Austin Reed


When I was younger, I always dreamt of what cars I would have in my ultimate garage (I even wrote into Top Gear magazine asking what the cost of my favourite cars would be and they printed it).

Rather strangely, I always had a bit of a thing for the Vauxhall Cavalier (the Mark III model to be precise) despite it being so average that a hundred could drive right by you and you would never have noticed.

Of course, there were the plethora of supercars such as the Ferrari F40 and Lamborghini Diablo, but one car always stood above the rest for me………


The Dodge Viper.


Or to be more precise, the second-generation GTS version manufactured from 1996 – 2002.

Those of you familiar with the original Gran Turismo computer game on the first Playstation may well remember this car well, and of course, it has to be rich blue in colour with the white go faster strips down the centre.


In the beginning


The story of the Dodge Viper begins in 1989 when George Bush senior was the President of the United States and the year the Berlin wall finally started to come down.

Although the idea of the Viper originally came around the year before, it was in the fall of 1989 that ground was actually broken and development on the Viper began.

It all came about because the president of Chrysler at the time Bob Lutz wanted to create a more ‘up to date’ version of the AC Cobra and spoke to Tom Gale at the companies design centre about his idea.

Thus, Gale produced a clay model to Lutz a couple of months later and even later in the year, the car appeared as a concept at the 1989 North American International Auto Show.

Reaction to the concept was so positive that Chrysler decided to go into development with chief engineer Roy Sjoberg to head the project up and select a specific team of people who became known as ‘Team Viper’ to get it rolling.


Viper through the years


The first Dodge Viper made its debut at the 1991 Indianapolis 500 as the pace car.

The Viper’s legendary V10 engine was aided by the clever folks at Lamborghini (who were owned by the Chrysler Corporation at the time) with the car going on sale to the public in January 1992.

Simplicity was key for the Viper driver/passenger as it was all about performance.

Dodge Viper pace car

The first-generation model featured no exterior-mounted door handles and no air conditioning and was a strong seller for Chrysler.

In 1996, the iconic Viper GTS arrived to much acclaim with some of the steel suspension components switched out in favour of aluminum for a reduction in weight and a re-jig of the exhaust system enabled power to increase to 415 HP.

In 2003, the Viper underwent some cosmetic surgery and lost some of its tough-looking exterior which soon returned when the fourth generation Viper was released in 2008.

At the end of 2010, that was supposed to be it for the Dodge Viper but in 2012, the 2013 SRT Viper was put on display at the New York Auto going on sale months later in 2013.

In 2015, it was officially announced that at the end of 2017, production of the Viper would cease with no new models expected.


A fond farewell


Aside from being a thing of beauty and a true American powerhouse under the bonnet, the story of the Viper is one that has sadly come to an end.

However, despite the end of production, the Dodge Viper will live on forever as one of America’s greatest vehicle exports with all generations of the car widely sought after thus all but confirming its legacy for the rest of time.


Austin Reed

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