2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10
10-cyl. 505cid/500hp MFI OHV
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Dodge Viper got its first major restyling in 2003. Penned by Osamu Shikado, the new bodywork eliminated the bulbous, muscular curvature of the original cars in favor of an altogether more angular shape, right down to the vents behind the front wheels. The wheelbase of the Viper stretched by two inches, but the overall length of the car was actually slightly shorter thanks to less overhang from the body. And although it was only available as a convertible, this new Viper was a slightly tamed beast with a practical folding soft top, modern creature comforts and improved ergonomics. The leg-scalding side exhausts remained, however, and the Viper was still a properly savage performance car when you put your foot down. While the earlier Vipers had been designated RT/10 for the roadster and GTS for the coupe, it was now dubbed the Dodge Viper SRT-10.
Since the competition was finally catching up to the once all-conquering V-10 supercar, performance was significantly improved as well. The slightly oversquare 8.3-liter engine now produced a whopping 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. The unit was coupled to a Tremec 6-speed and had a 3.07:1 final drive. 0-60 came in under four seconds and top speed was about 190 mph.
Unfortunately, the Viper encountered a serious threat in the form of the Corvette Z06. Comparisons between these two top shelf American sports cars were inevitable, and despite the Viper’s brute force, many magazines concluded that the Vette was the better all-around car. What’s worse, the Viper cost well over 20 grand more than the Z06, making it a tough sell. A coupe joined the lineup in 2006, but the Viper took the 2007 model year off in preparation for the improved 8.4-liter fourth generation car of 2008.
These 2003-06 cars are probably the most underappreciated in the model’s history. Despite better performance, they lacked the grace of the old GTS and the bare bones charm of the original RT/10, and came at a time when Corvette seriously upped the ante with the Z06. As with other Vipers, though, it’s a heck of a lot of car for the money and one that’s sure to get constant thumbs up and people whipping out their phones for a photo. As always with cars that are fast and affordable, the best cars will come from long-term, older owners who drove sparingly and carefully. Lots of these were driven hard and plenty have been in an accident at some point, so it pays to do the research.