In early November, Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles announced the company would stop manufacturing one of its most powerful sports cars, meaning used Vipers in New Jersey could become a hot ticket item.
Only 500 more Vipers will be built by July, 2010, when manufacturing will cease in Detroit, according to MotorCrave.com. Dodge decided to limit production because it wants to preserve the value of the Vipers that are already on the road, rather than flood the market with the model in hopes of squeezing every last penny out of the muscle car.
The Viper was first displayed at the North American International Auto show in 1989, reports Edmunds.com. The first generation model was originally called the RT/10 Roadster, which became available for purchase in 1992. The most striking features of the Viper were its massive 8-liter V10 and six-speed transmission, which allowed the car to accelerate to 60 MPH in 4.6 seconds and then on to 100 in just 4.6 more.
Since its inception 20 years ago, the Viper has been redesigned three times. Its third generation was built under DaimlerChrysler beginning in 2003, says the website. Critics liked this version of the Viper because it was faster than past generations and also more practical.
“There’s no denying the functional improvements afforded by the new Viper’s exterior design – not to mention the collective sigh of relief by every new Viper owner’s insurance agent due to the elimination of the expensive one-piece hinged front end,” wrote the publication’s Karl Brauer after driving the 2003 Viper for the first time.
The third generation Viper was built until 2006 and also featured a V10, according to Edmunds. But this motor was 0.3 of a liter bigger than the original and produced 510 horsepower, a 110 HP gain. Combined with a burly T56 Tremec six-speed manual gearbox, the ’06 Viper got to 60 in 3.9 seconds and to 100 in about 8.4.
In 2007, no models were produced and America learned the fourth generation would only become available the following year, meaning Viper lovers know how to play the waiting game. That’s fortunate because they’ll have to wait until 2012 for the fifth generation Viper, according to Motor Trend.
The future of the Viper is uncertain since, as most Americans know, the U.S. auto industry has been on the ropes lately. On June 1, 2009, Chrysler and Fiat announced they would be joining forces because the American manufacturer was suffering financially.
“We are very grateful to loyal Chrysler customers who have supported us throughout this process and assure them Chrysler Group is well prepared to produce and support quality vehicles under the Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler brands,” said Robert Nardelli, CEO of Chrysler.
Reaction to Chrysler-Fiat deal has been mixed. Some American car enthusiasts are excited because Fiat owns Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, meaning new Chryslers could offer a certain amount of European charm. Others are afraid the Italian company will go too far and try to tame Chrysler muscle cars like the Viper.
“I fear that the Italians don’t want a $90K Dodge to outperform a $200K Ferrari,” wrote one Motor Trend contributor. “It’s possible they will hold the Viper back and keep it from being the monster that it is today.”
It seems Americans are going to have to say goodbye to the Viper for a little while, like it or not. Officials aren’t sure whether the sports car will come back, menacing V10 and all. What is almost certain, however, is that used Vipers in New Jersey could become quite popular when car buyers learn only 500 more purely American models will be manufactured in the foreseeable future.