2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACREnlarge Photo
Redesigned with Daimler’s help: A second-generation Viper was introduced for 2003, this time as both a coupe and roadster. Daimler and Chrysler’s famous “merger of equals” had been completed and fresh funds were available to develop the successor. Everything was done right. The power went up, weight was reduced, and the chassis was made tauter in all the right places.
Production car Nürburgring record: The improvements made with the second-generation Viper meant the car was now one of the fastest ever produced. This was confirmed in 2011 when the track-focused ACR model lapped Germany’s Nürburgring in 7:12.13, which remained a record for rear-wheel-drive production cars up until late 2016.
A loyal following: Despite the harshness, especially compared to more refined rivals coming out of Germany and Japan, the Viper generated a loyal following. Many appreciated its prowess at the racetrack, plus the fact the Viper could demolish much more expensive competition. However, there is probably none more dedicated to the Viper than Wayne and D’Ann Rauh. Earlier this year the couple from Texas added the 80th Viper to their collection.
Wayne Rauh and wife D’Ann take delivery of their their 78th and 79th Dodge VipersEnlarge Photo
Teetering on the edge: While the car may have a loyal following, that following is small. As previously mentioned, the Viper has bowed out of the market before. The last time, though, wasn’t entirely the car’s fault. In the preceding years, Germany’s Daimler had just split from Chrysler by selling the majority of the automaker to Cerberus. The private equity group didn’t have much luck and eventually Chrysler needed to be bailed out. In 2009, Fiat stepped in but the last thing on anyone’s mind was an expensive niche product like the Viper. It meant Viper production ended, albeit temporarily, after the 2010 model year.
Next-gen Viper appears as…a Mercedes? Although it will never be confirmed, there are claims Mercedes-Benz benefited from some of the early work done on a next-generation Viper. How so? According to some, after Daimler’s split with Chrysler, some of the early work on a new Viper was utilized by Mercedes for its SLS AMG supercar. The proportions of the car, the fact that a Viper body was used for early test mules, even the character of the car itself all seem to bear a lot of Viper influence.
No longer a Dodge: Eventually a third-generation Viper emerged. Arriving as a 2013 model, the debut took place at the 2012 New York auto show and excitement appeared to be at an all-time high. The only problem was the car was no longer referred to as a Dodge Viper. Instead, it was labeled an SRT, an acronym for Street and Racing Technology which FCA was hoping to turn into its own version of BMW M or Mercedes-AMG. The plan was to make the car seem more exclusive, but it failed and just 591 examples were sold in the first full year on the market.