The Viper prototype was tested in January 1989. It debuted in 1991 with two pre-production models, Carroll Shelby piloted a pre-production car as the pace vehicle in the Indianapolis 500 race. The car was released to reviewers with first retail shipments beginning in January 1992.
The centerpiece of the car was its engine. It was based on the Chrysler LA design, which was a truck engine. The original configuration made it too heavy for sports car use, so Lamborghini, then owned by Chrysler Corporation, revamped Dodge's cast-iron block V10 for the Viper by recasting the block and head in aluminum alloy.
The engine weighed 711 lb and produced 400 bhp at 4600 rpm and 465 lb·ft at 3600 rpm, and thanks to the long-gearing allowed by the engine, provided fuel economy at a United States Environmental Protection Agency-rated 12 mpg-US city and 20 mpg-US highway. The body was a tubular steel frame with resin transfer molding (RTM) fiberglass panels. Some small bits of the suspension, (tie-rod ends and parts of the front wheel hubs) following the manufacturer's "engine first" mantra, were sourced from the Dodge Dakota pickup. It had a curb weight of 3,284 lbs. and lacked all modern driver aids such as traction control or anti-lock brakes.
The car was spartan, although it featured inflatable lumbar support and adjustable seats. Along with the absence of exterior door handles, the vehicle lacked a roof. Although a soft top cover was available, it was designed primarily for indoor vehicle storage. Side curtains of fabric and clear plastic operated by zippers could be inserted into the door and hand-bolted when needed. All of these decisions were made to reduce weight. The battery is located in the sealed compartment over the rear wheel well to increase rear-end weight and traction.
Source: Wikipedia, 2012