In the early 1980s, America had few pure sports cars. Most of the production went the way of comfort and equipment. The Dodge Viper was the exact opposite, and perhaps that’s why it caught the public’s attention.
The turn of the year has historically belonged to the NAIAS auto show, and it was no different on January 7, 1989. At the same time, it was the first time that it was carried under a new name (North American International Auto Show).
One of the stars was the Dodge Viper concept with an important mission. Although there were many powerful cars on the American market, the public considered only the Chevrolet Corvette and AC Cobra to be pure sports models, which were also used on racing circuits. And Dodge, of course, wanted a piece of the pie as well.
The idea to create a competitive sports car was born in 1988, when the director of Chrysler, Bob Lutz, also came to see a clay model. Pleased with the result, he approved the development of the prototype, which went on its first test kilometers in January of the following year. At that moment, the future of the new model depended only on public reaction.
Viper has received a lot of positive feedback. Not surprisingly, a roadster focused on uncompromising performance was what the market needed. Even so much so that they forgave him the absence of external door handles, roof, side windows and air conditioning. But Dodge supplied the car with a canvas roof and removable plastic windows.
But all this was compensated by the fact that under the hood was not the originally planned eight-cylinder engine, but an eight-liter ten-cylinder engine with an output of 406 horsepower and 630 Nm of torque. A six-speed manual was a welcome feature. Magical for the time, especially with a weight of 1,490 kg. An interesting fact is that the engine block is based on the eight-cylinder Chrysler LA, but the final construction, including the casting of the aluminum block and cylinder heads, was created by Lamborghini, which at the time belonged to Chrysler.
The pre-production model was shown in its final form on May 26 during the Indianopolis 500 race, where it was given the role of safety car. He had the same honor the following year. Carroll Shelby, who participated in the development, also attended the premiere. Official sales started in 1992, when 320 units were sold.
In 1994 came the expansion of extra equipment that made it a more civilized car. You could order a full laminate roof, more powerful brakes, an adjustable chassis and air conditioning.
These innovations paved the way for the second generation. The successor remained faithful to the original design, which only underwent an aerodynamic revision. The power of the naturally aspirated 10-cylinder increased to 455 hp with 644 Nm of torque. Along with this, the brakes were strengthened, the stability was improved by the redesigned chassis, including suspension and frame reinforcement. Safety features such as ABS, traction control and a pair of airbags have been added. The third aspect was the further refinement of the car. The interior received better materials, more comfortable seats, a more powerful sound system and additional alarm clocks for a better overview. American customers also appreciated more space.
A welcome addition was the addition of a GTS version with a hardtop and power windows. Its first concept was presented by Dodge in 1993. It was the coupe that subsequently opened the way for the Viper to the race track.