RIP Viper

Dodge will stop manufacturing new Vipers in 2017. This is sad. Sad because it signifys we care too much about safety, creature comforts, fuel economy and avoiding bleeding ear drums.

For those of you who don’t know, the Viper was pretty much the drunken-bar-napkin idea of Carrol Shelby, the dude whose name is on the back of all the REALLY fast Mustangs, and Bob Lutz, the guy who went by the name of “Maximum Bob” and flew a helicopter to work. Like, he flew it himself. Certified Badasses, right? Manual transmission only and a “go big or go home” 8-litre V10, 2-door coupe.

For the first couple of years, these cars didn’t even have windows or roofs – those were dealer options. The exhaust exited just behind the seats through side pipes, amazing for sound quality, and terrible for people who don’t like having a thermal heater under their butts, or third degree burns on their legs when they accidentally touch the exhaust getting out of the car. Technical specs and perks? None. How do you feel about driving a V10 torque monster with no ABS or traction control? Sounds fun, right? That’s what made this monster such a thrill to drive – like dancing with the devil. It is exhilarating until you step on the devils foot. Then you die and your insurance company spits on your still-twitching corpse. Bringing a Viper to a party is like doing surgery with a shotgun.

Sergio Marcheone, the sweater-loving dark overlord of Chrysler announced that 2017 would be the final production year for this ridiculous car. Squarely to blame are weak sales and rising life insurance rates for owners. That makes me sad. It makes me feel like the car community is losing a great car. It makes me wonder what “we” – the well intentioned car nut – will be buying. Do we no longer car for a car that forces you to hone your skills or risk winding up in a ditch? Are we relying too much on fancy-dancy electronic aids to make us go faster and stop shorter?

Yeah the viper is loud, obnoxious, hot, cramped, hard to control, and really bad on fuel. If it weren’t, more people would have bought it. This was a car that was built around an engine…and everything other than the engine was an afterthought. Oh, yeah, I guess we need seats…make them weatherproof because we don’t want to put windows or a roof on the thing. The seats were not weatherproof and most of them smell like pee for good reason. If a car guy built a car and did not care about what the bean counters said, the Viper would be it.

Alas, fair thee well, beloved Viper. I wish you nothing but sunny days at the track and steeply appreciating value.


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