Detroit’s Conner Avenue plant (oddly enough, located on Conner Street) has been used for small-scale specialty production since 1996, producing the Dodge Viper from that time and the Plymouth Prowler from 1997-2002 (during part of that time, it was badged as a Chrysler).
In 1955, Chrysler bought the factory, which had been opened in 1966 to make Champion spark plugs, to move Dodge Viper production from New Mack and to start Plymouth Prowler assembly there. The Prowler started production in May 1997.
The exterior photos were taking by Carolyn Allmacher; the large interior photo is from Chrysler and the small ones are from Brian K. Richardson.
In October 24, 2007, Dodge issued the following:
Workers hand-build the new Dodge Viper SRT10 and its 600-horsepower V-10 engine. Using 26 work stations on a 705-foot-long assembly line, 48 hand-picked UAW workers (with over 300 hours of training each) assemble each vehicle [in 2005, there were 144 total workers in the plant including engine assemblers]; the Vipers remain stationary for up to 49 minutes per work area as the craft people make adjustments. This eliminates traditional repair stations.
Each Dodge Viper is primarily made of seven component modules (instrument panel, fuel tank, suspension corner modules, wheels and tires, cooling module, lift gate assembly and full dressed engine). Except for the engine, all modules are shipped to the Conner facility from other locations. Stamping, casting and welding all take place off-site with body panels arriving already painted.
Originally, the Viper was made of around 50 component modules shipped from locations throughout North America. Stamping, casting, painting and welding still took place off-site, and body panels arrived already painted. Complete instrument panels were supplied with the gauges tested and set in place. Engines were, until May 2001, built and tested at the Mound Road engine plant.
In a process normally performed only on race cars, an alignment machine sets caster and camber at normal ride height, and then at jounce and at rebound (upward and downward travel of suspension). The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 is the only U.S. production vehicle set up for such alignment at the factory; it uses a machine that aligns all four wheels off their wheel hubs, moving them up and down in their suspension travel and setting alignment in three different positions.
The V-10 engine is built next to the vehicle on a 24-station circular line by nine workers who assemble and certify each engine before they are installed in the chassis.
Each Dodge Viper is tested in place on the assembly line using rollers. At this stage the vehicle is a rolling chassis without its body panels. During this “roll test” it is (and has been, from the start) driven through all six speeds of the transmission, up to (a simulated) 90 mph.
The following Viper and Prowler photos were provided by Brian K. Richardson and are used by permission. They were taken in January 2002.
The future of the plant is unknown, as Viper production ends.
More Viper production information | Dodge Viper | Plymouth Prowler
How Dodge Vipers are built • Plastic and resin body parts • Conner Avenue Plant • 2013 Viper Event
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