2017 Dodge ViperEnlarge Photo
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this month built its final Dodge Viper, and despite the ramblings of CEO Sergio Marchionne about a possible successor, it looks like the 2017 model year will be the nameplate’s last.
The final car was a red GTS, which FCA plans to keep in its heritage collection. Yes, the Viper has bowed out before. You’ll recall it skipped the 2011 and ’12 model years. But back then FCA was talking up a new model even before production of the current car had ceased.
The official line is that the car won’t meet the latest round safety regulations, specifically the packaging requirements for a new ejection mitigation regulation airbag. However, you could also blame low volumes making it too expensive to justify a redesign. Just 630 were sold in all of 2016. The car’s V-10 isn’t helping FCA’s fleet-wide emissions, either.
The Viper is still one of the fastest on sale, regardless of price, but the game has changed and this time it looks like the all-American supercar’s time is finally up. Here’s a look back at some of the highs and lows over its 25-year history.
Pre-production Dodge Viper pace car at the 1991 Indianapolis 500Enlarge Photo
End of a dismal era: The Viper was born at the close of an era of disappointment among American cars, which at Chrysler was epitomized by the K-Cars. The Viper was totally different. It was a smooth, sexy supercar designed to burn fuel and rubber.
An instant success: The car began life in 1988 by Chrysler's Advanced Design Studios. Under noted product man Bob Lutz's direction, designers Tom Gale and Roy Sjoberg brought the idea of a modern-day Cobra from paper to reality. The original concept proved a major hit at the 1989 Detroit auto show and just two years later none other than Carrol Shelby was pacing the Indianapolis 500 in a pre-production example. By early 1992 the first Vipers were landing in showrooms.
Powered by a truck engine: Of course the car wasn’t without its detractors. The Viper was powered by a V-10 from Chrysler's truck lineup, albeit modified by Lamborghini, which was owned by the American automaker at the time. The engine alone weighed more than 700 pounds but it produced an impressive—for the time—400 horsepower. The car was an absolute brute in all aspects and proved to be difficult to drive at its limits.