With the end of 2017 approaching, it’s time to say goodbye to the Dodge Viper. That’s right – Fiat Chrysler is closing the curtain on 24 years of production on the Viper. Though the official reason is said to be low sales figures, there are rumors that the real reason is the Viper can’t comply with requirements that would add side curtain airbags to the vehicle. Whatever the reason, I’m going to be sorry to say goodbye.
The first time I saw a Dodge Viper, I was watching my brother play the computer game The Need for Speed. I was mesmerized by the slick, curved frame, the power, and the ferocity of the Dodge Viper. Later, whenever we spied one on the road (a rare occurrence in our part of the world), we would excitedly point and shout, then watch as it zoomed away.
The first design was introduced in 1988, but it took three years to create a full-size pre-production car, and another year to begin selling the Dodge Viper. It served first as a pace car in the Indianapolis 500, serving to whet the appetites of vehicle enthusiasts, who began buying the rear-wheel drive sports car in early 1992. It came with a V10 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission, but no side windows, exterior door handles, or a roof.
Most of these decisions were made so that the Viper was lighter on its feet, so to speak, especially with an engine weighing a whopping 711 pounds. It could go from 0-60 in under five seconds, and reach top speeds of 165 mph. Later, the car was available with extras like air conditioning, larger wheels, and a fiberglass roof.
The Dodge Viper went through several redesigns over its 24-year career, including several special editions, like the Dodge Viper Voodoo (unique interior and exterior colors), 1:28 Edition ACR (28 of these were made, only to be sold out in under an hour. They come with a monogrammed car cover, the “extreme aero package” and carbon ceramic brakes), and the racer ACR-X, which is not street legal.
Several famous people own or have owned a Dodge Viper at one time. The list includes car enthusiasts like Jay Leno, musicians (Jon Bon Jovi, Joey Fatone, and Reba), actors and comedians (Chris Farley, Roseanne Barr, Charlie Sheen), and even astronauts (Buzz Aldrin) have joined the Viper fan club.
The Viper is, itself, famous, having become a celebrity for a season of NBC’s “Viper”, which ran during 1994. The season was syndicated and ran for three more years before being taken off the air in 1998. The Viper has another claim to fame: it holds over twenty-five race records, including fastest 1990’s car, fastest lap, and fastest American car.
With such a great track record, it’s not too sad saying farewell to the Dodge Viper. It’s still inspiring conversions and new vehicles, and will for a long time to come. I may, however, have to go root around in our storage and see if I can find a copy of The Need for Speed and relive some of the glory days.