The SRT-4 itself was a major performance oriented version of the second generation Dodge Neon. Coming out of the 1990’s and into the new millennia, Dodge was defining itself as a performance oriented brand for Chrysler, and what better way to further that image than creating a hot rod version of its econo car? There were various performance oriented Neon show cars introduced in 2001 and 2002 with supercharged engines and the reception of these concept cars was overwhelming. The people were clamoring for a modern day equivalent of the Roadrunner or Super Bee from the 1960s, simple and cheap speed. Thankfully, Dodge would provide!
The Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO) group was responsible for the development of what became known as the SRT-4 and when it was all said and done it showed up with a 215hp turbocharged 2.4L 4-cylinder in 2003. It was an instant hit. It was the second fastest car in the Dodge lineup, trailing only the Viper, and it retailed for right at $20,000. In 2004, Dodge did even better by upping the power to 230hp and adding a limited slip differential. To improve the handling, all SRT-4s had stiffer springs than the standard Neon as well as tuned Tokico struts with reduced travel to allow for the larger 17″ wheels. Brakes, clutch and other running gear were all also upgraded and the little SRT-4 pocket rocket lived up to its expectations.
But we are not hear to talk about the SRT-4. We are here to talk about the ACR version of that car! The SRT-4 was always only intended to be a low volume performance value bargain with only a couple of thousand sold each of the three years it was intended to be produced. Chrysler did not anticipate the huge popularity of the car and the more than 25,000 units they eventually did sell. For the last year of production, 2005, Dodge decided to introduce both a Commemorative model and an ACR version of the SRT-4. The Commemorative edition was to commemorate SRT vehicles, not the SRT-4, and it was a limited edition (only 200) appearance package that include white with blue stripes and some other appearance changes. The ACR package on the other hand, was something else entirely and worth getting excited about.
Once again, the ACR version was geared toward road racing and autocross with enhancements that were meant for track use. The list of changes was again fairly extensive and included the following:
- Wider 16×7″ (410×180 mm) BBS RX Racing wheels with a 40 mm (1.6″) offset
- Wider 225/45/16 BFGoodrich KDW2 tires
- Lowered ride height versus a standard SRT-4:
- Front: 10 mm (0.39″) lower from spring seat lowering, additional 22 mm (0.87″) through smaller diameter tire
- Rear: 23.5 mm (0.93″) from spring seat lowering, additional 22 mm (0.87″) through smaller diameter tire
- 5 position adjustable performance Tokico Illumina dampers. Proportional compression and rebound damping adjustment is accomplished via multiple oil bleed orifices within the damper.
- Thicker rear stabilizer bar (19 mm)
- Stiffer bushings in the rear tension struts
- ACR embroidered, Viper-styled, racing seats with pass-throughs for a racing harness
- ACR decals on the bottoms of the front doors (exterior)
- Full diameter P205/60R15 spare tire
- Vehicle Speed Sensor gear changed from 20 tooth to 21 tooth to correct speedometer for different stock tire heights
The ACR made an already impressive pocket rocket a very impressive road racing car for its price. There were only 1175 ACRs produced and they made great little track cars. Unfortunately, by the time the ACR version came out, the SRT-4, and the Neon, was already on its last year of production. Chrysler had no plans to make a third generation Neon and it was replaced by the Caliber, which was larger, uglier, bulkier and nothing like a Neon. The Neon, and its legendary ACR variants, was now a thing of the past.
There were a total of 1,175 SRT-4 ACR’s produced for the public: 225 Flame Red (PR4), 211 Orange Blast (PVK), 306 Stone White (PW1), 433 Black (PX8).