Dodge Viper RT/10 Styling

It is a car best approached with caution. Cats-eye headlamps lead to libidinous haunches that burst with impossibly aggressive tires. The front fenders are cleaved open. Side exhausts sneer at civility. The tail is fun-house-mirror wide. The Viper is where menace comes for lessons.

dodge viper cockpit
Vince Manocchi
No-nonsense cockpit's analog gauges turn from black-on-gray in daytime to yellow-on-orange at night. Air conditioning isn't offered by the factory.

You unlatch the door by reaching inside for the plastic handle. Getting in isn't exceptionally difficult -- as long as the top is off and you can simply drop into the buckets. To get out, you must hoist yourself over the wide door sill, which is likely to be quite hot from the exhaust pipe within. Dodge tried to keep the sill's surface temperature below 150 degrees; a sticker on the doorjamb warns you to avoid contact.

The driver's seat slides fore and aft, its backrest tilts, and a squeeze bulb pumps up the lumbar support. The seat is comfortable and properly bolstered for turns. The steering column adjusts vertically a few inches. Drilled to reduce weight, the pedals are offset to the left to clear the housing for the exhaust headers and transmission tunnel. There's no room for a deadpedal. Cockpit width is abundant and the footwells extend far forward, though the passenger's isn't wide enough to allow much variety in leg placement.

A speedometer and tachometer with black numerals on white faces straddle the steering wheel. A warning-light display is between them. Auxiliary gauges run across the upper center of the dashboard. A trio of simple knobs controls the heat/vent system. Just below is the Chrysler/Alpine stereo -- two of its six speakers are in the vertical housing between the buckets. The stubby shifter is a handspan from the wheel rim. Only the parking brake lever, which sprouts from the wide center tunnel, is awkward to use.

dodge viper window
Vince Manocchi
The side curtains attach separately and have zippered clear plastic flaps. The affair seals well, but traps engine heat for a sauna effect.

Looking out over the hood and fender berms is quite reminiscent of the view from a Jaguar E-type. The low seating position itself doesn't hinder forward visibility, but there are no power mirrors, or even a convex right mirror, so you'll want to double check to make sure no traffic is obscured by the thick rear pillars. Unfortunately, a good portion of the dashtop is painted a highly reflective light-gray, which projects substantial glare onto the windshield when driving into the sun.

The 16-pound vinyl roof and side curtains stow atop the mini-spare tire in the small trunk, leaving little space for much more than a couple of bookbags. Interior storage is confined to the modestly sized glovebox and whatever one can squeeze in the narrow channel behind the seatbacks: There are no map pockets or storage bins.

Despite the heavily insulated floorboards, the footwells, particularly the driver's, grow oven-hot quickly and stay that way. Air conditioning is a '93 dealer-installed option.