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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Power of Ten: The V-10 Viper carved its own path

"My Plymouth Fury is parked directly across the road. Where do you live?" "In the hearts of men," Sullivan said. This last line, spoken by a gorgeous and enigmatic artist in Don DeLillo's Americana, always makes me think of certain automobiles-none more so than the Dodge/SRT Viper.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/magazine-features/power-of-ten-the-v-10-viper-carved-its-own-path/
50 REPLIES 50
Flashman
Instructor

Everybody has an opinion, but yours counts for more, 'cause you know how to drive a car on a race track. Not your usual controversy-courting pov; thanks for the insight and for dispelling the myth.
hyperv6
Gearhead

No car is all that dangerous. It is a matter of driver skill level and enough sense to control the throttle that maintains control.

The Viper is a unique car and a fun car. For the money you can be a celebrity for a good price.

But it is not the seconding of a 917.

A well tuned car will go stupid fast and feel slow. That is great if you are racing but cars like the  Viper  that make you work for the lap time or speed. They  are often more interesting on track day.

The Viper is far from the best ever built but the world is a much better place for having it around. You don’t have to be the best to great. 

 

I am a Corvette guy but I like the Viper. My buddy has one and it is a cool car. I also say that we have a better Corvette today because there was a Viper.

I just with they had two more cylinders to fix the sound.

9lbhammer
Pit Crew

Vipers seem like the kind of car that's always gonna be worth good money cause nobody's ever gonna make another car like it. Not unlike those old Excursions. Hopefully the curves of my earning more money and the viper's value intersect at some point
Davis_H
Pit Crew

Finally someone agrees with me.

When I was running an extreme aero ACR in TT1, before the values went crazy, I would get so sick of people asking how hard the car was to drive. They are so docile on the racetrack and really mask a lot of bad driving with the mountain of torque.

I was never the fastest in the group, but I never had to trailer the car and could drive it home with a booming sound system and chilly AC under warranty.

Always seconds faster than the GT3RS guys too. 🙂
MATTMERICA
Instructor

There were a number of factors that made people believe the Viper was "difficult to drive" and "hard to handle" - not the least of which were coked-up drunken celebrities' wrapping their Vipers into trees, houses, and police cars. Possibly most famous of which was Kelsey Grammer lol
hyperv6
Gearhead

Any car can kill in incompetent unskilled hands. 

SVmanualwagons
Pit Crew

The first-gen had terrible handling, as reported in period road tests like Car and Driver. The reputation stuck.
hyperv6
Gearhead

There are tons of horrible handing cars out there but it is the unskilled driver that makes them dangerous. 

A driver just needs to know his limits. 

Just look at al, the Mustang crash videos on the web. Is it the car or the driver? I think the answer is clear. 

 

Tinkerah
Technician

I would've answered that question the opposite way: "Oh yeah, it's an unpredictable beast, I'm cheating death at every curve. Better stay clear, you don't want to get tangled up with me on my way to the railing." Perpetuate the mystique!
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Ah, that's the life!
Davis_H
Pit Crew

The only thing I would change about the gen 5 ACR is the gas pedal. When heel toeing I found the pedal to be too flexible laterally and instead of pushing the pedal down, my foot would push it to the side.

A floor mounted gas pedal would really make this car perfect.
william44
Pit Crew

By far the most delicious and ample photography of any of your articles that I can remember - please keep this as your standard - it enhances the experience greatly.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

It's remarkably expensive to do it, and it cuts down on the drive time by 75% or more -- but I'm going to do my best!
william44
Pit Crew

Thanks. At least save that for the really juiciest stuff you produce - the Viper article more than qualifies. It may interest you to know that some of your  readers such as myself treasure thoughtfully considered writing - no matter the subject, and are eager for your success. As an example of how the photography affected my experience, I must say that I had never considered the Viper to be beautiful. The 2003 droptop completely changed that (beautifully framed by a guardrail, no less).  Look at the simplicity of those lines! Thanks again. William Cambridge

PDMRCAING
Pit Crew

What no Gen 2? The only Viper with multiple championships which was lightyears away from the original in performance & handling
Viperenvy
Intermediate Driver
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

This is what happens when the right hand of the company doesn't talk to the left! Would have been WICKED to see that car there.
Car39
New Driver

I remember a track day at Lime Rock when a novice in a Viper miscalculated the Downhill and froze behind the wheel. He used most of the outside guardrail to buff down the driver’s side of his new car. Could have happened in any car, but I still remember the sound of expensive sheet metal meeting inexpensive sheet metal.
EBSpeed
New Driver

Viper bodies are fiberglass!👍

Teampantera
Pit Crew

Awesome car in all most every way except for how that V-10 sounds. Even with an aftermarket exhaust system like the Borla exhaust and an extra 100 HP it still doesn't sound right.
Flame Suit on! 🙂
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

Imagine if they had named it "Mr. Snuggles The Fluffy Bunny" how would the world have responded to that? Personally I'd drive a Dodge "Fluffy Bunny" but I don't think the name would have worked. Just like the Viper the rabbit in Monty Python's Holy Grail was also deadly. It also had a reputation for killing people as it bit your head off. So maybe that would not have worked.

I always like Vipers but the very first one with the cloth top would have been hard to live with. Once the Coupe happened I was sold. The Viper made the Corvette a better car.

Iso_Grifo
Advanced Driver

Why don't I love these? They've got it all: great racing heritage, they are their own unique thing, they look good, they've got a sense of danger. I should love these. I can't put my finger on why I don't love these. Especially series 2 and 3 anyways.
TonyT
Instructor

No automobile is dangerous, well, maybe except for some of the shed-built stuff that appears from time to time. Just as no firearm has ever pulled its own trigger, no car can be construed as dangerous just because some knucklehead runs out of talent the moment they get behind the wheel. Just about every problem on this planet comes down to one common denominator: humans. The Viper is a well-designed pleasure tool and when operated correctly, provides smiles for miles! Nice article!
SVmanualwagons
Pit Crew

Oh, ok. I didn’t realize we were doing trick questions. What’s the safest way to go skiing? Don’t ski!
Some cars are much more difficult to handle at the limit, and have undesirable qualities like snap oversteer (early 911 Turbo anyone?) I'm not sure "dangerous" is the right word, but more likely to be crashed certainly applies.
JAG
Intermediate Driver

By 94 they fixed the initial problems. No different for GM, Ford and the other OEM's having first year minor issues. I remember driving a first year car at Waterford Mi. A small track not best suited for this large powerful car. It had a tendency to lift the front end coming off a hill. That was concerning, but manageable if you worked your way into more speed. Unless you were Mario or Jackie the first few minutes could be a disaster! They figured it out quickly and the last gen car is simply an amazing beast, and I am not a Dodge/Chrysler ( or is it FCA or Stilantis?) fan.
Buzz
Pit Crew

The most honest and knowledgeable piece on the Viper I’ve ever read. I’m a bit mystified at the false rumors of the car’s handling. You don’t put down 7:03.45 at Nurburgring in a bone stock ACR with anything but excellent handling. Jealous Corvette guys. I’d love to own a Gen II GTS coupe one day. To me, that was the pinnacle of Viper’s good looks/performance.
SVmanualwagons
Pit Crew

The first-gen handled badly, lots of people crashed them, and the reputation stuck.
dooscoop32
Intermediate Driver

@hyperv6
You wrote: "I also say that we have a better Corvette today because there was a Viper."
I have owned Corvettes since 1971 and I have said that exact same thing many times.
Viperenvy
Intermediate Driver

Doesn't hurt that Bob Lutz came over to help with Corvettes resurgence. He has two in his garage from his tenure.

I have driving notes with a one line on his Corvette thoughts from 1998 will driving a 1998 GT2.
964c4
Intermediate Driver

I have been in the exotic vehicle business for 38 years and have never heard of any of this nonsense. Every viper owner has told me they were a joy to drive. I don't get it.
DT
Advanced Driver

You need to get out more often. Even a Novice like me has heard this statement made many many times .
SVmanualwagons
Pit Crew
Viperenvy
Intermediate Driver

Great read - thanks for the link.
Love the last line, "On the other hand," noted Yates in the logbook, "every time we'd show up in a small town, the locals clumped around one car and one car only: the one built in Detroit."

Just had a two night, three day VOA Capital Vipers region event. Vipers still draw crowds and numerous thumbs up, waves, pictures, videos from the DMVs elites to the reddest of rednecks. Try that with any other car on the list or, for that matter, any other vehicle. Viper can literally unify America and that is what we need.
okfoz
Detailer

The Media is all over trying to over hype how "dangerous" something is. Just look at "Click and Clack (The tappet Brothers)" Who seem to believe anything more than a 4 cyl engine is just overkill. With that said Any car can be dangerous, if you do not know how to drive. I would not let my 17 year old drive my 670hp Mustang, but maybe, when he shows some restraint on the throttle of his Fiero, I will consider it.
doxcopperhead
New Driver

I've driven Vipers for 22 years, even on a track. My '05 is my daily driver. I also have a Corvette so I don't have to pick a favorite. I love both for different reasons. When a few hundred Vipers were produced in 1992, the myth started. People like horror stories and I've heard many about Vipers. An acquaintance of mine was a passenger in a Viper that rolled over into a irrigation canal. He survived but the driver didn't. He said the driver's last words were "watch this". So there you go. I've never had an accident. However, the Viper back end has a greater tendency to beat the front end than does my Corvette.
danhise
Detailer

Well done, Mr. B. And you've come up with a quote from Melville that even I, the former American Lit professor, can not recall. You are a man of parts, which yes can be applied in several ways.

I miss Bob Lutz's pieces in R&T. The man has a proportionate share of warts, but I will never turn my back on a fellow cigar smoker.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

I had lunch with him at his home last year. I get the feeling he'd like to write more, but I also think he's earned rest if he wants it... tough call.
SVmanualwagons
Pit Crew

Oh how quickly we forget. Yes, actually, the first-gen had terrible handling. A drunken celebrity crashing one doesn't count for much, but a period test from Car and Driver does. "This is the only car I've ever spun on the skidpad," notes Don Schroeder. https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparison-test/a15141693/1995-acura-nsx-t-vs-dodge-viper-rt-10...
Why was this author's experience different? The engineer that owns the red car has had 24 years to iron out those kinks.
Viperenvy
Intermediate Driver

Maybe the "Press" just wan't use to the characteristics. Team Viper members I know have stated it took some seat time, but then it was the best car they drove. Stupid analogy, but driving my wife's Miata is vastly different. To your point, they did become better. Even Don thinks so as he drove the 1998 Viper Pilot GT2.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHdK30oFzXo
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

The improvements in tire tech have a lot to do with it as well. EVERYTHING is better to drive nowadays, if you have modern rubber. But some of it was no doubt a matter of calibration. The C/D editors were smallbore racers and/or retired racers who had last won in something like a '75 Pinto. In that context, the Viper is going to be an eye-opener!
Oldroad1
Instructor

How does the SRT get a 13 MPH top end boost over the ACR with it's 145 HP and 75 LB-FT advantage?
Viperenvy
Intermediate Driver

That is how massive the aero and downforce is.
jaysalserVW
Detailer

How do we know that the Viper Automobile's "namesake" is ..."the saw-scaled viper, Echis carinatus..."?
The E. carinatus is not the only "Viper" in the World. I would, logically, have thought of the Vipers in the USA--such as Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, Water Moccasins or even those of Central and South America--such as the Bush Master and the Fer-de-lance.
Viperenvy
Intermediate Driver

It is all of them 😉
farna
Advanced Driver

Too much power in a light car can be dangerous. Spotted a 32 roadster with a 350/Roots blower in it at a rod shop getting a bent frame rail fixed. How did that happen? Owner was at a rod run and someone mentioned that they bet it would break the rear wheels (about 18" wide tread) wheels loose at 60 mph or better! Owner said he didn't know. Well, on the way home on the Interstate with little to no traffic he decided to find out! Not thinking it would, he floored it at about 65 mph. The limited slip diff locked right up as it should, rear wheels broke loose easily, and he was sideways before he could get his foot off the floor due to the big surprise! Ended up hitting a guard rail right near the end of the rail, just behind the front wheel. I'd think a Viper with a power adder and/or wet road would do something similar. Maybe the later 645hp model would do it without a power adder...
NJSteve
Pit Crew

I have owned a Gen1 Viper since I bought it new in Jan ‘93 and raced it extensively back then and still have it today with 8,700 “gentle miles” on it. It was the original Mopar Muscle Magazine Project Pit Viper which was covered in a year’s worth of magazine articles. As far as I know, it was the only Viper ever used as an official magazine project car (with a lot of inside help from several members of Team Viper back in the day). I can tell you that these cars required a driver who was experienced with operating a car whose engine put out massive amounts of torque TO THE REAR WHEELS. (My emphasis added). Back in the early 1990’s there were no cars in recent memory that had that kind of torque output at the back end, so dozens of them were destroyed by drivers who had no clue how to handle something with this power train configuration. Add to that two more things: 1) the car had a 50/50 weight distribution and 2) the Michelin XGTZ tires had what amounted to an on/off switch at the limit of adhesion, and you had a very tricky car to drive. I had a great deal of fun playing with this car and even held a lap record at Sebring in the SCCA Solo-1 A-Street Prepared class back in the early 1990’s for a season until the newer Viper Gen 2 coupes came out and SCCA put them in the same class. Back then SCCA figured that all Vipers were the same regardless of the massive increase in horsepower and suspension improvements with subsequent iterations. So after the car was rendered obsolete I relegated it its present garage art duty. -Steve Siegel, Former Technical Editor/Managing Editor, Mopar Muscle Magazine.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

I remember people joking at Nationals that "ASP" just meant snake!

Very thoughtful comment about the original tires; my goal is to adjust the perception to reflect the current state of the art as the cars drive now, but I can see that they would have been a handful!
NJSteve
Pit Crew

The assembly line tires were a real hurdle to get over with trying to learn the limits of the first Gen cars. That's why Dodge dumped the XGTZ tires for a more user friendly compound in the following years. We actually did the initial real-world testing of the BFG R-1 racing tires in the 335/ZR17 size, for BFGoodrich. I still have a set or two of them. Very sticky and great for handling for its timevipersebring1.JPG.

NJSteve
Pit Crew

This was a vintage photo at Sebring in the pits.