In its 26 year run, there have been some amazing Vipers produced.
The Dodge Viper first appeared as a concept in 1989 to such an enthusiastic reception that a production model was developed. At its heart isn't a V8 though, instead the Viper's centerpiece is a V10 engine that Lamborghini helped create as they were owned by Chrysler at the time. The production model landed in 1991 and, amazingly, carried on all the way to 2017 through five generations that got increasingly faster and more extreme. Ultimately, the Viper carved its space in automotive history as the blue-collar antidote to the European supercar.
Poor sales and the cost of increasing safety legislation led to the end of the Viper in 2017 but Bob Lutz, a former chairman of Chrysler, put it more bluntly: "The Viper ran out of good reasons to live.”
However, its legacy lives on as a lunatic level American sports car with a hefty racing history and a trail of lap records for production cars. There have been rumors of the Viper's revival since, but we’re not holding our breath. Instead, we’re going to take a look at some of the rarest, coolest, and fastest Vipers that have been built.
The first generation Dodge Viper RT/10 was modified by private racing teams in North America and Europe, but without factory team levels of money, they couldn’t compete. Part of the problem was that the Viper was a roadster and needed considerable stiffening of the chassis to compete. When Dodge came to build the second generation, it built the Viper GTS with a roof and Chrysler approved a racing team.
Dodge partnered with the French team Oreca for European racing and the Canaska/Southwind Team to race in North America. The Viper GTS-R hit the ground running, picking up a lot of class wins and eight series championships including the FIA GT Championship, the American Le Mans Series and Euro GT Series. Its class wins included 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours Nürburgring.
Dodge started its next chapter of racing Vipers without factory teams, but using the Porsche model of building racing versions of the car. The Competition Coupe was announced in 2003 and used a kevlar and carbon-fiber body while the V10 produced 520 horsepower and 540 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t road legal, cost just over $100,000, and came race ready with safety equipment and on Hoosier racing slicks.
American Club Racer was originally a package on the first generation Viper GTS, but returned for the 2008 model year as a full-on angry road legal race car. The GTS came wearing Michelin Pilot Sport Cups, had beefed up brakes, and although there wasn’t a power increase from the 8.4-liter aluminum V10 engine, there was a weight decrease while canards, a front splitter, and a carbon-fiber adjustable rear wing were added to glue it to the track.
There was also a hardcore package for those not driving to the track that deleted the air conditioning and stereo system as well as the carpet in the trunk, the hood padding, and the tire-inflator. The last generation of the ACR made 653 horsepower but sadly, it never nailed the Nurburgring lap record despite some heroic attempts.
When Hennessy Performance Engineering got hold of the Viper, the tuner cranked it all the way up and called it the 1000TT. The 1000 stands for the amount of horsepower the company extracted from V10 and the TT stands for Twin Turbo. The first Viper Venom appeared in 2007 and hit 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds, went on to 100 mph in 5.8 seconds, and then made the quarter-mile in 10.5 seconds. Hennessy has carried on making 1000-horsepower Venom versions as well as both a 700-horsepower and an 800-horsepower supercharged model.
Speaking of Hennessey, one of the weirder special edition partnerships in automotive history is the Neiman Marcus Hennessey Viper. Neiman Marcus is an old school luxury department store chain that also owns Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Avenue in New York. It’s definitely not the logical choice to pair up an upscale department store with the working class hero Viper and a bootstrapped tuning house. Rolls Royce is more their usual style but it happened.
The result was a souped-up Viper with a particularly aggressive looking aero package and a custom interior with matching fitted luggage. It sold through the Neiman Marcus catalog in 2008 for $179,500 complete with a day of driving instruction at Lonestar Motorsports Park in the hope it would help customers not kill themselves with their new 700-horsepower race car.
In 2009 Dodge introduced an even more amped up ACR Viper in the form of the ACR-X. The suspension was tuned even more aggressively, aerodynamics were improved, and it got a new exhaust system which made an increase in horsepower possible from 600 to 640. To call the ACR-X an animal is a bit of an understatement.
The TA stands for Time Attack, and in 2013 only 33 were scheduled to be built. The electronic adjustable Bilstein DampTronic dampers came without a street setting and it arrived on Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. The TA also came with 30 percent stiffer swaybars, a new design in Brembo brakes, an aggressive new alignment, and aerodynamics that increased downforce up to 600 percent at 150 mph. It was built to give the drivers the purest experience when chasing consistent and fast lap times.
The ASC Diamondback Viper was built by American Specialty Cars to show the company's ability to work with power-to-weight ratios. With help from McLaren Performance Technologies, it tuned the engine with an extra 105 horsepower to 615 and stripped 85 pounds of weight using carbon fiber. Only one was made as ASC went bankrupt soon after it was built.
Gamers will recognize the Banshee from Grand Theft Auto III. Rockstar Games, the company behind the title, commissioned West Coast Customs to build a replica of the Banshee using its "inspiration” as the base. Underneath the handcrafted widebody kit and behind the custom lights is a 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe. If you really like this, the Bravado Banshee has popped up online for sale a few times and probably will again.
When Dodge ended production of the fourth generation Viper, it released a couple of special editions. One was the much-loved and sinister looking Voodoo version that featured special black paint with red striping and a unique interior and steering wheel. Only 31 were made, one of which went to the then Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles. Later, when Dodge knew the Viper was ending production for good, the Viper VoooDoo II Edition was one of the slew of specials that appeared as part of the sendoff.
Perhaps the biggest compliment paid to the Viper was the Italian coachbuilder Zagato’s treatment of Alfa Romeo’s TZ3 Stradale, which itself is a rebodied Viper ACR-X. Zagato’s version was a tribute to the 100th anniversary of Alfa Romeo and we're still a little baffled why they chose to rebody a car Alfa Romeo didn't design or build any of the mechanicals for in their honor. However, we're glad they did because the iconic Kammback rear end and double bubble roof look fantastic on the Viper chassis.