Manufactured by Dodge, the Viper was first conceived in 1988 and debuted as a prototype in 1989. It was in production in 1992 and continues to be produced. The two-seater roadster was first powered by an 8-liter V10 engine that was paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and put out 400 horsepower. It could go 0 to 100 in 9.4 seconds. The Viper would eat up a quarter-mile in 12 seconds while topping out at 113.8 mph. Top speed overall was 165 mph.
In 1991, a Viper was the Indy 500 pace car and was driven by Carroll Shelby. Lamborghini, owned by Chrysler Corporation at the time, had a part in making that first aluminum block engine. Initially, there were no outside door handles or key locks on the Viper. To enter the car, one had to unzip the soft vinyl window, reach inside, and open the door from there. The roof was canvas.
The second generation of Vipers saw some changes, including a removable hard top. The formerly exposed side pipes were now streamlined through a lone muffler. They then split and exited the rear of the car in two large exhaust pipes. This theoretically boosted the horsepower to 415, up from 400. Aluminum suspension components replaced the original steel ones, reducing the overall body weight by 60 pounds. The Viper GTX, with its air conditioning, power door locks and windows, and airbags, was again chosen to be the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1996.
The ’97 RT/10 got a new 450-horsepower GTS engine, and the ’98 offered an upgraded camshaft and exhaust manifolds. In 1999, the air intake was done over, shocks replaced the suspension, and the A/C and radio became added-cost options.
Lighter hyper-eutectic pistons came out in the 2000 model of the Viper. They expanded less, but the forged pistons were better for the turbo and supercharging aftermarkets. Antilock brakes were added in 2001. Three-hundred sixty “Final Edition” Vipers were built in 2002 at the close of the second generation. All sported red paint jobs with white stripes. The SRT-10 replaced the RT/10 in 2003. In 2006, the SRT-10 coupe took the place of the GTS. The SRT-10 boasted an 8.3-liter engine, a figure that translates to 506.5 cubic inches. This increase in size, in conjunction with other upgrades, upped the horsepower to a whopping 500.
The Mamba edition was introduced in 2004, and it sported a black interior with red trim and stitching. It was a limited run of only 200 and cost $3,000 more than other models. The SRT-10 Coupe for 2006 was debuted at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. It combined parts from the Competition Coupe, the convertible, and the previous Viper GTS to form a new look. In came in GTS Blue with white stripes, and the engine output was 510 horsepower. Chrysler didn’t make a 2007 Viper but stretched the 2006 model while working on the 2008 version. The 2010 was slated to be the final year, but production picked up again in 2014 and continues, with hotter-than-ever engines and eye-catching body styles.