Junkyard Gem: 2001 Plymouth Neon

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Chrysler's Plymouth brand was created in 1928 (and named after a brand of twine favored by farmers), in order to compete against Ford and Chevrolet for entry-level car shoppers. Plymouth stayed in third place in the US-market new-car sales hit parade for most of the years through the early 1950s and remained a strong (if gradually shrinking) player for decades after that. By the 1990s, though, it was tough to distinguish Plymouths from Dodges and DaimlerChrysler announced in late 1999 that the Plymouth Division would be getting the axe. 2001 was the last model year for Plymouth, with just one kind of vehicle sold for that year: the Neon. Today's Junkyard Gem is one of those final Plymouths, found in a Denver self-service yard recently.

In the years just before the DaimlerChrysler "merger of equals," Chrysler had attempted to make the Plymouth brand more interesting. An updated version of the old Plymouth ship emblem was created, a Plymouth-badged car on the Chrysler LH platform was planned, the PT Cruiser was going to be a Plymouth, and then there was the Prowler crypto-hot-rod.

Those dreams of a revived Plymouth bit the dust once Herr Schrempp took over. The Prowler and Voyager became Chryslers, while the PT Cruiser never had even a single year of Plymouth badging.

The only 2001 car sold as a Plymouth was the humble Neon. Since the very beginning of Neon production as a 1995 model, there never had been much difference between the Neons with Dodge badges and the ones with Plymouth badges, continuing the tradition of the Dodge/Plymouth Colt and Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon. Earlier generations of Plymouths (e.g., the Valiant) had been mechanically identical to their Dodge-badged siblings, but at least they looked different and had smaller price tags.

In 2001, the MSRP of a base Dodge Neon was $12,715, or about $22,156 in 2023 dollars. The price of the base 2001 Plymouth Neon? $12,715. At least the Plymouth Division got two model years in which to sell the second-generation version of the Neon.

The engine is the SOHC version of Chrysler's 2.0-liter straight-four, rated at 132 horsepower and 130 pound-feet. Sorry, 2001 Plymouth shoppers, your Neons didn't get the 150-horse version that Dodge Neon R/T and ACR models received that year.

This car has some extra-cost goodies. There's this three-speed automatic transmission, which had a $600 cost ($1,036 in today's money). It has the $1,000 air conditioning option as well ($1,742 now).

The upholstery is rental-car-grade scratchy industrial stuff, which has held up well after 22 years.

It moved to Colorado from Travis County, Texas, home of Austin.

It's not as beloved as a 1968 GTX, but it's a gem in the historical sense. We still miss you, Plymouth.

When the second-generation Neon came out, it appears that Chrysler didn't even bother to advertise the Plymouth version. Schrempped!

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