by Patrick Rall
On Friday, after the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR was introduced, we toured the plant that has been responsible for building the vast majority of recent Vipers, including every fifth generation car. Today, we bring you a look at the production line for the Dodge Viper, where it begins with a bare steel chassis and ends up as one of the most powerful American production cars of all time.
Before we get into the images, a few things about the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant where the Dodge Viper is built. The Viper is hand-built from the frame up, and the few robots either provide detailed measurements or move the chassis around. Every Viper is painstakingly assembled piece by piece through a series of stations on a single production line, including one area where every single Viper built is test-driven on a set of rollers. The video below shows this process in action, with the car hitting around 90 miles per hour on the rollers.
The Dodge Viper is assembled in one of the most labor intensive methods I've seen, with remarkable craftsmanship that is double-checked by robots, which brings a fairly low production rate. The Conner Avenue plant produces around three cars per day, so while I got to see a car hitting the assembly line as a bare chassis and I got to see a new Viper roll off of the assembly line for the first time, we didn’t get to see a car go from beginning to end, as that would have required us to be there for hours.
What we did get to see was each of the major stations where the new Dodge Viper is assembled by hand. As each chassis moves from station to station, it receives different components beginning with the interior and chassis components on one end of the line and ending up with body panels being installed on the other end of the line. After each car is completed, it goes through an intense water pressure test, followed by an interior noise check and finally, an area where a series of robotic arms measure all of the body gaps to ensure that they are all within the required specifications. After that process is complete, the cars are pulled into an area where they are prepped for shipping and through the process, cars are randomly chosen to be gone over with a fine tooth comb to check for any sort of imperfections missed during production.
Now, we will take you through each major process along the assembly line of the Dodge Viper. We start with a bare Viper chassis, waiting to move to the assembly line.
The first step of the Viper build process: a series of robotic arms measure every dimension of the chassis, marking with the other chassis components will be added to ensure perfect lateral alignment.
The dash assembly of a Dodge Viper waiting to be installed once the measuring process above is complete.
A Viper chassis with the measuring process and dash assembly installation complete. From here, the chassis hits the beginning of the actual assembly line.
A collection of new Viper rear differential housings prepared for installation.
A Viper chassis with the rear differential, the brake lines, the fuel lines and much of the wiring installed.
Three new 8.4L Viper V10 engines ready for installation.
Some six-speed Tremec transmissions, ready for installation. These are also used in the Challenger Hellcat, which is capable of some 707 horsepower.
After the engine and transmission are installed, the next step is adding the suspension components and the brakes. At this point, all of the wiring for the drivetrain has been installed, as has the fuel tank.
After the brakes and suspension components have been installed along with the steering components, the chassis is fully assembled and ready for the wheels, but only after a detailed alignment has been performed on this massive machine.
After the alignment has been adjusted, each new Viper gets the proper wheels, assigned before the production process began.
However, before each new Viper gets to park and wait for the second portion of assembly to begin, it is pulled into this roller room, where a worker drives each and every car for the first time in this closed environment. During this process (as shown in the video above), the driver can check to make sure that the engine runs and accelerates properly, that the clutch and transmission work properly, that the steering system works and that the brakes will slow the car down.
After that fairly intensive testing, each Viper is pulled into a staging area where they wait to head into the second portion of the production line.
After resting for a bit off to the side of the line, each new Viper heads into the second half of the assembly line, the team continues the build by installing the trunk portion of the car along with the structure that goes around it.
The new Viper then gets the support bar that runs under the roof of the sleek supercar.
The seats are added, making the interior nearly complete, so the Viper moves down the line to where the body will be fitted up.
A roof of a black Viper prepares to be installed.
Several rear hatches prepared for installation.
A Competition Blue Viper with the quarter panels, the roof, the rear fascia and the rear hatch installed.
With the hood and hatch installed, this red Viper gets interior and trunk trim pieces.
The hood goes on this Competition Blue Viper SRT.
A Yorange Viper with its front end fully installed, ready to roll off of the assembly line.
A dark blue 2016 Viper ACR on a lift for inspection.
A Competition Blue Viper on a machine that rattles the car through the suspension. The “driver” checks for any squeaks or rattles inside while the raised section of the floor jolt the car in various intervals.
A series of robotic arms equipped with laser measuring tools scan the entire body of every new Viper to make sure that the body gaps are all correct. After this, the car is officially complete. During the course of normal production, random cars are removed and inspected thoroughly as part of the quality control process while others head into a final prep area.
Vipers are painted by hand, with 145 to 160 man-hours taken to prepare and paint the body panels, and eight hours to apply the exterior paint. After paint and clear coat, every Viper body panel is sanded smooth by hand with 1,000 grit paper and polished to a near mirror finish. To create the new matte finish, each body panel is also sanded for a second time before the matte clear paint is applied. Stripes are also painted, before the clear or matte coats.
Five new Vipers sit in the final inspection/shipping prep area.
Some of these photos have been adjusted for color.
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