The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

What makes a muscle car? It’s not precision engineering out of McLaren, or unbridled technology from Nissan. It’s the feeling of sitting behind the wheel of something you know you will inevitably throw into a ditch. Raw, untamed power; and although we’ve never crowned a ‘king of the muscle cars’ and most likely never will, there was a special new muscle car that made a name for itself in 1992 that made us think a little differently about the color red. The Dodge Viper. It was so visceral and so scary that it made little Mustangs wet themselves. Maybe it was the V10. Maybe it was the lack of safety features, but whatever it was, it still makes us guys giggle like a bunch of school girls. So then, five generations later and we find the Viper along with all of Chrysler under the rule of Mr. Marchionne. Italian born, outspoken auto enthusiast, this man knows his way around an Italian sports car, but having been Americanized enough to love pure muscle, he seems to fit the mold of ‘qualified to build the next Viper’ quite nicely. So, he did. With the first new Viper making it’s way to the auction block only a few days ago and selling at a jaw-dropping $300K, we wanted to take a look back at what there was and still is to love about the American classic. First Generation (1992-1995)

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

Ok, I’m going to put it out there, the first generation Viper was ugly. Now, before you post your angry comments (below), that doesn’t mean we still don’t love it. Although the long swooping hood and open-top were appealing in the sense that it was like nothing we had ever seen, it just didn’t look right. It was bumpy and bulgy and overall poorly made. What we did have distaste for in looks, it more than made up in feel. Mounted to a six-speed manual (like every muscle car should) the 8.0L V10 was good for 400 hp and a 0-60mph time of only 4.6 seconds. Its Italian rival Ferrari 355 coming in with a turtle-like 5.5 seconds. This made the Viper one of the quickest cars on the road. By 1995, after the overall ‘love at first site’ phase had worn off, people started realizing what a terrible mistake they had made. Besides the fact that it came out of a Dodge factory, it lacked necessities like windows and air conditioning, thus it was time to move on. Second Generation (1996-2002)

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

A second generation was here, and it had a roof. With some major follies in the first years, the second generation snake came with things that allowed people to survive while driving; A/C, windows, a roof, etc. Dodge did keep the same 8.0L V10, but gave it a bit of a tune to boost the horsepower from 400 to 415.

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

This generation also brought about the race-ready GTS model. Complete with 450 hp, this  uber-Viper was good for a 4.0 second flat 0-60mph time and a top speed of 185 mph. After over 10,000 sales with the second generation, Dodge had decided that they would keep the winning formula near the same going into the third. This next generation Viper would soon become one of the most sought after and recognizable cars on the planet. Third and Fourth Generations (2003-2006, 2008-2010)

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

Going into its third generation, the new Viper (or SRT-10) had begun to grow up a little. It was a bit bulkier, much better looking and even came with some shiny new shoes. What really made the new Viper shine though was Dodge’s use of the new 8.3L V10 capable of 505 hp. An extra liter of displacement for the fourth would boost it up to 510 hp. The massive engine had car lovers around the world drooling to get a look at it. Lifting up the massive hood should have been censored in all 50 states including Alaska. This new heart cut the 0-60mph performance over half a second to 3.4 and top speed was in excess of 200 mph. This was one bad snake.

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

In our books, this was the best Viper yet. So our hearts were broken when Ralph Gilles said that 2008 would be the final production year. After what felt like a lifetime of sitting on our couches depressed eating ice cream, we finally heard the good news. The Viper was back and it was “not based on anything else.” Fifth Generation (2012-)

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

It was September 14th in Orlando, only a few months after production had ended, that Sergio Marchionne announce the Viper generation V was in the woodworks, and we were giddy. After promises of being like nothing we had ever seen and a brand new ride, you could only imagine the amount of nail biting going on in Viper lovers households before its New York unveiling back in April, NEARLY A YEAR AND A HALF LATER!

The Viper: Evolution of an American Supercar

After the anticipation had worn, we were ready to see her again, a brand new snake with a brand new logo and we imagined, a brand new look. We were wrong, it just looked like a Viper. It looked like the most perfect Viper you could ever lay your eyes on. After rumors ranging from a mid-engine layout to underwater capabilities, the new Viper had stayed true to its roots. A front engine 8.4L V10 layout was mated to a six-speed manual transmission, like it should be. The power of the engine, laying down 640 hp to the rear wheels, led to rumors of power-to-weight ratios close to the Bugatti Veyron. All in all, the Viper is back. They didn’t need to change the look or the engine or the feel to make one of the greatest American cars in recent history. It just took a little bit of perseverance and American spirit to breathe into it a new life. We’re glad to see it back. See more of the 2013 SRT Viper here

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