By on August 24, 2015

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I have a friend and colleague, for the purposes of this post we’ll name him Jack, that races cars and has an active social life with attractive women. It’s not likely that he’d be jealous of a decrepit grandfather like me, but indeed his envy was as green as his old Audi S5 when I recently got to tour the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant where FCA assembles the Viper.

That’s because Jack is an unabashed and unashamed fanboy of Dodge’s handbuilt V10 powered American supercar.

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Jack’s also about the most loyal person I know who doesn’t share some chromosomes with me (and more loyal than even some of my relatives), so if I can do him an act of kindness — or better yet, find an angle with which I can needle him — I will. After all, isn’t mockery and humiliation what friends are for? All of my friends make fun of me. Oh, yours don’t? Never mind.

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Anyhow, in conjunction with Chrysler’s extensive Woodward Dream Cruise activities (which included thrill rides and drag racing out at the old Pontiac Silverdome), Fiat Chrysler hosted a Motor City Viper Owners Club meet at their corporate display in the shopping center parking lot at 13 Mile Road and Woodward — pretty much ground zero for the Dream Cruise. I was already in the neighborhood to check out Roger Penske’s Indy 500 pace car parade and by the time that was over there were some Vipers heading down Woodward. I figured I’d check out the Viper meet and hopefully get some material for a post here at TTAC and maybe even something with which I could gibe my friend.

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Jack’s rather opinionated. Maybe you remember this post that passionately expresses how he’d own the previous Z06 version of the Vette but never a Corvette with an automatic transmission (or convertible top) because, to him, the slushbox Vettes say “soft old man”.

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As I watched the MCVO members show up, park their cars where directed, and dismount their reptilian steeds, two things about Vipers occurred to me. The first was that it is apparently de rigueur that if you own a Viper, you must get vanity plates. The other is that it looked like the average Viper owner fit the stereotype of older, bald, tanned, gold-chain-bedecked Corvette owners better than Corvette owners themselves. I think I saw maybe two owners who looked to have a prayer of being younger than Baruth’s 43. More than a few were older than me and I remember John Kennedy getting elected.

The guy on the left was about the youngest Viper owner there, and even he has a touch of grey.

The guy on the left was about the youngest Viper guy there (he was representing a Viper tuner), and even he has a touch of grey.

I even joked about the Corvette stereotype to one Viper driver and he agreed. “Well, at least you don’t have the gold chain,” I pointed out. That’s when he laughingly reached into the neck of his shirt to show me that he came complete with 14K.

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It was pretty hot that day and I was getting some shade under an umbrella where they were taking applications for credit cards. As a gift for possibly dinging your credit rating, they were giving out metal Viper and Hellcat wall plaques. “Wait,” I thought to myself, “I know someone who really likes Vipers.”

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I have more than 60 egg crates filled with automotive press kits and swag I’ve accumulated over the past 15 years, so it’s not like I really needed the wall hanging. I sent Jack a text message.

“You want this Viper wall hanging?”

“Of course I do. That’s badass”

“These Viper owners fit the Vette stereotype better than Vette owners. Seriously, driving a Viper would peg you as one of the “olds” quicker than a Corvette rag top.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care.”

Got to admire a man who will put aside his passions so he can stick to his convictions.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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15 Comments on “Viper Pit on Woodward – It Always Has to Be Snakes...”


  • avatar
    tylanner

    Although I am a Vette kid, I will never disparage a Viper. Dodge/Tom Gale created an American icon overnight. I don’t think there has been a more effective transition from concept to production since.

    Also, they hit the Corvette/Mustang at maybe their weakest points in their long production history, which helped.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Has the one in the title photo been crashed? The general front alignment is pretty poor, and you can see the extra space around the headlamps. The bumper is also messed up on the driver’s side.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      What kind of panel gaps and alignment to you expect from an at least 20 year old handbuilt, high performance Chrysler product, made by UAW workers, in a factory in Detroit, that was built in 1916?

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      The car in the title photo looks like it might be a first year, or at the very least a very early-run model. The first Vipers, IIRC, used various methods of plastic composite body panel forming for about every panel. Such technologies were relatively new in the early 90s and the lessons of using plastics for vehicle bodies were still being learned the hard way by those making the polymers and the vehicles.

      While that car may indeed have required bodywork, I don’t see the alignments and panel gaps as exceedingly bad given the plastic panels. The hood is front-hinged and early Vipers I have heard run pretty hot. This would have caused extensive panel expansion of the hood outward from the hinge mounts and possibly some sag along the edges. You do not want the hood to contact the headlight housing as it will produce visible vibration in the light pattern.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Ah ha, the composite thing puts me in mind of the early 90’s Elan, and the problems they had with contraction/expansion on those. Lotus wasn’t quite prepared I think, and the cars ended up a different shape than intended.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I would love a Viper from any of the incarnations. However for practical reasons I would much prefer a coupe over a roadster.

    The Viper has a history of being the car that Chrysler uses to say “Hey, remember us? We can do cool stuff too you know.” This was especially true when it was introduced and the only vehicles in the Chrysler lineup with more than a V6 were trucks.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Ronnie – Congratulations on deftly loving and tweaking Jack all at once. He deserves both.

    Another good piece, with great photos. Looks like a fun time.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That white and blue GTS with the VENOMM plate is sick, btw. I think that’s my favorite.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Years ago, I was working for a company in Detroit that made the front wheel arch support brackets for the Prowler. As such, there was a fit-up issue and I was tasked with taking the profile gage down to the Connor Assembly Plant. Given the heft of the gage, I was allowed to drive my late father’s Dodge Ram truck right into the plant and to the assembly line for the Prowler. This was way before the time of every cell phone having a camera. Oh, how I would have loved to have gotten a picture of that. It was cool to see partially assembled Vipers being driven around with crates for seats, as well as to see the final finishing station where they detailed the completed vehicles. Oh, and as an aside, I had my Corgi with me at the time (he was a mere pup then) and I actually let walked him outside on the grounds where he piddled. Not sure anybody else can (or would) claim that!

  • avatar

    The Viper is a great no-apologies kind of car and I really like the GTS coupe version. A few years ago I was cycling over the Stelvio Pass in Italy when a horde of six or seven Vipers went by, a German club on an outing–very memorable. The comment about the stereotype of the Corvette owner applying equally to Viper owners probably fits most owners of expensive, impractical niche cars. Stereotype: old fat, bald gold chain-wearing guys who drive slowly on the rare occasions they actually take the cars out. Well, men generally have more money than women and older men more than younger men; the Viper is not a daily driver kind of car so you need an alternative as well; a lot of guys growing up in the 1960s remember the Cobra Daytona Coupe and the Viper GTS is clearly inspired by that. Corvette owners are laughed at for not driving their cars much–but just check out the low-mileage 10-15 year old Vipers on Autotrader. But then there are plenty of low-mileage GT500 Mustangs to say nothing of pampered Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris. I would like a Viper; the stereotype only matters if you think your possessions define you. Then again I am Corvette owner in his late 50s but I have no gold chains and the car has a manual transmission so I might be safe.

  • avatar
    Chan

    The Viper is the only American supercar that even has a reputation to speak of in the rest of the world.

    I do have a soft spot for a blue 1st-gen GTS.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    After a long line of vettes, my stepson just picked up an original year Viper. Black with tan upholstery and perhaps the widest tires known to man. He wanted one for years and put money aside to get one. Glad he’s happy. My last (and first) vette was a 75 ragtop that a growing kid forced me to sell. Never looked back.

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