The Dodge Viper began in the minds of Chrysler engineers in 1988 and they had a prototype for testing by ’89 powered by a V8. The first of two 10 cylinder Vipers made got the job of a pace car driven for the Indy 500 in early summer 1991 by default when United Auto Workers complained about the Japanese built Stealth being used. This pace car was driven by Carroll Shelby.
First Generation Viper R/T-10 1992-1995
The production of the two door roadster begins in November ’91 and appeared in dealer show rooms in January ’92.The engine in the Viper is unique; designed in the style of a cast iron ten cylinder truck engine but the Vipers block is cast aluminum. This aluminum block with heads weights in at 71 lbs (323 kg) making a total curb weight of 3,284 lbs (1,490 kg) and produces 400 bhp at (300 kW) at 4,600 rpm. Thanks to the high transmission gear ratios In the Borg-Warner T-56 six speed manual transmission manages to achieve 12 mpg (20 L/100 km) city and 20 mpg (12 L/100 km) highway driving. The tubular steel frame is used to support fiberglass body panels but the car is Spartan with a soft cover for a roof which can be stored in the trunk complete with a video showing how to accomplish the storage maneuver. The Viper has no side windows and no exterior door handles the only creature comfort is the adjustable bucket seats with an adjustable lumbar support and side curtains with zippers; all this is done to reduce the weight. The car is difficult to drive – Car and Driver Magazine refers to the Viper as “the world’s biggest Harley fat boy and driving it is like playing ping pong with a baseball bat”. The early models lack traction control and anti- lock brakes. There are many front end parts from the Dodge Dakota pick-up. It can do the quarter mile (402 M) in 12.6 seconds reaching a speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) powered by the 488 cu in V10. The car does corner fairly well partially due to the fat tires it rides on. In 1994 air conditioning became an available option.
Second Generation Viper R/T 10 -1996-2002 Phase II-SR
The second generation is also used as a pace car for the 1996 Indy. The Viper now comes in a two door roadster and a two door GTS coupe with a raised section above each seat to make room for a helmet – it’s referred to as “double bubble”. An added safety item is the dual air bags with a nice creature comfort item offer – the Cognac Connolly leather interior option in 1999. The car does look similar to the first generation but it’s on an all new chassis with reworked suspension and other unseen changes making it more aerodynamic. The engine is revised to produce more power and the car weights 60 lbs (27 kg) less. The faster and more stable Viper now puts out 455 bhp (336 kW) and does the quarter in 12.3 seconds at a top speed of 161 mph (258 km/h). The car does 0-60 in 4 seconds and will reach a top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h). The Viper is fast but it is impeded by poor braking and it is still difficult to drive; as a result it finished last in numerous performance tests and speed test when running against Ferrari, Corvette, Porche, Acura, Mitsubishi and Toyota.
After six years in production the Viper had improved hypereutectic pistons with improved exhaust system after replacing the side pipes with straight ones. With more than 10,000 units sold and marking the end of the second generation Dodge marketed the “final edition Viper” with 360 commemorative models painted red with white stripes.