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enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/28/17 1:28 p.m.

It's time for me to start tackling a lifelong goal: I want to road race. I'm starting this thread to document the process prepping the car as well as to keep me motivated. (You guys are awesome!) Track days scratch the itch somewhat, but I absolutely love the feeling of chasing someone down on track. I didn't come from a motorsports family and have always found excuses for why I couldn't (job, time, space, budget, ability, etc.) but I finally took the plunge a while ago and bought this:

It's a 1995 Neon ACR. As far as I can tell it has been a racer its entire life as it came with logbooks going back to '95. I think it has been reasonably well taken care of and it was raced in the 2016 season, but I imagine some components will be pretty tired. It was most recently raced in a local Spec Neon class. It looks like the class is dwindling, so I may try to build it into an ITA car over the winter. For now, I will leave it in the Spec Neon configuration so that I can compare my lap times to historical data.

Though this car in time may become a endurance racer, my first priority is to do some wheel to wheel racing primarily through SCCA. The plan is to do some shakedown and testing this season, and move into a season of racing in 2018.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/28/17 2:19 p.m.

Let's talk goals.

1) Compete on a reasonable budget.

I've been around the track enough to see people spend a silly amount of money prepping cars to be beyond competitive, even for local stuff. I'm sure I will want to win at some point, and spending more on the car may feel like the answer, but I simply don't have the budget that I'm willing to allocate to get into a spending war. We're comfortable, but not wealthy. The goal is to balance racing with providing for a young family. I think the key to this is doing as much work as possible myself so that means I will have to learn a lot.

2) Learn everything!

Learn how to set up the car. Learn how to drive a FWD car. Learn how to get licensed and registered to race. Learn how to budget. Learn how to race safely. Learn how to drive competitively.

You get the idea. Lots to learn!

3) Have fun!

I don't want to take things too seriously. I want to enjoy working on the car as a recreational activity...as opposed to the stress I feel working on daily drivers. Hopefully this will take the place of some of my other Craiglist projects I habitually pick up that overfill my already busy schedule.

Onto the build thread. First thing I did was get the car on jack stands and take a look around.

Not a whole lot going on from the steering rack back. Out of the 30+ cars I've probably owned and/or worked on, this is the first FWD I've messed with. Weird. I quickly noticed that the inside FL tire was corded though the tires supposedly only had 2 heat cycles on them. I also saw that the LF inboard brake pad was actually bent around the caliper piston. The lower ball joints and tie rod ends had torn boots, and the lower control arm bushings looked pretty tired so I started pulling the front suspension apart.

And this is how the car sat for several months while I got busy with selling off other projects and such.

Lof8
Lof8 GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/28/17 2:22 p.m.

Cool! I recently picked up a neon for circle track racing. I'm sure we'll have some similar experiences (car-wise). I'm in to follow the progress!

HonestSpeedShop
HonestSpeedShop New Reader
8/28/17 2:25 p.m.

as a neon enthusiast have fun! super easy cars to work on, cheap, and fast.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/28/17 4:45 p.m.

In reply to Lof8:

Awesome! I hear they are pretty competitive in that discipline. Let me know if you have or start a build thread...I'd love to follow.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/28/17 4:46 p.m.

In reply to HonestSpeedShop:

Thanks! The car does seem stupid simple to work on.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/28/17 5:08 p.m.

About 2 weeks ago I realized the car was never going to be ready to take to the track unless I got serious about working on it. I decided to sign up for a track day on Labor Day so I would have a hard deadline.

I starting gathering parts and got to work. I've been stockpiling sets of used Hoosier SM7s (the tire for Spec Miata) so that I have something to practice on. So far I've been paying around $20-30 per tire so I feel a lot better about that vs. burning up new tires while figuring out the car setup and my driving style.

I got a few sets of lower control arms as spares with the car so I grabbed the set with the best bushings and pressed out the lower ball joint.

I coated the control arm with some POR15 I had laying around. I know this is silly, but I hate putting old dirty looking parts back on a car. I pressed in a new lower ball joint. Interestingly, I had to order 7 ball joints from the local NAPA to find 2 that fit. For whatever reason, most of them were knurled at the ball joint-control arm interface surface and wouldn't fit. Same box, same part number, same manufacturer, everything. It was puzzling, but luckily the NAPA guys here are super helpful and easy to work with.

I then rebuilt the front brake calipers and installed new Hawk DTC-60 pads. These kind of hurt my wallet a bit but luckily I found a pretty good deal on Ebay. The pistons were crumbling as they are phenolic so I'm glad I went through the calipers. I plan on pulling them apart fairly often for inspection. Interestingly the two calipers were slightly different. Any Neon/Chrysler experts know which is correct?

I installed the lower control arms, new brake rotors, and the calipers. Much better!

I then checked the gearbox fluid which looked clean. I am 99% sure it has ATF-4 in it. This isn't correct per the service manual but the original fluid has been obsolete for 10+ years. I've read that Chrysler used ATF-4 in later Neons as a cost save. I'm going to look into what I can run long term but will probably consult the local Neon racers on that. The seller told me it has a Quaife LSD installed so I'm going to do my best to take care of it. I then changed the engine oil with fresh Mobil 1 5W-30. The engine has a Moroso sump installed which is pretty nice and increases capacity to 6.25 quarts.

I then cleaned the nasty air filter out with some K&N filter cleaner. The car came with an Iceman intake...I guess it was the CAI to have back in the day.

hobiercr
hobiercr GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/29/17 9:32 a.m.

Congrats on your purchase. The ACR is a great, stable chassis to start with. Having been to this dance once or twice, get it running and driving well before your track day and try to test if possible. Nothing is quite as defeating as paying for a track weekend and having something break in the first session.

While I'm sure there is a ton of setup information for these on the interwebs, to start use a pretty basic spring/swaybar/alignment. Learn the car and let your experience move you to make the adjustments that work with your driving style.

In your first picture the car looks really forward on the trailer with what has to be a ton of tongue weight. I used to tow on a tiny trailer like that so just be careful you don't over stress your hitch.

Can't wait to see more updates!

HonestSpeedShop
HonestSpeedShop New Reader
8/29/17 9:51 a.m.

Ice man is the E36 M3, i love mine. If you have any questions feel free to ask me. I have owned just a few (15).

Gunchsta
Gunchsta Reader
8/29/17 10:04 a.m.

Awesome- if you don't mind I'm going to road race vicariously through you on this one. I still haven't done a track day so I'm at that stage of the fantasy. I've autocrossed and drag raced and really enjoy autocrossing, so trying a track day seems like the next logical progression.

I also love ACR's though I've never owned one. Good luck with your endeavors and sounds like you're off to a good start. I definitely identify with you having a hard time putting old dirty parts back on, it just feels careless.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/29/17 10:42 a.m.
hobiercr wrote: In your first picture the car looks really forward on the trailer with what has to be a ton of tongue weight. I used to tow on a tiny trailer like that so just be careful you don't over stress your hitch.

Yeah the previous owner loaded it up that way...it made me nervous but I was just transporting it locally. Since then I've found the best way to load it is as far back on the trailer as possible. I only plan to use this trailer to tow to the local track (<30 minutes away) so I may need to upgrade in the future when I want to travel further.

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
8/29/17 11:46 a.m.

Too late for this time I suppose, but factory Ball joints are still available if you ever need another set. Before you take it on track research the service life of the front hubs and options for replacement too. The ACR came with thicker hubs which are no longer available, but even those needed regular replacement for track use.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/29/17 12:55 p.m.

In reply to Tk8398:

Good to know about factory ball joints. There are 10mm hubs with lower mileage bearings installed now. I do have a spare set of new 10mm hubs and a used set of knuckles with them as well. They seem fine now but this is one item I'll be checking frequently.

red_stapler
red_stapler Dork
8/29/17 1:32 p.m.
enginenerd wrote: Interestingly the two calipers were slightly different. Any Neon/Chrysler experts know which is correct?

That's a 00-05 caliper on the right. I believe they're 1-2mm wider to accomodate the slightly thicker rotors on the 2nd gen cars. They more or less interchange otherwise.

HonestSpeedShop
HonestSpeedShop New Reader
8/29/17 1:45 p.m.
red_stapler wrote:
enginenerd wrote: Interestingly the two calipers were slightly different. Any Neon/Chrysler experts know which is correct?
That's a 00-05 caliper on the right. I believe they're 1-2mm wider to accomodate the slightly thicker rotors on the 2nd gen cars. They more or less interchange otherwise.

00-05 on the right is correct.

eastsidemav
eastsidemav SuperDork
8/29/17 2:41 p.m.

For the transmission, Pennzoil Syncromesh is what I tend to use. I think at least one of the chain parts stores carries it, but not all of them do.

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
8/29/17 2:43 p.m.

One other weird thing with neons (I have heard of this happening a few times) is that if the clutch cable ever snaps, the bits that fall off the end into the bellhousing can/will eventually bounce up and get stuck between the flywheel and starter and you will think the engine seized, but once you pull the transmission and take the parts out it will be fine.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/29/17 3:21 p.m.

In reply to red_stapler:

Awesome. Thank you!

HonestSpeedShop
HonestSpeedShop New Reader
8/29/17 3:22 p.m.
Tk8398 wrote: One other weird thing with neons (I have heard of this happening a few times) is that if the clutch cable ever snaps, the bits that fall off the end into the bellhousing can/will eventually bounce up and get stuck between the flywheel and starter and you will think the engine seized, but once you pull the transmission and take the parts out it will be fine.

This is true, but you can remove the bottom inspection plate and pull the bits out pretty quick.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/29/17 3:22 p.m.

In reply to Tk8398:

That sounds frightening. Good to know!

JAhmed
JAhmed Reader
8/29/17 4:50 p.m.

Cool project. Looking forward to updates!!!

2002colossalfailure
2002colossalfailure Reader
8/29/17 8:00 p.m.

I'm on my second ACR, it's a car I wanted in 1995 and now finally experiencing ownership. Simple, reasonably cheap to modify and still well represented in salvage yards plus there's an active board with people who know the car inside and out available for Q&A. The car I just picked up, for challenge money, is cosmetically rough but mechanically great and features a 2.4L turbo swap.

Lof8
Lof8 GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/30/17 12:37 p.m.
enginenerd wrote: In reply to Lof8: Awesome! I hear they are pretty competitive in that discipline. Let me know if you have or start a build thread...I'd love to follow.

Circle Track Neon

My "build" thread is more of a documentary of all of my automotive activities, but there are definitely Neon updates. My thread was pretty well dismantled when photobucket went down, but I am working on fixing it again.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
8/30/17 1:52 p.m.

I just spotted my old 95 neon still in use near my parent's house. The only reason i got rid of it was because i have 15-20 cars at any time and it was a low priority and someone else wanted it. I really like 1g Neons in general.

As far as the hub bearings, if it's not an illegal class move you can swap them for certain earlier K-car spindles with bolt-in wheel bearings. These are the same wheel bearings that held up Grand Caravans and they're very easy to replace. In fact, i have a small pile of them because Rockauto had some on clearance for super cheap at one point. This also gives you the options of easy and cheap 11.25" brakes (stock are ~10") if you feel the need. The spindle fits the ball joint and strut the same way, but you will probably have to realign as the steering arm is probably slightly different.

enginenerd
enginenerd New Reader
8/30/17 3:31 p.m.

In reply to Vigo:

Yeah I've been reading up on some of these swaps. Unfortunately, if I understand the rules correctly a change in brake rotor diameter isn't allowed. I don't think changes to the hubs or spindle are technically allowed, but my guess is in regionals it wouldn't matter too much, especially for reliability and no performance benefit. I will use the hubs I have on hand for now, but will start formulating a back up plan for when they're worn out.

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