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.
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.