Shortly after my story on an old Land Rover Disco fetching a big chunk of change, another wild piece of history came across my desk: the last Plymouth ever built. Which model could it be? Is there a brushed aluminum commemorative plate screwed into its dash? What about a photo of a bunch of UAW workers huddled around it? Perhaps, a certificate of authenticity? Is that a thing with cars?
No plate, no certificate, no photo… and it’s not what you’d expect: a well-optioned, custom-ordered 2001 Neon LX. I kind of thought all Neons were bargain basement-spec econocars, but this one clearly was well appointed and actually looks pretty comfortable.
The specs are pretty impressive. Even after some discounts, it still still worked out to $18,210 ($27,000 in 2021 dollars), which in my opinion is pricy for a Neon at the time. That’s new Mk4 Golf territory! Optional leather seats, air conditioning (yep, that used to be an option on cheap cars back in the day), sunroof, a pleasant silver color, 15-inch alloy wheels, the works. This is indeed a fine example of the last Plymouth Neon ever built.
There’s even a poster included in the auction that states that it’s indeed the last Plymouth produced, although there’s no sign of a VIN or signature on it. Hmm, Antiques Roadshow might have something to say about that.
However, what really interests me is the story behind how it rolled off the assembly line and was then delivered.
There’s a bit going on in this listing that piques my interest. It states it was custom ordered, then driven off the assembly line by its new owner, and then shipped to the owner’s local dealer in Florida. I’m genuinely impressed and find it cool that they presumably flew from Florida to Chicago, and then drove out to Belvidere, the Jewel of North-Central Illinois, to do this. Or maybe they flew directly into Bustling Metropolis of North-Central Illinois, Rockford, and then drove the short distance from there (OK, I’ll stop making fun of cities in my home state and get back on track).
But really, the amount of enthusiasm here is cool. Maybe there was a bit of planning behind all of this to make it a thing. Imagine if a Chrysler PR rep picked them up from the airport or a hotel, and drove them over in a pristine, similarly spec’d Neon to commemorate the occasion.
I picture it as such: it’s a beautiful summer day at the Belvidere assembly plant. The owner arrives midday, just as the assembly line workers are putting the final touches on the last Plymouth-badged Neon ever. When it reaches the near end, the new owner (now seller) is handed the fresh, finely-cut key, they take a seat on its supple leather driver’s seat, put the clutch in, and then bring to life with a twist of their right hand. As they roll through the finish line they high-five a group of UAW workers looking on with a hearty look of accomplishment on their faces.
PR employees are on-hand with polaroid cameras, ready to document this grandiose day. Or maybe somebody sprung for an iZone.
How the owner-now-seller got to drive their final Neon off the production line isn’t detailed in the BaT listing, maybe they led a Neon owners group or something? Or, perhaps they were a Plymouth salesperson who sold hundreds of Neons throughout the course of their tenure? Regardless, they had some kind of affinity and deep connection to the nameplate, as I doubt they’d do all of this to then say “eh, you know what, I think I’ll keep this in storage for nearly twenty years, it might be worth something someday.“
Well so far as of this writing, with six days left, the price has jumped up to over $15,000, comically close to the original sticker price. Will they break even (I know, inflation, but still)? I’m certainly interested to see how this shakes out. If they double their originally spent money, that would make it a pretty solid investment in my book. That’d be an appreciation of $910 per year for an item that usually immensely depreciates. Especially ones with a Neon badge affixed or decaled on.
This Neon’s no Porsche 918, but in its own esoteric way it’s still cool to see. I’m curious what their inclination to sell it is; maybe they saw the high-water mark for selling low-mileage, collectible-to-somebody cars and decided to get in on the action.