by Dave Ashton
Many superlatives could be used to describe the Dodge Viper. However, a few short words are not enough to sum up its 30-year history. Officially lasting from 1992-2017, the Dodge Viper was over-the-top in every single way, while also being nearly completely American-made.
A Bit of History
Going all the way back to 1988, Chrysler wanted a modern-day Cobra(hence the snake-derived name the Viper), so the Chrysler Advanced Design Studio sculpted a clay model, then a sheet metal version for the 1989 North American International Auto Show to gauge reaction. One of the first public appearances was as a pace car at the 1991 Indianapolis 500.
All the positive feedback gave rise to Lamborghini making an aluminum prototype, which then went on to the first orders being shipped at the beginning of 1992.
From the off, the Dodge Viper was designed for performance. This meant stripping back all non-essential items like door handles, air-con, and adding vinyl windows. At the very least there was a radio/cassette player, a clock, and just adequate amounts of interior carpeting. The original roadster also left out the likes of traction control, ABS, and airbags. No wonder the Viper originally had a reputation for being an unruly drive.
Lamborghini also had a hand in designing the V10 engine, overseen by Dick Winkles. As in all American muscle cars, the Viper had to follow the rules of there is no replacement for displacement. This meant through its production run, an 8-8.4L cylinder capacity, originally rated at 400HP and weighing 323 kg (712 lb). The total curb weight of the Dodge Viper was 1,490 kg (3,280 lb). the total package resulted in a 0–62 mph time of 4.2 seconds, and a quarter-mile time of 12.6 seconds at 113.8 mph.
One of the early standouts features of the Dodge Viper was its external exhaust pipes which ran down the side of the vehicle. These pipes looked fantastic visually but tended to give a few leg burns getting in and out. Thus, these became more conventional in later models.
Feedback from the early years of production led to the second generation from 1996-2002, which resulted in a rear exhaust, and increasing torque to 488 lb-ft., a hardtop, and aluminum rather than steel suspension. A Viper GTS model was also introduced, with an increase in power to 450 HP, and niceties such as power windows, air-con, and door locks.
As the Viper was designed as a performance vehicle, The GTS-R was the version to enter competition, built by Oreca, France. Titles snapped up around this time included the 1997 and 1998 FIA GT Championship the national championship in Europe and North America. To celebrate the wins, a GT2 Champion Edition was created with 460 HP.
Various road and track versions of the Viper came out over the years such as the SR II, ZB I, ZB II, VX, GTC, GT2, and the Viper ACR-X. One of the most insane versions was the 2000 Viper GTS-R Concept car. This version kept the V10 engine, but up’ed the power to 500 HP and 500 lb-ft (678 N-m) of torque. The body was made from complete carbon fiber, with a lowered suspension and three inches adding to the wheelbase. However, the Viper had to batter itself with the 2003 SRT-10 Carbon, which pumped out 625 HP, shown at the 2003 SEMA show.
If you’re going to design a car that is as badass as the Dodge Viper, you might as well have a go at setting some world records. In a highly modified 2nd Gen. Dodge Viper(The Juggernaut), Will Dugas performed a 6.8-second quarter-mile at the Hail Mary Derby. This makes the car the world’s fastest Dodge Viper.
The 2016 Dodge Viper ACR also had a point to prove, racking up 13 top track times, then holding more track records than any other production car in the world.
Although the lap time of the Dodge Viper at the Nürburgring is now 15th place, in 2017 when the time was set, it was still in the top 6. Not bad considering this is the hallowed circuit for every car manufacturer on the planet to test its speed since the dawn of time.
If you wanted to pick up a Dodge Viper of your own today, they generally range in price from $50k-200k+. The earliest models drive like an untamed horse, but they will provide one of the rawest driving sensations around.
If you have plenty of cash to splash, there is the option of things like the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme, which we found on eBay going for an eye-watering $274,995.00. We also found a 2005 Dodge Viper SRT-10 with 2000WHP going for $129,800.00. The cheapest version was a 2003 Dodge Viper, with 45,000 miles on the clock for $43,000.00.
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