Ever wondered who came up with the Viper name?
The Dodge Viper is sadly no more and there are no immediate plans to bring it back. For Fiat Chrysler, it's simply not a profitable vehicle and financial resources need to be spent elsewhere. But there was a time when a naturally aspirated V10-powered sports car was vital to the automaker's image. Of course, the late 1980s were a very different time.
For one thing, FCA didn't exist yet and issues like fuel economy were not on people's minds. Chrysler realized it needed a halo model, plain and simple. Company president Bob Lutz came up with the idea of doing a modern-day Shelby Cobra and assigned design boss Tom Gale to the task. Work got started immediately and soon enough full-size clay models were completed. But one critical aspect still remained unanswered: what to name the new car?
Motor Trend was wondering the same and reached out to Gale, who was not only present when the Viper nameplate was first pitched but also revealed the famous individual who thought of it. It turns out Chrysler, which still owned the now-shuttered Eagle division at the time, was working with none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro and the Italdesign studio on the exterior design of the Eagle Summit subcompact.
Giugiaro's previous work included icons like the original Maserati Ghibli, BMW M1, first-generation Volkswagen Golf, and the DMC DeLorean. Gale was sent to Italy to check on the project's status and was having dinner one evening with Giugiaro where he asked him a question that would forever change automotive history.
"We had dinner one night, and I said to Giorgetto, we're looking for a name for a Cobra-like car that we're doing and asked, 'What's a snake name in Italian?' And he says, 'Vipera.' And I said, 'Shit. Thanks.' Didn't need to say much more," Gale recalled. "The next week we had a meeting with Lutz and [engineering vice president] Francois [Castaing] and I said, 'You know Giugiaro said [a snake] name in Italian was 'Vipera.' None of us had thought of Viper at that point, and right there, that's when we had our 'a-ha!' moment."
What started out as a nothing but a standard business trip to Italy ultimately resulted in the name for one of America's greatest sports cars of all time.