by Patrick Rall
Within the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant is a collection of historically significant Dodge Viper road, concept, and racing cars from the original 1989 Dodge Viper Concept to the dark metallic red 2013 model that introduced the world to the fifth generation SRT Viper. As part of my tour of the Conner Avenue plant, following the introduction of the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR, I was able to check out these important Vipers from the past 26 years.
The museum area of the Dodge Viper museum has 13 cars, all of which are spread along one well-lit wall of the plant, with the walls behind the historic Vipers covered with hoods from different generation Vipers that have been signed by the folks responsible for building the cars. Due to the width of the museum area, it was hard to get a shot of all of the cars at once, but the image at the top of this piece shows the view of standing in the middle looking to the left, while the image below this sentence has the view of standing in the middle looking right.
What you cannot see in these two pictures are the two Vipers parked in the middle, which are lined up side by side, both parallel to the back wall, while the rest of the cars are angled off of the wall. The two cars in the middle were the original 1989 Dodge Viper concept car and the 2013 SRT Viper GTS debut car – both of which we will start on before heading to the end of the line to check out the rest of the Vipers.
This was the very first Dodge Viper that the world ever saw. This car was developed and built in 1988 before making its grand debut at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show. From there, this car graced the cover of every automotive magazine in the world (within reason) and served as the key show car until the production Dodge Viper debuted in 1991.
When the fifth generation Viper was introduced by Ralph Gilles at the New York Auto Show, this was the car that rolled across the stage as flashbulbs went off all around the Javits’ Center floor. This was the first of the fifth generation Vipers, and the first ever to not wear the Dodge name — officially, it was an SRT in its first years.
This #91 Dodge Viper GTS-R race car stormed onto the endurance racing scene like no other car in modern history. The then-new Viper race car was the overall winner of the 2000 Rolex 24 in Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring en route to an American LeMans Series championship.
This car was also shown at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, as shown below, with the trophy; one docent said that they had a hard time convincing the cleaning people to not wash off the dirt, left on the car during the historic race. Below is a photo fo the car as it appeared in the museum.
In the late 1990s, Herb Helbig was the lead development engineer of the Dodge Viper and he wanted to use the Mopar supercar to take a shot at some land speed records. To do this, the team built the #488 Viper GTS Coupe shown below in blue. This beast was created by taking a 1998 Viper coupe, removing unneeded weight, adding safety items like a roll cage and swapping out the standard V10 engine for a mill from the Viper GTS-R race car. As Helbig expected, this high performance Viper was a monster on the high speed course, setting the A/GT standing mile record with a time of 193.966 miles per hour. That record was set back in September of 1998 and it still stands today.
The Dodge Stealth was supposed to be the official pace car of the 1991 Indy 500, but when officials learned that the Stealth was really just a rebadged Mitsubishi that was built in Japan, they told Chrysler that they wanted a different pace car – something made in the USA. The Chrysler Corporation responded by showing up with the brand new production version of the 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10. This car introduced the world to the production version of the first generation Viper.
When the third generation Dodge Viper SRT10 was introduced for the 2003 model year, it was only available as a roadster. However, Chrysler Corporation wanted to show what the new Viper SRT10 would look like as a coupe, and the result of those goals was the Viper SRT10 Carbon. In addition to the carbon fiber fixed roof, this SEMA Show concept car had a unique carbon fiber hood that fed ten individual throttle bodies, a setup which allowed this Viper to make 625 horsepower. This Viper concept led to the Viper SRT10 coupe, while the carbon fiber roof technology would end up being used on the 2013 SRT Viper.
One Lap of America is a racing series where the vehicles entered are expected to drive some 5,000 miles to 12 different racing venues where they race head to head on the same tires that they used on the street. This 2000 Dodge Viper GTS competed in and won the overall championship of One Lap of America racing series in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
After the incredible success of the Dodge Viper RT/10 Roadster in 1992 through 1994, Dodge wanted to come up with a hardtop version of their stunning supercar. The 1995 Viper GTS Coupe Concept was the answer and this car would lead to the production GTS Coupe in 1996, which was very similar to the concept except for the unique pillar seems and the door handles of the for-sale models.
After the original Dodge Viper RT/10 was introduced at the front of the Indy 500 field in 1991, the Chrysler Group used the same venue to show off the new Viper GTS Coupe at the 1996 Indy 500. This new Viper, with 415 horsepower, 488lb-ft of torque and a fixed roof was the first hardtop Viper to meet the world.
During the 2nd generation of the Viper, the GTS-R was proving to be a real monster in the racing world, but Chrysler wanted to offer up an even more extreme racing Viper. The result was the lean and low Viper Competition Coupe, which eventually became a popular option for race teams around the world. More importantly, the exterior of the Competition Coupe Concept was an early step towards the design of the 3rd generation (SRT10) Vipers.
This isn’t an actual Dodge Viper GTS-R race car from the championship Team Oreca campaign, but instead, it is an exact replica of the car we looked at above – only without the damage done to the actual race car while in action.
This 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 was one of the first supercars built for the 1992 model year. It is similar to the 1991 Indy 500 Pace Car, except where that was a preproduction model, this black Viper is a normal production model from the first batch of roadsters built.
While the red #91 Viper GTS-R we talked about earlier dominated the American endurance racing world in 2000, Team Oreca had been controlling the European endurance world for three years before attacking the American series. This #53 Viper GTS-R helped Team Oreca win the FIA GT2 championship in 1997, 1998 and 1999 while also driving to victory in the 1998 24 Hours of LeMans race.
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