2022 Dodge Viper Redesign – We all grow up with the car we posted on our bedroom walls. For many my age it was a Nissan Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra, or McLaren F1. For me, it was dodge viper. Specifically, a low-res printing of 2000’s Dodge Viper GTS-R concept. With its average new mug, Charger Daytona-like wing, and Le Mans-inspired manual work, it was the preview for what would become the third-generation Viper coupe. It was a cool car.
2022 Dodge Viper Redesign
With our new long-term mid-engine C8 2020 Chevrolet Corvette set to arrive in the coming months, I got to think about what the future might have been for viper if it hadn’t stopped by the end of 2017. So I did what any car enthusiast with newfound time on his hands would do-jumped on the phone with MotorTrend Car and SUV of the Year judges Tom Gale and Chris Theodore.
Gale and Theodore are among the godfathers in the original Viper program. Theodore was the head of Jeep/Truck engine technology when the Viper program started in the late 80s (and is now the author of The Last Shelby Cobra, My Times with Carroll Shelby). Gale was vice president of design; His pen is the one responsible for his menacing mug, classic proportions and clean lines. Both men are too modest to admit it, but it’s a reasonable bet that without them and the teams they worked with, there would be no Viper as we know it today.
Viper origin and the history of SR I / SR II
When the very first Dodge Viper RT from 1992 went on sale to the public in January 1992, it could not outwardly have been an easier car. The front-engine, rear-drive roadster had an 8.0-liter V-10 producing 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, a six-speed manual transmission, two doors, a windshield, and not much else. But getting from idea to production was anything but easy. We covered the origins of the Viper concept largely back in this MotorTrend Classic piece, but the Viper story really only really started after its 1989 Detroit auto show debut.
First there was the issue of sourcing that V-10 engine, chosen, according to both Gale and Theodore, for several reasons. Theodore points out that “there is no good technical reason for a V-10,” but one was available internally- an iron-block 8.0-liter unit designed for Ram heavy duty pickup trucks. Chrysler at the time also had the know-how to transform the heavy truck engine into a lightweight, aluminum-block mill by virtue of owning the Lamborghini. Then-Chrysler President Bob Lutz also really wanted a V-10 engine in the Viper, as did Gale. “We really want a V-10 car because we want something that had a heroic share. We wanted something that was unique – different. I just wouldn’t want anything that was in the picture of what someone else was doing, because you’re going to come into that market and you’re just going to look like everyone else, so why bother?,” he said.
However, not everyone was on the V-10 idea, namely Carroll Shelby, who was included in an advisory ability to give legitimacy to the idea that viper was Shelby Cobra in the 90s. “Carroll wanted this ultralight car,”” Said Theodore. “I think he didn’t realize how difficult it was with all the safety regulations that had come in to play and everything else, to build an ultralight car.”
“So to keep him happy, I built a V-8 model,” said Gale. “It looks exactly like a Viper except it’s about 90 percent the size of the V-10 car. But it was designed around a V-8 package, so it was narrower, a little shorter, and it had a conventional windshield instead of a windshield that flowed into the mirrors, as the concept of the car had.”
“It didn’t look quite right, frankly, on 9/10ths, because it got narrowed up and lost the toughness of the original,” said Theodore.
With Shelby placated by the occasional V-8 Viper and Lutz dogged on the V-10, the team is forged forward.
The end result was well received. “Brutally fast,” we wrote about the inaugural Viper RT/10 in our February 1992 issue, in which it hit a Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1. “The Viper is an outstanding performance bargain and vastly surpasses the ZR-1 in voltage per mile.”
With the Viper RT/10 quickly winning over the hearts and minds of journos and enthusiasts, despite (or perhaps because of) its rawness, Gale and his team took the initiative and got to work on building a coupe version of the Viper. “We wanted something that had a lasting and kind of classic feel to it,” he said. Inspired by the Shelby Daytona Coupe and Ferrari GTO, what would be the Dodge Viper GTS debuted at the 1993 Los Angeles Auto Show.
When it went on sale in 1996, the Dodge Viper GTS ended up being more than just a bubble-topped Viper RT/10. Considered the second generation of Viper, or SR II (think of SR I and SR II Vipers like the 991 and 991.2 Porsche 911s), Viper GTS and RT/10 got more of pretty much all-more power, better performance, more safety features, and yes, more amenities. They came in the form of power windows for both the new coupe and RT/10. Moving the heavy (but Cobra-throwback), Nomex-wrapped side exit exhaust pipe on the back, dodge could lose weight and find horsepower. The Viper RT/10 saw horsepower increase to 415 and torque to 488 lb-ft, while Dodge found even more power for the Viper GTS, which made 450 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque. Both versions of the Viper benefited from a stiffer chassis and more liberal use of aluminum in the car’s suspension.
“Bigger and badder-than life. Few legends really live up to their pressure. Dodge Viper GTS, on the other hand, exceeds the exaggeration that engulfs it,” we wrote in May 1997. “This, the “civilized” version of the famous Viper RT/10 roadster, has modern amenities such as actual door handles, roll-up windows, and a daily driving demeanor within the limits of conventionalness. But dip deep into the jam-packed reservoir of torque under gts’s giant hood, and “civility” will be the last thing on your mind.”
Proving it could live up to the legend of its press, the Viper GTS-R race car would go on to win its class in 24 hours of Le Mans in 1998, 1999 and 2000, with friend of MotorTrend Justin Bell among the drivers behind the wheel of ’98.
The successful Le Mans campaign, not to mention the faecal FASeries and the American Le Mans series, and wins on the 24-hour races at Daytona, The Nürburgring and Spa, spurred the creation of the fist Viper ACR. Short for “American Club Racer,” Viper ACR was designed for owners who wanted to capture the essence of the Viper GTS-R race car in street-legal, track-ready form. ACR got a smaller power boost to 460 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque and, more importantly, an adjustable competition suspension, 18-inch BBS wheels shod with stickier rubber, a five-point harness, and a weight-saving regimen, among others.
Around this time, Dodge also built 100 Viper GT2s as street cars (which, confusingly, were badged “Viper GTS-R” like a race car), in white with blue stripes, and complete with diving planes and a massive rear spoiler as a homologation special for their FIA efforts.
When Viper won at Le Mans and ACRs were on the streets, Gale, who was ready to retire from Chrysler, and his team set to work on designing the next-generation car.
Viper Del Deux: ZB I/ZB II
Although a transition to a mid-mounted powertrain was briefly considered by Theodore and his team, what would be the third-generation (ZB I) Viper in 2003 stuck with SR’s front engine, rear-drive platform. First debuting at the 2000 Detroit Auto Show, the Viper GTS-R concept was a preview of things to come.
“We just put all the love in that car,” said Gale. Clearly inspired by viper race cars, the GTS-R concept featured a low, chopped roof, aero-friendly Coke bottle curves, and new angular fascia signaling the things to come. “The car, just from all the small pieces, the hair pins on the center lock wheel, the small adjustable trunk splitter pieces … just about everything that was so tastefully done. “That car was a precursor to what we were going to do with the next generation car,” gale said.
“We wanted to get a more refined car with a real convertible top and windows that went up and down,” Theodore said of the redesign. Despite missing spoilers, dive planes and roofs of the concept, the roadster-only 2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 faithfully captured the essence of both the concept and the original Viper RT/10. It stretched slightly, solidified and got a power upgrade. The Viper’s reliable V-10 grew to 8.3 liters and a corresponding output boost to match, now making 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque, still pulled through a six-speed manual transmission to wider rear rubber.
Just before the ZB I Viper went on sale, both Gale and Theodore would depart what was then DaimlerChrysler. Gale would retire as executive VP of product development and design, while Theodore left as senior VP of platform technology. He would move on to Ford to make the eternal dream of a mid-engine American supercar come true with the 2005 Ford GT.
Although Gale and Theodore resigned what had become Team Viper, soldiering the car on in good hands without them.
The Viper SRT-10 Coupe, which featured the old Viper GTS now signature double-bubble roof, returned to the lineup in 2006. Like the SR II Vipers, the new Viper Coupe received a unique taillight and tire lid treatment as well, the latter helping to make it more aerodynamic than the convertible. DaimlerChrysler would stop building the 2006 Viper by the end of 2007, skipping the model year.
Those waiting for the 2008 Viper SRT-10 coupe and convertible were rewarded with a new, freer breathing 8.4-liter V-10 (thanks to some consulting work done by McLaren and Riccardo). The new V-10 made the 600 hp and 560 lb-ft twist and was paired into a new six-speed manual transmission and a reinforced up rear axle with a new limited slip differential. Minor cosmetic and color changes rounded out the new package.
The new Viper production cycle would be short-lived, ending in 2010, largely due to the Great Recession. Despite this, it went out with a bang in the form of Viper SRT-10 ACR. This street-legal but track-focused Viper variant (not to be confused with track-only ACR-X), featured an adjustable suspension on all four corners, an upgraded stabilizer bar on the front, competition-spec tires, and, most importantly, front and rear spoilers and carbon fiber dive planes, which together to give the Viper ACR a reported 1,000 pounds of downforce at 150 mph.
Return: Viper VX
When SRT (born Dodge) Viper came back in 2013, then-SRT chief and legendary designer Ralph Gilles told us, “We had the privilege of designing Viper-not right.” According to the man who wrote the original, Gilles more than did Viper justice. “I thought it really came back and celebrated the original car in the way that the surface was handled. In a way, it was an old trick that Bill Mitchell at GM used to do years ago, they’d come out with the original car, next year there would be a change, and then they’d come back around to what the car started [like], and that’s a great way to have image consistency. Whether it was intentional or not, really hats off to the guys who created the last car,” said Gale.
Riding on a heavily revised version of the original Viper platform (both Theodore and Gale easily point to some hardpoints on the VX-generation Viper that Gilles and his team had to design around), the new SRT Viper aims to be a better track weapon, a better daily driver, and a more luxurious grand tourer. Power came courtesy of an 8.4-liter V-10 with 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, paired with-you guessed right-a six-speed manual.