Hardly any production sports car of the past 40 years was so martial, so natural and so shamelessly American as the Viper, which has been sold under the two brands Chrysler and Dodge since the early 1990s. The spectacular US athlete is slowly becoming a sought-after classic.
Is there a more American sports car than the legendary Corvette or the Ford Mustang that has impressed us for decades? Both have unique histories and fan bases that couldn’t be more American. But no US athlete is as frightening as the Dodge Viper. Not a car for boys or even women, but for supposedly tough guys who have western boots and jeans in their closet. Let’s go wild! At the end of the 1980s, hardly anyone thought that the Viper RT/10 Concept study could ever become a reality on public roads – especially in Europe. The beefy sports car design with piercing slanting eyes was simply unique and the drive concept with the powerful V10 naturally aspirated engine was in no way inferior to its appearance. A racing car for the road, which was rightly named Viper, because this Viper scared a lot even when stationary. A car that, in addition to its never-ending bonnet, consisted of little more than a V10 engine, steering wheel, a gigantic exhaust system and two only moderately comfortable seats that felt like they were attached to the rear axle.
No wonder that the Viper, especially in its first generation, drove like the naked ride on a cannonball must feel. ABS, ESP or traction control? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that! The production model from 1992 then looked hardly different from the study from 1989 – the new American muscle car was born and put everything that had gone before in the shade. The contrast to the Japanese limousines from Toyota, Mazda or Nissan that were invading the United States from the mid-1980s could hardly be greater. As a GTS Coupé, it made the leap onto international racetracks, became an Indy pace car and was used in some GT racing series, where there was usually no competition, because hardly any other bolide had that much power. Due to the tubular steel construction with glass fiber reinforced plastic, the body was comparatively easy to renew and sharpen, especially for racing and any external contacts.
Always stronger – always faster
Over the years, the brute Dodge Viper, which was sometimes offered in Europe as the Chrysler Viper RT/10, became ever stronger and faster. From the initial 290 kW / 394 hp, the eight-litre, ten-cylinder engine first developed 420 and then up to 456 hp as a brute monster. The top speed has increased over the years from almost 270 to almost 300 km/h. It always takes courage to race the American Thunderbird over freeways or even racetracks. Mandatory remained thanks to the shameless V10 engine, the roaring sound and a bony six-speed manual transmission on the almost indecently wide center tunnel. The Targa or Roadster version is easy to drive with the roof down. After all these years, the cap construction itself is usually anything but tight on used cars and mutates into a fun brake at higher speeds. You can open the roof right away and let yourself be blow-dried.
For many fans, only the first generation Viper, produced at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant from 1992 to 1998, is the real Viper. On the other hand, the raging snake made a huge leap from 2003 in the second edition, in which the quality was significantly improved, the driving behavior became easier to calculate and the engine power increased to 372 kW / 506 hp and an enormous 711 Nm thanks to the increase in displacement to 8.3 liters. The open roadster variant managed a top speed of almost 310 km/h despite the tight fabric hat; the GTS coupé version only offered in the USA with its 8.4 liter V10 engine later even reached over 320 km/h thanks to 612 hp. The third generation of the Viper SRT, available from the beginning of 2013, has no market relevance in Europe.
Whichever variant it is – the propulsion of the V-10 unit is brutal. Omnipotent, the Dodge pushes its maximum of two occupants into the seats and the facial features seem to slip away when accelerating. The speed cannot only be measured by passing cars, flowers or rows of houses. Once the engine revs over the 3,500 rpm mark, you can hardly understand his word in the roadster. You can safely turn off the sound system. Powerful explosions under the hood push the 1.6 ton Viper relentlessly forward. The ill-fitting convertible roof whistles annoyingly in the background, even with the second Viper generation.
The supply on the European used car market has been extremely thin for years. Most of the vehicles on offer are the Dodge Viper II, available from 2003, which starts at around 50,000 euros with manageable mileages of well under 60,000 km in some cases. Some models were imported from the US or painfully tuned. Especially here you should be careful when looking for your own dream car. In the USA, models are available from around 35,000 euros – plus the corresponding customs, transport and conversion costs. The supply of parts is better than many thought – the US exchanges deliver most parts without any problems and maintenance is hardly more expensive than with mass athletes such as the Corvette or Ford Mustang. The GTS coupe versions of the Viper are particularly popular across Europe, costing over 75,000 euros depending on the mileage, condition and engine. Anyone who is a fan of US cars, loves a roaring sound and wants to attract attention at all costs has come to the right place with the Chrysler / Dodge Viper.