2002 R/T Build V2

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JeremyJ
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2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:14 pm

So with the board taking a shit, this is my second attempt at a progress log for my '02 R/T. Given the fact that the old one was over ten pages long, this will be an abbreviated catch up, with more detailed progress as it happens.

As I got it, summer of 2016:

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Completely stock, just over 100K, and some loud rod knock (which turned out to be piston slap).

The first thing I did was paint the side markers with Mopar paint. It's a trick I've been using for about a decade.

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Last edited by JeremyJ on Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:26 pm

My goal with the car is to basically take everything I've learned with my previous four Neons and apply it to this one. Only the parts I like and none of the ones I didn't like. It's my daily driver, but I do have a backup in case I break something. I'd like to keep it reliable and relatively simple. I did some fun stuff to the Magnum motor since I had it apart, but the ultimate goal is to SRT swap it. The '01-02 R/T is my favorite body style and I'm going to combine that with an SRT drivetrain to create my ultimate Neon. I don't care much for drag racing, but I do love being on the road course, so I'm going to be focusing on keeping weight down and transferring to the rear when possible.

List of mods so far

Engine:
(Magnum 2.0)
New Mopar Short Block (Hemi orange)
All new valvetrain
All new gaskets and seals
Ported head
Head shaved .030" (roughly 10.5:1)
Ported intake manifold (wrinkle black)
Plastic valve cover (wrinkle black)
LFS 60mm TB
Custom CAI w/ K&N filter
Torque Solution upper and lower mounts
Taylor Thundervolt plug wires
A/C delete
Misc. brackets deleted
Mild tuck of various lines

Engine V2:
(SRT 2.4)
Balance assembly delete
AEM short ram

Transmission:
Mopar STS (custom paint)
SRT knob (custom paint)
Booger shifter bushings
Torque Solution solid aluminum base bushings
Luk PT clutch

Suspension, Tires, Wheels:
BC Coilovers w/ camber plates
Moog SRT-style Problem Solver control arms
Moog ball joints
Toyo Proxes
Greystones

Brakes:
Red paint

Interior:
Pioneer Blue Tooth Stereo
Infinity door speakers
Raptor shift light
Disc changer delete
Cubby light retrofit
Boot delete
LED Interior lights
MPx door panel brackets

Exterior:
Paint-matched side markers
Black housing headlights
Chrome turn signal bulbs
Tinted reverse lights
LED plate light
Partial debadge
Plasti-dipped R/T badges
Custom carbon fiber nose badge
Fog delete/ram air

Weight Removed:
61 pounds (give or take)

Mods Planned:

Full SRT drivetrain swap (motor is in my possession)
Kinnetic engine harness
Turbo upgrade
SRT Cluster
Wilwood brakes on PT knuckles
Stainless brake lines and EBC rears
P-Werks tri-point strut tower braces
DCR rear control arms
Upgraded suspension bushings
Carbon or fiberglass SRT hood
Steel wingless trunk lid swap
Lip spoiler (downdraft/PVO/whatever)
17x8" RPF1s with 235s
Small battery
Tint
Last edited by JeremyJ on Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:38 pm, edited 9 times in total.
2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:49 pm

The stock block came with a bit of piston slap, so I replaced it with a new Mopar short block. I painted it Hemi orange before installing it.

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While the head was off, I ported it myself, with a mix of sand paper rolls, stones, and carbide bits.

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I had the head shaved .030" to bump the compression to roughly 10.5:1 and lapped in a new set of valves.

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I also smoothed out both halves of the intake manifold a bit. (Progress shots.)

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With the engine out, I also deleted the entire A/C system. It dropped an easy 25 pounds from the nose. I hardly use it here in Washington and I'm kind of obsessed with weight distribution and reduction. This isn't a mod for everyone, but it suits me just fine.

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Last edited by JeremyJ on Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:56 pm

The new engine was assembled and reinstalled without too much fuss. It started right up and ran great throughout the break-in period.

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On a side note, always make sure your timing belt is properly tensioned. Otherwise, you'll hear the loose belt slapping the inside of the timing cover and find this when you open it up:

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The new engine feels great. Definitely a noticeable gain over stock. Part throttle acceleration feels really torquey and it pulls fairly hard to redline. It's not what I would call fast, but it's definitely had a few tenths knocked off its quarter mile time. The clutch feels like stock and grabs perfectly. It's a blast to drive.
Last edited by JeremyJ on Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:55 pm

At about this time, my OEM Ram head badge had fallen apart. I had some left over carbon fiber chunks from an old project, so I traced the badge onto a piece, cut it out, and stuck it where the OEM badge once was. I'm still debating whether or not I want to put a little red R/T logo in the middle of it or not.

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Right after the engine went back in, I received some goodies from Modern Performance:

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First install was the motor mounts. I chose Torque Solution mounts because they're the lightest mounts available. For the middle mount, I went with Modern's OEM style replacement piece, which looked pretty nice and featured more rubber than the factory mount that I replaced.

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I've used AGP dog bones before and I loved them. These feel the same, but have the added benefit of weight reduction over the factory mounts. They fit perfect and work great. The car vibrates a bit more at idle, but not enough to make any noise inside the car. No rattles. The extra NVH translates to being able to hear the engine better while driving, which I really like. Stiff motor mounts continue to be one of my favorite mods for the Neon. I love the way they make the car feel.

Speaking of improved feel, I then tackled the coilover install. Easier than lowering springs, but still pretty involved. Air tools make this so much easier.

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I really need shorter end links:

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I didn't adjust the height at all. The front went down 1.5" and the rear went down 2" with the BCs at the factory setting. With the knobs set at 5 for the front and rear, the car feels pretty solid. These coilovers are definitely more harsh than the factory suspension, but not unbearable. I had it aligned and it feels pretty good to throw it around corners. As sort of an added bonus, these coilovers dropped about 27 pounds off the car, which is great.
2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:15 pm

Since I won't be able to afford new rims any time soon, I decided to refinish the Silverstones. I had the local tire place knock off the hammer-on weights, took my die grinder to the curb rash, sanded them all down, and then cleaned them. I went with a shade of Duplicolor that reminded me of the new Dodge color, Destroyer Grey. This particular shade is a little bit cooler than DG, but I still dig it.

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I also PlastiDipped the R/T badges grey, to match the wheels.

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A buddy of mine gave me a free, but pretty beat up, stock SRT shift knob. I needed this because I scored a Mopar STS from a forum member. I sanded it down and painted it with Mopar PS2 paint, so it matched the car, filled in the markings with dark red, and then cleared over the whole thing. It turned out pretty well.

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The stock R/T boot didn't work with the SRT shifter, so it just flopped around and drove me nuts. I eventually pulled it out and left it that way, but the surface rust and rough casting on the STS assembly made it look kind of sloppy. So I pulled the assembly again and disassembled it. I sanded and painted the steel base the same color as my wheels. For the cast aluminum cradle, I ground down the edges and hit it with a wire wheel to create a machined look to it. I reinstalled it with the Booger bushings I'd previously installed, but added Torque Solution billet bushings for the base of the assembly. The result not only looks way better, but feels really solid. It's a great setup.

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Before:

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After:

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Last edited by JeremyJ on Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:33 pm

The factory stereo was really worn out. The knobs didn't always work and the disc changer would skip over the smallest bumps (coilovers exacerbated this issue). I upgraded to a Pioneer head unit that is the newer version of the one I have in my Jeep. It's great. Not only does it have built-in Blue Tooth with an external mic, the face and buttons can change about a million color combinations. I'm super anal about all my gauges and dash lights matching, so this stereo allows me to do that.

Solder and heat shrink FTW.

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I also replaced the disc changer with an OEM cubby out of another Neon. Then I retrofitted an OEM cubby light into it. I removed the blue-ish film and installed a white LED.

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Note: this pic was before the shifter makeover.

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In addition to a worn-out stereo, the door speakers were blown. I ordered a set of Infinitys from Crutchfield to replace them. I also ordered a set of Modern Performance door pull upgrades, since the driver door pull had broken on mine. These pieces are really overpriced, but they offer a good solution to the worn out door hardware problem that plagues these cars.

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This was my first speaker install. I used to pay shops to install all of my stereo stuff, but they messed things up a lot of the time and I didn't want to pay anyone to work on my car this time. The whole process was pretty easy. Removing the door panels was the hardest part, but even that wasn't very bad at all. I highly recommend ordering through Crutchfield. They provide all the harness adapters you need and they also sell door panel removal tools for cheap. The whole install went really smooth and the new stereo setup sounds great. So much better than OEM.
2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:42 pm

I debadged everything but the Magnum badge on the trunk.

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Then I tinted the reverse lights.

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I installed one of my favorite visual mods for these cars; "raccoon-eye" headlights. Unfortunately, these are eBay headlights and they tend to leak, so I'm on the lookout for the Depo version, that I've had much better luck with in the past.

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I have to say, the car is looking pretty good at this point.

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:08 pm

I decided I would try out an eBay CAI kit. Since the car already had a K&N filter on it, I figured I could buy a super cheap piping kit and make it work with the Magnum setup. I was partially right. It ended up working, but not without a lot of modifications, swearing, and an occasional duel with the Foghorn of Death. Here's what I started with:

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I didn't use the cheapo filter that came with it and I bought two additional couplers to make it all work. One with a 45-degree angle to work in place of the Magnum bellows tube, and a longer version to grab the TB from the tube that goes into the fender.

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It fit like hot garbage and fought me the whole way. It made me rethink the $250 price tag for name brand intakes. But I made it work! I ended up replacing the TB with a 60mm LFS from a board member. It started out looking pretty worn out.

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This huge lip is on the intake side and I've always suspected it caused a little bit of turbulence. Before installing it, I used my trusty die grinder to radius that lip a little bit. Then I painted the whole thing black (including my pitted IAC).

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Here it is installed with deleted A/C, new plug wires, the throttle cable tucked, and a bunch of vacuum lines rerouted and grounds hidden.

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2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:22 pm

The progression of my fog lights.

First of all, they never worked. I assumed it was the MFS and just planned on replacing it. Then I noticed they liked to fill with water after a rain. The price of replacement lights and the switch just didn't feel worth it to me. I decided to get crafty and make sort of a ram air passage for the CAI.

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The first thing I did was drill a one-inch hole in the bracket to allow more air to go to the filter.

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The silver brackets were bugging me, so I painted them black. I also massaged an ear of the radiator support to open the passage more and painted it black.

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The passenger side got a factory block off plate.

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Here's the end result.

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From a distance, you can't tell anything's missing from the driver's side; they both look like black holes. It's completely reversible, too. I can always throw in a fresh set of OEM fog lights if I want to.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:39 pm

I had been noticing some pretty terrible creaking from the front end, in low speed situations, like parking lots. It was driving me nuts, so I ordered Moog tie rod ends and their new-ish Problem Solver control arms for the SRT-4. Install was a bitch and the control arms won't torque down to the factory specs without deforming a washer on the vertical bushing. In short, don't buy these things until they get this fixed.

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Here's where the problem is located. This vertical bushing requires about 150 ft lbs of torque for proper installation. Anything over 100 starts to deform the washer at the top and the sleeve pushes into the car's frame. I used LocTite and left them torqued to about 110 ft lbs. They will have to hold until I can get some proper bushings installed in the stock arms. So far, they seem to be working fine and the handling has been great.

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2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:49 pm

I got tired of looking at the rusty brake calipers, so I cleaned them up and painted them with dark red engine paint. Pretty much everything you see here is getting replaced eventually, so as half-assed as this is, it's fine for now.

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I swapped out all of the interior lights with LEDs from SuperBrightLeds.com. The interior is much brighter now. The baby helped.

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I also changed out the plate light on the back to an LED.

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I installed a Raptor Performance shift light on the steering column. I don't like having to stare at the gauges to avoid bouncing off the rev limiter, so I'm a fan of shift lights. I shopped around for an F1 style progressive shift light, but they were predictably expensive and most required extra electronics to function properly. This light works just fine and is pretty low-key. It also came with vehicle-specific wiring instructions, which is nice.

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Also, removing the shade up top allows for a few more inches of usable glass.

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:05 pm

Here's a before and after of the engine bay up to this point. I officially have an SRT 2.4 long block in my garage that will be rebuilt and swapped in as soon as the funds allow, so I don't expect this 2.0 to get any more fun parts.

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Here's the car as it sits now. I'm hoping to get a new set of tires and wheels in the spring.

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by occasional demons » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:22 pm

Damn, I guess slacking on my PL had it's benefits. I don't think I lost too much on mine, I think mainly the pics of fixing my tail light gaskets, reinstalling the balance shafts, and installing the rear sway/new tires. Haven't done much else to it, besides driving it all summer/fall, until the steering rack blew out a pressure line to the cylinder.

Fear of ATF+4 hitting the header, and doing more than a smoke cloud, kind of parked it.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by jonnymopar » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:27 pm

Did somebody steal the injector cover and pawls from your car previously? I thought all the Magnums had that cover?

Thanks for re-upping your project log. I like this car.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by Diablo0 » Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:47 pm

Not all - 2002 and up didn't come with them so many of us had to source them from the dealer/salvage yard along with the bolts.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:31 pm

Yeah, this one never had the cover. It'll have an SRT-style cover on it eventually. You know, along with the 2.4, turbo, and everything else. I've got some fun plans for that stuff. Things I wanted to do to my original SRT, but never got around to.

I have a confession. I'm a reformed ricer. Not nearly as bad as the kids with chrome tails, APC wings, body kits, underglow, and vinyl graphics, but I used to be into silly shit nonetheless. I did have a turbo Eclipse when the first F&TF came out, so it was the cool thing to do. I manage to suppress my urges for the most part, but every now and then, I let one slip. I added a sticker.

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I'm a big fan of the Donut Garage, Daily Transmissions, and the Gymkhana series. I like to hoon. It matches my wheels and despite being a foot long, it's pretty subtle.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by occasional demons » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:03 pm

JeremyJ wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:31 pm
and despite being a foot long, it's pretty subtle.
As the ladies run away...
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:22 pm

Didn't scare my wife.

:-D
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by occasional demons » Thu Jan 04, 2018 2:21 pm

LOL, she was probably why they were running.

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:11 pm

I could see that happening. Speaking of my wife, she's driving the Neon today and she actually complained about the short shifter. "Really stiff and too short" she says. I told her she's crazy and that she'll get used to it. So much so, that regular shifters will start to feel like stirring spaghetti. I tried out a Maddog 80% reduction shifter and that was actually too short for me. The one-two shift was like an inch and a half throw. I'd probably get used to it, but I didn't like it when I tried it out. I think the standard Mopar STS throw is perfect for me.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by Diablo0 » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:31 pm

I've mentioned that to my wife as well for my 72%. She still hates it.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by jonnymopar » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:39 pm

I've done a lot of work with shifters, especially with Neons, and I can't stand the 72%. Nothing against Chuck's shifters - I think he does a fantastic job. I've actually been running a modified prototype of his in my Daytona for years. I just think the 72 and the 80 are too much.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:30 pm

Yeah, he does great work. I've never had one in any of my cars, but not because I have anything against him. I was actually planning to put one in this Neon, but a Mopar STS kind of fell in my lap for less than a new one of his and I'm a sucker for Mopar parts. The 80 I tried kind of blew my mind. It felt broken, like it was hitting the gate and wouldn't go in gear. I definitely prefer a little bit more throw. Apparently the Mopar unit is somewhere in the 30-35% range, which seems less than I would expect. Then again, I have all the bushings upgraded which I'm sure cuts that down a little more. Either way, I think it feels perfect.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:03 pm

Well, I've been struggling with my eBay headlights since day one. The driver's side came broken out of the box. I used some JB Weld to fix it, but the reflector was pointed way too low. The company shipped me a replacement for free, but about a month after installing it, water started getting inside. I took it off and and caked the entire circumference of the seam with clear silicone. Didn't work. So I said "fuck it" and bought another pair. This time, I searched a bit harder and found some Depos. I had these on my OG '02 and they lasted for years without issue.

Here's what I've been staring at every day, getting seriously annoyed by it.

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Here's the Depo replacement.

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The only visual difference is the turn signal area. The Depos are perfectly clear, instead of the diffused, OEM look of the cheapos. I actually prefer the OEM look just a little, but fuck dealing with leaks. I'm good with these.

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Here's a rear shot to show how subtle the sticker is.

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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by occasional demons » Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:16 pm

I envy your H2O being in liquid state.


That is all.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:10 pm

We had a white Christmas, which is incredibly rare here. Less than a week and it was gone. It usually sprinkles some snow here and there through February, but it rarely accumulates in the lowlands. Looks like it might hit the fifties this week, too. Not to rub it in or anything.
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Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by occasional demons » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:13 pm

It's supposed to snow 1 to 3" here, then make it to the high 50's by Thursday, and back down into the teen's by the weekend.

Just a little tease, then a frozen slap to the nipples. :lol:
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Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:46 pm
Location: Little Rock, AR

Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by blueneo03 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:21 pm

Damn i love this neon! one of the more clean ones as of recent. well really one of the few that keeps a log up..
i wish i would have noticed you were looking at CAIs a bit ago when you got the TB i had a K&n that was on mine that sold i could have pulled. but personally im behind paying for the R&D that goes into the expensive one after many a crappy Ebay intakes installed.
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Official "I'm Going to Drive My Neon till it Dies" Club #61

2003 neon se crashed
1998 neon highline Sold
2005 neon sxt

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JeremyJ
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Posts: 511
Joined: Wed May 12, 2004 2:03 am
Location: Western Washington

Re: 2002 R/T Build V2

Post by JeremyJ » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:29 pm

Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Honestly, I've had expensive intakes and I was curious about the eBay experience. Now I know. One of the parts I received with the 2.4 was an AEM short ram intake. I'm definitely going to stick to the AEM and I'll likely buy the AEM cold air extension from Modern when I get the car together. The fit and finish of the name brand intake is definitely worth paying more.
2002 base -> 2005 SRT ACR -> 1996 sedan -> 1999 R/T coupe -> 2002 R/T

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