Championship Auto Shows brought the 2011 52nd Annual AutoRama to Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center November 24-27. With our novice effort in 2010 behind us, the Houston Viper Club picked up the gauntlet, stepped on the loud pedal and just like Texas native Ben Keating’s Viper Exchange ACR at Nürburgring, took it up a notch to win more fans and praise for the iconic Viper.
Sneaky Pete logos topped the stanchions that were linked together by snakeskin-covered chains setting off the 20’ x 60’ black carpeted Viper Club display area. Realtors want to talk location, location, location! Well, how about an AutoRama display location at the main entrance immediately behind the featured car – Dean Jeffries’ 1964 Mantaray of Bikini Beach movie fame – and the only display to receive the Hollywood red carpet treatment on all four sides. It doesn’t get much better.
There they were, under the Big Lights, six Dodge Vipers saddled up side by side and three deep looking as if the green flag would drop any second. Somewhere in the mix of 600 other wannabes who dared to participate, trembled the lone Ferrari and Lamborghini. Really, they were shaking in their Pirellis. The status of Corvettes and Mustangs will remain unmentioned other than to say that the term “below the radar” applies.
Each Viper had its respective stats and details on identically designed easel-mounted, logo-encrusted placards providing display visitors readily available and pertinent information. Vignettes of Houston Viper Club activities featuring track days, cruises, poker runs, pool parties and car shows played on a monitor depicting the great times we enjoy together as Viper owners and club members.
In the pole position for the 2011 Display sat Eric Karsten’s 1994 Black RT 10 Venom 600, Hennessey Serial # 001. This Snake’s resume includes entry in the Silver State Classic Open Road Race, making it an early and rare collector Viper with provenance. The popularity of this Viper often created a moment of concern when the occasional visitor attempted to enter The Venom’s cockpit. But really, who can blame them?
Outside front row belonged to Doug Watkins’s 2002 GTS Final Edition in Red with White Stripes. Its tweaks include upgrades to brakes, rims and tires. Doug won the award for detailing his Snake to the max and beyond all his fellow competitors. It was a dazzling performance from another Houston Club Bright Texas Star member whose help was invaluable throughout the show.
Inside second row was held down by Mike Quinnett’s Red 1999 GTS touting engine modifications delivering 500 HP at the rear wheel. I believe said HP is responsible for self powder coating the rims red to match this Snake’s skin color. Mike was also the owner chosen and interviewed by the Country Music Channel for their feature on AutoRama. His personal appeal matches his Snake’s, and all future contacts go through his new agent. Of course, that would be me.
Bill Westall’s entry, affectionately called Ole Blue, was fourth on the grid. It’s a 1997 Blue with White Stripes GTS, and is one of three cars Bill entered into this year’s AutoRama. Bill is credited with encouraging the Houston Club’s involvement in AutoRama, and it has been to the Club’s enhancement as we now have members partaking in area car shows i.e., Classy Chassis and Keels & Wheels (Viper Magazine, May/June Issue).
The third row inside e-ticket to ride slot was covered by a 2009 ACR skinned in the now classic Red/Black paint scheme seen on the ’08 7:22 Ring Record ACR. Curtis Burton owns this Sneaky Pete and a sizable stable of exotic/collector cars (including one built by a former Italian tractor manufacturer of which Curtis stated, “It drives like a tractor”) but proudly declares his favorite go fast ride is the Viper. No surprise to anyone who has driven a Dodge Viper, a true American exotic imported from Detroit.
Recent Whelen Time Trial NARRA entrant and podium finisher at Texas World Speedway, Adrian Gonzalez, managed to remove all the track scum from his brilliantly vinyl wrapped 2009 ACR to grab the last spot on the floor to make the show. And show it did as this racing Snake garnered more camera time from the crowd than a Hollywood box office super star on Oscar night. Although not related to the author, I see another contract addition to my Stable of Stars talent agency.
When the closing bell rang Sunday night, the stage set up and car placement that had required one and one half days now had five hours to reverse the process. The flurry of activity to pack and load up the display ensued. Completed in twenty-five minutes by all members present, this outstanding team effort was instantly followed by the sound of 60 V-10 cylinders totaling 3400 HP, firing up and leaving the building on cue. Elvis could not have orchestrated a better “Vipers have left the building” moment. On behalf of our membership we extend kudos to every entrant, their families and those club members who took a turn manning the display. All had surrendered a sizeable portion of the Thanksgiving Week Holiday. They are now part of another relevant chapter in the Houston Viper Club’s history of continuing growth and success.
The Super Six Viper Entrants earned a spectrum of awards from the judges and represented the Viper Nation at one of the most prestigious national auto shows in America. I hope you agree that it was a task well done on all accounts, and we encourage other clubs to consider an AutoRama, or similar show appearance, when they come to your neighborhood. It offers a unique venue for Viper owners to strut their Snakes under the big top, and an additional opportunity to build a stronger local Viper club.