The cars we loved.
The Viper has always represented raw American power without the daintiness of stability control, navigation systems or even cup holders. If you wanted a plush American sports car, you’d get a Corvette or that new Cadillac coupe thing. The Viper was for real drivers who actually enjoyed shifting gears manually and hearing the sound of an engine over loud music.
Not much has changed in the Viper formula since it first public glimpse at the Detroit Auto show in 1989. It created a sensation with automotive enthusiasts everywhere when it finally went on sale in 1992. Dodge has reclaimed part of its performance heritage with a single car that still influences current Dodge cars via its cross-hair grill design.
The original car was a brutish roadster with over 400 hp coming from an 8.0 liter engine that was inspired by Lamborghini (Chrysler owned Lamborghini at one point). Viper engines are actually built by a company called IImor in the Viper factory in Detroit. IImor builds boat engines in much the way Mercury was contracted to supply Corvette ZR1 engines in the 90’s. A popular coupe followed in 1996 and sales have been good every sense. In 2002 when the last of the first edition Viper was sold, a special final edition was made available that featured a special red/white stripe combination from ALMS series race cars. Mostly the popular coupe version was sold as a FE, but 34 ACR roadsters managed to wear the Final Edition badge, making them instantly collectables for MOPAR fanatics.
When the new Viper rolled into showrooms in 2003, it was heralded by the press as being more civilized than the first car, but still exhibiting the traits that made the previous cars so fun to drive. Now with 500 hp coming from an 8.3 liter V8, the Viper was a raw and unbridled as ever. The new car came only as a roadster, but due to customer demand, the popular coupe configuration was brought back in 2006. By now the Viper had proven itself as an American supercar, even if it sometimes seems to lack the respect given to the Corvette or even higher performance versions of the lowly Mustang.
Recent speculation about the end of the Viper as late as 2009 centered on Chrysler’s bankruptcy and the prospects of spinning off the Viper brand in a worst case scenario. Fortunately for the Viper, its prospects seemed to have improved in the post bankruptcy environment at Chrysler. New Viper friendly management at Dodge seems determined to continue the Viper even as they prepare to market a second generation Final Edition.
The Final Edition or “Last Viper” as its called was essentially a greatest hits mix of various technical and performance features from special edition cars of recent model years. First off the last 50 cars were all grey with black tops, harking back to the old Eagle Talon look, while sporting badges proclaiming final edition status. The FE cars also feature the new Dodge logo with two stripes – in the case of the Viper signifying it status as the second generation car. More importantly to performance fans, the V10 engine, now at 600+ hp will continue to make the Viper a blur to most traffic. New super light anthracite wheels and an aggressive slotted vent hood from the 2008-10 ACR model will further distinguish the FE from run of the mill Vipers. Whatever the factory sticker might have been, consider it doubled, as these cars were mostly already spoken for. Any that were not pre-ordered were no doubt inflated by typically greedy dealers, especially at Dodge where there is little to be excited about untill new models roll off the line in a year or so.
Finally, Dodge gave special attention to the interior by polishing up the dull black surfaces from before and adding visible stainless steel screws to the dash. The effect manages to be somewhat upscale and more race car like at the same time. As with all Vipers, there are no cup holders in sight (not an option) and the supportive leather seats are red stitched for a distinctive race car feel. In some ways the 2010 FE really does feel like the last Viper. It will be some time before a new Viper appears as Dodge is readying development of the next generation car to be built on a stretch platform co-developed with Mercedes-Benz for its SLS AMG back when they owned Chrysler. The new car is expected to use the current engine, but with direct injection making upwards to 700 hp. By the time the next Viper reaches Dodge showrooms in 2013, the Dodge lineup should have gone through a dramatic transformation, giving MOPAR fans something to finally look forward to.