Unearthed: 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10

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The original Viper became an instant classic when it was first launched back in 1992.

We're less than a month away from the reveal of the all-new SRT Viper at the 2012 New York Auto Show. After parent company Chrysler's recent near-death experience due to a lovely financial situation called bankruptcy, it's honestly incredible that the Viper will once again be built. But it's also one of those models that, like the Chevrolet Corvette, must be done right. From the moment the Viper made its initial debut back in 1991, everyone immediately knew that it was something special.

Adding to this fact that it came from a mainstream automaker made the Viper story even more incredible. So how exactly did the Viper come into existence? There are three people to thank for it and their names are Bob Lutz, Tom Gale, and Roy Sjoberg. If you keep up with inside auto industry news, then Bob Lutz is certainly no stranger. "Maximum Bob", in addition to being a Marine Corps pilot for five years beginning back in 1954 (he served in the reserves until 1965), was also an executive at major automakers such as GM, BMW, Ford, and Chrysler.

He returned to GM as Vice President of Product Development in 2001 and was responsible for models like the Pontiac Solstice and G8, as well as the Chevrolet Volt. But back in the late 1980s when he was vice president at Chrysler, he had the idea to build a modern day AC Cobra. He went to then Chrysler design chief Tom Gale with the idea and a clay model was soon built. That was in late 1988 and the Viper concept premiered at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show. Because public reaction was so enthusiastic, the decision was quickly made to put it into production.

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Chrysler chief engineer Sjoberg then selected 85 engineers, known as "Team Viper", to get things rolling. At the time, Chrysler still owned Lamborghini, so the team asked for their assistance in engine development. Starting with Dodge's cast-iron block V10 engine, the Lamborghini people helped adapt the V10 for sports car use by recasting the block and head in aluminum alloy. Tom Gale and his team completed design work and the production version debuted in 1991 when it served as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500. It went on sale in 1992 and was an immediate icon. All told, its 8.0-liter V10 produced 400hp and 465lb-ft of torque.

It went from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and had a top speed of 164 mph. Because it took a lot of inspiration from the AC Cobra, the RT/10's interior was quite spartan and a/c wasn't added until 1994. What helped make the original Viper unique were the absence of exterior door handles and those side exhaust pipes. In 1996, the second generation debuted, but it had a "double bubble" fixed roof, instead of the original's roadster design. Called the GTS, many changes were made including a reworked engine with more power and less weight. There was also a revised suspension and stiffer chassis.

The third generation RT/10 underwent a major redesign in 2003 with all-new, yet familiar bodywork. Power was also increased to 500hp and the coupe, which debuted in 2005, retained the "bubble roof" design. The Viper was updated again in 2008 when it received an 8.4-liter V10 with 600hp. Production finally ended in 2010 in the midst of Chrysler's reorganization. The owner of this 1994 Viper RT/10 bought it a few years ago, but kept it in storage. He has since taken it out and has kept it in stock condition (with the exception of those new rims).

While many Viper owners choose to modify their cars in some way, we think it's great this owner wants to keep this Viper mostly original. For a design that's more than 20 years old, it still looks absolutely fantastic and modern. This just goes to show the talent and the vision of Lutz, Gale, and Sjoberg when they first set out to build a new American sports car legend. Photos courtesy of lifezshort

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