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Speed News April 2017

Speed News Magazine - The Official Magazine of the National Auto Sport Association

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Dodge Viper GT Consider this installment of “Car Corner” the wistful mourning of the loss of an iconic American sports car: the Dodge Viper. It seemed like cruel irony that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles delivered one to the annual Motor Press Guild’s “Track Days” event. That will be the last time we ever see one at a press event. It was almost as if the journalists attending knew there was nothing new to write about the car and, didn’t line up to drive it one last time. They didn’t need any copy on the car, so they didn’t bother. I bothered. I have loved the Viper ever since Chrysler decided to put a real roof and windows on it. The first Vipers were a bit of a joke, unfortunately, what with the snap-on side curtains and the roof panel that looked like a bad toupé. As soon as they put a real roof and a fastback on it, sweet mercy, was it a beauty. There was a Chrysler representative on hand and I pleaded with him, begged him, to keep building the car. I even gave him the business model for it. Don’t change anything on the car. Don’t make any improvements or model changes that Fiat Chrysler would have to amortize through sales over time. Just leave it alone and continue building it on a custom basis. Just keep a few guys in a downsized Viper plant and call it good. But he wasn’t having any of it. The GT model FCA sent to the event was fitted with a driver-selectable suspension system, featuring Bilstein DampTronic Select shock absorbers with street and track settings, a five-mode electronic stability control system. On the track, the Viper delivered just like you’d expect. Grip is abundant and turn-in is precise. At events like this, you don’t drive at 10/10ths, so it’s fun just to take it up as far as your chaperone will tolerate, and luckily they’re usually pretty good sports about it. A nice long wheelbase and appropriately boosted power steering make the Viper GT a wonderful track car. Brakes feel a little on the wooden side, but they are effective tools for slowing the car. Heck, the rear discs are even fitted with twin calipers. Inside, it’s clear that Chrysler heard from early Viper customers that they wanted a nicer interior. A car this cool deserves one, and if you look at the earlier versions of the car, the interior was one of its low points, with plastic and trim bits not befitting an icon like the Viper. The GT interior came with standard Alcantara and Nappa leather seats, which are available in black, Demonic Red or Sepia, with accent stitching. The dash and console also were French-stitched together with contrasting thread. It’s not up to AMG GT standards, but it feels right for a Viper.  To send the car off, so to speak, FCA offered four special editions before production halted. The company built 25 Viper Snakeskin Edition GTC cars, which came with green paint and SRT stripe, aero package and the GT interior. There were 31 Voodoo II ACR editions built. Short for American Club Racer, the ACR cars were painted black with a red interior, fitted with carbon ceramic brakes, the aero package and the ACR interior. The GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR has the same mechanical bits as the Voodoo II ACR, but includes an “extreme” aero package and the American racing colors, blue stripes on a white base. There were 100 of those built. Finally, FCA built the Viper 1:28, which has all the equipment found on the GTS-R Commemorative Edition, and the ACR interior. The name commemorates the ACR’s record production car lap time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. If you find one, it will be one of 28 made. These cars might still be out there gathering dust at Dodge at a dealership. They won’t be cheap now, but they’re definitely not going to be cheap later. “The Dodge Viper has had a great run, and 25 years after it was first introduced, it leaves the supercar world reaching for the records it continues to set,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger cars at Dodge. “With more track records than any production car in the world, the Dodge Viper ACR will live on as the fastest street-legal Viper track car ever, the car that has set the benchmark for all that follows in its tracks.” Fare thee well, Dodge Viper. We hardly knew ye. — Brett Becker SN

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