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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

How a band of motorhead execs hatched the Dodge Viper

Now and again, lightning strikes the Motor City. These rogue bursts of energy once nudged Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to R&B magic, and they still drive the occasional auto icon down an assembly line. Heavenly magic is how the '32 Ford, the '55 Chevy, and the '65 Mustang came to be.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/dodge-viper-band-motorhead-execs-hatched/
21 REPLIES 21
Ajakeski
Detailer

Bob Lutz is more "Dollars in my pocket guy" than "Car guy" He and Bob Eaton cashed in big time selling Chrysler off to Daimler.
MATTMERICA
Technician

Lutz has been paid handsomely for his "input" on cars, and he has had some winners to be sure. He has had some monumental flops as well - which helps explain why/how he worked for just about everybody at some point. One minute you are the next coming, the next it is "don't let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out." Somebody once said he was a brilliant PR man who liked to drive fast 🙂
Winners - Viper, Ford Explorer, Opel GT
Losers - Anybody remember Merkur?!? Neon, and now unfortunately the Bolt
TB
Intermediate Driver

Met Lutz in @ 1992 while on the CA Mille, he was president of BMW in the 70s and responsible for the 3.0 CSL (the first M car, homologation special and won five major championships) as well as the 2002 Turbo. At GM he made them import Australian front engine rear drive cars that became the Pontiac GTO. A thoroughly entertaining 'car' guy in my estimation.
Autostocks
Intermediate Driver

What was wrong with the Neon? Fantastic, fun little car in its first generation. I had a '95 I bought off the CDI lot. 5 speed transmission and leather seats - never should have sold that car.
kareski
Pit Crew

Is it my imagination of does some of those pictures look like a Miata? Did they take a Viper and toss hot water on it and, POOF, a Miata?
MATTMERICA
Technician

The first gen Viper looks like a larger version of the "new" toyota supra, the 2020
It's pretty weird; the viper is cool, the toyota not so much lol

https://www.autoweek.com/drives/a2135761/2020-toyota-gr-supra-first-drive-citizen-world/

https://www.universitydodge.com/brief-history-of-the-dodge-viper/
MrBill-1943
Detailer

Love the Viper however is should only be driven by drivers and owners who are trained drivers as this is not you Dad's sedan. Regretfully I have seen a neighbors son take his dad's Viper out and get into a serious accident killing another driver. Reason for accident was inexperience driver to this type of car and excessive speed. Hate to be a downer but sometimes things like great paintings must be admired from afar.
TB
Intermediate Driver

We have been experiencing 'more money than ability' for decades. In the 70s I was at a Ferrari dealership who imported grey market Porsche Turbos. Several of them came back on the truck with the rear end demolished (can you say 'trailing throttle oversteer'?
hyperv6
Racer

Sometimes a man has to know his limits.

Sadly training is no cure for common sense and responsibility.

The type person to die in a Viper would or could easily die in a much lesser vehicle too due to their own short comings in common sense.
gfviperman
Detailer

Have owned Vipers for 27 years. What a blast it has been ... The car is a superstar wherever it goes ... filling the gas tank still draws people over to visit and admire. There is nothing like it or the feeling one gets driving them. IMO, an automatic option may have saved the Viper, today's young crowd with money cares not, and knows not, how to shift gears ...
Maestro1
Technician

No one will probably agree but I think the body design was atrocious in its original form and much improved as the car aged. Having said that, I'd love to put the driveline in a really sexy Italian designed body and the car would sell like cookies I hope.
Chrysler has had its issues as we all know through the years and through it all they never lacked for originality, outlaw cars in the mid sixties, decadent Imperials and so on, the Company was interesting to watch and never without obvious enthusiasm from some of the car nuts working for them. It seems to me that when companies get bought and sold several times they loose their lustre. Now Stellantis is its newest guise, and I'm hopeful that the association with Peugeot and others will produce a fruitful product both in quality and market penetration. Thank you for this.
MARK400
Detailer

Like ever other muscle car before it, it becomes the predecessor of the next generation ( Hellcat`s) of super cars. It basically was designed to spark the interest of the public as intended and kept the performance flag at Chrysler flying while the next generation performance car was being developed and brought to life.
Timbo
Intermediate Driver

I worked at Chrysler during that time. Please don't credit this car to a small, elite, "Dream Team". They may have come up with ideas and designs, but when problems arose, the normal departments (procurement, plastic forming, forging, etc.) were called in to solve the problems and let this thing be built and sold. One inside "joke", sad as it was, was that we put $10,000 in the glove box of each car - an amount the company lost with each sale. Probably every car has some birthing pains, but the Viper tends to minimize the corporate effort that went into it. As for Lutz: how did it go at Exide, Bob? Executives at many levels from CEO to Directors were rewarded handsomely to "sell" the "merger" with Daimler so the workers would think it was beneficial to us, not just a sell out to the Germans.
TB
Intermediate Driver

In approx. 1992 I was involved with the California Mille, a thousand mile car tour for rich enthusiasts. Bob Lutz showed up with two Vipers. While we were touring at our new SCCA race track near Willows, CA called Thunderhill; I had the opportunity to hot lap a Viper and give thrill rides to some of the participants. I must have pounded on it for 90 minutes, it ran like a train and the brakes were like a button all the way through. My thoughts at the time was it was more race car than street. Fairly brutal, but I loved it.
Revellcraft02
Intermediate Driver

An interesting idea would be to revive the Viper as a mid-engined car.
SJ
Technician

Cool vehicle but mine has to sound good too, V8/V12 required for me. Even the "improved" exhaust sound wasn't a whole lot better. But then I like to rev off M Series Beemers straight six's, they might be faster but sound like crap. I was weaned on V8's so there is that.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

I remember seeing the Prototype Viper at the NAIAS in Detroit. It was almost impossible to see through the number of people surrounding it. I remember thinking, cool concept car, then thinking that it would never make production. When it got into production, and it resembled the prototype so well, I was shocked.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

Back when Prototype & Concept cars were actually made.
Aquay_Mizmo
Intermediate Driver

I've never not had a Corvette for the past 45 years, but I've got to admit my 2005 Cooperhead Viper is my favorite car (but it will punish you if you drive it in the summer with flip flops on). I call it my Fred Flintstone mobile. Brash and crude, just like me.
hyperv6
Racer

Lutz is a hero to me as in this day and age of never take a corporate chance he is one willing to make a few mistake to win the whole game.

One needs to read his book on his time at the companies he worked at and how his presents did help overall.

But with that said, yes we did get a great car and memorable car but it really did not do anything to save Chrysler. We saw this American company speak German then Italian and now French. Each one robbing Chrysler of its treasure to fund their programs not so much Chrysler programs.

Imagine if the profits stolen from Ram and Jeep programs had been put back into the. Chrysler cars or CUV models?

Even the Viper went from what it was to an over corporate involved car under Sweater guy while he pumped money into Alfa and Maserati that really have not moved the needle.

The life span of this car actually was good. If you look at most models of 2 seat sports cars few live 10 years or more. Only the Corvette and Miata appear immortal. The Viper outlived even the Cobra life span.

The one mistake here is they should have stayed v8 or gone V12. The ten just lacked that sound much as the Ford GT V6 turbo never had that sound. My buddy who owned a Viper removed his converters only to remark it made the School bus sound worse.

I still treasure the early cars. The only thing they needed were roll up windows. The later models just became too refined by a corporation. They lost that show car look.

I applaud engineers and car guys at automakers who break rules like this. But we in the public also must keep in mind these things are done for fun not so much profits. That is why they are so difficult to pull off.

In this day and age with multi billion dollar programs scraping for the most return possible we may not see many special cars till the EV programs arrive. With the platform tech they can fashion short run models at a profit on the top of these skate boards. Yes they will lack the sound, smell and feel but they will also be much less boring as a Camry. Sadly the boring vehicles pay the bills not the Hellcats. 

Again seek out Bob Lutz books and read them. He is good and fair at presenting the now and whys of the industy.

Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

I love the Viper. Most agree the Viper made the Corvette competitor it is. Without it would the Corvette be nearly as good without the stiff competition? I wish it was still around in the model lineup.