dodge viper concept sketch

Izod, a 1985 design exercise, provided some conceptual groundwork when Chrysler laid out the original Viper styling themes in early 1988.

Chrysler LLC

Dodge Viper Concept

The Viper saga began in early 1988, as some of Chrysler Corporation's top decision makers, who also happen to be car guys, turned to the notion of building a new car with the spirit of the original 1965-1967 Cobra.

Chrysler's design staff jumped at the assignment. Their sketches became a concept car -- one that dazzled auto show audiences. People wrote letters asking Chrysler, "Build it, please!" Some actually sent deposit checks. Suddenly, a car company barely registering a heartbeat had a high-profile hit on its hands.

Within Chrysler's ranks an elite commando unit of car engineers and designers was formed. Equipment was "borrowed," space "procured." This group produced a running prototype in just 11 months.

Lee Iacocca himself is said to have authorized production of the Viper after an awesome test blast down a suburban Detroit street.

And when Chrysler stumbled into a public-relations briar patch by announcing that the Japanese-built Dodge Stealth would pace the 1991 Indianapolis 500, it was Viper that raced to the rescue. Another prototype was hurriedly produced and pressed into pace-car service. At the wheel was the man behind the legend, Carroll Shelby, who just months before had undergone a heart transplant. Shelby was the father of the Cobra, and a driving force in the development of the Viper.

dodge viper layout

No car sold in the U.S. has more body panels formed by resin transfer molding (RTM), a time-saving method of creating high-quality composites.

Alex Gabbard

When the first half-dozen of the 200 1992 production models rolled into Southern California showrooms in May, they caused a sensation. Ecstatic Dodge dealers accepted orders at triple the $50,000 list price. Others said their Viper was not for sale at any price -- it was too valuable a drawing card.