2016 Dodge Viper ACR: Shelby’s finest legacy isn’t a Ford

– Venice, California

In 1963, Dave Friedman took a photo of Carroll Shelby standing outside the one-year-old headquarters of Shelby American on Princeton Drive in what was then Venice, California. The 40-year-old Texan, smiling for good reason, posed with three of his finest, fiercest children, all of whom happened to be named “Cobra.”

A month ago I stood outside those same headquarters, just a ten-minute walk from my apartment. It’s still a red brick building with a garage door and an exit on the west corner, but the business inside now deals in shoes. I had only one car with me, a Dodge Viper ACR, come to bow a head and a couple of headers to the birthplace of its progenitor. If this were Greek mythology, the Cobra would play the primordial deity Chaos, responsible for birthing a pantheon of Titans over the last six decades. While Shelby is most closely linked with Ford through such divinities as the GT40 and GT350, however, the Dodge Viper is the Cobra’s closest descendant.

How so? In February 1988, Chrysler president Bob Lutz told chief of design Tom Gale, “We really ought to kick off doing a project like a reborn Cobra.” Five years later, the original Viper answered that proposition with two seats, no roof, a giant engine sardined into the front of a tiny body, unthinkable turns of speed, and handling kindly described as adventurous. Although separated by an era and a name, the Viper was clearly defined by the same Suborder: Serpentes as the Cobra. It even followed the s...