The second-generation Dodge Viper might be peak Viper

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Benjamin Hunting

There is a certain type of person who is skeptical of the first generation of any car. If that’s you, count yourself in good company with Jay Leno. Case in point: his Dodge Vipers. He enjoys his first-generation car and is happy he bought it, but it is the second-generation car that really gets his oil flowing.

There are a couple good reasons why. Mainly, that the Viper coupe is, well, a coupe. The leak-free roof is a welcome feature to those more used to the “toupée” of the first-generation Viper. There is also an additional 50 hp under the hood, but it’s actually the air conditioning compressor under the hood that most appeals to Jay.

The story of the Viper is almost as crazy as the car itself. It took a pairing like Lee Iacocca and Carroll Shelby to bring something so wild to the market, and the minimal changes between the concept car and the final product that arrived at dealer showrooms was stunning. It’s a supercar whose raw aggression and purity isn’t likely to ever be duplicated.

As Jay points out while shifting the six-speed manual, the Viper has run its course, and he chalks that decision up to the performance value of the Chevrolet Corvette. However, if the V-10 emits a siren song from its side pipes to you, the second-generation Vipers are still quite reasonable to purchase and useable to drive. Sure, you can do burnouts and wag the tail all over town, but it can also be civil—provided you have the self control to not let all 450 ponies march at every chance.

Most of us will have to settle for living vicariously through Jay as he motors through the streets of California with the A/C blowing cold and exhaust thrumming loud. The perfect combination for a car with just the right amount of wild.

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