History of the 1996-2002 Dodge Viper

An all-new Dodge Viper bowed in 1996, marking an evolution from a barely tamed brute of a machine to a more usable car than it had been in its first incarnation. Although the second-generation Viper looks the same, it’s a very different car underneath.

For the Viper’s second generation, Dodge redesigned the chassis, suspension, and brakes to make the car more manageable without losing its over-the-top performance. Engine power was still provided courtesy of an 8-liter V-10 engine with 415 hp for the roadster version, and 450 hp for the new Viper GTS coupe. The roadster received the uprated engine in 1998 and thereafter.

The Viper GTS coupe was an instant hit with performance enthusiasts who weren’t sold on the Viper roadster’s all-weather open-top idea. The coupe roof design includes two “bubbles” over the seats to accommodate drivers wearing racing helmets, and that wasn’t just a gimmick, as Viper coupes found immediate success in sports car racing. Both in SCCA national championship racing and in the professional World Challenge series, the Viper was the first car to seriously challenge the Chevrolet Corvette for dominance.

Chrysler released an “American Club Racing” version of the Viper in 1999, specifically designed for use in SCCA racing. The ACR included an alternate air intake that bumped hp to 460. More than 50 pounds of weight was removed – generally by omitting interior trim and the stock fog lights. On the underside, the ACR received a stiffer racing suspension. Most of these cars went straight to SCCA racers and have never seen street use.

Vipers from 1996 to 2002 received dual front airbags, but in keeping with the Viper’s pure sports car creed, the Viper did not include anti-lock brakes until 2001 and has never included traction or stability control. Still, the second-generation Viper could make 0-60 in 4 seconds flat, 0-100 in 8.6 seconds, and turn a quarter-mile in 12.2 seconds. With an honest top speed of 185 mph and 1.01g on the skid pad, performance enthusiasts are hard-pressed to find a more gutsy sports car.

Street-minded collectors should look for 1999 Vipers featuring the Cognac Connolly leather option, or 2001-2002 Vipers with anti-lock brakes. Performance enthusiasts should scour the race car sites for a well-loved and un-crashed Viper ACR coupe. Regardless of the model, the best advice is to sit down, strap in, and hold on tight.

Click here to read Hemmings Motor News’ Buyers Guide for the 1992-2002 Dodge Viper.

2000 Dodge Viper GTS Info

  • Body Styles
  • 2dr Coupe
  • Engine Types
  • 10-cyl. 488cid/450hp

2000 Dodge Viper GTS 2dr Coupe 10-cyl. 488cid/450hp Info

  • Number Produced
  • 949

·       Dodge

  • The Viper is an audacious car and its
    introduction was an audacious move.
  • Approximately six years after repaying the
    government-backed loans that rescued parent company Chrysler from the brink of
    bankruptcy, Dodge was showing off this bright-red, two-seat roadster styled
    like something a cartoon crime fighter would drive and powered by an 8-liter
    V-10 engine.
  • Wha…? An exotic Dodge supercar? What next? An
    all-new line of Ferrari pickup trucks and sedans?
  • You have to hand it to Bob Lutz: he’s a bold
    guy and his Viper was a bold move, brilliantly executed. As the oft-told story
    goes, in 1988, Lutz, then president of Chrysler, was driving his 1985 MK IV
    Autokraft Cobra and decided that the Dodge lineup could use just such a
    bare-bones hot rod/sports car. As preposterous as it seemed, it was doable, and
    Lutz found willing accomplices in Chrysler design chief Tom Gale and head of
    engineering Francois Castaing.
  • The heart of this beast would be loosely based
    on Chrysler’s LA engine line–essentially a 360 with a couple of cylinders
    grafted on. A few of the front-end components were snatched out of the Dodge
    Dakota’s parts bins and the car were further simplified by making it completely
    devoid of anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary: no roof, no side windows,
    no outside door handles, no air conditioning. This was an all-business car,
    simple as a shotgun and just as powerful–which would appeal to macho American
    performance car enthusiasts. But its no-frills design also made it practical
    for Dodge to build and sell.
  • The Viper concept made a huge splash at the
    Detroit Auto Show in 1989, all but ensuring it would actually be produced. But,
    interestingly, one of the Viper’s early defining moments came at the 1991
    Indianapolis 500. The original plan was to use a Mitsubishi-built Dodge Stealth
    to pace the 500, but this had American motorsports enthusiasts, as well as the
    United Auto Workers union, howling. So a pre-production Viper was substituted
    at the last minute, with the car’s spiritual forebear, Carroll Shelby, at the
    wheel (fresh from a 1990 heart replacement!).
  • The Viper was exciting enough on its own, but
    the minor controversy only added to its animal magnetism. Lutz’s inclusion of
    Shelby in the Viper project as an advisor was also a stroke of genius. The
    Viper was intended to be the modern interpretation of the Cobra, so who better
    to help sell it to Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca and the faithful, hungry for
    another performance car icon, than Ol’ Shel himself?
  • Today, the Viper needs no introduction from
    Lutz, the late Mr. Shelby or anyone. After a hiatus, it’s being reintroduced
    for 2013 as the SRT (no Dodge in the name) Viper.
  • As a collectible, the original Viper is a
    shoo-in. It hit showrooms with a built-in fanbase, and the ranks continue to
    swell. Though produced in low volume, there are always many to choose from for
    sale in the pages of Hemmings or
    on the Internet, with prices ranging from the cost of a new mid-size sedan up
    to six figures.
  • Here, we’ll focus primarily on the early
    Vipers, but there have been several generations of Vipers produced since 1992:
    The classic RT/10 (Road and
    , 10-cylinder) roadster from 1992-’95 is generation one.
  • In 1996, the RT/10 roadster, with a new chassis
    and more horsepower, was produced for half a year before production shifted to
    the all-new GTS Coupe. This second generation of Viper was built from
  • In 2003, the third-generation Viper was
    completely redesigned and introduced as the SRT-10 (shorthand for
    DaimlerChrysler’s Street and Racing Technology Group). An SRT-10 Coupe was
    unveiled in 2005 and built as a 2006 model. No 2007 model year Vipers were
    built, so the third generation is recognized as running from 2003-’06.
  • The last generation was built from 2008-’10,
    when the Viper was discontinued until the Generation V car was introduced
    earlier this year as a 2013 model.


  • Engine and

    The Viper’s V-10 powerplant is an American icon
    in itself. The 90-degree 488-cu.in. the engine is descended from Chrysler’s LA
    engine family–318, 340, 360, etc.–so its design is mid-twentieth-century
    V-engine 101: cam in block, pushrods, and two valves per cylinder. (Point of
    trivia: The Viper concept car’s V-10 actually was built by joining a couple of
    iron 360 blocks together. Roush Racing is said to have performed the surgery.)
  • The production eight-liter (upped to 8.3 in
    2003) V-10 shared nothing with the LA series V-8s, nor did it share any parts
    with the truck V-10. It was heavily influenced by engineers at Lamborghini,
    which was a Chrysler holding at the time of the Viper’s development. The Viper
    V-10 uses a deep-skirt aluminum block with a heavy-duty main bearing girdle, a
    forged-steel crankshaft, cast-iron cylinder liners, forged aluminum pistons,
    roller lifters, aluminum cylinder heads, magnesium valve covers, fuel injection
    and distributor-less ignition. The bore and stroke of the original engine was
    4 inches by 3.88 inches and the compression ratio was 9.1:1.
  • In 1996, the R/T 10 convertible’s engine was
    upped to 415 horsepower and the GTS rolled out with 450. Dodge seriously upped
    the ante in 2003 when it increased the V-10’s size to 8.3 liters and its
    horsepower rating to 500.
  • Most people report faithful service from all of
    these monster engines, though some early versions burned oil, as they suffered
    piston ring sealing issues. Some of these engines were rebuilt or replaced
    under warranty, so if you’re hunting for a “numbers matching” 1992 or
    1993 Viper, this is something to watch out for.
  • The 1996 GTS and 1997 RT/10 received a
    “new” engine with 50 more horsepower; it weighed 80 pounds less.
    Fundamentally, it was the same V-10, but with so many improvements (the block
    was strengthened, the cooling system improved; and even the throttle linkage was
    revised) that it’s generally recognized as a new engine.
  • Sidepipes, notorious for burning legs during
    egress were eliminated in 1995 and the last 300 cars equipped with side
    exhaust were marked with a special tag.
  • A BorgWarner T56 six-speed transmission was
    used in the Viper; automatics have never been available. A first-to-fourth skip-shift
    solenoid is used on the transmission to help increase fuel economy.
  • The rear axle is a Dana 44 with independent
    half-shafts. Again, in an effort to increase fuel economy, Vipers ship with
    tall 3.07:1 final drive ratios. Celebrity Viper owner Jay Leno had 3.73:1 cogs
    installed in his 1993 RT/10 and claims that it made a big difference in the
    car’s acceleration.


  • Body and Chassis

    A roadster with lots of grip and a big, torquey
    V-10 engine requires a stiff chassis, so the Viper’s was designed to be more
    than up to the task. This is not a flimsy unit-body vehicle–the Viper rides on
    a full frame made out of rectangular steel tubing. A pair of rails mount the
    front suspension and straddle the passenger compartment, while an inner set of rails
    cradle the engine. Out back, there’s a box made out of square tubing to mount
    the independent rear axle and suspension. On early cars, the suspension
    consists of fabricated steel unequal-length control arms and coil springs with
    high-performance gas shocks. In 1996, the chassis was made lighter with the use
    of cast aluminum upper and lower A-arms; it was also stiffened significantly.
  • Vipers use rack-and-pinion steering with a
    16.7:1 steering ratio. Handling on the early cars was sharp and unforgiving,
    and the power made it easy to spin out.
  • Stopping an early Viper could be just as
    eye-opening. Despite 13-inch rotors front and rear, the Viper can be a handful
    to slow down due to the lack of ABS (introduced in 2001). The inexperienced are
    advised to exercise caution when attempting tail-braking techniques at
    track-day events.
  • The Viper’s body is made of resin transfer
    molded plastic, fabricated in large pieces that arrive at the assembly plant
    pre-painted before being installed on the chassis. The signature one-piece
    clamshell hood on generation one and two cars was sheet-molded out of a single
    piece of composite material and, when it was available from Dodge, a
    replacement cost upwards of $20,000. Used hoods can be found today in the
    $2,000-$5,000 range.
  • If you’re serious about owning a Generation One
    or two Viper and you’re not a bona fide expert on the breed, it’s best to find
    a complete car that has been well cared for. Since the RT/10 was essentially a
    hand-built car and there were a number of running changes made in the first
    years of production, finding replacement body and interior parts can be a
    challenge. Soft-top materials and fastening systems vary greatly from year to
    year; body parts can be hideously expensive; and interior parts, upholstery, and
    trim are in some cases nonexistent.


  • Interior

    By modern standards, the interior of the early
    Vipers is nothing to gush over, but it serve its purpose. For the first two
    years of production, gray was the only color available. Black and tan became
    optional in 1994. Air conditioning wasn’t available from the factory until
    1994, when it was added as a $1,200 option. If things like power windows and
    exterior door handles are important to you, shop for a second-generation
    1997-2002 roadster (or a GTS coupe).
  • Driver comfort was clearly an afterthought
    here–the early Viper is difficult to get into and out of, the ride is
    punishing, the clutch pedal is far to the left and the brake pedal is about
    where the clutch pedal should be. In generation one and two Vipers, the shifter
    throw seems longish by sports car standards and occupants will face a steady
    wave of heat blasting off the engine once everything is up to temperature.
  • Driving a 1992-2002 Viper is not for everyone,
    but it is certainly a thrilling, unforgettable experience.



    6-piston Brembo brake upgrade (front) — $3,199

    Accessory drive belt — $51

    Aluminum radiator — $729

    Complete replacement exhaust — $3,289

    Hood emblem — $114.95

    Koni shock package — $3,995

    Michelin Pilot Sport II Tires — (four) $1,369

    Mopar ACR Copperhead wheels — (four) $3,895

    Head bolt set — $117

    Head gasket (1992-’96) — $250

    RT/10 oil filter — $6.95

    Seat base and cushion — (1996-2002) $695

    Service manual — $139-$169

    Spark plug set — $27.50

    Throttle cable assembly — (1992-’95) $92

    Timing chain (1992-’95) — $133



  • 1992 — 285

    1993 — 1,043

    1994 — 3,083

    1995 — 1,577

    1996 RT/10 — (roadster) 721

    1996 GTS — (coupe) 1,166

    1997 RT/10 — 117

    1997 GTS — 1,671

    1998 RT/10 — 379

    1998 GTS — 837

    1999 RT/10 — 549

    1999 GTS — 699
  • 1999 ACR
    (American Club Racing version)

    2000 RT/10 — 840

    2000 GTS — 949

    2000 ACR — 218

    2001 RT/10 — 874

    2001 GTS — 877

    2002 RT/10 — 545

    2002 GTS — 918

    2002 ACR — 159


Low Average High
1992 RT/10 $16,000 $20,500 $30,000
1993 RT/10 $17,000 $21,000 $31,000
1994 RT/10 $20,500 $30,000 $40,000
1995 RT/10 $23,000 $30,000 $41,000
1996 RT/10 $24,000 $31,000 $44,000
GTS $27,000 $32,000 $48,000
1997 RT/10 $25,000 $32,000 $45,000
GTS $29,000 $34,000 $48,000
1998 RT/10 $27,500 $34,000 $47,000
GTS $32,000 $36,000 $49,000
1999 RT/10 $30,500 $38,000 $45,000
GTS $35,000 $38,000 $50,000
2000 RT/10 $32,000 $38,000 $46,000
GTS $35,000 $40,000 $50,500
2001 RT/10 $35,000 $40,000 $50,000
GTS $38,000 $44,000 $53,000
2002 RT/10 $39,000 $43,000 $55,000
GTS $40,000 $44,000 $53,000


  • The Viper Club
    of America


  • This
    article originally appeared in the December, 2012 issue of Hemmings Motor News.