Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Viper was developed as a modern take on the muscle car. While there are some who insist that the iconic AC Cobra was a source of inspiration, the final version of the Viper was far too large and heavy to seriously claim any direct lineage with the Carroll Shelby's compact and lightweight vehicle. Most saw claims to kinship with the Cobra as a marketing exercise, though Shelby was involved in the initial design of the Viper.
The basic shape was displayed as a concept car in early 1989 and the first prototype was tested in December 1989. It first debuted in 1991 with three preproduction models as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500, and went on sale in January 1992 as the targa-roofed RT/10 Roadster. A coupe model, called the GTS followed. An interesting feature of the coupe was the "double bubble" roof contours; two small humps to accomidate drivers wearing helmets. Indeed, the Viper's perfomance has made the vehicle popular for both amateur and professional racers. Vipers can be seen participating often in drag racing, road racing and drift racing.
The centerpiece of the car was its engine. Originally designed as a truck engine and based on the LA series, Lamborghini, then a division of Chrysler Corporation, revamped Dodge's cast-iron block V10 for the Viper by recasting the block and head in aluminium alloy, and giving the engine a significant power boost. Some within Lamborghini felt that the pushrod two-valve design, while adequate for the truck application for which the engine was originally created, was unsuitable for a performance car and suggested a more comprehensive redesign which would have included four valves per cylinder. However, Chrysler was uncertain about the Viper's production costs and sales potential and so declined to provide the budget for the modification.
The engine produced 400 bhp (300 kW) and 664 Nm of torque and, thanks to the long-gearing allowed by the torquey engine, provided surprising fuel economy at a claimed 21 miles per US gallon if driven sedately. The body was a tubular steel frame with resin transfer molding (RTM) fiberglass panels. Typical of American performance-car design, it had a front mounted engine driving the rear wheels; it was also heavy with a curb weight of 1,488 kg (3,280 lb) and lacked many modern driver aids such as traction or ABS. Despite this, in straight line performance, it completed a quarter mile in 12.9 seconds and had a maximum speed of 264 km/h (164 mph).
Later models increased engine power; the 1999 GTS had a 450 bhp (340 kW) engine, which could complete the quarter mile 0.7 seconds faster and increased top speed by 35 km/h (22 mph) or so. A number of third party firms have modified the car to boost performance.
Dodge raced a version of the Viper known as the GTS-R in the FIA GT-2 Manufacturers World Championship, where they won the Overall Series in 1997.
The Dodge Viper underwent a model change in 2003, courtesy of DaimlerChrysler's Performance Vehicle Operations (now renamed Street and Racing Technology; SRT) group. The new Viper SRT-10 (Street and Racing Technology, DaimlerChrysler's name for high powered sports variants of its cars) was heavily restyled with sharp, angled bodywork. The engine has been enlarged to 8.3 L which increased output to 504 hp (375 kW) and 525 ft.lbf (711 Nm) of torque. The initial model was a convertible. The new Viper SRT-10 Coupe (no longer called the GTS) was introduced in 2005 at the Detroit Auto Show as a 2006 model. It shares many of its body panels with the convertible but takes its side and rear styling cues from the Competition Coupe (see below). The new coupe looks much like the previous Viper GTS and retains the "double-bubble" roof shape of the original.
A special Dodge Viper SRT-10 Competition Coupe that is not street-legal is available from Dodge for race car drivers, picking up where the GTS-R racing variant left off. The horsepower and torque ratings have been improved only slightly, but the vehicle has been stripped of anything not essential for racing, such as the interior body panels, which lightens the car by 380lbs. The "CompCoupe" comes equipped with a rollcage, a racing fuel cell, and other racing-related equipment. It is not sold in dealers and is purchased from Dodge directly as, essentially, a very expensive race car component. Pricing is in the US$125,000-$150,000 range. The Viper Competition Coupe sees much action in the highly competative SCCA Speed World Challenge Grand Touring Championship.
Viper was the show in which the car itself starred in three seasons. First, was the roadster in the first two seasons. And the coupe in the third season.
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