Cats-eye headlamps lead to libidinous haunches that burst with impossibly aggressive tires.

Alex Gabbard

Dodge Viper Production

Still, the Viper has critics. It's been labeled irresponsible -- a poor use of both natural resources and Chrysler's resources. Some say a company in Chrysler's financial condition ought to have introduced a mass-market subcompact. It's been branded an extravagance born of outsized egos -- a low-volume mega-buck plaything.

For its part, Chrysler says Viper helped them fine tune the "team" concept used to develop the new LH family of sedans, cars widely regarded as vital to the company's very survival as an automaker. In addition, project Viper pioneered fresh ways of dealing with suppliers -- techniques that will help lower costs on the line of Chrysler subcompacts due in the mid-1990s.

As well, Chrysler points out that the Viper itself is a testbed for new body-panel modeling processes, a new fuel-injection system, and a new transmission. The car also introduces a Chrysler-patented single-piece windshield frame and is the first U.S.-built car to employ urethane foam interior trim that's actually a structural component.

Still, Viper's essence isn't to be found in a board room, or technical specification, or even 0-60 mph times. Much about this car has to do with desire and sheer sensation.

Indeed, it has otherwise straight-laced Chrysler officials making dreamy analogies; one said it recaptures the perfection of young love.

Dodge teased auto writers in June 1990 with the first V-10 Viper prototype.

Jerry Heasley

A more down-to-earth view of Viper might be that it marks the return of automotive enthusiasts to Chrysler's helm -- men and women with an appreciation of engineering and performance. Moreover, it shows that an American automaker can respond quickly to market desires with a car that invigorates the soul and obliterates the routine.

To learn more about the Dodge Viper and other sports cars, see:

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