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Viper production ramps up at Conner Ave. plant

by Bill Cawthon on


Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and SRT Brand CEO Ralph Gilles joined employees of the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in presenting the first 2013 SRT Viper to Scott Thomas, a Viper enthusiast from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of Viper production.

Thomas bid $300,000 for the rights to the first production Viper at the Barrett-Jackson Orange County, California, Auction last June. The proceeds of the auction went to the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer.

As part of the celebration, the Viper team dedicated the final line to former Chrysler Group Senior Vice President Dan Knott, who succumbed to cancer last year. The team unveiled a plaque with the quote, “Today, we are a real car company again.” Knott, who served as Vice President of the SRT Product Team and was instrumental in the development of past generations of the Viper, made the statement on August 22, 2010, the day the 2013 Viper program was approved.


Idled in July 2010, the Conner Avenue plant came back to life with the refurbishing of the entire 400,000 square-foot facility. While it is a state-of-the-art art assembly plant, It maintains the handcrafted build process that have been a part of every Viper since 1992. Nearly 150 specially-selected employees meticulously assemble just 12 vehicles a day.

“With no plans for the future, Conner Avenue was on life support when it closed in the summer of 2010,” said Doug Gouin, Head of Viper Operations. “Now, with a transfusion of passion, determination, World Class Manufacturing and an all-new vehicle, the plant has been revived. You can feel the energy and excitement about what is happening inside when you walk through the door.”

Although today’s delivery marks the official re-opening of the plant, production actually began on December 5, 2012. The advance work ensured that Thomas’ new car will be everything he expects from a Viper.

Regular shipments to customers will begin next month.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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