The Story of the Dodge Viper, And why it Failed!

Image of a blue gen 5 Dodge Viper

Introduction: Cars now-a-days are stuffed with electronic-aids from the inside out. Revolutionary technologies have been developed that provide you with much more control of the vehicle. Ever thought what happens when you got nothing, but you and the car. Well, you get the Dodge Viper, an untamed 8 Liter V10 that doesn’t care more for its driver. The Viper’s lack of safety and ethics, aggressive styling and powerful performance made it one of the most legendary cars of all time, and that is why it is an American icon, not to be forgotten.

Project Viper: The Viper was an idea of Bob Lutz, a respectable personality in the automotive industry, who was sick with the sluggish, underpowered cars of the time, and wanted to create a modern Shelby Cobra. He presented his idea to Tom Gale at Chrysler Design. A concept model was made and presented for public inspection in 1989. After an overwhelmingly positive attitude was received from the public, the car was set into production, but to reduce risks, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca set the budget to just 70 million. Just for reference, projects like theses cost close to a billion. So huge costs cutting methods were made. Even the headlights of the first viper were reused from a never-produced BMW. The V10 engine was developed with the help of Lamborghini, owned by Chrysler at the time. After all this, the first gen Viper made its debut in 1991.

1. Dodge Viper SR-I/Gen-1 (1991-1995):

Image of a red Gen 1 Viper

The first gen dodge viper was powered by an 8.0-liter V10, mated to a six-speed manual transmission and producing 400 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. It could accelerate from 0-60 mph in around 4 seconds and had a top speed of 165 mph. The car had an aggressive design and a long bonnet to fit in that massive V10.The Viper was noted for its raw driving experience and powerful performance. It had all the discomforts you can ask from a car, there was no air-conditioning, no actual windows, no ABS (anti-lock braking system), no exterior handles, etc. The second generation had almost the same design but was more refined.

2. Dodge Viper SR-II/Gen-2 (1996-2002):

Image of a yellow Gen 2 Dodge Viper

The second gen, also known as the Viper-GTS, featured the same design and engine. However, it was refined and improved in every possible way. Thanks to better tweaking and management, the Viper now produced around 450 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the first gen, which was only offered as a convertible, the second gen also came with a coupe model that had actual windows and a more aerodynamic design. The interior was improved, and many comforts were introduced, adding comfort without sacrificing performance. The car could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4 seconds and topped out at 185 mph. The second generation not only solidified the Viper’s reputation but further improved it.

3. Dodge Viper ZB-I/Gen-3 (2002-2007):

Image of a blue Gen 3 Dodge Viper

The 3rd generation viper, also known as the viper srt-10, was introduced in 2003 and received a major design change and performance increase. The displacement was increased to 8.3 L, horsepower now touched 500, 0-60 mph time was brought down to around 3.7 seconds, and the engine was 500 pounds lighter. Initially offered as a convertible, coupe models were introduced in 2006. The 3rd generation retained the original viper’s characteristics while significantly improving upon in every area. The ZB-1 even appeared in fast & furious Tokyo Drift. Many special editions such as the VOI.9 edition were made along the years. The rear even had a sick snake badge (for those who don’t know, Viperidae or Vipers are a family of venomous snakes) that acted as a brake light.

4. Dodge Viper ZB-II/Gen-4 (2008-2010):

Image of a red and black gen 4 viper srt-10

Just like the second-generation Dodge Viper, the Gen-4 or ZB-II was a more refined and improved Gen-3. Displacement was increased to 8.4L, one of the largest displacements to ever be in a production car and now the massive V10 made an impressive 600 horsepower. There were not many mechanical changes except the hood now had cuts and vents. The transmission was improved which resulted in longer gears, the suspension was improved and anti-roll bars were added, the exhaust system was reworked which decreased heat entering into the cockpit at the cost of muffled exhaust notes. The ACR version also returned for this generation. In 2009, Dodge announced that production would end in summer of 2010.

5. Dodge Viper VX-I/Gen-5 (2013-2017):

Image of a black gen 5 dodge viper srt 10

Although Chrysler was facing financial problems and the Viper was supposed to be discontinued, CEO of Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne announced a new Viper which went for sale in 2013. The 5th generation received a new exterior and interior. The V10 now produced 640 horsepower, 0-60 time came down to 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 230 mph and the viper was marketed as a part of the SRT subsidiary. Unlike its grandfather, the SR-I, the Gen-5 came with many electronic aids such as ABS, traction control, etc. In 2015 the SRT Viper was rebranded as a Dodge Viper and now produced 645 horsepower. Despite the looks, performance and continuous improvements, the Viper failed and production ceased in 2017, and following is why:

Why Did the Dodge Viper Fail?

There are many reasons for the failure of the Dodge Viper. The Viper received heavy competition from other cars in that price range such as the Corvette C7 and Porsche 911 which were more friendly, refined and updated. It was also pretty expensive with a base price of $140,000. Due to its massive displacement, it had a very poor fuel economy, which made it unpractical for frequent usage. The Viper did not have side-mounted airbags and so did not comply with FCA standards. These all and Chrysler’s financial issues solidified the Viper’s failure. However, all we can do now is hope that the legend returns.


Also Read: What is Porsche’s E-Fuel & Will it Save Gasoline Powered Cars?

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