Click for Larger Image
A respectful pause, please: our original 1994-build Neon ACR is on the way to the “Rainbow Bridge”. You know the Rainbow Bridge: it’s the special place where animals go after they die, assuming they are loved very, very much by their owners. What most people don’t know is that cars can go there as well, as long as they are small and sad enough. After fourteen years of racing, our little Neon has been hurt so badly he can’t get back up, so under the caring eye of crew chief Dave Everest, ol’ #187 was carefully propped on jackstands and disassembled down to the bare shell. We, the racers and crew members of Green Baron Motor Sports, placed our hands on him and wished him a safe trip to the Bridge… and then we started on our task, which is to build a race car from scratch in less than thirty days.
We had a great place to start – namely, a rust-free 1995 Plymouth Neon shell from Chrysler’s Toluca plant down around Mexico way. Compared to the ACR, this shell’s a little thicker in spots. The rear suspension pickup points are double-reinforced, perhaps to deal with those big bushels of leafy green, er, cabbage. (Come on – kids read this!) From the moment the infamous “Tinman” began measuring the shell, however, it was apparent that those fellows up in Belvidere, the other home of the Neon, are underrated – because this Neon’s a bit crooked in spots. Luckily, it can all be fixed, and then we’ll be racing with an undamaged car.
Did I mention that this was a Plymouth Neon? Some of our younger readers may not be totally conversant with Plymouth, so here’s the deal: it was like Dodge, only a zillion times cooler. To celebrate the essential Plymouthness of our new race ride, we’ve shucked aside the traditional Nitro-Yellow-Green team color for something that completely recaptures the magic of Plymouth Neons in 1995. Watch this space for more info.
After a quick trip out to Tinman’s shop in Johnstown, Ohio, the Mexican Plymouth (who will be temporarily known as “El Guapo”) was stripped and prepped for its new future as a famous racing car. Tinman’s prepping a new Grand-Am-spec cage with more tubing, more reinforcements, and more room for yours truly behind the wheel. While Tinman was doing the tough stuff, the rest of the team was at the Pick-and-Pull. Never heard of a Pick-and-Pull? It’s an awesome place where you can lie in a puddle of rusty, malaria-infested water and impact-wrench fenders off wrecked cars. We bought four doors, four front fenders (er, for no reason at all), a hood, some taillights, and some turn signals, all for the sum of two hundred and ten bucks. If only it hadn’t been over one hundred degrees outside, we might have gotten more stuff, but trust me, one’s enthusiasm for carrying car doors about three-quarters of a mile back to the checkout counter diminishes once it becomes hot enough to feel one’s metal sunglasses burning one’s face.
Click for Larger Image
Hey there! You should wear a mask when you sand the paint off old body panels. Really, you should. That’s another safety message from Hemi The Safety Cat ™. But part of the privilege of being the team driver is that nobody expects you to be terribly smart. Look at that Kyle Busch kid. He’s probably eating paint.
This weekend, we’ll finish the cage and paint the shell in the Mystery Color; at that point, we’ll be twelve days away from making the grid for August’s race at Mid-Ohio. We’ll be ready. Count on it. What you can also count on is that there will be a few hilarious and humiliating episodes in between, and we’ll keep you up to date on that, too!