The Dodge Viper’s birth directly results from Chrysler's need to have a vehicle that could give Ford’s Shelby Cobra a run for its money. Undoubtedly, the Viper did just that.
This snake was poised and ready to strike the second it came off the assembly line, and if drivers weren’t prepared for the bite it delivered, they had better have poison control on standby.
The average driver was not equipped for this car’s power. And its appearance would make others pause to take note as it flew down the highway or the neighborhood school pick-up lane.
Very few vehicles other than the Dodge Viper made such an impact on the automotive world in such a short period of time. And just like its namesake, that snake should be respected and never attempted to be tamed.
The 1989 Auto Show Stopper
In 1988, just one year prior to its debut, a random conversation between Chrysler’s president, Robert Lutz, and its chief designer, Tom Gale, spawned the idea that would become the Viper.
The concept behind the monster muscle car was to give the public a vehicle unlike anything else on the road. Promising a punch of Herculean proportions, the Viper sported a 400 HP 8.0-liter V-10 engine with a 6-speed transmission capable of reaching 0 to 60 in just over 4 seconds.
Because Lamborghini was a subsidiary of Chrysler, it took full advantage of Lamborghini’s technology to ensure that the Viper brought America a unique, powerful ride.
The 1989 Detroit Auto Show didn’t know what hit it when the Dodge Viper concept car reared its head and prepared to strike. The buying public was ready for the teaser, but it would be several years before Dodge put the Viper on the market for mass consumption.
The 1992-1995 Viper: The First Strike
Just like the snake who would not stay in its pit, the Viper unleashed itself on the world. The power the Viper concept promised was found in the 1992 public release, beyond a doubt. The Viper proved faster than both the Chevy Corvette and the Porsche 911, and it maxed out at crazy 160 MPH.
While the Viper provided virtually unparalleled power, the car itself was presented in a bare-bones package, not even including the option for windows, a roof, or even outside door handles. This further proved that the Viper was made for speed, not comfort.
The 1996-2001 Viper: Beginning to Show its Fangs
There were not a lot of changes between the first and second generations of Viper. Dodge somehow managed to pack in a bit more horsepower, running with about 410 HP.
The biggest change that came into play for this generation dealt with offering more features and options to make the ride more comfortable. Windows, a roof, and door handles were added in addition to air conditioning and airbags.
The 2002-2007 Viper: Can’t Get Enough Venom
The third generation continued to bring the boom under the hood, providing a V-10, but this gen came with an 8.3 - liter engine and was running with 500 horses. The drastic increase in horsepower was partly due to improved engineering and a lighter-weight engine, allowing it to reach speeds of about 190 MPH.
This was the first generation to feature the Viper’s iconic blue and white striped paint job, and it was much less curvy than prior versions.
The 2008-2010 Viper: Continuing to Rise
Sticking with the V-10, the new generation Viper continued to pack a bigger punch than its previous generation. Now it came with an 8.4 - liter engine with 600 HP. The new Viper could reach 202 MPH, go from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds, and it could reach a quarter mile in less than 12 seconds.
The new version also featured improved stock tires and suspension system. These things helped enhance the car’s handling ability, and it was thought that this version offered the best performance available in the entire line.
The 2013-2017 Viper: The Final Strike
In its final incarnation, the Viper pulled out all the stops in hopes of turning around its tanking sales. This version offered many creature comforts that the prior generations missed out on. Some of those features include:
- A touch screen and state-of-the-art surround sound system.
- Cruise control.
- Keyless entry.
- Heated power seats.
- Traction control.
This Viper could reach a max speed of 206 MPH and offered 640 horsepower.
Even with all of its amenities, and though it was one of the finest muscle cars of its generation, the Viper could not pull in the buying public. 2017 saw the final Viper leave its pit; however, faithful followers believe another snake could still be hiding in the pit, waiting for the perfect time to strike.
The History of the Dodge Viper: There Is No Antidote for its Venom
Though it was created to give the Cobra a run for its money, no one ever imagined that the Dodge Viper would be able to strike out and make a mark in such a fashion. For over two decades, this car wowed everyone who laid eyes on it. God help those who actually felt the power that came along with driving one.
Muscle cars have come, and muscles cars have gone, but the world will be hard-pressed to find another car quite like the Viper. It is a car thats fangs will get stuck into you, and there is no antidote for its venom.