By on January 14, 2016

2014 SRT Viper GTS

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

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22 Comments on “I Told You the Viper Wasn’t All Dead. Marchionne Says New Snake “A Possibility”...”

  • avatar

    It will be built by Jeep…

  • avatar

    I hope the Viper survives solely because it is one of the few cars made today that terrify me in a good way.

  • avatar

    I was going to respond to the challenge but I’m over 30.

  • avatar

    Yes a V8 Viper is better than no Viper at all.

    Is the Viper the longest lasting of Bob Lutz’s pet projects?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    FCA can’t afford another vehicle that sells a total of 13228 copies over 15 model years, or 2244* over the last 5.

    *They told this many Town & Country minivans in one week last year.

    Enthusiasts don’t pay the bills.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, I really don’t think they have the cash for this sort of project. It doesn’t even lend the other FCA brands any halo cred either, because it’s a separate brand.

  • avatar

    I’m 29!

    The exaggeration of death quote was said by Mark Twain, I think. And the “only mostly dead” part is Weekend at Bernies?

    (Second thing is a guess.)

  • avatar

    Built off the Alfa Giulia platform, I suppose.

  • avatar

    “Would a V-8 Viper still be a Viper?”

    Would a Mustang II still be a Mustang?

  • avatar

    I don’t see the issue with a V8 Viper at all. The bigger and SC Hemi variants are both more powerful and lighter.

    However what I do see happening is the Viper getting some sort of V6 + Hybrid drivetrain giving it 800hp and setting it as a budge Porsche 918/McLaren.

    However the biggest issue with the Viper is this: Lack of an Automatic tranny. If the Viper wants to live, it has to have an auto optional. Some might say it’s sacrilege, but those aren’t the ones actually buying the things new.

    • 0 avatar

      The Hemi engines are most certainly not lighter than the Viper V-10, especially the supercharged version which adds anther 100 pounds up high on the engine. The Hemi engines have a cast-iron block with aluminum heads, while the Viper V-10 is all aluminum, including the flywheel.

  • avatar

    “I’m on the Brute Squad.”

    “You are the Brute Squad.”

    Unfortunately, I’m well on the far side of 30.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    Since the Viper is a proven nonseller, why not give the thing a massive change? I’m sure when it was dreamed up, the team was thinking of the original 428 Cobra. But that enjoyed very limited sales, too. So I’m all for keeping the Viper name going — just not the present car. And I love big-hoss American hot rods, too.

  • avatar

    Isn’t there some racing league out there where the viper has special permission to use this beautiful engine? I would keep it for that shear fact, while the other cars are being putted around in tiny engines and boring hybrid drive trains, this is the only interesting act in the show.

    Just make a supercharger standard affair on the V10 and start throwing it into multiple other vehicles Dodge has the hellcat? Give the Chrysler 300 a S/C V10

  • avatar

    It would be nice to see a Hellcat-powered Viper (perhaps tweaked for the snake). Not only would the Viper be able to take advantage of manufacturing scale that way, but some of the improvements might trickle down to the various SRT and TrackHawk models (I personally am vehemently opposed to the entire Trackhawk concept, but regardless).

    The chassis, maybe they need to get with Maserati. I don’t think the Giorgio platform is quite right, and Ferarri is no longer around to collaborate with (they would have been ideal to partner with), but maybe they can tweak an existing Maserati platform.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the Giorgio platform being used without completely watering Viper down. I think Sergio is alluding more to platform sharing between the Italian marques Maserati/Ferrari and Viper.

    We know the current platform can support such things as a roadster/convertible (see what Prefix offers) and an automatic transmission (see VLF Force 1) that would broaden its appeal, and upgrade packages available through Arrow Racing prove that there is power on the table with the production V-10 to satisfy the hardcore followers, the issues are the tooling/engineering costs to implement those items when viewed through the lens of a program that isn’t selling and therefore isn’t making any money.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    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.

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