What if Chrysler of Europe had created a Chrysler Neon WRC?
Some real life background first. In 1996, Chrysler of Europe was officially re-established with the intention of selling more models in Europe following the relative success of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler Voyager. One of the first models brought to the continent was the Chrysler Neon.
At the same time, the Chrysler Viper GTS-R was winning races in various European racing series, helping to increase awareness of the Chrysler brand name.
Then, in 1997, the FIA produced a new ruleset for the World Rally Championship. This did away with the Group A regulations, and, in a bid to interest more manufacturers, allowed considerably more modification from the production homologation model. In the years following the creation of the new rules, WRC versions of standard cars appeared quickly, including the Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, SEAT Cordoba, Peugeot 206, and Skoda Octavia, all vehicles that did not offer AWD, turbocharged street models.
So, with that in mind, what if Chrysler decided to promote the Neon through motorsport, in the form of a World Rally Car?
The car was first shown in late 1997 with the expectation of entering the WRC in the 1998 season.
The engine used was a turbocharged version of the Chrysler 4 cylinder, combining elements of the 2.0 ECC and 2.4 turbo EDZ engines. The production model’s McPherson Strut/Multilink supension layout was maintained, but mounting points were modified. Aesthetic changes included wider fender flares, a large rear wing, and additional vents and grilles for cooling. In addition to improving cooling, the front fascia was designed to emulate that of the Chysler VIper GTS-R, as were the paint schemes on the first publicly shown cars.
With a longer wheelbase than any other WRC cars at the time (albeit an overall length equal to the concurrent Subaru Impreza) the Neon would have likely been more at home on high speed events than tight, technical ones. While it is impossible to speculate much on the effectiveness of the Chrysler Neon WRC, it is pretty easy to assume that with the creation of DaimlerChrysler in 1998, this car would have been fairly short lived, as Mercedes-Benz would have been quick to cut off any funding to this project. But in the spirit of the what-if nature of this post, if Mercedes had decided the project was worth it, their resources and engineering would have given the Neon WRC a better chance at success.