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 Viper 1992-2002 from Hemmings Motor News

  • December, 2012 – Mike McNessor
  • 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 was 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 Hemmingsor 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 Track, 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 1996-2002.
  • 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 Drivetrain
    The Viper’s V-10 powerplant is an American icon in itself. The 90-degree 488-cu.in. 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 a distributorless 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; 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 varied 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 serves 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.

·      


  • PARTS PRICES

    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

·      


·      


  • PRODUCTION
  • 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

·      


  • WHAT TO PAY
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

·      


  • CLUB SCENE
  • The Viper Club of America
    www.viperclub.org
    1-800-677-4321
  • This article originally appeared in the December, 2012 issue of Hemmings Motor News.