25 years of the Dodge Viper: The highs and lows

2016 Dodge Viper ACR

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] has confirmed it’s culling the Viper, and despite the recent ramblings of CEO Sergio Marchionne about a possible successor it looks like the 2017 model year will be the nameplate’s last.

Yes, the Viper has bowed out before. You’ll recall it skipped the 2011 and ’12 model years. But back then FCA was talking up a new model even before production of the existing car had ceased.

Couple the low sales of the current Viper (just 676 were sold in all of 2015) with the impending regulatory framework for emissions and it’s not hard to see why FCA made its decision. The car is still one of the fastest on sale, regardless of price, but the game has changed and this time it looks like the all-American supercar’s time is finally up.

Here’s a look back at some of the Viper’s highs and lows over its 25-year history.

Pre-production Dodge Viper pace car at the 1991 Indianapolis 500

End of a dismal era: The Viper was born at the close of an era of disappointment among American cars, which at Chrysler was epitomized by the K-Cars. The Viper was totally different. It was a smooth, sexy supercar designed to burn fuel and rubber.

An instant success: The car began life in 1988 by Chrysler’s Advanced Design Studios. Under noted product man Bob Lutz’s direction, designers Tom Gale and Roy Sjoberg brought the idea of a modern-day Cobra from paper to reality. The original concept proved a major hit at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show and just two years later none other than Carrol Shelby was pacing the Indianapolis 500 in a pre-production example. By early 1992 the first Vipers were landing in showrooms.

Powered by a truck engine: Of course the car wasn’t without its detractors. The Viper was powered by a V-10 from Chrysler’s truck lineup, albeit modified by Lamborghini, which was owned by the American automaker at the time. The engine alone weighed more than 700 pounds but it produced an impressive—for the time—400 horsepower. The car was an absolute brute in all aspects and proved to be difficult to drive at its limits.

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