Only in America! The Dodge Viper is a quintessentially American sports car, with a massive engine, aggressive retro styling and muscular performance. The Viper harked back to great cars like the Shelby Cobra, and indeed Carroll Shelby himself was involved in the development process. It all began in the late 1980s at Chrysler’s Advanced Design Studios, where the Copperhead concept car was created — named for its broad, snakehead appearance. This received such an enthusiastic reception when the public clapped eyes on it that production was sanctioned by Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca, and in 1991 Carroll Shelby piloted the first re-named Viper pre-production model as the pace car in the Indianapolis 500 race.
The first generation appeared in 1992. The Viper SR was a two-door roadster with rounded contours, an 8 litre V10 truck engine (suitably modified and recast in aluminium by Chrysler subsidiary Lamborghini). The robust body consisted of a tubular steel frame clad in moulded fibreglass panels. There were no frills to dilute the macho appeal of the first Viper — no traction control, no anti-lock brakes, basic interior, no side windows or roof. This was a true driver’s car, with fearsome performance and bad road manners that required firm hands on the wheel and a heavy foot on the brake pedal, but get-up-and-goers just loved it.
Second generation Viper SRs hit the road in 1996 and saw this great sports car through to the 21st century. Although it didn’t look so very different from its predecessor, quite a few changes took place beneath the familiar skin. The engine was reworked to be lighter and more powerful, adding another 8 mph (13 km/h) to top speed and boosting acceleration. The chassis was stiffened and the suspension improved. The Viper line also acquired a sleek GTS coupe to complement the roadster.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1992 (until 2002)
8.0 I (490 cid) V10
First generation — top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The third generation Viper ZB was launched in 2003 after a major revamp of the SR, initially as a roadster but with a coupe added in 2005. The fourth generation Viper ZBs arrived in 2008, completing the transformation from brutal sports car to sophisticated supercar.