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