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Dodge Viper History

The Viper, at its introduction to the public, was intended to be two things to the corporation. The public version was that Chrysler needed a halo car to show they were still the best at building a low cost vehicle of any type and beating the old Shelby Cobra 0-100-0 times was a showman's way of achieving just that. Privately (and more importantly), within the corporation, the Viper was a production technique testbed- to see if the corporation really could develop new methods of manufacture and assembly to lower the cost of a vehicle. It was originally intended to be killed off and a totally different vehicle replace it in the 1997 model year. If you take a look under the skin of a 1st generation Viper, it was a crude and rude "kit car," similar to what home builders had been building for years in Cobra replicas. Chrysler (actually JTE engineers working on their own time) translated this into a vehicle and production line that, in one fell swoop, became the most sought after assignment in the corporation up to that point.

Team Viper's primary goal was a vehicle that concentrated on performance above all else. Their benchmark: to go from 0 to 100 back to 0 in under 15 seconds. The first result was a show car, which appeared on January 4, 1989 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to test public reaction; orders began to flow before the show ended, and the "go" was given. Chrysler decided to use the Viper RT/10 to test its new platform team concept, taken from Honda's process. An independent cross-functional team was created, making its own rules and creating its own supplier base. The team leader sifted through scores of volunteers to find appropriate people. Team Viper began three years of intensive, often around-the-clock operations that stretched from Italy, where the aluminum engine block was perfected -- to the race tracks at Nelson Ledges and Road Atlanta, where they fine-tuned the chassis and powertrain. Team members worked closely with major automotive suppliers to develop unique components for the Viper RT/10 which would withstand the tremendous stresses associated with high-performance driving. For Chrysler, the Viper itself was considerably less important than the lessons learned in the platform teams, which would soon create in rapid succession the LH (Intrepid), PL (Neon), Clouds (Stratus), new minivans, new Ram, Prowler, and more. Chassis prototypes, called "mules" in the automotive industry, were developed to study vehicle dynamics. Within a year of Viper's auto show appearance, a V-8-powered mule was being tested. A few months later, a stablemate powered by a cast iron V-10 (presumably from the Ram) joined the test fleet. Finally, in May 1990, Chrysler announced that the Viper would be made with the aluminum V-10; and in May it performed as the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500. Finally, in December of 1991, the first red Viper RT/10 production vehicles rolled off the New Mack Avenue assembly line -- exactly three years after the concept car's 1989 auto show triumph. A second color, black, appeared in 1993, followed in 1994 by yellow and emerald green. The RT/10 was joined by the Viper GTS in 1996, bringing some refinement to the design, so that it would be one of the world's premier Grand Touring cars rather than a raw racer. The GTS was seen as catering to a broader customer base than the RT/10. While the GTS and the RT/10 look much alike, more than 90 percent of the Coupe was new. Every major part was subjected to scrutiny with telling effect: the GTS with air conditioning weighed nearly 100 pounds less than the 1994 RT/10 without air. Weight reduction changes on both platforms reduced weight by 200 pounds; these included an all-aluminum suspension system and re-engineered frame. For GTS, weight reduction was focused in the engine and cooling system, where over 80 pounds were removed.



Dodge Viper






Links To Related Sites:


Dodge: Viper---official site of the Viper sports car, including details on the RT/10, ACR, and GTS models.
Dodge Viper Speed Zone---pictures, information, and multimedia on the Dodge Viper GTS, RT/10 Roadster
Dodge Viper Driving Experience---offers sweepstakes, pictures, videos, street driving and racing programs, and more
Viper Central---information and picture archive
Viper Club of America---dedicated to all things relating to the Dodge Viper. Performance parts, VIN info, regional club listing, artwork, Viper links