And it had no cupholders because Lee Iaccoca took offense to a magazine's award.
A brief video from YouTube account Four Eyes has revealed some little-known facts about the first-generation Dodge Viper, including that the American supercar's blinker fluid-containing (yes, for real, not the entertaining Volkswagen stuff) headlights were free after BMW passed on them. The information was revealed by Roy Sjoberg, who was the chief engineer for the original Viper.
According to Sjoberg, the headlights in the first-gen Dodge Viper were originally developed for BMW by General Electric (GE) at the cost of the latter company. These units were intended for the quirky BMW Z1, but the Bavarians ultimately passed on them, opting instead for a squarer design. GE had already developed the headlights and all their associated tooling, so it needed to find a buyer. That buyer ended up being Chrysler.
Sjoberg says that this saved the Viper team a fortune. GE had already invested a pile of money and needed to make some of it back by selling the headlights to an automaker, which saved Chrysler some $3.5 million on design and development. The front bumper and hood of the first- and second-gen Viper had to be designed around these headlights, but the resulting look was pretty pleasing.
But what's up with the literal blinker fluid? According to Sjoberg, this is effectively a spirit level that was used to align the headlights at the plant. Sjoberg asked to remove the bubble, but when the manufacturing department came back to him and said it would cost $1.50 per headlight, he said, "Screw that - leave the bubble on."
At the time that the Viper came out, fuel economy was a big talking point for the EPA. With that in mind, it's quite possible that the Viper may not have been approved or would have been considerably pricier were it not for BMW abandoning those headlights.
Another cool detail we learn in the video is the reason that the original Viper came without a cupholder. Chrysler effectively invented the cupholder when introducing the minivan in 1983, so why leave it out of the Viper?
As it turns out, this was because Lee Iaccoca "hated Road & Track 'cause they were the ones that gave Chrysler the world-renowned cupholder award. Not for anything else. Not for engines, not for chassis, not for, y'know, styling... just for the cupholder," recalls Sjoberg. "Iaccoca wasn't really happy about that. He wanted more significant awards than for a good cupholder. And that's why the first Viper didn't have a cupholder."
The Dodge Viper has become a legend unlikely ever to be repeated, which is a huge pity. While we appreciate that Mopar is sending off the V8 with special editions that include the wild, 1,025-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170, we can't help but wish one more Viper could have been produced. The legendary nameplate is one that enthusiasts sorely miss, but unfortunately, its inability to accommodate side curtain airbags killed it early, and Tim Kuniskis, now Dodge CEO, said in 2020 that he doesn't know if another will ever come around. That said, Stellantis design boss Ralph Gilles would love to see it return "in his lifetime." Fingers crossed.
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