The All Motor Build Report

All motor 2.0l SOHCWhen we last posted (The 2GN SOHC 2.0l Group 2 All Motor Build), the plan was a pile of parts on a shelf and some boxes had just started to arrive from Modern Performance. Our donor block had been cleaned up and the crank checked. A clean area was setup and covered using recycled boxes from our kitchen cabinets.

Just like standalone engine management, the key here is to take your time and methodically go through the build step by step. I have rebuilt a bottom end a couple of times, but this was the first time assembling the whole machine from scratch. All of the running gear for the camshaft was needed, along with all of the miscellaneous brackets and bolts, the intake manifold, etc.ย ย I found a wonderful 2005 donor in the junkyard on a “50% off” weekend.

Piston Ring CheckWhen installing Piston Rings: Read the page that came with your pistons. Read it again! I looked at the chart about 20 times, it said: Bore x .0056″ and when I tested the rings, right away the gap was almost .015″. Incorrect rings? I ask around and after a few inquiries it is brought to my attention that Bore x .0056″ย actually means ([bore size 3.445] multiplied by [0.0056] equals [0.0193]) I completely missed that it was a little math problem. I get through the steps of filing down the rings, wiping off the metal, hitting with oil, wiping again, and testing. After the first couple I get the hang of it and can guess when I’m close after dragging the gap over a file 5-6 times. The most important piece I picked up here is this: Blow-by is bad, but having the rings expand to the point where the ends crash into each other is worse. There was no “stage rally” listed on the JE Piston chart, so I went with “Circle Track / Drag Race” numbers over “Street Strip” knowing that the engine will be going flat out from 3100 to 6500 for a 15 miles at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Why the factory intake Kris?!ย I had tuned into two posts in particular for that decision: The first was a comprehensive intake dyno test over on which showed that while the ITB’s and AMM intakes are great, they are great at making power OVER 7,000 RPM. I knew the 2.0L SOHC could make low end torque and the long intake is especially part of that. Second is a post where Vincent slapped a 2GN intake on a 1995 SOHC 1GN and proceeded to make 5HP and almost 10lbs of torque!

No long tube header?! Two things come into play here: I wanted the ability to keep the stock exhaust and the stock catalytic converter location, and just like the short intakes – the long headers make more power at higher RPM, sometimes at the detriment of low end torque.


The 3 day weekend was as good time to swap the new motor in. I finally decided to delete the AC, as it’s 5 complicated connections and like 20lbs of parts. I made a good effort to get it going, but all of those seals need to be clean-room clean, and any time I have to pull the motor in the future a fragile system of vacuum, refrigerant, and O-rings need to be “dealt with.”

Start’er up! The only change I had to make with the Megasquirt over the stock motor is the crank signal is different on the pre-2003 Neons. I made one change in a drop-down menu, clicked burn, power cycled, and started the car! Literally “crank, crank, vroom.” It startled me as I expected to have to fiddle with something for 15 minutes. Before I knew it, the new engine was up to temp. I ran it at various RPM’s for a few minutes after warm-up and triple checked everything.

Late night timing belt check...A few days before my dyno appointment I got the knock sensor working. This required me to solder the spark signal from the MSX board OR re-run new wires to the engine bay. I chose to change it inside the Megasquirt. I did this and the next night got some weird readings that maybe my spark timing was off, so I went back to basics. I checked timing and it was off! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ At this very moment the mechanical tensioner that WAS making a little noise earlier, decided to full on rattle and ping itself – loudly. I thought for sure the belt had skipped a tooth. Time to pull it all apart and get to the timing belt. ๐Ÿ™

Getting it all apart meant pulling the under-drive pulley and rocking the motor up and down like 25 degrees to get the motor mount / timing cover off. Once in there though, I discovered that the timing was fine. The tensioner was too TIGHT and pulling on the belt made the same rattle and ping so I adjusted it into the sweet spot. Put it all back together and sleep on it. More reading the next day revealed that when you change the timing to fixed and set it more than 10 degrees, you need to power cycle the MS. I re tested it – 0.0 on the MS and TDC on the car. No more noise from the timing belt tensioner at least.

To the Dyno!

Wide open throttle run on the DynaPack.

The tech at Church Auto Testing made quick work of the fuel map that I had been fiddling with for many days and weeks. He then turned his attention to the ignition timing (the critical reason WHY you need dyno testing) and the engine responded to timing changes without issue. He also set the limiter, fix the hot engine start-up, etc. A couple of runs later the new engine I built was making 143HP and 150ft/lbs of torque! By comparison, a bone stock SOHC 2.0l makes about 112HP and 115ft/lbs at the wheels, and it’s equal to a stock 2.4l Stratus motor (a common engine swap for the Neon). All this with the stock cat back, no timing change on the adjustable cam gear, and a table switch on the dash prepared for a tank of 100+ octane fuel. I’ve got a strong motor, a good baseline, and room to grow! ๐Ÿ˜€


The 2GN SOHC 2.0l Group 2 All Motor Build

Originally my plan was to jump up to the 2.4 turbo SRT-4. Throw some heavy horsepower into the 2GN and start winning rallies. Let’s break this down a little bit:

It’s all about the competition:
Open 2WD or Group 5 is an anything goes 2WD class where the motor can be as big as you want it, and as charged as you want it. This class only sports a handful of drivers in the country, and sometimes these guys still get beat by non-turbo Group 2 cars. In the Southwest, there are only 1 or 2 Group 5 (or CRS-5) classed cars.

Imagine you go for a podium or the 2WD win and you get beat by a hot-shoe in a tuned up VW GTI (this happens all the time). You finish the rally in 4th overall, you are 2nd in 2WD, and you get handed a 1st place trophy for CRS-5 because no one else is in the class. I’m sorry kids, but that participation trophy goes in the trash. ๐Ÿ˜

Meanwhile, Group 2 (or CRS-2) has a ton of participants. 10-12 competitors at small rallies, 20-25 at big ones! I’d much rather race with 20 friends in class than compare times with a turbo. This decision was settled shortly after Prescott 2012: Eddie (tuned up VW GTI) beat us by 10 seconds to win 2WD, and we finished 5th and 6th overall. Because we were both in the same class, that 2nd place trophy will remind me of an epic Group 2 battle, and not a “you have a turbo, why did you lose?” Group 5 award.

allmotorLet’s build a hot motor:
For 18+ years now, the Dodge Neon has been spec raced, drag raced, street raced, autocrossed, and everything else in-between. If you can think of any combination of parts, there is probably someone who has run it and has a dyno chart for it. Thousands of threads in forums on every conceivable modification leads to a tried and tested set of things you should do to get your Neon 30-40 more horsepower.

We’re going for a build that will keep the mid-range torque and won’t require a ton of RPM’s to make power. That means no long tube header or individual throttle bodies. ๐Ÿ™ The goal is strong reliable power. Rally is not a 14 second drag race, we’ll be expecting good performance on pump gas over a 100+ mile event. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Dodge Neon All Motor SOHC Formula:

  • Ported and polished head (professional job)
  • Upgraded valves and valve springs
  • Crane Cam #12 (158-0012)
  • JE 10.5:1 compression pistons + Eagle rods
  • Adjustable cam gear and mechanical belt tensioner
  • High flow oil pump
  • 2GN Intake manifold + throttle body
  • Exhaust manifold
  • Under drive pulley
  • Megasquirt ๐Ÿ™‚

(Rinse and repeat. Use only as directed. Your mileage may vary.)
This formula is setup to make good reliable horsepower across the entire rev range. With the Megasquirt there will be zero ‘goofing around’ with fuel pressure risers and pumps, crazy over-sized injectors, Air-Fuel piggy-backs, or DOHC computer swaps. Plus I have no restrictions on combinations like a 2nd gen crank with a 1st gen head and cam sensor. It’s all basically a dropdown menu and some settings.

The crank and block are cleaned up with new bearings and ready to go. I’m sorting through the head and collecting all the parts and pieces to begin engine assembly. A serious junkyard run has been planned – watch the Tumblelog for progress!

A little too ambitious: Switch Panel Redo

This project started out simple enough: Change out the unlabeledย panel switches and finish all the little wiring for the 2GN. I ordered new toggles and dual color (red and green) LED’s. After mapping it out I had 3 more switches on there, less room for labels, and less room for fuses. A day of carefully planning out the layout – oh it’s midnight, guess I should go to bed. Two more days go by and I haven’t even touched the dashboard.

I remember the clutch disable, the fan override, and the radio connections. I remember that I left the rear speakers in the car for the ham radio. I print out harness diagram for the high beam enable. I manually pin out the harness for the windshield washer motor. I drill the new panel and figure out how to label everything and put it to rest for another day.


Today, just as I’m about to close up the dash I discover that the green LED’s need switched power. As constant power will eventually drain the battery. I can grab switched power from the radio harness, that leads me to the another hour of wiring needed for the speakers I forgot about. I’m about to close up again and I discover that the circuit that controls the washer motor also runs the wipers and I lay waste to an LED as way too much power feeds back into the circuit. A relay and some emergency in-car soldering gets it working again. I triple check everything and button it up at 9PM. Rally car switch panel redo –ย completely underestimated. ๐Ÿ˜‰

GoPro Hero3 + Mic-In = Easy Co-Driver Audio!

gopro_faceFinally GoPro! No tiny pin iPod connector, no 5v pre-amp, no crippled downgraded firmware, just the mic-in cable and an easy off the shelf adapter from the Peltor. The adapter was super easy to make, but I have these kind of parts laying around. ๐Ÿ™‚ Look for a 3.5mm Stereo Plug to Mono RCA Jack along with an everyday RCA cable, and you’ll be up and running in minutes.

We’ll add the GoPro Frame mount for easy connection to the Hero3. The mic-in utilizes the USB connector and after an in-car test sounds great! Now our original Hero can go in his waterproof box + suction cup + tether for outside action shots!

EDIT: After posting this I tested 720P with both the Hero and Hero3 @ 60 frames per second. Checkout the handy chart I made for GoPro 720P. Notice the Hero3 grabs at twice the bandwidth, thus twice the recording space for the same time.

Out for paint and vinyl!

A fuzzy mock-up of the new paint scheme!

The new rally car is out at Danny’s Auto Painting in Long Beach. We’re finally applying the paint scheme as seen on the main image I designed over a year ago. Sneak peeks will probably be sent out on twitter, but we can’t wait to see it out on the awesome Prescott Rally roads!

The scheme reflects the rallynotes red and the days of the P-Car (Ze’Neon). Instead of red and white, we’ve opted for a silver and red. This will keep the heat out of the cabin and show off the SRT-4 / 2GN body lines. The goal is to have an instantly recognizable design that makes you say – “That’s the Dodge Neon!” even if you only catch a glimpse of it on stage. ๐Ÿ˜€

The Prescott Rally 2011

The Prescott Rally in Arizona is a fantastic event. The roads, the volunteers, the organizers, and the stages are awesome. This year the organizers gave us the opportunity to test out our new rally car on the stages by running zero car.

How did it go? Great! The chassis feels solid and the steering modifications are amazing at speed. Tossing the car through the end of Witty Tom South (a stage with lots of 4’s and 3’s) had me turning the wheel no more then 90 degrees. A big plus for the quickener experiment. The rallycross suspension setup was decent, but not ready for cattle-guards at 70+ mph. We embarrassingly nosed in a couple of times, and after the third time hopping the rear end through a ditch, I slowed for the remainder of them. This 2.0l n/a motor feels stronger then the one in the Production car and it will be fun to rally on for a couple more events before swapping a turbo SRT4 power-plant in.

As I feared, the stock engine mounts are completely unable to cope with this kind of abuse. The motor mount rubber on the passenger frame side ripped about halfway through stage 2. This added to the noise in the cabin and kept me from really putting down the throttle. It was a mistake not to address this before Prescott. Solid “dog bone” mounts are on order and I’m going to poly fill or weld (haven’t decided) the engine and trans mounts before the Glen Helen rallycross on October 16th.

We have a laundry list of things to fix and change, but overall it was a very successful test!