A Rare Race: Pre-production Dodge Viper vs. Vector W8

viper vs vector drag race
Petersen Automotive Museum

Quarter-mile drag racing is a universally accepted form of comparing performance cars. Even when the design brief for a car does not prioritize straight-line acceleration and speed, many gearheads look for trap speed (how fast the car is moving at the end of the quarter-mile) and elapsed time, called “ET,” when comparing two cars. After all, 60 seconds was a minute in 1993 and is still a minute today. But is one of the most famous American performance cars from that year, the Dodge Viper, still king of the hill—or does one of its contemporaries, the Vector W8, have a claim to the throne?

Of course, we could look at the published quarter-mile for these two cars, but racing on paper is lame. That may be why L.A.’s Petersen Museum brought a pre-production Dodge Viper and a Vector W8 to a nice long stretch of tarmac to see which car stands the test of time and distance.

The Viper is serial number 5, making it one of the first ever built. The heart of the car lies under the giant clamshell hood: an 8.0-liter V-10 punching out 400 horsepower. The car was not equipped with any driver assists, which means getting a decent start off the line requires a driver to have some real skill in their left leg and right arm to get the clutch slip and the gearchanges just right.

Opposing the bright red Viper is a very sinister-looking ’90s wedge you may never have heard of: The Vector V8. The story of the Vector is long—raising money to build a prototype took 10 years—and also short, since the car was only produced for four years. The man behind the Vector, Jerry Wiegert, created a supercar before the term was common. A pair of turbochargers pressurize the intake of a 6.0-liter aluminum V-8. Power, according to the video, is 625 horses. While the interior is a little tight, the exterior is commanding and fighter-jet-inspired. Maybe that’s why the interior is so snug?

Driver viper race Vector W8
Petersen Automotive Museum

A race that should be close is anything but: The Viper trounces the Vector in both reaction time and acceleration. Our untrained eye thinks that maybe the Vector hasn’t been tuned up or run hard in a bit; it woke up a little during the roll race and properly held its own when the race distance was extended to a half-mile. The Viper put out a little smoke when launched, so both cars might not be the best racing-prepped examples of their respective breeds; but each is out doing what it was designed to do, and we have a hard time telling anyone not to do that. Especially if we get to watch the results.




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    The guy driving the Vector clearly didn’t launch properly in the first run. Put your foot on the brake, load up the torque converter and run it again!

    I concur with Tony. In addition, not all “super-cars”, as delivered, live up to the expectations created by magazine road tests. Driveability issues often lead to detuning, and life in a museum or collection won’t help, either. I don’t know what kind of transmission was in the Vector, but I’ll bet it is far less sophisticated than the automatics available today.

    The W8 was a fascinating car WAY ahead of its time. It was unprecedented for a first time attempt at building a supercar. Sure, GM parts bins were scavenged for the drivetrain including the FWD auto transmission and Chev V8. The final drive ratio was selected to enable the claimed top speed of 200 mph, so off the line performance suffered.

    Look to Hagerty archives for the whole article, it makes for a fascinating read!

    Should have brake torqued from a launch. That should have helped. The W8 clearly has an inadequate transmission with 3 gears.

    That video is a joke! No wheel spin from either car? Really?! Either both cars are in need of a tuneup or the whole thing is just an insult to anyone who knows anything about cars.

    Its odd that the Vector is that slow. The engine in there is pretty similar to the Sledgehammer (minus all the Lingenfelter R&D) which was the fastest car out there when they built it. It should have put up much more of a fight even with the slush box. On a side note, did anyone else watch the show Viper when it was released to help sell these cars? It was terrible. And I loved it.

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