The Dodge Viper (1992-Present)
The Dodge Viper is a two-seat sports car, the most powerful production car made by Dodge. Viper production began at New Mack Assembly in 1992 and moved to its current home at Connor Avenue Assembly in October 1995.
The Viper was conceived as a modern take on the classic American muscle car. While there are some who insist that the iconic AC Cobra was a source of inspiration, the final version of the Viper was far too large and heavy to seriously claim any direct lineage with the compact and lightweight vehicle. Most saw claims to kinship with the Cobra as a marketing exercise, although Carroll Shelby was involved in the initial design of the Viper.
The Viper was initially conceived in late 1987 at Chrysler's Advanced Design Studios. The following February, Chrysler president Bob Lutz suggested to Tom Gale at Chrysler Design that the company should consider producing a modern Cobra, and a clay model was presented to Lutz a few months later. The car appeared as a concept at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, and public reaction was so enthusiastic, that chief engineer Roy Sjoberg was directed to develop it as a production car.
Sjoberg selected 85 engineers to be "Team Viper", with development beginning in March 1989. The team asked then-Chrysler subsidiary Lamborghini to adapt their V10 truck engine for sports car use in May. The production body was completed in the fall, with a chassis prototype running in December. Though a V8 was first used in the test mule, the V10 which the production car was meant to use was ready in February 1990.
Official approval from Chrysler chairman, Lee Iacocca, came in May 1990. One year later, Carroll Shelby piloted a reproduction car as the Indianapolis 500 pace car. In November 1991, the car was released to reviewers with first shipments beginning in January 1992.
First generation (1992-1995)
A Dodge Viper participating in a drag race. The first prototype was tested in December 1989. It first debuted in 1991 with three pre-production models as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 when Dodge was forced to substitute it in place of the Stealth, and went on sale in January 1992 as the targa-roofed RT/10 Roadster.
The centerpiece of the car was its engine. Originally designed as a truck engine and based on the Chrysler LA engine, Lamborghini, then a division of the Chrysler Corporation, revamped Dodge's cast-iron block V10 for the Viper by recasting the block and head in aluminum alloy, and giving the engine a significant power boost. Some within Lamborghini felt the pushrod two-valve design, while adequate for the truck application for which the engine was originally created, was unsuitable for a performance car and suggested a more comprehensive redesign which would have included four valves per cylinder. However, Chrysler was uncertain about the Viper's production costs and sales potential and so declined to provide the budget for the modification.
The engine produced 400 hp (298 kW) at 4600 rpm and 450 ft·lbf (610 N·m) of torque at 3600 rpm, and thanks to the long-gearing allowed by the torquey engine, provided surprising fuel economy at a claimed 21 mpg US (11.2 L/100 km) if driven sedately. The body was a tubular steel frame with resin transfer molding (RTM) fiberglass panels. Typical of American performance car design, it had a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels; it was also heavy with a curb weight of 3,280 lb (1,488 kg) and lacked many modern driver aids such as traction control or anti-lock brakes. Despite this, in straight line performance, it completed a quarter mile in 12.9 seconds and had a maximum speed of 164 mph (264 km/h).
Second generation (1996—2002)
Second generation models increased engine power, improved suspension, and reduced braking distances; the 1996 to 2002 Viper GTS had a 450 bhp (336 kW) engine, which could complete the quarter mile 0.7 seconds faster and increased top speed by 35 km/h (22 mph) or so. A number of third party firms have modified the car to boost performance. A coupe model, called the GTS, was also introduced in 1996. An interesting feature of the coupe was the "double bubble" roof contours; two small humps to accommodate drivers wearing helmets. Indeed, the Viper's performance has made the vehicle popular for both amateur and professional racers. Vipers can be seen participating often in drag racing, road racing and drift racing.
Dodge contracted French racing team Oreca to build a racing version of the Viper known as the GTS-R in the FIA GT Championship's GT2 category, where they won the series in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002 (the last two with Larbre Competition). The car also won its class in the Le Mans 24 Hours from 1998 to 2000. In the first six years of production almost 10,000 Vipers were sold. The second generation Vipers were exported to Europe, where they were sold as Chryslers.
The 1999 model was the last Viper that had forged pistons from the factory. Starting in the 2000 model year, the car has cast pistons that are not as strong when adding boost or nitrous.
Third generation (2003-present)
The Dodge Viper underwent a major redesign in 2003, courtesy of Daimler Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) group. The new Viper SRT-10 was heavily restyled with sharp, angled bodywork. The engine was enlarged to 8.3 L which increased output to 504 hp (375 kW) and 525 ft·lbf (711 N·m) of torque. The initial model was a convertible.
The new Viper SRT-10 Coupe (no longer called the GTS) was introduced in 2005 at the Detroit Auto Show as a 2006 model. It shares many of its body panels with the convertible but takes its side and rear styling cues from the Competition Coupe (see below). The new coupe looks much like the previous Viper GTS and retains the "double-bubble" roof shape of the original, along with the original GTS's taillights, for an added homage to the original Viper coupe. In addition to these style upgrades, the Viper receives 510 hp and 525 ft-lbf of torque; superior to the Corvette Z06's 505 hp and 470 ft-lbf of torque.
The third generation Viper has been sold in Europe since 2004, the first model to be sold as a Dodge, as part of Chrysler's new sales strategy for the European market.
After the introduction of the Corvette C6, the Viper's position as the top American supercar under $100,000 began to fade. However, rumors and pieces of information exist that suggest that the next generation Viper, codenamed "ZC", will be introduced in the 2008 model year and will have an 8.4 L engine with VVT producing 700 hp.
Using such production engine components as the block, cylinder heads, and crankshaft, Team Viper engineers were able to extract 700 hp from the normally 450 hp second generation 8.0 L V10 engine.
The car made its competition debut in the 24 Hours of Daytona with Canaska Racing in 1996, then the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when a GTS-R finished tenth overall in its very first run for glory. The next year, Team Viper (who now switched services to Oreca) switched to the GT2 class and proceeded to dominate, winning five titles in the FIA GT Championship between 1997 and 2002. Oreca switched to the prototype class in 2000, but customer Vipers continued to be the most competitive in the series.
In 1998, Team Viper returned to Le Mans to set new track records in practice. When the checkered flag dropped on the 24th hour of the longest day in racing, Viper GTS–R racers finished first and second in their class to become the first American car to win at Le Mans in three decades, and the first–ever production–based American car to grace the winner's circle.
In addition to the race cars, 100 street versions of the Viper GTS-R were made, which were rated at 460 hp (343 kW) and 500 ft·lbf (67 N·m) of torque.
Viper Competition Coupe
As of 2003, a special, non-street legal Viper SRT-10 Competition Coupe is available from Dodge for race car drivers, picking up where the GTS-R racing variant left off. The power and torque ratings have been improved, but the vehicle has been stripped of anything not essential for racing, such as the interior body panels, instrumentation, air conditioning, and stereo system which lightened the car by 380 lb (170 kg). The "CompCoupe" comes equipped with a full roll cage, a racing fuel cell, and other racing-related equipment. It is not sold through dealers and is purchased from Dodge directly as, essentially, a very expensive race car component. Pricing is approximately US$129,000. The Viper Competition Coupe sees action in the highly competitive SCCA Speed GT World Challenge.
In 2004 Samuel Hubinette used a Competition Coupe with a modified rear axle for the Formula D, in which he won the title before the car was barred by the end of the season (due to the fact FD would adopt D1 Grand Prix regulations from the following year which had already prohibited the car from competing) and was replaced by an SRT-10 the following season.
After a few one-off entries in the Spa 24 Hours, from 2006, the Viper Competition Coupe will race in Europe full time for the first time, joining the new FIA GT3 Cup with the Italian team Racing Box.
A Dodge Ram SRT-10 is currently also being produced. It is available in either regular cab or quad-cab, short bed with the Viper's 8.3 L V10 and either a Tremec T56 manual transmission or the 48RE four-speed automatic. The package also includes a long list of other performance and styling modifications. The engine valve covers still read "VIPER" so it is indeed a Viper truck.
The trucks began production in 2004 as a standard cab with a manual transmission only, with the quad-cab automatic following in 2005.
A motorcycle carrying the Viper V10 was introduced at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI. The Dodge Tomahawk was driven onto stage by then-COO Wolfgang Bernhardt in full riding leathers.
The Dodge Tomahawk can reach 60 mph in about 2.5 seconds, and has a theoretical top speed of nearly 400 mph. Each pair of wheels is separated by a few inches and each wheel has an independent suspension. Bernhardt said four wheels were necessary to handle the power from the engine. Since it is not legal to drive the Tomahawk on public roads, the few that were sold through Neiman Marcus were sold as "rolling sculptures."
2004 World Speed Record - Dodge SRT-10 Ram - 154.587 mph flying kilometer
2004 Formula D - Championship, won by Samuel Hubinette
2004 SCCA SpeedWorld GT - Drivers Championship
1998 FIA GT2 - First and Second Place 24 Hours of Le Mans, first American car to win at Le Mans in three decades, and very first "production American car"
1998 FIA GT2 Driver’s and Manufacturer’s World Championship
1997 FIA GT2 Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championship
NBC created a show called: "Viper" which was a TV show in fictional Metro City, California in which the Dodge Viper itself starred. The show ran for four seasons, with the roadster appearing in the first three seasons, then replaced by the coupe in the fourth and final season.
In the various Transformers TV series and comics, the characters Side Burn, Roulette and Shadow Striker all turn into Dodge Vipers.
The Nutty Professor (1996) featured a red Viper RT-10 being driven by the protagonist.
RPM (1998) featured a red Viper RT-10 in a car chase.
Inspector Gadget (1999) featured a blue Viper GTS being broken into.
The Ninth Gate (1999) also featured a Viper RT-10 in a car chase.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) briefly featured a yellow Viper RT-10.
Michel Valliant (2003) featured a racing edition Viper GTS-R.
Banlieue 13 (2004) briefly featured an early-production Viper RT-10.
Crash (2005) featured a black Viper ACR.
the Drake and Josh Movie (2005) featured a red Viper RT/10