The Dodge Viper is truly a terrifying beast.
America may not be known for making supercars with the same distinctive styling, performance, or history as Europe, but there have been some incredible cars from the mighty USA. However, one can’t have a conversation about American supercars without the ferocious Dodge Viper. It may be dead, but the Viper will go down as not only one of the best supercars to come out of America, but one of the best high-performance sports cars ever. One of the best things about the supercar is its name, which has an interesting history.
Sometime in 1988, a discussion between Chrysler President Robert A. Lutz and chief of design Tom Gale took place to explore the idea of bringing the Shelby Cobra back to life. While some enthusiasts may have a hard time believing this, Carroll Shelby was a performance consultant for Chrysler in 1982 and by 1986, Shelby Automobiles Inc. was putting out high-performance, limited-edition Dodges. When Lutz was conceptualizing the idea of a supercar, Shelby was awaiting a heart transplant and while he didn’t have a direct hand in the Viper’s design or engineering, Shelby was the conscience behind the car. With Shelby backing Chrysler’s plan to make a powerful and simple supercar, all that was left was the car’s design and name.
While the rumor of the Viper using a V10 engine out of a truck is false, the head of Chrysler’s Jeep and Truck Engineering division Francois Castaing did have a major hand in the Viper’s design and especially in the name. While the design of the supercar was moving at a great pace, the team was still working on its name. Since the supercar would be based on the iconic Cobra, it was only fitting for the car to have a name that struck fear in the heart of the Europeans. While no one is sure where the name truly came from, Castaing is credited with coming up with “Viper.” According to SRT Viper Chief Powertrain Engineer Dick Winkles, Castaing came up with the name as venomous snakes in France are referred to as Vipers.
Snake enthusiasts will note that there are roughly 20 species of Vipers in the US and only three species of Vipers in France. With a proper name like "Viper," which symbolizes the most venomous snakes in the world, the American supercar was set on being a reborn Cobra that put performance and simplicity above all else. Roughly 24 years later, the Viper is still seen as a deadly supercar and has an equally killer name.