The 1989 NAIAS (North American International Auto Show) hosted the debut of the first-ever Dodge Viper concept sports car. In late 1989, a prototype, the VM01, followed. It featured a 360 hp V8 and a V10 engine was already on the drawing boards. In the first part of 1990, the VM02 was introduced showing off an 8 liter V10. The orders began to accumulate before the auto show was completed and so the order to begin production of the first Viper model was given.
Lamborghini was said to have been involved with the design of the VM02 as they were owned in part by the Chrysler Corporation at the time. The Italian show car maker's skills were used to assist in the design and manufacturing of the Viper's cooling system and crankshaft balancing as well as the reduction of the vehicle's overall weight. An aluminum engine block was chosen to take off 150 pounds of speed-ruining weight.
This new Viper version of the V10 made use of a cross ram intake system featuring dual throttle housings; an elevated compression ratio; bigger valves; stronger cranks and rods and an overall increase in maximum engine speed. That's really what this powerful serpent-vehicle was designed for: speed! The original goal of Team Viper was to design and manufacture a sports car that could go from standing still up to 100 miles per hour and then come to another complete stop in under 15 seconds. Wow.
From their inception, these Dodge super cars were an instant sensation. They continue to be so today. Reputed as one of the fastest, most powerful and best-looking cars ever developed, the Dodge Viper was originally a testing ground for the development of a low-cost vehicle that could best the old Shelby Cobras in the 0, 100, 0 times. What is it with all these references to snakes anyway?
The Chrysler Corporation also originally intended to cease Viper production in 1996 and offer a totally new vehicle in its place in 1997. Of course, that was not to be. The public continues to experience Viper-mania today.
In May of 1990, Viper took center stage by replacing the Chevrolet Corvette as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500. Team Viper was a combination of the best designers, engineers and mechanics from Italy to Atlanta. Three years after the concept mule was introduced, the first red Viper RT/10 made its way off of the assembly line. In 1993, black paint jobs became an option and in 1994, emerald green and yellow were added as well.
In 1996, the Viper GTS was introduced offering the world a more touring-based vehicle rather than a straightforward racing machine. Although very similar in appearance to the RT/10, the GTS was over 90% redesigned. It's weight with AC included was over 100 pounds less than the RT/10 of 1994 w/o AC.
The popularity of the Dodge Viper continued to grow and by 1998, there were over nine thousand five hundred of these lightning-fast power monsters on the roads and tracks of the planet. The Viper Club of America presently boasts over 1700 members that comprise the 27 Viper Clubs across the US. The future looks as bright or brighter than ever for the Dodge Viper even in the face of outrageous fuel costs. The sheer power and speed presented, coupled with Viper's reputation for individuality, will always be a catalyst for their purchase.