One of the most legendary cars produced under the Dodge brand is the Viper, a sports car that is an All-American favorite. Its design was initially developed in 1988 at the Chrysler Advanced Design Studios, and the aim was to produce a car that could be considered a contemporary Cobra. By the time the 1989 North American International Auto Show came around, the car debuted and the public went wild over it. Public demand for it to become a standard production model became so fervent that Chrysler relented and started plans to put the Viper on the street in March 1989.
After developing a number of prototypes, the Dodge Viper was finally released for sale to the public in early 1992. It's always had a reputation of being difficult for unskilled drivers to control at high speeds, and some have criticized the Viper's interior components, but it's well loved regardless. Since the Viper's earliest days, the continuation of its production has come under question. 2017 marks the last year that the Dodge Viper will be produced, and plans have already been cemented to shut down the plant where it is produced. Given that this famous model may finally meet its end, here's a look at the evolution and future of the Dodge Viper.
First Generation, 1992-1995
After years of development, Dodge launched the first Viper prototype in early 1989. It debuted to the public in 1991 in grand fashion as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500, and was made available for sale in 1992 as the RT/10 Roadster. While many were taken by the car's profile and styling, what was most remarkable about the first Viper was its engine. Having a V10 engine that was designed by Lamborghini brought a new prestige and exotic flair to the American model.
As for the first generation Viper's exterior, it set the tone for the image that most have when they think of the car. It had no side windows or door handles on the outside, all for the purpose of reducing the car's weight. The two door roadster also had no roof, but it came with a cover and video instruction on how to use the removable soft top and fit it into the trunk when not in use.
The model was an impressive performer from the start and could go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and it went from 0 to 100 mph in 9.2 seconds. During the early 1990s, those numbers drew attention and made this a car on many enthusiasts' most wanted lists.
Second Generation, 2003-2007
So many features and characteristics of the first iteration of the Viper carried on to the model's second generation that many aficionado's called phase two "Generation 1.5". One key difference was the relocation of the exhaust side pipes, which were made into a single muffler. With less back pressure, this increased the Viper's brake horsepower to 415. In addition, rather than having a soft top the second generation of the Viper was equipped with a sliding glass window, removable hardtop, and reduced weight thanks to the replacement of some of its steel components with aluminum.
Later came the Dodger Viper GTS, also known as the double bubble because of the way its roof looked. More improvements and colors were eventually issued for the Viper during its second generation, including a major redesign. These changes improved the car's performance a bit and made it safer. During its second phase, the Dodge Viper could go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds and 0 to 100 mph in 8.6 seconds.
Third Generation, 2013-2017
In the fall of 2010 it was announced that there would be no 2011 Dodge Viper, and a prototype that would launch in 2012 was revealed. This immediately set about talk about the future of the car and what would happen to the line. The rumor mill cranked harder when Chrysler Group and Fiat executives danced around questions on what changes would come with the next generation of the Viper.
Though some criticized the differences made and felt the car was losing its trademark character, for the most part the public was impressed with its style and redesign. Starting in 2012 the Viper's production was moved to the Conner Avenue plant in Detroit, and all of the third generation was made there. 2015 saw the premiere of the Dodge Viper GTC, which could be customized in 24,000 hand painted stripe options, a choice of 8,000 colors, 16 trims, 10 wheel designs, and 6 aero options. To handle the custom GTC, the Viper Concierge program was introduced.
The Dodge Viper's reputation on the world stage was continued as it was entered in famous races, including Le Mans. When sold in Europe, the Viper was put under the Chrysler marquee. Furthering the model's popularity is the fact that it was featured widely in the media and pop culture, making it an iconic American vehicle.
Will there be a fourth generation?
The Conner Avenue plant where the Viper has been produced is closing down, and as keeping the car in production doesn't make financial sense for Dodge, the car as we all know it will come to an end in 2017. If it does come back in the future, company executives have already said it would be a new version, no doubt one that's not as costly to produce and that's built to sell rather than to retain the car's character. And even then, there's no telling when the car may make its reappearance after production ends.
In a bittersweet end to the Viper's 25 year run, five limited editions are being released. Up to 28 Viper 1:28 Edition ACRs, 100 Viper GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACRs, 31 Viper VooDoo II Edition ACRs, 25 Viper Snakeskin Edition GTCs, and 33 Dealer Edition ACRs will be built, each with its own unique color scheme. The latter is an edition that will only be available through Tomball, Texas' Tomball Dodge and Roanoke Dodge in Roanoke Illinois, which are the two Viper dealers with the highest sales volumes.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker