The idea for the Dodge Viper was born out of a conversation between Chrysler’s design chief, Tom Gale, and its president, Robert A. Lutz, in 1988. As Gale walked past Lutz’s office, the Chrysler president called him in. Lutz had an idea. He wanted to launch a project that would be like a revitalized Shelby Cobra.
Gale set to work to realize Lutz’s vision of a two-seater car that was inspired by classic 1960s sports cars like the Shelby Cobra and Jaguar E-Type. This car was to be equipped with a manual transmission and an incredibly powerful engine. Since Lamborghini was owned by Chrysler at the time, Gale called on them to help him design the exterior and engine.
One of the main challenges in designing this ultra-powerful sports car was to integrate a V-10 engine into the car. The Chrysler team wanted the Viper to be equipped with a V-10, as it would make the car stand out from the rest and give it “heroic proportions.” Essentially, they wanted the Viper to be unlike anything else on the market at the time.
It was a bit difficult to find a V-10, as there were not many technical reasons for this type of engine. However, they were finally able to find one internally. This 8-liter iron block engine was intended for use in pickup trucks, but Chrysler redesigned it to be a lightweight aluminum block engine. Once the engine was developed and an exceptional team worked on all levels of the car, the historic Viper was born.
The first generation Dodge Viper made its debut in 1991, but Chrysler did not offer it to the general public. Instead, two pre-production models were used as race cars for the Indianapolis 500. The Viper concept generated considerable public interest after its introduction, and the finished models arrived in dealer showrooms in 1992.
The SR1 generation Dodge Viper was introduced to the public at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show, with the model officially named RT/10. Because Chrysler designed the Viper as a performance car, it was not equipped with all the amenities one would expect. There was no air conditioning, key cylinder or exterior mounted door handles. More surprisingly, there were no airbags, as Chrysler wanted to keep the weight down.
The sleek, minimal design was also devoid of a hardtop. Instead, the roof was made of a removable canvas. There were no permanent windows on the car either. The windows are made of vinyl and can be opened and closed with zippers. The lack of certain comforts in the car sent a clear message: this car was not intended to be a standard vehicle – it was built for speed.
Overall, the two-door Viper convertible had a few comforts. There was a high fidelity sound system and a clock connected to an AM/FM stereo cassette player. In addition, buyers could find interior carpeting and adjustable leather sport bucket seats. On later models of this generation, buyers could even choose an optional hardtop to replace the canvas roof. Buyers could also purchase a high-performance, adjustable suspension system.
The main attraction of this vehicle was its engine. The 8-liter Viper V-10 engine produced 400 horsepower and 621 nm of torque.
The car’s speed and power were enhanced by its tubular steel chassis, which gave it a lightweight body. It also lacked anti-lock brakes and traction control, which removed all the modern driving aids drivers were used to. Thanks to its low weight and powerful engine, the SR 1 could go from 0 to 100km/h per hour in less than five seconds. When drivers push the car to its maximum speed, it reaches over 250 km/h. The SR1 was offered from 1991 to 1995, with minimal changes.
This example, recently imported from the USA, is one of the rare black models produced in 1993 (+/- 200). This Viper has had only two owners and the last one acquired it in 1996. The tires were changed in 2019, as well as the mufflers. It is in order of maintenance and has only 28,000 miles (44,000km). The car will have 30 years in september 2023.
A 1st generation Dodge Viper is the original. Heir to the Cobra, it is the complete opposite of a Porsche 911: removable side windows, no ABS or ESP, no airbag, gigantic torque and excessive power, it is neither reasonable nor rigorous: but that’s why, at Route59, we love it!