18 March 2016

The top five Dodge Viper secrets

While Chrysler has flirted with bankruptcy multiple times, and been stewarded by a few corporate owners, since the 1980s they’ve consistently managed to keep excitement elevated through smart use of concept cars. Whether put into production or not, these dramatic styling exercises are relatively cheap and generate buzz. And nobody was better than Chrysler from the late ‘80s through the early 2000s at exciting the public. But from the myriad concepts intended to titillate, such as the Copperhead, Atlantic, Demon Concept and Venom, only one world-beating sports car was ever produced: the Viper. Following are five of its top secrets:

  1. If you’re a true-blue Viper enthusiast, this shouldn’t be much of a secret but the original 8-liter V-10 that everyone claims is a truck engine, isn’t. While its architecture is shared with Dodge’s Ram trucks, the Viper’s original powerplant is aluminum rather than the trucks’ steel block. Why? Simple, the steel block was too heavy and its power delivery profile all wrong for a sports car. So the truck engine is similar, but the Viper doesn’t share an engine with Rams.

  2. In 1998, one RT/10 was accidentally shipped with a smooth hood (no NACA duct or vents) and a pre-1998 RT/10 fascia.

  3. Tom Gale, Chrysler VP of product design, shared sketches of the 1996 Dodge Viper GTS with Peter Brock to get his opinion and ensure that Brock had no problem with its similarity to his Shelby Daytona Coupe design. “I was flattered that they would even consider asking my permission,” Brock stated a few years later. Stone, M. (2003). The Viper. St. Paul, MN: MBI Publishing.

  4. In 1996, all Viper GTSs (coupes), just over 1160 of them, were blue with white stripes – except three. They were painted in reverse – white with blue stripes – and built specifically for Chrysler executives Francois Castaing, Sandy Emerling and Tom Gale.

  5. The ‘green doohickey’ was a small, green protective cap installed on Viper frames’ grounding post used for jump-starting or charging the battery. The cap was installed to prevent paint from sticking to the post during the painting process and was left on at the assembly plant. It doesn’t carry a part number, as it’s not technically a part. However, every Dodge Viper RT/10 built from 1992 through 1996 was equipped with one. Many dealers and owners threw theirs away though, and it’s impossible to replace because it doesn’t carry a part number. But since this doohickey came with the car, it could be the difference between a 99- and 100-point Viper.

Bonus: The Dodge Viper didn’t get anti-lock brakes until the 2001 model-year!

6 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Hect Sylmar March 23, 2016 at 20:18
    Secret # 5 is incorrect. The v10 8 liter engine is available & shared with Ram trucks. 2002-2007 Dodge Ram SRT-10 viper engine trucks were available with this engine.
  • 2
    Walter Williamson Clarksburg WV March 23, 2016 at 21:37
    Statement 5 is both correct and incorrect. Correct in that the V10 in the 3/4 and 1 ton Ram has nothing to do with the Viper motor. Incorrect that the Dodge Ram SRT-10 does have the Aluminum V10 Viper motor.
  • 3
    Joe Florida March 24, 2016 at 14:17
    The Viper (in my opinion) is one of the most beautiful cars on the planet.
  • 4
    John Moore Michigan March 24, 2016 at 18:31
    I find it interesting to suggest the initial hood was shipped by "mistake" lacking a NACA Duct and different Fascia. What your readers would likely be surprised to realize is just how things were changing nearly daily at the launch of the Coupe. The entire VIper program in terms of the Powertrain was special to Viper and in terms of the Body, it was made in a low pressure molding process called Resin Transfer Molding (RTM), indifferent to the much more costly process of Sheet Moulding Compound (SMC) used on the Corvette or other OEM molded panel applications. The fact is Chrysler attempted to push the finish standards beyond what was practical using the type of tooling which was a combination of Kirksite and Electroformed Nickel and the particular molding resin selected at the time for body panels. The end results created a molded part that once assembled require many many hours of "hand finishing" prior to paint. That arrangement too was interesting, as the body panels were molded, assembled and primed by APX International who then sent them to ASC for top coat paint prior to sending to the Chrysler Conner assembly plant. This arrangement was very costly as well. Below is a link from Plastics Technology magazine which highlights the Viper program in 1994 https://www.dropbox.com/s/9zzf67gamoa43uv/Viper%20Article.pdf?dl=0
  • 5
    Mike Michigan April 2, 2016 at 17:54
    Statement #5 is incorrect as is the statement made by reader#2. I retired from Chrysler and tested both versions on the SRT10 (Automatic and manual). It is true that the Viper's engine was derived from the Ram's V10 but was made of aluminum rather than cast iron. The SRT10's drive train was straight out of the Viper (manual trans). The 4-door SRT10 came with an automatic, but the engine was still a Viper engine. The 2-door had the complete Viper drive train; engine & manual transmission. Only the rear axle wasn't out of a Viper.
  • 6
    mike obermeyer Denver August 10, 2017 at 23:17
    Here's one for you: I owned a '95 RT-10 for 17 years, and attended two Viper Owner's Invitationals, where converse with the guys from the headwaters was common. It was a well known fact that Gen 1 roadster bodies were 1/4" to 1/2' shorter on one side than on the other.

Join the Discussion