2021 Dodge Viper Concept – Throughout its 25 years and 5 generations, Dodge Viper was faithful to its traditional recipe: naturally aspirated V10, manual transmission, and front engine, rear drive layout. The old school atmosphere was part of the attraction-as other performance cars became softer and more civic, the viper remained raw. It was brave and American and the fans loved it.
2021 Dodge Viper Concept
Imagine my surprise when Tom Taylor in Haigaty released an article explaining in the mid-1990s that Dodge started a side project to investigate the possibility of building a mid-engine viper. please look.
It’s a familiar story of dying the viper fans and people who worked at Dodge at the time. But outside those circles, it’s a bit of little-known viper tradition. As Taylor points out, the still-birth mid-engine viper has an amazing relationship with another mid-engine American performance car, the Ford GT. You should definitely read his work explaining the connection.
I wondered something a little different: why did Dodge not pursue further mid-engine viper? This is a particularly relevant question given the state of American performance cars today. Ford created a two-generation mid-engine supercar in the 21st century. The long-awaited mid-engine corvette is imminent. If something was different, could Dodge beat both punches?
Road and track rendering of what the mid-engine viper looked like, based on a prototype photo built by Dodge in the mid-90s, shown above.
You can easily see how the mid-engine viper idea started. Look at the team that brought Viper to production. Lee Iacocca was Chrysler’s chairman. Bob Lutz was president. Tom Gail, the man who penned the roller and Chrysler revolutionary cab forward car, was the head of the design. Chris Theodore, who later led the 2005 Ford GT, was the general manager. Vice President Francois Custering joined AMC and then worked as a race car engineer in France before joining Chrysler. Roy Shoberg, who was once involved in Zola Arks Dantov’s experimental mid-engine corvette, was a chief engineer.
Car guys all of them as well as dozens of people they recruited for the viper team. So it’s no surprise somewhere around 1996 some of them started playing around with the idea of a mid-engine viper.
The mid-engine project was actually proposed twice. The first was around the second-generation viper debut, an update that brought a roll-down window to the Roadster and introduced the GTS Coupe. The second time was a little after 1998, when work was about to start in the third generation of a sports car.
The proposal got along well enough for the team to build a full-fledged mockup along with several interior models. We studied the packaging and layout of key components such as engines, gearboxes, dashboards, driver seats, and passenger seats, and made preliminary cracks in styling.
So what has prevented the idea from going any further? “Comment: Investment,” Roy Shoberg told me. “You are always in trouble, with Ford GT, Corvette and Viper, you are fighting mainstream [vehicle program] for investment dollars, and mainstream doesn’t like it, they are better minivans and I think I will make more money by doing Camaro and Mustang.
In particular, many people I spoke of pointed out one potential cost of killing the mid-engine viper: gearbox. Two drivetrain layouts were proposed. Some sources told me that an entirely new transaxle would be needed to install in the back of the engine, said it could cost tens of millions of dollars to produce. Similar to the day’s Lamborghini drivetrain, another setup uses a standard viper drivetrain, rotates 180 degrees so that the transmission is facing forward, and sends power to the rear axle via the jackshaft . Neither was investigated much further than some mockups.
But there was another reason why some people on the Viper team hated the idea of a mid-engine: tradition.
“I was dead for all of this,” Herb Herbig told me. “I am an American hot rod guy and I thought this was not the right relationship with our icon. I was very vocal about it.
Herbich served as senior manager of vehicle synthesis at Viper, from model debut to retirement from Chrysler in 2008. He is deeply involved in the enthusiast community and his work to keep the viper raw and bare throughout his career has earned his nickname: Grarailkeeper.
“My side of the fence is absolutely against the viper,” Herbig explained his stance on the mid-engine proposal at the time. “If you want to make a mid-engine sports car, don’t call it a viper, because the viper is a front-drive rear drive car. The 90’s cobra last time they checked, they didn’t make a mid-engine cobra .
And according to Herbig, some of the viper fans at the time felt the same way. “Somewhere along the track, a word leaked that there might be a mid-engine car in the work, and Viper Nation is not very excited about the mid-engine car, as I remember “Herbich told me. The devotee loved the viper’s bravery and American character. A mid-engine variant, Herbig said that he felt too European.
So he reassured when the engineering and financial challenges of the project led Chrysler’s top brass and abandoned the idea. “I don’t want to say if everyone notices, but when I looked at the whole picture, I was told that this was probably not the right thing,” Herbig said to me. “I was lucky because I just sat down and got my way without doing a lot of things. Like something that died because of an investment. I stood up on the table and flew around At first I didn’t have to start screaming as I was messing with my hot rod.
In preparation for this article, I spoke with many people involved in the Viper program throughout the history of the car. Some asked me not to be quoted, others introduced me to my colleagues. But all the individuals I contacted described this small group in Chrysler as the best mind collection in business.
Hellbig struck that emotion. “One of the great things about our team was that I was able to convey my thoughts to senior management without fear of what I said, and I was not the only person.” He told me. “We had respect and understanding at the highest level of the company. I could call Bob Lutz and say this is not right, this was wrong for our car Please leave me as the man who said that.
I asked Herbig if he changed his opinion on the mid-engine viper proposal at mid-engine Corvette on the way. I said that if each of the Big Three had a mid-engine supercar on the market, it would be pretty amazing.
“I’m glad they made a mid-engine corvette,” he told me. And we don’t regret for a minute that we didn’t build a mid-engine car.