. Just to put it short, despite being built to be the cheapest drive-me-to-my-first-job cars, they make the most of what they are. Not to mention the ACR competition group cars, which only utilized a handful of performance mods to successfully be counted among E30s and Miatas in track and parking lot racing.





This thing here is naturally an export spec car, meaning it's a Chrysler Neon and not a Dodge or a Plymouth. This also means it got some goodies the first base USDM Neons didn't, like sway bars front and rear, making it closer to the US Sport version but still far from ACR.

It's also a very early, pre-DaimlerChrysler car as can be seen from the Pentastar logo and the grey bumpers, which are not raw plastic but actually painted in a satin finish. It's an SE model, which can't really mean anything since there's power nothing except mirrors, no A/C and so on. I specifically wanted an early enough car so it would look like this, complete with the bubble design wheel trims. But the most important thing, along with the Strawberry paint that's a great combination with the grey bumpers, is that it's a 5-speed manual. Most of these were auto because it was a no-cost option, and they just don't feel that great to drive. Three speeds is enough information.





I've kept my eye on this very specific example ever since I spotted it at a fuel station 5-6 years ago, or maybe more. It belonged to a little old lady, and I left her my information recently, with the idea she'd call me when it's time to move the Neon on. I got a call in March from her daughter, saying that she would trade cars and the Neon would not be inspected this spring, as her old car would take its place. Perhaps I would be interested?

I certainly was, even if the Coronavirus pandemic put a halt to all plans that involved meeting up with someone who's 80 or so. In addition to that, the Neon's brakes failed the day before the MOT lapsed, meaning it would either need a trailer or sticker plates and some very careful driving. But a couple days ago we arranged so that I'd drive up with a trailer, check out the car, offer a price and most likely grab the car to another good home. I basically haggled 100 euros off the asking price from the other side of the yard and handed over bills that were fresh out of an ATM.





I dropped the Neon off at the place down the road from our house that also had rented me the trailer, and the guy fixed the brakes for little more than half of what I had haggled off the car. It still needs inspection, but I'll get that sorted out soon enough. In the last MOT there were no demerits and the car's only done 2500km since.



Frameless windows!



Crafted with pride! This is my first Real American Car, too.



Some essential service history: the weak early-model headgasket has been swapped at a dealer some point in the car's life, so that's not a concern. The cambelt has been done in 2014, which means it's not exactly fresh but it only has 20,000 km on it. Front brakes are new, as are front shocks. All shock towers look rust free, and while the car cannot be called rust free, it's not horribly rotten. Door seams have gone and the passenger side sill has been honestly but brutally repaired for MOT a few years back, so I'd say both rocker panels will need looking at but aren't severely rotted yet. I can find a matching set of 1996 doors from a junk yard at a decent price, so it's not worth trying to repair the old ones, but I'd probably keep these on for another salt season. Summer tires are ancient and they very much need replacing, winters seem fine. I have a service kit for the car (oil, filters, plugs) but I'll probably do those at 175k since the oil in the car looks fresh enough. Current reading is a tick under 172,000 km. I also have a box of OEM, 1.5DIN Chrysler head units to replace the Clarion with a cassette-CD combo.





But mainly I'm just happy to finally have gotten this car, since it's something I've had my eyes on for a long time, and now I can actually experience what the Neon feels like to drive and own. I can already say it steers and shifts pretty great, the ride is absolutely fine and the engine seems present and correct.
 

DanRoM

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What is this, you had too many good cars and needed an additional terrible one to adjust the average? :p ;)
 

Tram13

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As you sold the Panda and the 205 XS, and bought that Volvo XC70, I thought your phase of buying oddballs is over and that you turned somewhat sensible. Luckily, I was wrong.

Congratulations! I do admit I have a soft spot for the Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Neon ever since the days when I was a wee lad who thought he was creating masterpieces in Need For Speed Underground. Later, when I started digging deeper in 70s-90s car history, I found out that the Neon was an American answer to the Japanese and European cars of the time, which jeopardized the sales of American domestic products. Finding that out just made the car actually interesting to me.

Even if I find the last generation of the US Escort and the last generation of the Chevrolet Cavalier slightly more interesting, purely on the basis that they were never officially sold here, I do believe the Neon is the most reasonable of the bunch, and considering that the ACR version was somewhat successful on the track, I somehow get the impression that it might be the best to drive of the bunch.

And the design is just so funky! It has round headlights without being a retro car, the blue badging, the wheel trims, the front turn indicator placement, and most important of all, the frameless windows... There's nothing mainstream about it, at least from today's point of view. I am definitely looking forward to your further adventures with this car.
 

93Flareside

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Congratulations, you bought the best some Illinois methheads could build at the time.

Mad, well good luck! 😆
 

Matt2000

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Nicely done, fellow lunatic. Clearly the padded walls aren't doing their job.

I forgot how, er, funky these things were. They're like Chrysler's Ford Ka moment. It actually looks cute now and quite well preserved.
 

BlaRo

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I learned to drive on a Neon that looked exactly like this (Skid School, for you Massachusetts heads out there). Definitely didn't have a front bumper, though.

I miss seeing these around. It was a more innocent time.
 

CraigB

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I'm glad you finally got it, Antti! The future adventures in Mopar motoring will surely keep us all entertained.
 

public

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What is this, you had too many good cars and needed an additional terrible one to adjust the average? :p ;)
On the contrary, I think I should have bought this earlier :D
 

AkiH

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I't kind of cute, I like it.

I just wonder if side mouldings would have been an optional extra.
 

Redliner

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Fucking FINALLY

I don't understand the choice but I can sympathize with someone buying the car they have been wanting for a long time, so CONGRATS.
 

ninjacoco

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Neat! I've heard these are better than folks give them credit for. The blue-on-burgundy color scheme is pretty cool, too.
 

gt1750

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A dream fulfilled! Great!

To me, this car sends the same vibes as the pre-facelift Skoda Felicia. Basic, not great, not terrible, but not pretending to be sporty or upclass to win customers.
 

samulis

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Congratulatios.


You are connoisseur of weird, ugly and boring. Even tho I don't understand it, it does give greyness to full rainbow and in a way helps to understand certain things existing. Even if it is missing all the EVOness car possibly can, I think it would do great on the cool wall.
Great find, I think I speak for most of us, its a dream buy, from old lady who's the only owner, low mileage and of course with FSH.

Remember when it came out, we went to test drive it, only because friend of mine had never driven automatic, he also learned to do handbrake turns with it. It is from the era that has made wonder what old car dealers who were selling muscle era cars went through in their minds when this American Lada came on market (or Chevrolet Matiz diesel)
 
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