By on August 18, 2017

2017 Dodge Viper Snakeskin Edition GTC was inspired by the origi

They closed the Viper line at Conner, they’re selling to Chinese
What was once the “engineering company”, now trembles on its knees
The money went to swift sedans, that need cash on the hood
There ain’t nobody left who thinks the Journey’s any good
And the Roadkill squad they’re restless, they need somewhere to go
As Sergio and I look out tonight from Desolation Row

We’ve said goodbye to the finest, fastest American track car ever produced and, although I don’t know exactly why it failed, I have my theories. The only question left is: Could it come back? Is there room for any sporting car from FCA besides the 500 Abarth and the super-sedans from both sides of the Atlantic?

Let me throw my hat into the ring for a moment: I think FCA should field the smallest, lightest RWD ponycar they can build. Something for a younger demographic, something to thrill the people who find the Challenger just too ponderous and exaggerated. It should be fun, it should be fast, and it should be priced to match or beat the Mustang. The Pentastar would do a great job of pushing 3,100 pounds, and there’s always room for a Hemi or Hellcat engine if things get serious. Heck, you could even try a four-cylinder turbo like the one from the Giulia.

The name of the car? Come up with it yourself. My suggestion is this.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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78 Comments on “QOTD: Is There Room for the Snake?...”

  • avatar

    For the name I am split between Duster and Gran Turismo.

  • avatar

    “although I don’t know exactly why it failed, I have my theories.”


    or, maybe, the people who could afford to spend $100,000 on a toy already got theirs and don’t need another one?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Explains why Ferrari isn’t selling cars.

      Oh, wait… they have a 18-month waiting list at $100k ADP. :)

      • 0 avatar

        Well, as Jack already knows, Ferraris are a Veblen good, and Vipers aren’t. The heyday of the Viper was when it was a device for owners to signal a certain rowdiness and tolerance for a car that wanted to kill them. It made Corvettes seem effeminate. The current version was too refined, ironically, and also just didn’t have the clear performance advantage over a Corvette that the earlier Vipers did.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, where do the Hellcats and Demons and such fit into this low testosterone theory? Or the steady success of the Ram line?

      • 0 avatar


        (Corvettes and Porsche 911s are PLENTY ballsy at a $100,000 price point. And they can be driven every day, have all the tech toys, and don’t require mastery of gymnastics to get in and out of. And if you want to get your macho on, there’s Hellcats. No mystery why the Viper failed.)

        • 0 avatar

          New C7 Vettes can be had for for as little as 55k (+Taxes) in metro Detroit.

          It’s, in my humble opinion, the finest vehicle General Motors has ever produced (they finally even nailed the Targa top).

          I realize I’m hard on General Motors and that I believe that they’re a totally incompetent corporation, even by the woeful relative standards of incompetent corporations (which are many and run deeply incomoetent), and that they have produced largely non-competitive vehicles for the last 44 years or so (an absolutely awfwwwful stretch from 1980 to 2005), but they somehow managed to nail the C7 Vette, which is not only good for its class, but at 55k to 65k (actual transaction, not monroney sticker prices) new in base 460-HP form, an over-achiever relative to performance coupes costing much more (handling, power, the whole 9 yards).

          • 0 avatar

            I’d gladly pay twice as much not to be seen in a Corvette. One of the few cars whose image I can’t abide. Plus while infinitely better than the old plastic fantastic, they are still nasty inside for the price. A Porsche is just a nicer place to be, and a lot more practical.

        • 0 avatar

          But did the Viper fail? Seems like they sold about as many of them as they bothered to make. It was never going to be a 100K sales a year car. Presumably they made a profit on them. But not enough to bother re-engineering them for the latest safety and emissions regs. Which may be more about lack of resources in FCA’s current state than anything about the Viper itself.

          And really, if you want the same experience you can pretty much just buy a good “factory built” kit Cobra. And it will be a lot nicer to look at. :-)

          As for a Duster – nice idea. But kids won’t be able to buy it. They don’t have any money, and they can’t afford the insurance. So it will be the same dudes my age and older rolling around in them. Are there really enough Mopar fans left to bother trying to compete head on with the Mustang and Camaro? The Challenger is at least a lot more practical, even if it is a boat. Youth is wasted on the young and all that…

  • avatar

    Isn’t that what the Dart should have been? Small, RWD, with room for a big motor?

  • avatar

    “If the real thing don’t do the trick,
    You better make up something quick”

    Barracuda would be a perfect name for a four cylinder anti-Viper.

    • 0 avatar

      FCA has been teasing Cuda design studies for years, this would be a worthy inheritor of the name.

      • 0 avatar

        This but its going to need to be able to beat up on V8 Mustangs and Camaros with the baggage attached to the name. A 3200-3300 pound curb weight and 400 horsepower from the TTV6 would do the trick nicely also being a coupla grand cheaper at every trim level would also help.

        A class meeting 450-460 horsepower would smite the blue oval and bowtie offerings nicely, especially if they could get that in at 3200 pounds.

  • avatar

    They had the template back in the late 90s… it was the Cooperhead. A smaller Viper with similar styling, RWD, V6, 5 speed, convertible. A hatchback version of this concept could easily become a Mustang or Camaro fighter if they focused on keeping the weight down (ala the GT86) but stuffing a V6 in there instead of 4. Offer a boosted version to reach V8 power and torque levels without increasing the size / weight too much.

    Would it sell? In numbers double then that of a Viper: yes. Enough to make the effort worthwhile in a sea of a self driving hybrid CUVs? Doubtful.

    • 0 avatar

      We know what you meant. :)

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, the relative failure of the 86 will doom any other RWD lightweight marketing experiments. The average gearhead consumer buys used thereby eliminating our most desired chassis as a new car. There have been exceptions, but very few. The failure of the GTO, G8, Saturn/Pontiac Kappa, Australian Chevrolet at retail while maintaining very high residual values proves the premise.

  • avatar

    If Flyin’ Miata can stuff small block V8’s into the engine bay, I don’t think it would be a stretch to throw the PentaStar or Hurricane into the Fiata, Dodge-ify the front end, and profit. It wouldn’t be a classic pony car (no back seat) but it would be a minimal investment way to stay in the track car game. Now, whether or not we’d do such a thing (can’t cannibalize those Fiat sales!) is a whole other story.

    What bugs me is that we allowed ourselves (again!) to fall into a gap where we don’t have a proper track car. First there was ’10-’13 when Viper was hibernating, and now again with its second death. Meanwhile Corvette is producing what looks to be both a new ZR1 and the mid-engine C8, ZL1 1LE, AND Z-28, Ford had the GT and GT350R, and we have…crickets. It gives me Resting Sad Face.

    I appreciate the challenges FCA faces with respect to limited cash on hand, and I recognize that SRT’s new products (Durango SRT and Trackhawk especially) are going to print us money like no tomorrow. It’s incredibly risky to put limited resources into a project that may not profit, and FCA is simply not quite there yet with respect to spare money. Logically it all makes perfect sense, but emotionally I’m still distraught. Hopefully we can use our profitable SUVs to bankroll another track monster.

    As far as a true pony car, at some point we do need to replace the Challenger and Charger, and I don’t doubt that mass reduction would have to be a primary goal in order to remain competitive. I look at the mass reduction achieved on the Pacifica versus the Caravan/T&C and it gives me hope.

    • 0 avatar

      Flyin’ Miata doesn’t have to worry about silly little things like manufacturability, durability/reliability, or validation testing/certification.

      • 0 avatar

        Depending on who you ask, neither do we.

        Honestly though, all of those things simply translate into a dollar amount. None of them are ever truly insurmountable.

        • 0 avatar

          Who is “we?”

          • 0 avatar

            There I go speaking in the corporate collective again.

            I’m a cube dweller here.

            It was a sarcastic reference to our reputation, but honestly from where I sit we’re hyper focused on all those things you mentioned. Ships take a long time to turn, and their wake takes even longer to dissipate, but I’m very optimistic about our future.

        • 0 avatar


          People like you and the old Buickman (although I think he got outed) are why I love TTAC through all its ups and downs.

          • 0 avatar

            Outed, for what?

          • 0 avatar

            @ mike

            I might be misremembering but I think his employer took issue with him posting here.

          • 0 avatar

            He must have said something fairly damning or something that was in violation of corporate security rules, if what you’re saying is true.

            Either of which is stupid. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and don’t open it up to share with the competition. Risking your livelihood isn’t worth all the fake internet points in the world.

    • 0 avatar

      “What bugs me is that we allowed ourselves (again!) to fall into a gap where we don’t have a proper track car.”

      Is it necessary or even desirable for an automaker to have a proper track car?

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure there are Mopar fans that would love to have something as nimble as a Camaro SS 1LE or GT350 around the same or cheaper price point.

        Such cars also pull pretty good duty as drag racers as well so they have some bandwidth when it comes to appeasing the faithful (although drag racers will bitch about how road course guys are 1/2 of 1% despite whatever the real numbers are and shouldn’t be catered to based on you know all those Mexico Racing League videos).

  • avatar

    There is one key feature any potential Viper MUST have to be successful: an automatic transmission. It also needs to figure out its place respective to the Corvette.

    • 0 avatar

      Its place respective to the Corvette has always been “better than.”

      Unless you like cup holders or un-burnt calves. But seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve ordered fast food at a drive-through (which might as well be a second story window from the seat of a Viper) and taken the presence of cup holders for granted, only to find no place for your bucket of cola. Driving a few bumpy city blocks with a large fountain drink between your legs in a 6 speed with the longest clutch pedal throw I’ve ever experienced is perhaps more exciting than a track day. Thankfully you can generally put the car in 3rd and never have to actually shift.

  • avatar

    For a while there were rumors swirling around that the next gen “Challenger” was going to be exactly this. Smaller, lighter, and named Barracuda.

    Did those plans get shelved?

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I hope that never happens. If they make the Challenger into an ATS coupe, it will sell as well as an ATS coupe. The Challenger is something that works for Chrysler, it still meets standards, it’s been long amortized, it’s a more practical alternative to crampy sporty lightweight sport cars. It’s sales should hold steady at least until GM redesigns the Camaro to be more like the old one, heavier and roomier. (GM is probably too stupid to learn the lesson and will keep the discounts coming.) Small is not the answer to anything in the car market right now.

      • 0 avatar

        I would seriously consider buying a smaller, lighter convertible version of the Challenger (Barracuda?). The constant refrain here that EVERYBODY wants bigger is false.

        • 0 avatar

          I used to want bigger. Then I started going to track days, and my vehicle tastes changed from SRTs to a BRZ, which I supercharged, an STI, and now a Focus RS. The GT350 is on my short list too. I no longer have /any/ desire for a Challenger sized car.

          • 0 avatar

            The Camaro isn’t that tight and I’m 6’2″ 280 pounds (although I admit I’m a Mustang man but I check out the competition when I can)

            If a body has a problem fitting in a Camaro (no need to complain about vestigial back seats since that is a something pony cars are known for) then what they really need is a pair of running shoes and a gastric bypass.

            Hell I have a few buddies that can be described as grotesquely obese and they still manage to fit in either.

  • avatar

    Conquest TSi with the choice of a twin turbo V6 or Hemi V8. A RWD 2+2 pony car, manual option ’cause why screw with a formula that works?

    Ram trucks need a TTV6 anyway and Hemis need more cars to fill.

    But 3,100 lbs ain’t happening. Dream on.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Value = product/price.

    The Viper was a poor value; that’s why it failed.

    And FCA can’t afford to support a niche vehicle at 600/year; actually, nobody can.

    • 0 avatar

      Value? Compared to what? I could see calling it a toy or a racecar that nobody needs, but saying it was a poor value doesn’t really make sense. I am a huge Corvette fanboy but I wouldn’t say they are direct competitors despite the similarity in layouts, so to what car would the Viper be a relatively poor value?

    • 0 avatar

      The value is the view over the endless hood with the sidepipe blasting a foot below your ear.

      The value is a big naturally aspirated engine, a precise manual transmission, and two driven tires out back, a formula that is fast disappearing.

      The value is knowing your car was designed and assembled in America but can run with any performance vehicle available for sale, at any price, and on any racetrack.

      The value is watching valets bump 911 GT3s so you can park up front at a nice restaurant with your wife.

      The value is a 200 mph car that you can work on in your own garage, and don’t need a second mortgage for the maintenance costs.

      The value is the awestruck look on the 10 year old’s face when you let him sit in it at a car show.

      Not all these things are valuable to everyone. If more people thought the way I did, the Viper would still be for sale. But calling it a poor value doesn’t really make sense, it was just a car whose time has passed.

  • avatar

    Let’s see, they could use the parent company small 2 seat platform and put Chrysler stickers on it and call it the Crossfire!

    On second thought, no.

  • avatar
    No Nickname Required

    Just call it the Vapor.

  • avatar

    How about they take that Alfa rear-drive platform with V-6 and 8 speed auto, put a retro-hot rod body on it and some plastic front fenders and bumpers that can easily be taken off and a flimsy roadster top. Give it a macho name – something like Howler.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Wasn’t there a Dodge Venom concept car? That would be a perfect name for a baby Viper.

  • avatar

    The correct name for this chimera is “Fury”. And it is a chimera because the younger demographic you speak of is, in the main, completely uninterested in this type of car. They prefer connectivity to a clutch, hybrids to horsepower, and Bluetooth to “build-ability”.

    The days of this type of car are soon to be gone completely, alas.

    • 0 avatar

      If you make anything cheap enough, it’ll sell. Just make 6,000 manual performance models, and 600,000 auto, two-hamsters-in-a-wheel, poseur cars in pretty colors. You get performance chops AND enough volume to stay in business.

  • avatar

    Considering how poorly sports cars are selling these days, there’s no need for a next generation of Vipers.

  • avatar

    “I have my theories.”

    So does this mean Doug DeMuro and Saabkyle are high-T alpha males?

  • avatar

    There are many reasons why a track toy like Viper failed. But first and foremost know your base. Are you trying to sell to Americans a car with no automatic? How about heritage? I don’t care if it’s fast, does it have a museum I can go to tour? Does it have Corvette clubs and rides? Can I take special delivery of it in its factory? How many generations has it been in business? How many after market cool things can I get for the look and feel of my ride? Can I get artwork for my garage to hang from the walls with Viper theme (I sure can for any generation of Corvette).

    I get it Jack, you are a good driver, better than most. But when dealing with those price ranges, it’s all about heritage, hello Corvette. Even Ferrari has heritage. As does Mustang.

    Viper was overpriced, with no heritage and forgot its American base by not providing automatics. Case closed and RIP irrelevant Viper.

  • avatar

    Chrysler has already tried to put out a Mustang competitor on more than one occasion.

    The first serious attempt was the Barracuda. It was at least respectable if not quite superior. And it was built during an era when Chrysler still built some decent, desirable and durable machines.

    The second attempt was the mid-80s Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Laser twins -snazzy looking cars with OK handling and acceleration (for the era). But there’s a reason Phil Edmunston from Lemon Aid refers to the 80s as “the lemon years”, and these cars were one of the primary inspirations for that assessment.

    So now we arrive at a point in history where some think it might be a good idea for FCA to produce a “Mustang-beater” with rear-wheel drive and a big honkin’ V8 under the hood.

    Careful what you wish for because as always, the devil is in the details. (not to mention Fiat’s influence and ability to turn everything it touches into sh!t, and the bean-counters’ predilection for stuffing V6s in places where V8s should go).

    I suspect any bastard child hunk of steel, aluminum and plastic offspring from this marriage will have automatic transmissions with the life expectancy of a Taylor Swift relationship, consume head gaskets like it was tax-deductible and completely miss the point by trying to pass off the only engine option – a turbo 4-banger – as the best thing since sex. I think I’ll stick to Mustangs thankyouverymuch.

  • avatar

    The V-10 in the Viper was getting old, but I think that they could have stuck a Hellcat V-8 in the Viper and kept it in production. I would think that down the road they could switch the Viper to a platform shared with various big Maseratis.

    Similarly, they could develop a slightly smaller V-8 powered replacement for the Challenger (perhaps a ‘Cuda?) that shared its platform the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought I read the platform was designed around that engine specifically.

      • 0 avatar

        If true, it could explain a lot. Maybe to accept a V8 (or maybe even an automatic), an essentially brand-new platform would need to be created. IOW, a V8 and/or automatic Viper might have been just as (or even more) expensive as the existing V10/manual car.

      • 0 avatar

        My understanding was that when the Viper was updated, Chrysler was owned by Mercedes-Benz and that the platform shared an awful lot with the the then concurrently produced SL and SLS models.

        If the SL could come with a V12, a V8 and V6 versions, it shouldn’t have been too difficult to make the Viper with V10 and V8 versions.

      • 0 avatar

        A pushrod V8 will fit, with room to spare, anywhere that V10 fits. But it might not have the hood clearance for a supercharger or overhead cams. I don’t think it would be hard to get an automatic in there either, especially with a more compact V8.

        However, I doubt a V8 would save enough money to make it as affordable as a Vette of similar performance. So sales would still be low, and it will have lost some of its character as a V10, manual-only beast. I’d like to see it live on with additional drivetrain options rather than die, but I doubt anyone can make a business case for it.

    • 0 avatar

      The Hellcat engine is too tall for the Viper. There was no way to put side curtain airbags in the current platform as well.

      The Giulia with a forced induction Pentastar with 400/450hp would be a good start. Then the SRT ‘cuda with 550hp.

      I like how they did the retro ties to the old cars but this car should NOT look like the old Duster in any way shape or form.

  • avatar

    The Giulia weighs between 3,000 and 3,400 lbs, depending on drivetrain and equipment. They could probably take a few inches out of the platform like Chrysler did to make the Challenger out of the 300, and end up with a good basis for a RWD pony car.

    • 0 avatar

      Using an existing platform is the only solution. Cheapen it down enough to sell it to working class Americans and you have a decent starting point.
      The proper Pony car versions just need to be about as good as the Giulia is today, but with more American looks/interiors/sound, and a bit more power than the chassis can realistically handle, until you check all the options.
      Keep it 4 door, and make the rear seats better than the Camaro/Mustang.
      The Viper was a sledgehammer that was tuned to play guitar solos. The fact that it could do well on a track was as unrealistic as making a rear engined flatsix engined car handle with 400hp or more. It would also have taken FCA another 40 yearsto make it into a ‘proper’ sportscar, and by then purists would say they had ruined it…

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, with the new tooling they would need to make a light RWD car, that pony car would cost about $50,000 in the base version. And there wouldn’t be enough buyers who want something that won’t hold God-knows-how much baby detrius. FCA would rather kill Chrysler and Dodge–and their respective heritage–and build another three-row Jeep crossover that will actually sell.

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