I Told You the Viper Wasn't All Dead. Marchionne Says New Snake "A Possibility"

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
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i told you the viper wasn t all dead marchionne says new snake a possibility

The reports of the Dodge Viper’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. If I can borrow a concept from William Goldman, it appears that the Viper is only mostly dead.*

Back in October, when the labor agreement between the United Auto Workers and FCA was hammered out, there was a flurry of reports stating the Dodge Viper was bound for death. That was based on a contract that indicated Chrysler’s Conner Avenue Assembly, where the Dodge Viper is hand-built, had no products planned beyond the life cycle of the current Viper model.

At the time, I said that while the news didn’t bode well for Dodge’s V-10 supercar, the death of the Viper wasn’t certain. Now, at a press conference at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has said that “ there is a possibility that a new version of the Viper may surface.”

Closing Conner Avenue wouldn’t make a lot of sense for FCA. The company only recently invested millions of dollars to completely refurbish the plant in 2012 while Viper production was on hiatus. That investment was part of Chrysler’s restructuring following its bankruptcy and bailout by U.S. taxpayers, so I presume it, and the Viper’s survival, was part of a larger strategic plan. It doesn’t necessarily hurt a large automaker to run a small boutique facility like Conner Avenue or General Motors’ Performance Build Center. That gives them the option when doing limited edition cars of building them either in-house or by a vendor, as Ford has done both ways with their factory NHRA drag racing special Cobra Jet Mustang.

If the Viper does survive, it will almost certainly radically evolve. The current model is still based on Chrysler’s ZD platform, unique to the Viper. The sportscar is also Chrysler’s sole product that doesn’t share its platform, which is pretty ancient by today’s standards, with another vehicle. With the industry having moved to shared architectures and modular platforms, it’s hard to make a case for a car that is sui generis, a thing unto itself. Marchionne said making a car on a unique platform like the Viper “doesn’t make sense to me.”

So upon what platform would a next generation Viper be based? Marchionne’s fuller remarks give us some hints.

“Given the architectural development within the brand, there is a possibility that a new version of the Viper may surface. Whether it will surface in time [before the current Viper ends production] is unclear to me.”

That’s likely a reference to FCA’s new rear-wheel-drive-based (and all-wheel-drive capable) Giorgio platform, the first example of which is the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. That architecture will also underpin the replacements for Chrysler’s current rear-wheel-drive cars — Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger — as well as being the basis for whatever they end up branding the Barracuda or ‘Cuda when that storied nameplate returns as is rumored.

I’m sure that it’s a capable chassis, but I wonder if something based on the Giorgio platform, and mundane enough to be the basis for a variety of sedans, can be extreme enough for Viper enthusiasts.

If the Viper does get new life, the snake will likely shed its V-10 engine. The new Giulia is available with longitudinally mounted inline-four and V-6 engines. That means that while there is likely enough room in the platform for a V-8 (which is about as long as an inline four and as wide as a V-6), the current Viper’s longer V-10 probably won’t fit.

From a power standpoint, a V-8 powered Viper wouldn’t necessarily be an issue. Chrysler’s Hellcat V-8 puts out significantly more power than the Viper’s current V-10.

From an image standpoint, however, that V-10 engine, originally a Lamborghini (then Chrysler owned) gloss on a Dodge truck powerplant, has been part of the Viper’s persona and aura since it was born.

Would a Viper without a V-10 still be a Viper? To start off the discussion, I asked TTAC’s resident Viper fanatic, Jack Baruth, how he felt about a V-8 powered Viper. His answer? “A V-8 Viper is better than no Viper at all.”

What do you think, would a V-8 Viper still be a Viper?

* If you’re under the age of 30 and you can tell me the source of both of those cultural references without searching for the answer, I’ll send the first correct answerer some swag from the 2016 NAIAS.

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

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

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  • Raph Raph on Jan 15, 2016

    Didn't Marchionne want to build Ferrarris off of a modular front and mid-engine capable platform? I swear Marchionne is like concentrated evil and gives capitalism a bad name! GM's Corvette is on its own platform ( and cheaper to boot ) as is Ford's Mustang and while they don't benefit from economies of scale the business case for them is there. IMO a car like the Viper deserves its,own chassis and if anything FCA should be looking to spring off of that with premium high performance cars in other divisions. A Giulia based Viper would be shit ( no other way to put it ) , take about watered down. They should just dump the Viper moniker and call it the Dodge Grog.

  • Brett Woods Brett Woods on Jan 17, 2016

    I hope the Viper stays in production. Maybe get shipped all over the world. Can you get one in New Zealand or South Africa? I guess a dealer only sells one or two a year. I don't know. If anything I would say, "mellow out" on the expensive parts. Smaller wheels and tires. Taller tires. Convertible top. That was a big part of the essential road car. Only racers preferred the coupe as far as I know. But then maybe mostly racers buy this car. Seats on rails two inches taller? Just me. Keep the girlfriend from only seeing sky. I am thinking because of all the conversation about FCA and the shared heritage, of the Maserati - tipo 8ctf Voiturette as an ancestor example. The spiritual predecessor.

  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting#cite_note-auto-1][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriorshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting
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  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
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