Dodge Viper

In 1988 Chrysler President Robert Lutz envisioned a sports car with a modern engine, innovative transmission, advanced computer suspension design and exclusive tires. Tom Gale, chief of design, was given a difficult task of building that fantastic vehicle from scratch.

He didn't want a high tech car to show off various gadgets, Dodge Viper was supposed to represent pure power. Francois Castaing, head of Chrysler's Jeep and Truck Engineering division, was called in to share his experiences acquired in Europe.

He worked as technical director of Renault's Formula 1 team and knew very well how racing cars operate. They agreed to put very powerful big gas truck engine into a nice body. President Lutz already owned Cobra model, so he wondered if such a concept could be adapted.

The conclusion was that Chrysler already had all the bits and pieces needed to create such a car. However, they still required assistance from a top notch sports car designer.

Lutz personally contacted the legendary Carroll Shelby and hired him as a performance consultant. He loved the idea and within only 30 minutes they created basic Dodge Viper concept. Dodge Viper was based on V10 engine, which wasn't too easy to obtain in prototype phase. With a touch of luck and a lot of hard work behind a 360 cu in V8 engine was taken and modified on the front two cylinders.

The iconic Viper name was relatively easy choice, since Lutz wanted something snakelike. Python are big and slow, Cobra was already taken and other names weren't all that impressive. Viper had style and power, the same basic characteristics as the new concept. Dodge Viper was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in 1989, making an instant impression on people.

Painted a sensational red color, Viper became an instant wonder. Crowd couldn't take enough photos, daily newspapers published article series on the concept and some people even sent money to Chrysler in an effort to buy the car. A lot of public attention made Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca to announce that the following year, a limited number of Dodge Viper models will be produced.

In 1992 unmarked trucks delivered 196 Vipers to the best dealers all over the United States. Chrysler suggested a total retail price of $55,630. The estimated price held basic costs, destination charge, gas guzzler tax and luxury tax. A tubular steel body with resin transfer molding fiberglass panels was definitely unique for that period. The engine was capable of generating 400 horsepower at 4600 rpm while providing fuel economy features.

Quarter mile tests proved elite performance with 12.6 seconds record time and a top speed of over 150 mph. Even though the large tires provided additional stability, the vehicle was a bit hard to control at high speeds. Spartan look was clearly visible on the interior as well as the exterior.

From the inside Viper had only inflatable lumbar support and adjustable seats. Exterior didn't have side windows, a roof and the exterior door handles. In 1992 demand for Dodge Viper was incredibly strong and dealers raised the estimated price from $100,000 up to $200,000. People wanted the new model so much that they didn't mind to pay huge premiums.

In order to cope with great demand, Chrysler authorized dealers to accept orders on the 3000 Viper models planned for production the following year. The average buyer wasn't elite citizen with deep pockets but rather moderate family men that adored classic American muscle cars. They spent a staggering amount of their income on automobiles and many viewed Dodge Viper as an amazing investment.

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