As I mentioned in my last COAL, 1998 marked my 30th year. While professionally and financially successful, I started to feel like something was missing. My brother had gotten married 8 years earlier, and now had two daughters. We had started growing apart as our lives went in separate ways. So to did my bachelor support network start to fray, as more of my friends were starting families of their own. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was waiting for my life to start.
Like many people in STEM fields, I suffer from a mild from of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. For those of you following my COAL series from day 1, this may not come as a surprise. But for those not familiar with Asperger’s, in brief, this means that I work better with numbers and machines than with people. While I dated occasionally, I never really bonded with anyone, despite heroic efforts of some of my female friends to “set me up” over the years. Then I met Kristen.
As an Aspie, the forms of social interactions that come normally to most people require mental work for me. Being around people, especially strangers, is literally exhausting for me. After an hour at a social gathering, I’m usually ready to leave. Being around Kristen did not make me exhausted. It felt natural being with her. She helped me develop my social skills (which I would need as my career took off into management), but never looked down at me or pushed me (too far) beyond my limits.
She was (and remains) my better half in every sense of the word. She helps me understand such difficult concepts as smalltalk, empathy and thank you notes (OK, I still don’t quite get thank you notes). At the risk of draining some excitement out of future COALs, Kristen and I have had a happy, loving, and productive marriage. If you like your COALs with a side of marital drama, you will have to look elsewhere.
When I met Kristen, she was driving 1998 Plymouth Neon coupe. Not even a Dodge Neon, but a lowly Plymouth Neon. If my A4 were the equivalent of a fine Cabernet wine, her Neon was a box of Franzia. But as they say, love conquers all.
I may have loved the driver, but I hated the car. I had never actually ridden in a Neon, much less driven one before I met her: Most of what I knew about the Neon came from the auto magazines. Perhaps it is unfair to compare an entry-level economy car with a $35K luxury sport sedan, and it probably is, but I will proceed to do so anyways.
In truth, if you never actually drove it, Kristen’s Neon wasn’t that bad. It was a coupe, which was better looking and less common than the more prosaic sedan variant. The coupe must have been a slow seller, as the body style was dropped after the first generation Neon. Hers was a top of the line model, which meant that it had niceties like body color bumpers, power windows, and cruise control. It even had a power moonroof, and A better interior than many of GM’s cars at the time. The mouse fur on the seats was probably comparable to that of a Toyota or Honda.
However, all those good impressions evaporated like spilled gasoline once the engine started and you got underway. The 2.0L 4 was rough and crude: The car shook noticeably at idle. The frameless windows sealed poorly and let in lots of wind noise, as well as contributing nothing to the structural integrity of the car.
About that structural integrity: It was without a doubt the worst I’ve ever seen on a modern car. If the car was not parked perfectly flat, the sunroof would bind as it was opening and closing. One time the sunroof jammed so badly it required a trip to the dealership to free it up.
The 3-speed automatic transmissions was a dinosaur. By the late 90’s, Most cars already had four speeds, and a few companies, like Mercedes-Benz, were dabbling in five-speed automatics. While big Detroit V8s could get away with three or even two forward speeds, three-speed transmissions are a poor fit with small four-cylinder engines. First gear ended up being two tall for snappy acceleration, and the top gear was too short for quiet highway driving. The huge spacing between gears frequently meant that the engine was far from its power and torque peaks, giving the sensation that it was in the wrong gear.
Fortunately, Kristen and I almost always took my car when going out. One time we didn’t was on a weekend trip to Niagara Falls, and for some reason we took her Neon, a decision I would soon regret. It didn’t take too long after we got on the freeway before I noticed that something was seriously wrong. It was raining lightly, and I noticed that the wipers started moving slower and s-l-o-w-e-r. I immediately realized that there was something wrong with the charging system, and that the car was rapidly discharging the battery. Shortly thereafter the car quit running completely.
I rolled to a stop on the berm, popped open the hood, and my worst suspicions were confirmed. Where there should have been a belt around the alternator pulley was just a few tendrils of rubber. Kristen’s father had recently had some engine work done on the car, and the shop must have dented the drive pulley just enough that it started shredding up the alternator belt. After this, our luck took a surprising turn for the better: I had the car towed to a Dodge dealership at the next exit, and there happened to be a technician in the service department on a Saturday afternoon. They took my car in (without an appointment), pounded out the pulley, and replaced the belt for us, and within an hour or so we were back on the road and on our way. Major props to the dealership (Royal Dodge (now Ganley Dodge), in Mentor, Ohio) for taking care of us. We were able to complete the trip without incident, but never again would take the Neon on another road trip.
In spring of 2000, Kristen and I got married, and her Neon now officially belonged to me. How I hated writing the monthly payment check for that car every month! I would get around to dealing with her car soon enough, but first I had other matters requiring attention. My family of one, would quickly grow to three, as Kristen was expecting our first child, Josh. Our one bedroom apartment would never do, so I needed to find a house pronto. Dealing with the Neon would have to wait.
We built a three-bedroom cluster home in the Cleveland suburb of Middleburg Heights, and moved in just before Josh was born (who must have been in a hurry to move in as well, as he was born 5-weeks early).
The photo above shows our happy house shortly after we moved in, with bonus photos of the A4 and Neon to boot. This is also the oldest digital photo I have in my 20,000+ photo archive. According to the EXIF data on the photo, this picture was taken using a Toshiba PDR-M5 digital camera at 800×600 (a whopping .5 megapixels).
So now that I’ve gotten my life in order (for now), tune in next week to see what happens next.
I learned to drive on a 49 Plymouth Deluxe 2 door sedan so when these came out I seriously considered buying one. My idea of a spiritual replacement for that 49 was a low line, 2 door Neon with a SOHC engine and a manual transmission. These even came in 2 different shades of burgundy/purple that would evoke the memories of the 49’s burgundy/maroon. But unfortunately I didn’t think either the local Plymouth or the Dodge dealer would be around long enough for me to make the last payment on the loan, as they were in the process of being “re-located”.
I would eventually buy a Civic, instead
The cars we marry! My experience was opposite of yours. In 1988-90 my DD was a beautiful low mile 66 Fury III sedan. The eventual Mrs. JPC had just bought a 1988 Honda Accord LX. It taught me to love (or at least tolerate) the four and it being air conditioned made it our go-to in the warm half of the year.
My experience with the Neon was limited but I liked it better than its domestic rivals. But when your A4 was the measuring scale, the poor Neon never had a chance.
I’ve had some wheel time with the early first generation Neons, I found them to be pretty good compared to what else was out there at least in terms of the interior. I never drove them in a spirited way but they seemed at least competent in everyday driving. I thought they were a good entry level runabout for around town. They were very popular around here when they first came out, four of my friends got one within the first 18 months of their introduction. Not sure if this is true, but the later ones seemed to be more decontented.
The difference in build quality between the Illinois (1 VIN) and the Mexican (3 VIN) Neons is dramatic. My mother had both, and it was night and day.
Tom, Thank you for the call out (I think …). Marital drama may make for interesting stories and COALs when one is old and gray, but these dramas are usually the reasons why one becomes old and gray sooner rather than later.
All successful marriages and relations take a lot of work (and some luck in just finding each other). You and Kristen have done well. Congratulations to you both.
[Allow me to digress]: In 2012. the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, eliminated Asperger’s as a separate diagnosis, redefined it, and placed it on the autism spectrum, albeit the extremely functional end of the spectrum. The occurrence of autism in the USA is estimated to be 1 in every 68 births, with a spectrum ranging from near complete dis-function to genius. And, get this, after years of study, no knows what causes any of the many discernible forms of autism. There are theories, but no proven findings.
People with (what was once separately called) Asperger’s have been responsible for the world’s greatest music, writing, scientific findings, etc. and range from Bill Gates, Benjamin Franklin, and Beethoven to Marilyn Monroe.
[Back to CC]: I’ve never driven a Neon, but when a non-car owning Manhattanite member of the NYCDOC management got a promotion that required commuting to Rikers Island, he got a used Neon for that unpleasant task. He hated that “… vile little crappy Chrysler car”. I did not inquire further; merely mentioning the Neon turned a pleasant co-worker into an angry ranter.
I agree that marital drama can make you old and gray. I don’t enjoy reading about other’s marital problems at all. Our COALs are part of our families and can be associated with all the good and bad experiences that we encounter.
I feel fortunate to have had 2 good marriages. The first, unfortunately, ended with the death of my wife at a young age. I don’t dwell on the bad times in my life, but try to celebrate the good times.
The first car I married was a blue ’64 Chevy 4 door. She had wanted to buy a Camaro, but her dad who cosigned insisted on something practical. We kept it two more years and sold it to him. She then drove my ’67 Mustang and later the Malibu.
The second car I married was a lot different. When I first started dating the second Mrs. Rick she had an ’85 gray Cavalier sedan. She hated it. So, with some persuasion from me, she bought a new ’86 Z28. That was a real fun car. It was black with silver on the lower body and had T Tops and a 5 speed. We took it on our honeymoon instead of my ’86 Mustang. Since we have usually had 2 pony cars or a pony car and a small pickup and also have 3 kids, our “family car” for vacations , etc. was always my ’79 Malibu that I bought new. There is a COAL that holds many great memories for me and a few very sad ones. I prefer to remember the good times that I have had with it and continue to have to this day.
I like JPC’s comment about the cars we marry… I married into a then Oldsmobile family. My wife’s 1977 Delta 88 was a great all around car. I foolishly convinced her to trade it to buy our disastrous 1985 Mercury Capri. Since then, she chooses what she drives…
I mentioned in another entry here that I really liked the Neons that I would get while traveling for work. Of course, most of the time with these kinds of cars, we leave the airport, get stuck in traffic, find the place to do your thing and then park the car. Reverse that process to go home. It seems most of the time I spent with rental cars was having them parked nearby. I probably could have taken a taxi instead.
Honestly, the three speed autobox never bothered me while driving, and on the rare occasions I got to borrow one (from a friend who had one) with the five speed, the driving experience was great. I like this size of car, but not much smaller. As Tom noted, they had a competitive interior, decent utility and good fuel mileage.
I still have room for one of these in my MM garage. In purple. Alongside my purple Sunfire GT…
Yikes! This reminds me of the time I recommended a 1986 white Mercury Capri with the infamous Essex 3.8 V6 to a good friend during 1990. After two years of ownership with that car he never let me forget what a pile it was and chose his own vehicles thereafter some good and some bad.
One really disastrous day was when the transmission decided to drop while towing his small motor boat to the lake on a gorgeous warm Saturday afternoon. Not only did that ruin the day but it pretty much killed his Summer saving up to have the transmission replaced which was a lot of money to a part time college student. Sadly we are no longer friends today. Oh well
In ’96 I went with a friend to the races at Lime Rock. We drove his brand new 4-door Neon. Don’t remember if it was the Dodge or Plymouth but it had whatever would have been the ‘Sport or GT Package’, with the twin-cam engine. I thought it was a pretty nice car. A bit less refined than a Civic or Corolla maybe. But to me at least, nothing to complain about. At least I wasn’t making the payments, and this one had the 5-speed.
10 years later, his wife had the car. Then the head gasket went, and the seats weren’t too comfortable anymore. So she got rid of it and bought a Corolla.
Chrysler should’ve just made the Neon better, instead of replacing it with a dumb looking, mini-SUV – the Caliber.
Happy Motoring, Mark
As a Caliber owner I approve this statement.
From some angles, it looks…ok. From others, it just looks awful. Can’t say I am impressed with the quality either, with 50K on it.
I just remind myself I got a fantastic deal on it from the bank after my in-laws passed and keep driving it.
I married into a well-used ’76 Buick Century (give or take a year, it was a forgettable car). A few years in, I remember test driving a Neon (Beth and boys in tow, one in a car seat), and we very quickly moved on. The car simply fell short of its looks.
Thinking of it, I’ve never even ridden in a Neon. Not quite sure how that happened.
In 1996 the future Mrs. Jason was in dire need of a different car as her ’85 Escort had around 240,000 miles and had a hobby of slinging oil. I tried to steer her toward a Neon but her response was along the lines of “oh, hell no.” She ultimately found her ’96 Escort, a wonderful little car.
Mrs. Jason’s sister-in-law had a first generation Neon that she got nearly 200,000 miles from before some non-head gasket related foible did it in. It was nearly a twin to the Neon in the lead photo.
I’ve only driven a Neon once, and that was a rental, but as we spent 14 hours in it, I felt as if I got to know it. It was rough, and noisy but nothing felt flimsy. The automatic transmission, as noted, was just okay. However it seemed to be decently bolted together, and the interior was decent. Overall, I viewed it at the time as the spiritual successor to the Chevette and the Beetle and I viewed that as a good thing. America needed a cheap rugged “everyman’s” car that would get you to work and back reliably. On that score, I was quite pleased by my impressions, figuring that:
a. Most drivers would be only spending 30 minutes or so at a whack behind the wheel, running to and from work.
b. I never, ever, personally intended to own one. I had gone Japanese and was lucky enough to be able to afford the premium for driving one.
However, this car needed a good price advantage over the Japanese to be worth considering for most people AND it needed reliability. As millions of them roamed the earth at one point, I assume they succeeded on price. On reliability, well, Chrysler: if you are going to cheap-out on something, don’t make it the freakin’ headgasket. If you keep doing stuff like that, you’ll go out of business!
Recently came across a near flawless ’95 sedan with 75K at a local auto auction here in NH. In white, with all the paint on it no less. It got snapped right up by a used car dealer right down the street from me, so I got to look it over closely. Whether or not it will prove to be a good car for the new owner is purely speculative.
The car I married into was a ’92 Buick Skylark sedan in that popular burgundy/burgundy cloth interior combo. As the car (and wife) were from Springfield, MO, it was in good shape superficially. Between a heater that I could never get to work right and a water leak that turned out to be a rotted in multiple spots firewall – I convinced her to purchase something else in 2010 after suffering with it for eight years. She is pleased with what she picked out, and I still cringe when I see that color burgundy or an N-Body (Which is virtually never).
My impressions of Neons are forever clouded by a rotten rental car experience in 2000. Living in North Carolina at the time, I had a job interview in Maryland, but the night I left, my Mazda 323 overheated en route (long story there), so I stopped at RDU Airport and rented a Neon. It was the cheapest car available, and in a stressful situation, I wanted Cheap.
The delay caused by the overheating & rental situation made me late, and then I encountered a series of severe thunderstorms that made driving nearly impossible. Oh, and the Neon leaked. Late at night, I gave up and spent the night at a Motel 6 in Richmond, which was a rotten hotel experience, on top of a rotten rental car experience.
The Neon was terrible to drive — tinny, unresponsive, slow and uncomfortable. The radio quit working on my trip, the drivers seat got stuck in an uncomfortable position, the a/c didn’t work well, and then it developed a flat tire.
Amazingly I got to the interview on time (not being able to sleep at the Motel 6 meant that I couldn’t oversleep), and was even offered the job… though ironically I declined the offer, rendering the whole trip pointless. I’ve scarcely been able to look at a Neon since then without thinking of that trip.
That all is a long-winded way of saying that in my opinion, your story validates that love does indeed conquer all. Kristen must be quite a catch to compensate for adopting a Neon. Congratulations to both you!
The Neon had the Japanese pretty scared; in every way (except maybe the 3 speed auto) it looked like the first credible domestic competition to their Corolla/Civic hegemony. But once they got a hold of some of the early ones and took them apart, they knew they weren’t in any real danger.
It was mostly a pretty good car, and some racked up lots of miles, but it just wasn’t built to their standards. And that mostly was the undoing of the Neon.
Of course that mostly applies to Chrysler’s other cars at the time. Develop them quickly (and cheaply) and rush them to production with iffy engineering and quality. Which yielded spectacular profits. But I happen to think that one of the reasons Eaton sold to Daimler was because he knew it was not a sustainable operation, due to the low quality standards and resulting warranty costs and increasing loss of image/reputation. Chrysler’s rep for building cheap/flimsy cars didn’t just start after the Daimler merger; it started in the 90s.
Chrysler’s rep for building cheap/flimsy cars didn’t just start after the Daimler merger; it started in the 90s.
Or maybe a while earlier. While I only know the Volare and early Omnirizon by reputation (the early Omnirizon set an all time record for number of different systems with a high failure rate in R&T’s owner survey), my Grandfather was initially concerned about his 66 Plymouth, though he was a mechanic and eventually got it straightened out. My dad was sure he had a lemon with his 69 Fury. Gramps’ 73 Coronet, as best as i can recall, was fairly decent, though the build quality (pucker in the vinyl roof for instance) and interior materials lagged mom’s 72 Gran Torino. Gramps was t-boned in the 86 Omni that followed the Coronet when it was less than a year old so not much reliability info on that one. Last Mopar in the tribe was my Aunt’s 94 Grand Voyager, which performed well, including the trans, with minimal problems, for the 90K+ that she put on it. A co-worker had a Sundance that gave excellent service.
Only Neon I got close to was a co-worker’s 03. When I retired, he had north of 200K on it, but between 150K and there, both the engine and trans had been replaced by junkyard salvage components. Another co-worker’s early 2000s Chrysler was also sporting a junkyard engine, though I don’t recall at what mileage the original gave up.
Well, yes, Chrysler’s been fighting a dodgy quality rep since 1957. But I’m referring specifically to the “Chrysler renaissance” in the 1990s.
But I’m referring specifically to the “Chrysler renaissance” in the 1990s
I had dropped my MT and R&T subscriptions by then, so lost touch with the industry for a while. The two data points I have from that era are the Grand Voyager and the Sundance, both entirely satisfactory. That being said, my Aunt’s van was bought by a guy at work, who started hooning with it, and the engine and trans both promptly gave up.
I had several 90’s Chrysler products, only one was completely trouble free:
91 New Yorker….didn’t strand us but it was making strange noises (engine and suspension, oil pressure on low side)…we knew trouble was just around the corner
94 Grand Caravan–Ultradrive and suspension failure
98 Voyager–Electrical issues that stranded us on numerous occasions
92 Acclaim–no problems at all, one of the best cars I’ve ever owned.
Those early Neons really did seem to be a revelation. I remember the initial Car and Driver road test they did in early 1994; agile, roomy, fast (0-60 in 7.9 seconds, unheard of for a car in that class then), and cheap. Unfortunately the cheap part went past the initial purchase price.
My parents bought a white highline 4 door, just like all the “Hi” ads, in 1996. While not a terrible car, it did develop a water leak around the footwell that made the A/C absolutely reek, and the frameless windows eventually loosened up and made an already boomy car nearly unbearable on the highway. I think I remember the radio may have shorted out as well. Other than that though, the initial positives were not lost on me. It was a hell of a lot roomier than other small cars of the era, it was a hell of a lot faster, and it did drive with verve. In hindsight, it certainly was no Civic, but it was a good deal better than a Cavalier.
I bought a Gen 2 Neon in 2010; five years old with about 50,000 miles. When my daughter got a city job I sold the car to my brother-in-law and the car now has about 140,000 miles.
By its last year the Neon was a comfortable, roomy, reliable, simple car. Power windows up front, manual crank in the rear. Decent handling, performance and gas mileage with its 4-speed automatic.
Easy to work on, inexpensive parts. Only repair I can remember: I had to replace a Throttle Position Sensor, maybe $40? Tom, I wonder what your A4 cost to maintain.
As you know I married into a Topaz:
And that CC also contains my first ever digital photo. Like the Topaz, were the manual transmission Neons much more fun to drive than the automatic ones?
Being of the STEM variety myself I agree that finding a good woman is a blessing and a real help to negotiating life. I know that I should not be a manager, or a church elder, but I am a great “make things happen behind the scenes” guy.
Vastly. Especially with the DOHC engine.
My wife (to be) had a late model Nissan 300Z when we first met, and it was the car we took on our honeymoon. Shortly after that I noticed that one of the front tires was worn much more than the other. I ordered a replacement from Tire Rack and took it to a tire shop for mounting and installation. The technician there discovered that the strut on that side was bent more than a half inch out of true. Carol had purchased the car new with less than 100 miles so this was unlikely to have been crash damage. The only thing we could figure out was that at some point the car had been dropped, resulting in the bent strut. After this revelation she had zero confidence in the car and it was quickly replaced with a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.
The only thing we could figure out was that at some point the car had been dropped, resulting in the bent strut
When my mom was test driving the 81 Mazda that she bought, I took a turn at the wheel and was appalled at the total lack of on center feel in the steering. Returning to the dealer, we tried a different one, which was vastly better. The dealer checked the car out and found the alignment of the rear wheels was out by a country mile. Once corrected, the car drove fine.
Several years later, mom was having the rear struts replaced and the mechanic said “were you in an accident with this car?” Mom said no. The mechanic pointed out that the left rear suspension arm had been broken and welded back together. So that’s why the alignment was out when the car was new! Must have been a good welding job as never had any trouble with that suspension arm for the 18 years the car was in the family.
That bit with the sunroof is pretty bad. The sunroofs on my cars that have had them (Peugeot 504’s, Audi 4000, Saturn L200) opened and closed just fine whether the cars were level or not. When Consumer Reports tested the first-generation Neon, they noted that it had been put together with fewer fasteners than most cars (presumably as a cost-saving measure), and they wondered whether it would become a rattletrap with age.
I had a rental Caliber for a day a few years ago, and it was pretty blah. When I rented from the same location a few months later, that Caliber was on that lot, they asked me which car I’d like, and I said, “Anything but the Caliber.”
I think I probably have Asperger’s, although I haven’t officially been diagnosed, so I’m curious: Tom, have you ever been accused of being literal-minded? I often was in my younger days.
Taking words literally (e.g. sometimes being unable to understand a metaphor or tell if someone is joking) is a classic Aspie symptom.
1st car-marriage for me was a ’78 Ford Fiesta. Fun to drive, until it got wrecked.
2nd car-marriage was an ’86 Honda Civic AWD station wagon. It got driven until it literally rusted to death.
If I could ever find a nice one of those again, I’d get it in a heartbeat.
I had a brand new Neon, a ’96, as a rental when I went to the marine service expo in Orlando, FL, in January of that year. It took me to Kennedy Space Center. The most bland, waste of metal I think I have ever driven. And getting married and having kids is not the start of life, it is the end of life, as we men know it.
I rented a Neon once. Drove it to the top of Lassen Peak. Most uncomfortable front seat I’ve ever encountered.
I married into an ’89 Toyota Corolla coupe the first time and a ’10 Ford Focus sedan the second.
My youngest son is dxed with Asperger’s. He’s about to turn 18. I hope he finds a Kristen.
I drove a Neon for a few days as a loaner when my (then new) 1996 Intrepid was being prepped for delivery. I thought the Neon was great, at least in the context of being a short term loaner. Maybe owning one would have been less satisfying. But I recall it being zippy and fun, and I was coming out of a 1991 Prelude at the time…..
I bet Andy’s Corolla outlived them all hahahaha.
Yay – another Aspie here! I was just diagnosed last year. It explains a lot.
I’m not into numbers but words, with a lifelong major interest in cars (no surprise!) along with reading and writing. I really feel for you, as I have the same difficulties knowing what to do with people, and recovering from interactions.
I married into an ’84 Corona, probably the worst car Toyota ever built. It died in ’89, and Mrs. Pete has had two big Mitsubishis since then until she won a Mini Cooper two years ago. Almost impossible to pry her out of that!
I feel like I’m getting to know you better,Tom, especially after this chapter. Glad you found your soul mate; we’re in our 40th year together.
I didn’t marry into a car, though. Despite living in LA, Stephanie had never learned to drive, probably because her family had traveled a lot and spent parts of several years in Europe. And it probably helps explain why she hated LA so much!
And she still couldn’t be bothered to learn until she got pregnant two years later; suddenly it seemed like a very necessary skill to have.
Never married into a car but have had enough experience with Neons to tell me they weren’t that reliable overall which is no surprise. My co-worker in 1997 had a first year 1995 Highline green sedan with automatic that was literally re-built with virtually everything that could be replaced starting with the head gasket which was leaking oil all over the place in addition to blowing anti-freeze out the exhaust. A month after getting the head gasket replaced the bottom end started knocking prompting an engine replacement. This was with around 60K miles! Alternators, belts, water pumps, starters, headlamps, wheel bearings and ball joints were all in the mix and I remember spending much time wrenching on that turd of a car to help him out. But it was the little things that drove him nuts. Wind noise from ill fitting frame less glass. A/C that stunk when first turned on. The dealer could never get that right. A radio that worked intermittently. Check engine light that made a regular habit of coming on except when at the dealer.
It got to the point where it was making him late or not able to show up for work so in 2001 I funneled him into a 2000 Monte Carlo LS which he loved and kept until a few years ago.
My roommate of 12 years past also had a Neon but his was a 2000 and it STILL had a 3 speed automatic transmission. And the engine still vibrated your teeth at idle, stranded him with numerous electrical glitches but at least didn’t need it’s engine replaced. You still see the odd 2004/2005 driving around with rocker panels that rusted away years ago but sightings of 1995-1999 versions is a very rare occurrence these days.
Isn’t it fantastic how with a certain few people, as it is with cars, a certain resonance can be felt almost immediately? Often it seems, the stronger the connection, the more difficult it is to identify the exact cause of it. I’m glad to hear you found that for yourself!
I’ve never been married, but I most recently had a long-term relationship with a MIni Cooper. In many ways, it is similar to the Neon. Both cars are whimsically styled, surprisingly nimble, and suffer from some ruinous build quality! Both so close to greatness, but just not quite there.