The Dodge Viper is a two-seat sports car, the most powerful production car made by Ddoge. Viper production began at New Mack Assembly in 1992 and moved ot its current home at Connor Avenue Assembly in October 1995. The Viper's biggest rival is the Chevrolet Corvette.
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 Norht American International Auto Show in 1989, and public reaction was so enthusiastic, that chief engineer Roy Sjeoberg 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 the then-Chrysler subsidiary Lamborghini to cast a prototype aluminum block for the sports car to use in May. The production body was completed in fall 1989, with a chassis prototype running in December. Though a V8 engine was first used in the test mule the V10 engine, which the production car was meant to use, was ready in February 1990. Official approval from Chrysler chairman Lee Ioaccoca came in May 1990. One year later, Carroll Shelby piloted a pre production car as the pace vehicle in the Indianapolis 500 race. In November 1991, the car was released to reviewers with the first retail shipments beginning in January 1992.
First Generation (1992-1995)
The first prototype was tested in January 1989. It debuted in 1991 with two pre production models as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 when Dodge was forced to substitute it in place of the Japanese-built Dodge Stealth because of complaints from the United Auto Workers and went on sale in January 1992 as the RT/10 Roadster.
Lamborghini (then owned by Chrysler) helped with the design of the V10 engine for the Viper, which was based on the Chrysler's LA V8 engine. A major contributor to the Viper since the beginning was Dick Winkles, the chief power engineer, who had spent time in Italy.
Originally engineered to be a performance car, the Viper contained no exterior-mounted door handlesor key cylinders and no air conditioning (however, this was added as an option in later models, and climate controls featured a "snowflake" icon, which indicated a potential setting for the A/C). The roof was made from canvas, and the windows were made from vinyl and used zippers to open and close, much like the Jeep Wrangler. However, the Viper was still equipped with some domestic features, including manually-adjustable sport leather-trimmed bucket seats with lumbar support, an AM-FM stereo cassette player with clock and high fidelity sound system, and interior carpeting. Aluminum alloy wheels were larger in diameter due to the larger brakes. A lightweight fiberglass hard roof option on later models was also available to cover the canvas soft roof, and was shipped with each new car. There were also no airbags in the interest of weight reduction. Adjustable performance suspension was also an available option for most Vipers.
The engine weighs 711 lb (323 kg) and generates a maximum power output of 400 hp (406 PS; 298 kW) at 4,600 rpm and 465 lb⋅ft (630 N⋅m) at 3,600 rpm, and due to the long-gearing allowed by the engine, provides fuel economy at a US EPA rated 12 mpg‑US (20 L/100 km; 14 mpg‑imp) in the city and 20 mpg‑US (12 L/100 km; 24 mpg‑imp) on the highway.The body is a tubular steel frame with resin transfer moulding (RTM) fiberglass panels. The car has a curb weight of 3,284 lb (1,490 kg) and lacks modern driver aids such as traction control and anti-lock brakes. The SR I can accelerate from 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 4.2 seconds, 0–100 mph (0–161 km/h) in 9.2 seconds, can complete the 1/4 mile in 12.6 seconds at the speed of 113.8 mph (183.1 km/h) and has a maximum speed of approximately 165 mph (266 km/h).Its large tires allow the car to average close to one lateral g lin corners, placing it among the elite cars of its day. However, the car proves tricky to drive at high speeds, particularly for the unskilled drivers.
Second generation (1996–2002)
Second generation models increased ingine power, improved suspension, and reduced braking distances; the 1996 to 2002 Viper GTS has a 450 BHP engine, which could complete the quarter mile .7 seconds faster and incerased top speed by 22pmg or so. A number of third party firms have modified the car to boost performance.
Later in the 1996 model year, Dodge introduced the Viper GTS, a new coupe version of the Viper RT/10. Dubbed the “double bubble”, the roof featured slightly raised sections that looked like bubbles to accommodate the usage of helmets and taking design cues from the Shelby Daytona designed by Pete Brook. More than 90% of the GTS was new in comparison to the RT/10 despite similar looks. The GTS would come with the same 7,990 cc (8.0 L; 487.6 cu in) V10 but power would be increased to 450 hp (336 kW; 456 PS) at 5,200 rpm and 490 lb⋅ft (664 N⋅m) of torque at 3,700 rpm. The 1996 GTS would be the first Viper to be equipped with airbags and also included air conditioning, power windows, and power door locks as standard equipment. The Viper GTS would be chosen as the pace car for the 1996 Indianapolis 500.
Minor updates would continue in 1997 and 1998. In 1997, the RT/10 would receive a power increase to 450 hp along with air-bags and power windows. In 1998, both of the versions of the Viper were equipped with second-generation air bags, revised exhaust manifolds (saving 24 lb (11 kg) over the previous cast iron components) along with a revised camshaft. For 1999, Dodge introduced the first ACR performance package.
In 2000, the Dodge Viper was updated to lighter hypereutectic pistons and received factory frame improvements. While the hypereutectic pistons provided less expansion, the forged pistons were preferred by customers for the supercharged and turbocharge aftermarket packages. TSB recalls (998 and 999) were done at local dealerships to repair the 1996 to 1999 Viper frames by adding gussets with rivets near the steering box. 2001 saw the addition of anti-lock braking system.
2002 would be the final year of the second generation of the Viper. Dodge would build 360 “Final Edition” cars (326 coupés and 34 ACR editions)to commemorate the final year. These models are painted red with white stripes paying tribute to the famous race-winning Oreca cars.
Third generation (2003–2007)
The Dodge Viper underwent a major redesign in 2002, courtesy of DaimlerChrysler's Street and Racing Technology group. Taking cues from the Dodge Viper GTS-R concept presented in 2000. The new Viper SRT-10, which replaced both the GTS and the RT/10, was heavily restyled with sharp, angled bodywork. The engine's displacement was increased to 8.3 L; 505.6 cu in (8,285 cc), which, with other upgrades, increased the maximum power output to 500 hp (507 PS; 373 kW) at 5,600 rpm and 525 lb⋅ft (712 N⋅m) of torque at 4,200 rpm. Despite the power increase, the engine weight was reduced to about 500 lb (230 kg). The chassis was also improved, becoming more rigid and weighing approximately 80 lb (36 kg) less than the previous model. An even lighter and stronger chassis was planned, but was abandoned because of cost. The initial model introduced was a convertible. In 2004, Dodge introduced a limited-edition Mamba package; Mamba-edition cars featured black interiors, with red stitching and trim, price increased by about $3,000. 200 cars with the Mamba package were produced.
The Viper SRT-10 Coupé was introduced at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show as a 2006 model. It shares many of its body panels with the convertible, but borrows its side and rear styling from the Competition Coupé concept. The coupé looks much like the previous Viper GTS and retains the "double-bubble" roof shape of the original along with the original GTS' tail lights, as well as offering the original GTS Blue with white stripes paint scheme on the initial run of First Edition cars like the original Viper coupé. The engine is SAE-certified to produce a maximum power output of 510 hp (517 PS; 380 kW) at 5,600 rpm and 535 lb⋅ft (725 N⋅m) of torque at 4,200 rpm. Unlike the original coupé, the chassis was not modified.
No cars were produced for the 2007 model year; instead, Chrysler extended production of the 2006 model while preparing the updated 2008 model.
Fourth generation (2008–2010)
In 2008, with the introduction of the 8,382 cc (8.4 L; 511.5 cu in) V10 engine, the power output was raised to 600 or 608 PS (600 or 608 PS; 592 or 600 hp) at 6,100 rpm and 560 lb⋅ft (759 N⋅m) of torque at 5,000 rpm. The engine also received better flowing heads with larger valves, Mechadyne cam-in-cam variable valve timing on the exhaust cam lobes, and dual electronic throttle bodies. The rev limit could be increased by 300 rpm due to the improved valvetrain stability from both the new camshaft profiles and valve-springs. The engine was developed with some external assistance from McLaren Automotive and Ricard Consulting Engineers. Electronic engine control was developed by Continental AG; the controller can monitor the crankshaft and cylinder position up to six times during each firing and has 10 times more processing power than the previous unit.
Changes outside of the engine were less extreme, but a distinction between the third and fourth generation of the Viper is the vented engine cover. The Tremec T56 transmission was replaced with a new Tremec TR6060 with triple first-gear synchronizers and doubles for higher gears. Another performance upgrade was the removal of run-flat tires. The new Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires increased grip and driver feedback and, along with revised suspentions (springs, anti-roll bars, and shock valving), made the Viper more neutral in cornering.
The modifications made to the 2008 model year car were enough for Chrysler to make it distinct from the first SRT-10, and the 2008 model became known as Gen IV, just in time for release with Chevrolet's 638 hp (476 kW) Corvette ZR1. Another notable change was the reworked exhaust system; previous third-generation cars had their exhaust crossover under the seats which resulted in a large amount of heat going into the cockpit, which was done initially to help improve the car's exhaust note, since the first two generations of the Viper, which had no crossover, were criticized for their lackluster exhaust notes. The car now featured a new exhaust system with no crossover, reducing the heat that entered the cockpit.
The electrical system was completely revised for 2008. Changes included a 180-amp alternator, twin electric cooling fans, electronic throttles, and completely new VENOM engine management systems. CAN bus architecture had been combined with pre-existing systems to allow for regulatory compliance. The fuel system was upgraded to include a higher-capacity fuel pump and filtration system.
The Viper ACR made a return for the ZB II generation and was put through its paces at the Nurburgring clocking in a record time of 7:22.1. Kuno Wittmer piloted a street legal 2010 Dodge Viper ACR to a record lap of 1:59.995 at Miller Mortorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, on Monday, April 11, breaking the 2-minute mark for the first time in a production car on the 3.048-mile Outer Course configuration.
On November 4, 2009, Dodge Brand President and CEO Ralph Gilles had announced that the Viper would end production in the summer of 2010.
During an event hosted by Dodge and the Viper Club of America on July 1, 2010, the final production ZB II Viper, which was given a gold finish and accentuated by contrasting orange stripes, rolled off the assembly line and was presented before attendees of the ceremony.
Fifth generation (2013–2017)
At a dealer conference on September 14, 2010 in Orlando, Florida, the then Chrysler Group and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was reported to have concluded his remarks by unveiling a rolling 2012 Dodge Viper prototype. There would be no 2011 model year Viper produced. Quotes from the Detroit News from SRT CEO Ralph Gilles that hint to the future of the brand included:
"The new Viper is not based on anything else."
"The Viper cabin is very rearward and the hood is very long. Few cars in the industry are designed with those proportions anymore."
"I want the new Viper to be a more forgiving car to drive and accessible to more people. We've never had stability control on a high-performance car, which is about to happen on the new car."
The Viper was also on display for one night only in Salt Lake City, UT at the 11th Viper Owners Invitational or VOI 11 from September 30, 2010 to October 3, 2010. Ralph Gilles was present, gathering feedback from the owners themselves on new, exterior design of the snake. The Generation-5 badge was unveiled as well at this event on each dining table in the hall.
In Autumn of 2011, Ralph Gilles announced that the next generation of the Viper would debut at the New York Auto Show in April 2012.
The 2013 SRT Viper was unveiled at the 2012 New York Auto Show.
Preliminary specifications include the following:
All-aluminum 8,382 cc (8.4 L; 511.5 cu in) V10 engine producing 640 hp (477 kW; 649 PS) at 6,150 rpm and 600 lb⋅ft (813 N⋅m) of torque at 4,950 rpm.
Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission with final drive ratio 3.55, 50 percent improvement in torsional stiffness over previous model.
Electronic stability control, traction control, 4-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS), carbon fiber and aluminum skin with 0.364 drag coefficient (Cd), Pirelli P Zero Z-rated tires, 4-piston Brembo brakes with fixed-aluminum calipers with vented 355x32mm diameter rotors*
20 mm lower seating position, 7-inch full-color customizable instrument cluster, Uconnect RA3 or RA4 Access in-vehicle connectivity system with optional SiriusXM Travel Link and aHarman Kardon audio system.
Bi-xenon projector headlamps with white light-emitting diode (LED) daytime running lamps and LED turn signals, LED taillamps with integrating stop-and-turn illumination and snakeskin texture lens.
A maximum speed of 208 mph (332 km/h) and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3.50 seconds.
The only notable change for the 2014 model year was the addition of a third traction control mode for improved rain performance.
Sales of the Viper for 2013 and 2014 were poor. In October 2013, the Viper production was reduced by 1/3 due to low sales and growing inventory. In April 2014, production ceased for over two months due to slow sales. Dodge addressed the issue by reducing the price of unsold 2014 models by US$15,000 and announced the 2015 models would carry the new, lower price tag
In 2015, the SRT Viper was renamed the Dodge Viper and the engine received an extra 5 hp, raising the maximum power output to 645 hp (481 kW), resulting in the improvement of highway fuel economy to 20mpg.
In October 2015, Fiat Chrysler group announced that the Viper would end production in 2017. Initially, Fiat Chrysler cited poor sales as a reason for discontinuing the Viper; however, other sources have stated the car was discontinued because the Viper was unable to comply with FMVSS 226 safety regulation, which requires side curtain air bags. In July 2017, Fiat Chrysler announced they would be permanently closing the Conner Assembly Plant on August 31, 2017.