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. 😐

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. 🙁 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. 🙂

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 🙂

(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!

Starting your first rally in a 2WD is the smart bet.

Not only is it the smart bet, but it’s a much better long bet. I promise!
Here’s 5 reasons for starting with rally in a cheap stock 2WD car:

#5. Rally is awesome, but you just don’t know how awesome yet.
I started my first rally thinking “I know what’s going to happen. I know what’s important!” When we barely finished a one day regional rally I had a completely different set of priorities. Stuff that was super important the day before no longer mattered and stuff that I didn’t even think about was now at the top of the list. Now what if that first list of stuff took twice as long to complete? What if I thought engine dyno time and brake bias was more important than just getting on the stages at my first event? Some people never make it to the start line for this very reason.

#4. Everyone loves the underdog, and it’s great to BE the underdog.
An easy excuse is: “The car is slow.” A better excuse is: “I am slow.” You will go out there and get beat by 10+ cars. Now you can do this in a $8,000 beater P-Car you spent 6 months prepping or a $80,000 AWD special you spent all of last year saving for. Let me tell you though – when you start beating much faster, much more expensive hardware – it feels great!

#3. A bone stock 2WD rally car is easily 1/10th the cost.
You think you’ll have money for this – but your girlfriend has other plans. 😉 You’re going to want to move out of that shitty apartment and your promotion won’t come fast enough. You think you’ll catch the eye of some big sponsors, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Rally costs real money, and really fast (top of the championship) rally cars cost A LOT of money. Like a small house in Los Angeles kind of money. You might get some parts discounts, and free paint, but chasing sponsorships can be a full time job.

#2. You will be able to attend more events and get more experience.
How do you get better at something? Practice! Do you rally 6 TIMES with a $20,000 budget, or do you rally ONCE. The more seat time you get, the faster you will become. I know, I know, Subaru WRX rally cars ARE friggen awesome and it’s totally cool to have one, but having one that does 3 rallies and then sits for 2 years is sad. 🙁 The more rallies you complete the better prepared you’ll be for the next one. It’s up to you, Underdog.

#1. You will become a much better driver. I promise!
You’ll have to setup and commit to your braking zone and learn to squeeze every last drop of speed through the corner. You’ll be controlling the throttle and left foot braking as you exit. These techniques are a lot easier to learn slowly on a cheap 2WD car than a super ‘on the edge’ AWD monster. With 2WD you can’t mess up a turn and then just stomp on the turbo to get you going again. Slow 2WD cars teach you to understand the preservation of motion. Don’t worry, when you make a mistake and plow into the outside of the turn – it’ll be a much less costly one.

“Until you finish a rally without lifting, you don’t need a faster car.”
– Tim O’Neil


I know how tempting it is to build a balls-to-the-wall AWD turbo monster car for your first time out, but you must resist! Building a faster car in 2 years will be a lot better than not having enough money to rally in 2 years. See you on the stages! – Kris

2014 California Rally Series Rally School!

Countless champions have started in rally with the California Rally Series Rally School. This intense classroom day is broken up with instructor led driving & co-driving sessions. You will learn from top to bottom what it takes to compete and win in this challenging sport. From timecards to car-prep, stage notes to car control, this school is a foundation for everything you will do in rally. An awesome value for both the school and rallycross at $150.

The rallynotes team will be representing again this year: Christine Marciniak teaches co-driving and team management, and Kristopher Marciniak talks about car prep and what it takes to build a successful rally car! The 2GN will be on display and of course rallycrossing on Sunday! Ride-alongs can be arranged – just ask!

The CRS Rally School is Saturday & Sunday, February 15 & 16, 2014
Head over to for more details and signup!

The Mega Experiment: Part III – Got Root?

If you’ve ever had admin access to a server or rooted a phone, getting access to every single mode and operation of your engine feels exactly the same. First you go through some trick BS where you have to remove a battery and USB and networking cables are everywhere. Someone grants you access to the machine or you run a sketchy .bat from some internet shareware site, and next thing you know, you have total and complete control of your hardware. It feels great, but your euphoria quickly turns to panic as you start clicking dialogs and checkboxes. “You are about to change the permissions on sub-folders – are you sure?” “You are about to flash new firmware this may brick your device – are you sure?” “CAUTION! Anti-lag is very hard on your turbo and engine. Use at your own risk.” 😛 Then you start to forget that you dropped a script in /usr/bin that causes issues with a backup, or selected PID air-fuel correction and went off to tune the VE table. Completely the same – so be careful as you just rooted your car.


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The Mega Experiment: Part II – Executing the Plan

As the saying goes: Proper planning prevents piss poor performance. I loaded the .pdf for the MegaSquirt, the LC-1 Wideband, and the Dodge Shop Manual onto my tablet. I printed out the pin reference for all of the engine connectors, and I had various diagrams for the alternator, auto shutdown relay, and of course the MegaSquirt and MS3X.

I ordered an MS3 with the MS3X expansion board from SymTech Labs. If you go this route – I was a little confused as MegaSquirt also has a version 3.0 board. So you have a MegaSquirt 3 processor with a version 3.0 board and an MS3X – lots of M S and 3’s to confuse you. I initially thought the 3.0 board WAS the MS3X… (wrong) Then there is the MS3-Pro, which is basically an MS3 + MS3X + some extras – in a more compact case for more money. As of 2013 this is the newest version of MegaSquirt hardware you can buy.

The MS3X expansion board allows you to do all the cool stuff out of the box like launch control, boost, nitrous, sequential fueling, etc. Full sequential is where you can individually trigger the fuel injector on one cylinder for just that particular intake stroke. Common MegaSquirt setup does a “batch fire” where 2 injectors are opened at the same time. This is okay at full throttle as the time it takes for the fuel to travel down the head, it was already on the next intake stroke at 6,000-RPMs. At idle though you are just spraying fuel onto a closed valve every other time at 700-RPM. Not very good for economy and not that great for a steady idle. In order for it to work though, the MS3X needs to know where your camshaft is.

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The Mega Experiment: Part I – Skills & Starting

megasquirt_pcbStandalone Engine Management is not for the faint of heart. I’ve read a lot of forum posts where people become frustrated a few wires into their installation, fry stuff, and blame the people they bought it from. When in fact it was their own lack of understanding when it comes to automotive electrical and tuning. If I were selling and supporting these systems, I would almost have you answer a few questions before being allowed to purchase – but that’s me. 🙂

What should those basic questions should be?

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EVAP mystery hour.

Let me start by letting you know that this article is going to be very technically oriented towards fixing a 2003 Dodge Neon. I’m sure some of the info will be helpful for any car built in the 21st century, but you may want to skip over the gritty details. This article will also reveal the complicated way cars check for fuel leaks and explore some of the huge frustrations of modern emissions testing. Ready to unravel a mystery? I recently learned so much about the Chrysler EVAP system that I wanted to share – in plain English – what I went through, and what I learned.

You: “I have code P0440 – what should I do?”
Every car mechanic: “Replace your gas cap!” Continue reading