By on March 6, 2014

viper

In what is shaping up to be a public-relations disaster for Chrysler, the company has decided to crush as many as ninety-three first-generation and pre-production Vipers. Worst of all, they’re forcing a community college in Puget Sound to crush prototype #4, despite the fact that the school is still using it to train students. The question is: why?

It’s fairly common for pre-production cars to “escape” manufacturer custody. They can wind up doing anything from racing in a spec NASA series to serving as training tools for high school and college auto-shop programs. It would appear that a fairly large number of first-generation Vipers — ninety-three, at least — made it out of the building.

And then… well, rumor (as reported by various blogs) says that a couple of these Vipers were crashed on public roads, costing Chrysler millions of dollars in fines and settlements. Early Vipers can be challenging to drive enthusiastically, although they’re no worse than any other, um, ten-cylinder car with no traction control and a hood the length of the USS Hornet‘s flight deck. The “loan agreements” under which the Vipers were given to their current custodians give Chrysler the right to demand their destruction, and the rumor is that Chrysler is giving those destruction orders in order to prevent further liability hassles.

Not so, claims Chrysler:

About 10 years ago, Chrysler Group donated a number of Dodge Viper vehicles to various trade schools for educational purposes. As part of the donation process, it is routine, standard procedure — and stipulated in our agreements — that whenever vehicles are donated to institutions for education purposes that they are to be destroyed when they are no longer needed for their intended educational purposes.

With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students.

Also, Chrysler Group has no record of any legal proceedings involving Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions being involved in accidents and product liability lawsuits.

To recap, the Vipers in question have no significant historical value, have not been involved in any accidents and serve no educational purpose – which is what they were designed to do at first.

Hmm.

It would be easy to pick the blog entry apart, and the enthusiast community is doing just that. The only thing I’ll say here is this: The notion that ninety-three early Vipers, taken together, have no significant historical value — well, that’s ridiculous. Imagine if ninety-three pre-production ’53 Vettes were to become available. Hell, imagine if ninety-three pre-production ’83 Vettes were to become available. These cars have value to someone. At the very least, they should be released into a race series or some sort of historical collection. A “Viper Ranch” with all of them bleaching under the desert sun would be better for future generations than this decision.

Chrysler’s done a lot to earn the respect and admiration of “car guys” over the last few decades. From the Shelby Charger to the old Viper ACR, the company’s tried hard to give us the most speed for the least money. But this cowardly crushing of Chrysler’s own history is a dark day in that history. It won’t be forgotten.

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81 Comments on “Chrysler’s Crushing Vipers...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    This is pretty standard treatment of all cars that manufacturers “donate” to schools under such agreements. They aren’t being treated any differently because lawyers are a tough bunch. If there was a way to monetize them, I’m sure they would have. Can’t save em all I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Brawndo

      I wonder how much behind the scenes wrangling went on before Chrysler got to “screw it, scrap ’em all.” It’s hard to imagine Chrysler wouldn’t at least try to offer these schools a Dart or a Caliber in trade for the Viper and a new limited liability agreement.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        This is nothing new. Happens all the time. In the past Chrysler destroyed their Turbine cars and GM destroyed all their EV1s. It is sad for those of us who love all things car that this has to happen, but the manufacturers worry about the tax and other liabilities.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          It’s true that GM destroyed the majority of the EV1s, but a few actually remain in schools and museums, having been “permanently deactivated”.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Kyree, I didn’t know that! Learn something new, every day.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Some GM1s have been re-activated, others simply collect dust.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Yes, and after the video of Western Washington University’s reanimated EV1 hit the internet, they received a ‘cease and desist’ letters from GM’s lawyers.

            They weren’t ordered to destroy the car, however.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        this is petition site – don’t let them do it http://www.thepetitionsite.com/393/174/916/operation-save-the-vipers/

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Hehe, Chrysler is Wranglering.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      I went through trade school, and this is the standard go of things. Trust me, you don’t want one of those cars anyhow. The cars would have to be crushed, and usually some pictures proving it. It’s actually kind of a hassle, so at one point our teacher had us cut up a mid 90’s Saturn into tiny bits and slowly throw it in the dumpster.

    • 0 avatar
      LuciferV8

      Hey, the students have created a petition to save the car!

      http://www.thepetitionsite.com/393/174/916/operation-save-the-vipers/

  • avatar
    Brawndo

    My auto shop class in high school had a mint maroon mid-80s Dodge Omni–we weren’t allowed anywhere near it.

    I can’t even imagine how awesome your school must be to get a Viper.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Kill all lawyers…problem solved.

    Seriously, besides the clowns in Washington, the second lowest form of life is lawyers. Like Washington, they’re like a disease on this country.

  • avatar
    MBella

    The school I went to had one. It was never allowed to be used for any educational purposes by the college. It instead was always locked on a lift in the shop in raised position so it could be used to show off for open houses, and a backdrop for a stop during Romney’s first presidential run. I never understood it. The design could have made it easier to lecture around the car, because there was just more room. Instead we always could barely see what was happening on an Impala or Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      … and God only knows, his second run was doubly baffling

      (couldn’t resist – forgive me)

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The trade school I went to had a few extra nice donated cars in their corral that were off limits too. Like the keepers of these things had some duty to keep them in nice shape.

      I rememeber they had a Turbo III Shelby Daytona with 200 miles on it that no one was allowed to do much of anything to. After a while, the injectors, intake manifold and turbo went missing.

      It’s probably just as well that they were crushed, they were likely just being used as ornaments.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Where’s Lutz when you need him?

    http://www.autosavant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/rollover2.jpg

    http://www.autoweek.com/storyimage/CW/20090209/CARNEWS/902099988/V7/0/V7-902099988.jpg

    He’s the hero Chrysler deserves. ;)

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    It’d be great if they crushed all the other garbage they’ve built, namely everything.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students.”

    Who wrote this crap?

  • avatar
    Ion

    I don’t necessarily think their logic is wrong here. Let’s face it the engine is a pushrod from a pickup, the RWD drivetrain setup hasn’t changed in 50+ years, a six speed manual has become common place, and most importantly it has a basic electrical system no traction control no abs hell no AC. It’s useless as an educational peice.

    What they should do to save face however is donate replacement cars to the schools. Nothing fancy a Dart with the Multiair or a cherokee with the 9speed would make better practice cars.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “I don’t necessarily think their logic is wrong here.”

      They aren’t working on a T-head Locomobile here. Is a 2010 Grand Caravan that much a dinosaur?

      Even on the grandest whiz-bang ICE of today are things like the engine mounts or timing chain or cooling passages or valve covers really so different that a car from the 90s is a useless analog?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I say anything with OBD-II (all ’96 and newer cars) is perfectly modern enough to get them started.

        • 0 avatar
          Ion

          A 2010 Grand Caravan would have a modernized electrical system, and in some cases a 6spd automatic. A Viper prototype has late 80’s technology. Nothing of which couldn’t be found on a newer car. Which is why I suggest they donate newer vehicles as replacements.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            That’s true. Just out of curiosity, why not the 2011 or newer?

          • 0 avatar
            Ion

            I don’t know it wasn’t brought up by me. The 2011 would be ideal as they use the pentastar. Either way whatever they donate would wind up as a tax write off so it’s probably more advantageous to donate a brand new car.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      While I agree that the Viper doesn’t serve any specific educational value that most other cars of the era couldn’t fulfill, they probably could have removed the engine and transmission and still used those for besic instruction. Who knows, maybe some did.

  • avatar

    We had a couple of GM trucks at school. We tore them apart a few times but towards the end of my time there they were sold off for scrap (I’m not sure that would have been OK with GM but the school was facing budget cuts) and had a steady stream of junkers flowing in for shop projects so they really weren’t needed. They had giant stickers on them saying they could never be registered.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      When I went to HS (1962-1965) we were allowed to bring our own “car” project to work on at school, under teacher supervision.

      We had to draw up a written plan and outline what was to be done, how we would go about it, submit it to the teacher and the teacher had to approve it.

      I brought my old Buick Straight 8 with Fluid Drive. Loved Auto shop!

      Other guys built Hot Rods.

      In Jr High Shop I built a scooter similar to a Cushman Eagle but using a lawnmower engine and rubber-belt drive, like modern day Harley.

  • avatar
    James2

    Back when I took auto shop in high school (circa early 80s) we were working on engines from the 1950s. Even if the Vipers were “obsolete” it would still teach the basics of, say, fuel injection or computerized engine controls to the students.

    Boo Chrysler!

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Not clear on why these are out there in the first place if it includes post production examples.

    A serious shame to crush them.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    Got to get people to go out and buy new ones somehow I guess.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Back in about 1993, when I was just a kid, my dad would sometimes go meet his buddies at a diner and sip coffee to kill time and bullsh*t with them. And sometimes, I would go with him and he’d buy me a meal.

    My old man had an associate who was named Ali. He was from Afghanistan or Iran or something. Anyway, nice guy. Everybody knew he had family who had connections with oil fields (in turn, everybody knew he had money). And the cars he drove was all the proof we needed.

    After getting rid of his Mitsubishi 3000GT (pearl white), he bought a damned Viper. Early RT/10 model. Bright red with the black interior. If it wasn’t brand new… it was pretty damned close.

    Just the commanding presence that car made… wow. It looked like it was flying even when it was parked.

    To a kid who grew up in a rather rough, working class part of St. Louis, that car was the be all and end all. That car was the sh*t. Point blank period.

    And yes, these monsters show up on Ebay all too frequently and you can get one for 20K+, I know. Rather affordable.

    But come on, Chrysler… CRUSH them? A waste. And a tragedy.

    I hate you, Chrysler. I really do.

    Have a nice day :)

  • avatar
    kuponoodles

    Thos sickens me as much as the videos of cash-for-clunkers cara being willfully destroyed. These are Vipers, not sebrings, 200’s or any common, econobox rental fleet junkers. How much are theae things worth in parts? They could’ve at least exported out of the US amd returnes the proceeda to the schools.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Just think – your next refrigerator might have had a much more interesting past life.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Another source that I read stated that two of the cars had been involved in road-going accidents, and that it has cost Chrysler millions of dollars already…in which case the lawyers would be doing exactly what they’re paid to do, which is to minimize/eliminate the company’s liability in this situation by sadly destroying the cars.

    But whether or not that other information is true, I don’t see how Chrysler *should* be liable. If Chrysler literally donated the cars, then it has no ownership of them and therefore should not be responsible for any destruction they are involved in. This first scenario accounts for the fact that Chrysler would need a “destruction clause”, since the company doesn’t actually own them but would still want ultimate jurisdiction over their fate. And if Chrysler *does* own the cars and technically *loaned* them to these institutions, it probably did so with the contractual stipulation that they are never to be driven on public roads…which, again, means that Chrysler should not be responsible if some idiot *does* choose to violate the law.

    But that’s not how it goes. In this country, you’re practically damned if you stick your neck out to do something nice for another party. Because today’s laws are interpreted so poorly, they allow the wrongdoing parties to put the blame on someone else…

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      Chrysler built the cars, someone gets hurt or killed in it or by them, then they can be sued. The stories I’ve read also reference two accidents, so perhaps Chrysler’s lawyers advised someone to not wait for number three.

    • 0 avatar
      Frank Galvin

      If Chrysler had retained ownership of the vehicles, by loaning them to the vocational school for an unspecified period of time, I do see a theory of liability attaching to Chrysler. However, I do not see Chrysler being liable. Its like blaming an aircraft leasing company responsible for the crash of a jet leased to another operator. Maybe Boeing is responsible for the defect, but GE Capital? No. Removing the cars from the shop and driving them on a public road is a crime; conversion, and your motor vehicle statutes (criminal and civil). That intervening criminal act should negate any liability attached to Chrysler. Maybe the vocational school is on the hook for leaving the keys in the ignition, but so long as reasonable steps were taken to safeguard the car from illegal operation, then I don’t see the vocational school liable, let alone Chrysler. This just seems like a really dumb corporate decision.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Whoever has the deepest pockets is automatically liable.

      • 0 avatar
        Mullholland

        The latest chapter in “Adventurers in Lawyering.”
        Oh, and a California court has ruled that this suit can proceed in the USA even though the plane crash happened in Mexico.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11203091&ref=rss

    • 0 avatar
      Reicher

      I read on another source that they weren’t donated. they were “assigned” to schools.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’m having a really hard time getting worked up about this, but I still find the Chrysler response to be highly amusing. Clearly the Mopar forums are giving them an earful.

    All they would need to do to make that denial actually constitute a denial would be deleting “donated to educational institutions”
    from this
    “no record of any legal proceedings involving Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions being involved in accidents and product liability lawsuits.”

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I doubt it. On the other hand if I was a car company and I started catching million dollar range consequences from old pre-production cars I’d kill them with fire and leave the remains in the deepest ocean trench I could find. Romance is one thing, millions in additional losses on a loss leader halo vehicle is another.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    While it is a shame to see these Vipers crushed, they were built and sold with the intent they’d never be used and eventually crushed, and as such they’d probably need a bit of work to actually be useful.

    I just hope that some parts are salvaged to help out still going, if nothing else, their metalplastic will end up re incarnated into new Vipers.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    That blog post doesn’t say that no Vipers were involved in accidents, just that there are no records of any legal proceedings related to said accidents. So I read that as no one has sued us yet, but let’s not take any chances.

  • avatar
    Bored383

    they could use them to fill in the sink hole at the corvette museum

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    So long as these cars were saleable, they shouldn’t have cost Chrysler any fines. To not be saleable, the cars would have to contain prototype level parts (or substitute parts), have engine calibrations that weren’t industrialized (locked out) and meet gov’t regulations at the time of production, or manufacturing processes that weren’t fully proven out.

    So… Chrysler let slip cars with parts that weren’t production tooled, or had bad cal’s or weren’t safe due to the body construction. Or they had cars that were supposed to receive modifications to make saleable but never received the wrenching time. Don’t worry – they’re most likely not the lowest VIN’s. They usually reserve those numbers for a few months after production fires up.

    • 0 avatar
      Giltibo

      These cars probably never had a VIN, so they are not saleable and not road-legal. (Can never be registered)They HAVE to be destryed, sooner or later. (No big waste IMHO)

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    The PR flack’s explanation is laughable. How can these cars have no value? Granted, it’s no C1 Vette, but they’re still a significant part of auto history, especially for Chryco. Can’t they just demand them back and save some of the good examples? Surely some auto museum would love to have one.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    Could those who have the Vipers just say “NO”? The company that signed the agreements no longer exists. Seems they could just part them out, and make some money instead of crushing them.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    One summer back in the mid-70’s I was 15 years old and not quite ready for the workforce except for some occasional lawn jobs so I took a auto shop class. They had the front to mid section of a 76 or so Olds Omega Brougham (I remember it was a Brougham since the front seat was the plush version) A nose to just behind the front seat. IIRC GM was big on donating these car sections to schools. It enabled us to use it as a teaching tool to work on it and examine the components in the pre-OBD era while the funk, disco and rock played on the school PA.

  • avatar
    wmba

    All the outrage! Anyone who has kept up with this industry knows that pre-production prototypes are most often crushed, not only here but Europe as well. If the vehicle in question doesn’t meet FMVSS standards as stated for a model year at time of manufacture, or type approval in the EU, then it isn’t legal for sale or use on road. So off to the crusher they go to ensure some illegal vehicle isn’t involved in an accident and end up causing the original manufacturer a fortune in liability.

    But, since these cars are nominally Vipers, everyone goes all teary-eyed. What about crushed Porsches and any other brand you can name? What model year were each of these Vipers? Did they meet applicable standards for that model year? Did they actually have that FMVSS sticker certifying compliance? The answer is pretty obviously NO.

    Chrysler specified at the time of “donation” that the cars would eventually be recalled. I bet nobody at these schools remembers that. They were too awestruck at getting a “free” Viper.

    Now that Chrysler wants them back for disposal, the usual shock happens, and nobody remembers the fine print, and thinks their case is “special”. Well, guess what, it isn’t.,

    The only thing Chrysler can be accused of is not having the foresight a decade ago to realize that using pre-production Vipers as “donations” would generate this response today. They hoped the halo effect of a Viper would subtly influence young students to favorably regard Dodge and Chrysler Corp. In retrospect it was a mistake. They should have donated Neons instead and nobody would care except Barrett-Jackson 20 years hence, when each of these cars would magically become THE authentic prototype Viper, matching numbers be damned. 93 is not an exclusive number, and Chrysler no doubt has a real original or two stashed somewhere. Though not at their museum – they closed that, I believe.

    http://m.autoblog.com/2012/12/31/walter-p-chrysler-museum-closing-today/

    And there’s your real Viper!

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      If the body is sound, vehicles can be retrofitted to FMVSS standards. It’s just a question of a feasibility / cost.

      At the very minimum, the first 15-60 units of every car down the line is usually crushed if it’s a refresh or new platform. Sometimes its the first ~150

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        ” the first 15-60 units of every car down the line is usually crushed if it’s a refresh or new platform. Sometimes its the first ~150″

        Wow. I did not know that.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Put a Danish-born giraffe in each one and double the outrage.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    This is the kind of thing that clearer heads should prevail. Chrysler is doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. If I was the teacher in charge of one of these cars I’d try my hardest to find a way to save it. I doubt that someone from corporate is going around monitoring the process. And if so, I wonder if the operators of the crushers can somehow sneak them away? I know it wouldn’t be legal, but I am sure it isn’t the first illegal act at a junkyard. Knowing what we know now about potentially historic cars, why not spirit one away in the back corner of a garage and crush an old Vette instead, who would know and who would be hurt? 20-30 yrs from now people are going to regret this.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    The viper is a Halo car for chrysler, something to give the whole company zing and presence. The Viper has a faithful following, so to literaly crush its surviving history from a marketing perspective is idiotic.

    Who knows who kenw what at chrysler, probably just a bunch of lawyers wanting to beep their boxes checked and make sure their posts were clean.

    My guess is now that its out there, smarter minds prevail.

    Keepinf pre pod versions of halo cars adds dimesion to the whole concept. Look how many preprod versions, and dfifrent versions of newer vettes are in meuseums. Did we not see the 454 C4 sold by GM, did we not see a convertible Zr1 fall intot he sinkhole.

    Vipers like vettes are very much about dreams and aspiration(not to mention the driving). To have thta you need a timeline and a story, these preprod vipers are not wothless at all, expet to some bean counters and lawyers. We all know what happened whent he bean counters and lawyers ran detriot, everyhting was literaly worthless.

    If Chrysler was msart, they would start a Viper of high perormance mopar meuseum in some old/abadoned detriot building, put a few prototypes of each model in, others can be sold to private meseums with the stipulation never on the road etc. GM had to sell a whole bunch of proptotypes from its collection in 09, legaly there is way..

  • avatar
    eddchinastshirt

    I was employed at Michelin Americas Research Corporation in the early 1990s when the tire companies were bidding on contracts to supply the Viper. Viper #26 was being used by Michelin for tire development purposes at that time, and they needed a place to store the car out-of sight for a night or two. The car was brought into our shop and stored, and there I got to look it over and actually sit in it. I was surprised by the crudeness of it (pop rivets)?

    These cars are built as test mules and get pretty well flogged during the development process. They are not intended for street purposes and are usislly shipped out without serial numbers to prevent eventual registration. Chrysler likely just wants to make sure they cannot fall into someione’s hands who may want to try to put it on the street one day (liability)

    I assume #26 will be crushed, as well. :(

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Could’ve donated a few of them to charity Sergio, and they’d wound up on Ebay raising alot of money for causes…

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    I feel like the very least they could have done is ship them off to the third world or some country that doesn’t have the ridiculous liability stipulations this one does.

    BTW, whenever I see somebody suing a manufacturer over getting themselves hurt with something by intentionally misusing it and winning the case (with a multi-million dollar settlement and subsequently ruining it for everyone else), I cringe. I can only hope that someone decides to add a crowbar blow to the head to their copious settlements.

    If I had my way, I’d pass a law that creates an AS-IS hobbyist exemption form to vehicle salvage rebuilds.

    Such exemptions protecting hobbyists exist in the real world. For example, there is a hobbyist exemption to the EPA’s auto painting laws (God bless you, SEMA Action Network!).

  • avatar
    lon888

    We shouldn’t be mad at Chyrsler, we need to be mad at those who broke the rules and ruined it for everyone else. Chrysler made it clear they were not to driven on public roads. They were and it cost them millions in fines alone. Put yourself in Chyslers shoes – if you had a dog that kept getting out of your yard, biting the neighbor kids and you kept getting sued for thousands of dollars; wouldn’t you get rid of the dog? I would.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    While I wouldn’t want to drive a vehicle that’s been monkey-wrenched by high school students for a decade, I’m surprised that there’s no way to auction them off as museum artifacts or non-functioning collector pieces.

    They are historically significant. and it’s a travesty that they’re getting fed into the crusher like a run of the mill Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    davew833

    When I worked for the local Utah Infiniti dealer in 1992, the community college in town had a first-generation Q45 test mule donated (or loaned) to them under similar conditions. We borrowed it back and converted it to a race car to run at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Modifications included a full roll cage, fire extinguisher, nitrous injection, low rolling-resistance racing wheels and tires, and lots of obnoxious sponsor decals. Unfortunately, the engine was so tired from whatever flogging Nissan had used it for that it blew on the first pass at Bonneville. We then became responsible to find another engine for it before returning it to the community college. Its racing career a failure, I always wondered what ended up happening to it.

  • avatar
    tklockau

    This really ticks me off, ever since I heard about it from my brother last week. Since Fiat now owns Chrysler, couldn’t those schools have said “screw you, Old Chrysler went bankrupt and is dead and gone, we’re keeping them!”

    I’m sure it’s not that simple, but this was a really dumb move on Mopar’s part.

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