Author Archive

Black Gold White Gold

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

By Roger Meiners

The cities of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Carlisle, Pa., each hosted “firsts” in the world of the Viper this year. The two events were widely separated geographically and worlds apart in terms of publicity.

Scottsdale in January saw the Serial #1 50th Anniversary Hurst/Viper unveiled at the Barrett-Jackson auction. The satin-gold Viper (with gloss black stripes) sold for a record-breaking $250,000 to Tammy Allen of Grand Junction, Colo., as a cluster of cameras recorded the floodlit scene. The media glare was for a good cause: The profits from the sale were donated to charity by the Woodhouse Auto Family—exclusive dealers for the Hurst/Vipers.

Carlisle, by contrast, was the almost-anonymous debut of the first regular-production white/gold Hurst/Viper, the Serial #3 car after the two gold ones (see the Summer 2009 issue of VM—the story on Tammy Allen). It appeared quietly and parked amid a sparkling rainbow of Conner-built Vipers at the Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals. It wasn’t there long before it fled the scene as a thunderstorm approached. We grabbed a photo of this beauty before it escaped.

These special Vipers are among fifty snakes being built by the Woodhouse Auto Family and Hurst Performance Vehicles. The Hurst/Viper will be available only in Hurst’s legendary color combinations of black-with-gold stripes and white-with-gold stripes.

The Hurst/Viper consists of a $25,999 option package which includes Moton Club Sport adjustable coil-over suspension with Eibach springs; Corsa track exhaust and a Hurst HARD-DRIVE® gold pistol-grip shifter. All cars come with special Hurst forged aluminum wheels. Each wheel is stamped with the car’s VIN number.

Cosmetics include Hurst design painted stripes, a special Katzkin charcoal leather interior with Hurst embroidered logos, gold thread detailing and perforated leather inserts. The package also gets custom embroidered mats and a custom car cover. Each vehicle is fitted with a serialized number plate.

Bill Pemberton, Woodhouse Viper and SRT® specialist says, “The suspension set-up and the Corsa exhaust is fitted by Woodhouse Dodge. Because this is a joint Hurst/Woodhouse venture, other options like Belanger Headers, Quaife rear end and beyond can be installed by Woodhouse. In fact each Hurst/Viper built so far has been a unique car.”

The Woodhouse Dodge store in Blair, Neb., has been number one in new Dodge Viper SRT10® sales for the past 8 years. This dealer also has extensive experience in modifying Vipers, including supercharging. Woodhouse was recommended to Hurst by DC Performance, a Viper tuner in Los Angeles. Woodhouse and Hurst also collaborated on the Hurst/Challenger—Woodhouse Dodge is the exclusive dealer for all supercharged versions of this model.

Hurst was founded in 1958 to manufacture transmission shifters (think Linda Vaughn draped over a giant Hurst shifter riding on the back of a Hurst/Olds). Hurst Performance was one of the first specialty companies to partner with
OEMs, building the Hurst/Olds 442 back in the 1960s. Hurst built the legendary 1968 HEMI®-powered lightweight A-Body Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda drag racing cars that have dominated their Super Stock class for over 40 years in the NHRA. These HEMI A-Bodies run in the popular Mopar® HEMI Challenge series (See for more info).

The Hurst/Viper is a striking alternative for an enthusiast who wants something special, something that comes with the legend of Hurst and up-to-the minute Viper performance.

Viper on his mind

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

Jim Elser’s sanity is in question.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. The Marietta, Ga., resident doesn’t talk to himself or take visits from little green men. His 59-year-old mind runs as well as a Viper V-10 engine. But to some his collection of Vipers and Viper memorabilia is a bit, well, extreme. Funny thing is, Elser would be the first to admit—and proudly—that he’s got Viper on his mind!

“Most people say I went off the deep end with so much Viper stuff,” says Elser, cheerfully. “Most people find it unbelievable you can collect so many things to go with a car.” (These people are most definitely not VCA members).

Elser, owner of a small building maintenance company, has been a member of the Georgia VCA since the club was formed in 1997. The loyal Chrysler and Mopar® enthusiast purchased his first Viper in 1993, sparking a life long passion for the Snake.

“I’m a diehard Chrysler person and I have been for years,” Elser explains. “I had a Dodge Stealth, and when I heard they were building the Viper, I sold the Stealth and bought my first Viper back in 1993. My brother still has the car today.”

The former Georgia VCA vice president is certainly a Dodge boy through-and-through. His collection features three Vipers—a ’96, ’06 Viper Coupe and ’09 Viper ACR. He also owns a 1957 Dodge Sweptside pickup, ’78 and ’79 Lil’ Red Express trucks, ’96 Dodge Ram Indy Pace Truck and 2004 Viper-powered Dodge Ram SRT10®—one of only 50 built.

The collection isn’t limited to the four walls of Elser’s garage. His basement is also brimming with memorabilia—and cars. He houses five of his Mopars in a car vault in his basement. “The whole basement is Viper and Mopar—that’s what it’s all about,” states Elser emphatically.

Elser’s memorabilia collection can stack up with that of the most fanatic VCA member. Finding a spot in the basement or garage not covered with a piece of Mopar or Viper paraphernalia is downright impossible. Diecasts, Matchbox cars, banners, posters, pictures—if it’s got a Viper or Mopar logo, Elser has it—or is trying to get it. He’s been assembling his collection since the mid-1980s.

“I’m still looking for things on eBay every day,” Elser says.

All told, the Georgian’s basement-and-garage Viper shrine clocks in at a highly crammed 5,000 square feet. Craftsman tool boxes line the wall of his basement, and the garage accommodates a DoubleParkTM Cytech 4-post lift.

As for the time and money spent on his Viper domicile? Well, that’s a topic Elser would rather avoid—especially if his wife, Ann, happens to read this article.

“I don’t know,” he responds, hesitantly, to the “how much” question. “A lot of money. Probably more money than I want to know. It’s one of those things you don’t want to keep up with—especially if your wife figures it out.”

We have some bad news for Ann—Jim isn’t finished adding to his collection just yet.

“It keeps going,” says Elser, who has attended every VOI except one. “Some day I’m going to build another garage to hold six more cars. I said the Viper I just bought might be my last, but, hey—who knows what the next model might be!”

The verdict is in, Mr. Elser. You are definitely crazy—Viper crazy. And that’s the best kind of crazy to be!

Taking the Initiative

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

The Illinois VCA boasts one of the most enthusiastic membership bases and schedules an extensive and exciting slate of events—the inaugural VCA chapter is about as active as a five-year-old jacked up on Mountain Dew! That passion is also on display at the many charitable activities the club takes part in.

One charity the IL VCA supports is the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative (IFI), a statewide charity that promotes responsible fathering by helping to equip men with the tools to become better fathers. The IFI’s annual celebrity golf outing took place on July 8 at Makray Memorial Golf Club in Barrington, Ill., and the IL VCA pitched in to lend a helping hand once again.

“We’ve worked with IFI for the last four years,” said Alex Ristanovic, IL VCA president. “David Hirsch is an IL VCA member and founder of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Each year he hosts a celebrity golf outing to raise money for the charity. The event is usually several days and has included dinner fundraisers as well as activity days for kids.”

Despite interference by Mother Nature in the form of rain sprinkles, a large group of Viper owners turned out to display their cars near the main entrance to the golf club, where the charity dinner took place. A large number of celebrities were in attendance, including comedian Tom Dreesen, former Chicago Bears NFL players Kevin Butler and Richard Dent, Pat McCaskey, Director of the Chicago Bears, and Chicago Blackhawks NHL hockey legend Stan Mikita.

The dinner featured a live auction, and, of course, IL VCA members couldn’t resist wading into the bidding! Members Larry and Nancy Friend placed the winning bid for a package that included tickets to an Elton John concert at Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field, as well as tickets to a number of Chicago sporting events. All told, the IL VCA helped IFI raise $54,000 at the event. Just another day’s work for the Viper Club of America.

“Our goal has always been to draw eyes to the event and bring attention to the cause,” said Ristanovic. “What better way to do it than with our Vipers! We’re also a sponsor of the IFI. We donate some of our charity monies earned through our club banner program to help the IFI.

“It’s an extraordinary group of people to say the least! Every year we meet new celebrities. I once even bumped into Mike Ditka after his round of golf. We’re proud to be a sponsor of the IFI and the work this local charity does.”

For more information on the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, visit

Steve Wedel

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

By Darren Jacobs

Bill Clinton. George W. Bush. Steve Wedel. What common experience links these three men? All have served in the role of president—Clinton and Bush as president of the U.S., Wedel as prez of the Viper Nation (a far more important job, as far as Viper owners are concerned).

So what has former President Wedel been up to following his 2005–2006 term as head of the VCA? Attending each and every VCA event his schedule allows and enjoying his role as a “Viper statesman!”

“It’s said in every part of the world that you purchase the Viper because of the love for the car, but you stay in the VCA because of the love for the people,” observed Wedel. “I don’t know which I love more, the car or the people. They’re equal and intertwined. However, there is no automotive experience like driving a Viper.”

Wedel embarked on his life-changing Viper experience in 1995, when the St. Louis resident purchased a black 1994 Viper RT/10 and founded the Gateway chapter of the VCA. After leading the Gateway club in its formative years in his role as president from 1995–2000, Wedel served as Director at Large for the Midwest Region (2001–2002), National VCA Secretary (2003–2004), National VCA President (2005–2006) and as a member of the VCA Board of Directors as a past president (2007–2008).

“I really miss the people,” Wedel said. “I especially miss not spending time with my fellow National board members, Vice-President Don Parsons, Secretary Kingman Hitz and Treasurer Bob Carroll. I miss being on the inside with regards to Chrysler and VCA. Being a part of the inside is really exciting, especially when it’s your hobby.”

Wedel cites a more business-like approach to club accounting procedures as the most important achievement he and his board accomplished.

“I believe in team management. What we had was four presidents,” Wedel recalled. “We equally worked on getting the VCA budget above water.”

Wedel in his post-presidency has taken a page from Jack Kerouac’s playbook, heading out on the road and making up for the many times he was unable to take to the wheel of his Viper while attending to his presidential Viper duties. He enjoys the perks of tooling around in a Viper, such as the outrageous reactions the public often exhibits for the Snake.

“St. Louis has a very large St. Patrick’s Day parade, and the VCA led the parade three years in a row,” Wedel recalled. “One year, as we were in the middle of the parade, a young lady came running out of the crowd, leapt over the door and landed in the empty passenger seat. The crowd went wild, of course!”

Evidence of Wedel’s devotion to the Viper can be found at his home. He has owned five Vipers, with four still taking up residence in his expansive St. Louis garage. The “firstborn” RT/10 remains, modified by Hennessey, which served as Wedel’s track car until last year. His “Fab Four” is rounded out by a blue-with-white-stripes 1996 GTS, a yellow 2005 SRT10® convertible (Wedel’s wife, Lynn, claims that Snake as her own) and his “baby,” a 2008 violet Viper ACR, one of only four produced, and now used by Wedel as his track car.

Could Wedel choose a fave Viper?

“I have two daughters, Lisa and Megan, and if you asked me which of the two would be my favorite, the answer is that I love the both of them equally,” said Wedel. “The RT/10 is the one we all fell in love with. Then the GTS comes out and just knocks your socks off. Then the SRT10 comes out with higher performance and a new body, then the convertible, then the SRT10 coupe, then the ultimate, the ACR. It’s why I own four. I can’t pick one over the other. I love them equally, just as I love my daughters equally.”

Wedel’s Viper passion has been fueled by his business, Four Seasons Wealth Management. He received a national award in 1994 recognizing him as one of the top financial advisors in America. Early in 2009, Barron’s Magazine named Wedel as one of the top 1,000 financial advisors in America and in the top three in Missouri. “I’m very proud of my professional success, which has helped me enjoy Viper ownership,” Wedel said.

The Viper has also helped Wedel make a positive difference in the world through his charitable work with the VCA.

“There are two things I’m very proud of,” he explained. “My very first act as a member of the Gateway club was to establish a charitable relationship with the Make-a-Wish foundation, and since 1995 we have been the official car of Make-a-Wish for Missouri and Illinois. We have raised thousands and thousands of dollars.” Wedel has also worked with the Gateway club to start a RidemakerZ Build-a-Viper charity event to help a local children’s hospital in St. Louis.

Wedel has a closing message for VCA members.

“I strongly urge the VCA members to get involved in their club,” exhorted Wedel. “The more you give, the more you get back. Once you experience that giving and how much you get back, I highly recommend taking it to the next level and volunteering as a Zone Director, Director at Large and then on to the National Board.”

More Vigor for the Viper

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

Mike Briggs of BBK Performance says you can get an extra 10 hp on average from your 2003–2006 Viper engines (including Ilmor marine applications) by replacing the 62 mm factory throttle body with a 67 mm piece from BBK. Briggs sent along some photos showing how to make the change. We have not tested it, but would welcome your comments if you try one out. Send your cards and letters to the editor.

Note: How-to install photos and captions courtesy of BBK Performance. Space limitations do not permit coverage of all aspects; therefore, please refer to the detailed instructions included with the manufacturer’s kit. The procedures and comments in the article do not reflect the opinions and endorsements of Chrysler Group LLC or J.R. Thompson Company.

Winter Blast

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

By Clint Shearer

This is a story of what ended up being far more of an adventure than I would have ever believed and the great people that gave me a hand in getting through it.

Last December I purchased a supercharged 2005 Viper Copperhead on the Internet. The car was located near Los Angeles and I live in the Seattle area. As many of you know, buying a Viper can be a stressful experience. Lucky for me DC Performance just happened to be three miles from the dealer that was selling the car. When I called DC I didn’t know what to expect. I asked them if they would do an inspection on the car for me. They responded with an extremely positive attitude! They took it upon themselves to acquire the car, road test it and do a very thorough inspection. They found only a few minor problems.

The dealer, Front Line Leasing of Los Angeles, stepped right up and fixed the problems without any hassle. It was nice to deal with such a stand-up dealer.

Now that the inspection was done and the work was completed I headed to L.A. to pick up my new pride and joy. The excitement level of that day is the only kind a person can feel when they are going off into the unknown, looking forward to the new car and the adventure of driving it up the West Coast.

Upon my arrival in L.A. I headed to the dealer and picked up the new car. I cruised the few miles through L.A. with the top down feeling like a proud new father, watching as people’s heads turned and camera phones pointed in my direction all the way to DC Performance.

Tony and Dan, from DC Performance, had invited me to stop by and said they would go over the car with me. When I arrived at DC, the parking lot and shop where full of Vipers! These guys were obviously very busy. Tony and Dan welcomed me in and didn’t rush or try to get me out the door. Dan actually went over my new car with me as if I had just bought a new car from him. Being as this is my first SRT®, he explained where everything was and told me of some of the major differences from my GTS.

Thank you Tony and Dan for putting up with me calling five times a day and welcoming me in when I got there. You guys took the stress out of my buying experience!


I immediately headed north from there about noon on Friday. The weather forecast for the Portland area was calling for snow on Sunday and I knew I needed to get north of Portland before the storm hit; there was also snow in the Siskyous in northern California and southern Oregon.

Knowing of the snow in the Siskiyous, I headed for San Francisco so that I could drive up HWY 101 on the coast and avoid the bad weather in the mountains. As I drove up the 101 in California with the top down and the music up I was having an incredible time rushing through the amazing Redwood forest feeling like a million bucks.

I stopped and got a room in the small town of Garberville and got up early the next day to a small crowd of people standing around my car. After talking to everyone and opening the hood for a while I headed out.

That day I drove up the coast of California and then Oregon. I got north of the snowy mountain passes and made the jump over to Interstate 5 to head north to Portland.


This is where things started to get a little more interesting. I was in Albany, Ore., about seventy miles from Portland on early Friday evening when I got a call from a friend in Portland telling me that it was snowing. The forecasters had missed it and the storm hit the Portland area a day and a half earlier than they had said before.

It was raining where I was and I thought to myself, “No big deal if it starts getting bad. I will just stop and hole up at a hotel.” Boy was I wrong!

It was as if someone had drawn a line on the freeway. I was about fifty miles from Portland at this time and it went from rain to snow instantly. The first exit ramp I arrived at had more than six inches of snow standing on it. I had to keep going on the freeway as I knew if I hit the deeper snow on the exit ramp I would be stuck.

I traveled north in the snow, white knuckled and at a stress level I don’t know if I have ever been at in my life, just trying to find an exit ramp (with a hotel) that looked like I could make it down. Before I could find an exit I was faced with the I-5 and I-205 junction. Remembering the large sweeping overpasses on I-5 in the Portland area I went for the I-205 exit ramp. I barely made it! The snow on the ramp was deeper than the snow on the freeway and it just about stuck me. After getting on to the 205, I was faced with 4x4s that had slid off into the ditch, several trucks stuck in the middle of the freeway putting chains on, and all the time they were being passed by some nutcase in a Dodge Viper.


For more than forty miles I was driving in some of the worst conditions I have ever seen on a freeway. I would later hear on the news that it was the largest single snow storm in the Portland area since 1980 and the worst road conditions seen in 40 years. Chains were required on vehicles traveling on all metro highways and freeways at the time.

I finally saw an opportunity to free myself and my car from this situation. There was a hotel that I could see from the freeway, the exit ramp was uphill but looked clear and I took a shot at it. I came rolling up the exit ramp knowing I could not stop. I rolled through the intersection onto another intersection and ran a stop sign right in front of a cop that couldn’t believe his eyes. He must have been feeling for me—he never came after me.

I made it into the covered lobby entrance of the hotel and stopped. There was about an inch of snow that had blown in under there and I was stuck in that one inch of snow.

After a little struggling, I got the car away from the lobby entrance and half way into the closest parking spot.
I was so relieved to be off the freeway that I wasn’t even worried about what was next. It was Saturday night and I would deal with this in the morning, I thought to myself.

With the morning came even worse weather, it had not warmed up at all and we had even more snow.

Not knowing who I could call for help in the Portland area I called my good friend James Retych; who is also our Western Zone DAL. James’s first response was, “I will be there as soon as I can,” but it was also bad in Seattle and it would not have been a good idea to bring a trailer through the poor weather conditions. James then gave me his friend Jay Connelly’s phone number, a Portland area VCA member that I could contact.

I then went to the Oregon VCA Web page for the phone number of the Oregon chapter president Cody Reich and visited for owner Jon B’s contact information.

First call was to Jay. His wife Rhona answered the phone I introduced myself and she told me that Jay was not available at the moment. She then tried to help me and said she would have Jay call me back. I then called Jon B and Cody and left messages for them as neither were able to answer.

My thought at this time was that I was on my own. Who would call back to help a stranger when they are fighting the same conditions themselves? As it turns out, Viper people call back!

My phone started ringing off the hook! Jay called and said he knew people at the local Dodge dealer that he could ask if they could take my car. He also helped me find a Viper friendly tow truck to get it there. He even offered to let me stay at his house if I had to stay in town.

Jon B also called back immediately. He was stuck in a terrible snow storm himself with his own problems, but took the time to offer his advice and tell me of other Viper club members in the area that I could contact. He also suggested some towing companies and said to call him anytime if I thought he could help. Cody then called me back to see if he could be of any assistance.

As it turned out the larger Dodge dealers in town were not open due to the terrible weather, but Tonkin Dodge, a small older dealership in the Gladstone, Ore., area, answered their phone. I told Jolynne Baertlein of my problems and asked if they could hold onto my car for me until the storm cleared. Her immediate answer was “no problem” to my relief and amazement.

The people at Tonkin Dodge welcomed me in; the entire sales staff helped me get my car through the snow into their service department. Jaron Watkins, a sales person, even waited for me to catch a ride out of there once my car was safe and sound. They are a great bunch of people at that dealership and I can’t thank them enough!

In conclusion, maybe I should have listened to all the people that told me that I should ship the car home. There was a bunch of them, from my father to co-workers and other VCA members like Mr. Paul Ronald.

But in retrospect I’m glad I did drive it back. It was an adventure from start to finish and life is about the little adventures that we embark on. It may have been stressful at times but in the end my car and I came through unscathed.

This adventure also helped restore some faith in my fellow man; it is very rare that I am in the position of needing or asking for any kind of help. I am more of the kind of person that is overly prepared and does the rescuing of others. It was a very nice surprise to see how people responded to me needing a hand. It was overwhelming. From my close friends willing to come and get me, to complete strangers linked to me only through a car willing to step in and do all they could.

Most cars will get you to where you are going. The Viper can really take you some place, a place where you will have friends wherever you go, a place where every turn of the key is a new adventure. I could not imagine another car club that is as tight knit, trusting and helpful as the VCA.

They say you come for the car but you will end up staying for the people; I understand more than ever what that is about.

Snakes Alive

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

Story By Darren Jacobs

July 10, 2009—consider it the date the Dodge Viper was reborn. After months of rumors, dire predictions and forecasts of gloom and doom, a mere two paragraphs in a press release sent a revitalizing, life-giving jolt through the steel skin of the iconic American muscle car. The paragraphs read as follows:

“Chrysler Group LLC announced today that production will continue for the legendary Dodge Viper SRT10.®

“Originally slated to cease production in December 2009, the Chrysler Group Conner Avenue Assembly Plant—the exclusive home of Dodge Viper production since 1995—will continue to build the V-10 powered sports car. Chrysler Group is no longer pursuing a sale of the Viper business assets.”

And with that, the dark clouds parted, allowing the bright sunlight of a new day to shine on the Viper Nation. To paraphrase Dr. Frankenstein, the Dodge Viper is alive, baby, its 600 horsepower-fueled heart beating strong. As it has done since its birth, the Snake will continue to rule the streets!

“The Dodge Viper has successfully captured the hearts and imagination of performance enthusiasts around the globe,” said Mike Accavitti, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dodge Brand. “We’re extremely proud that the ultimate American-built sports car with its world-class performance will live on as the iconic image leader for the Dodge brand.”

Ironically enough, the greatly exaggerated rumors of the Viper’s demise first cropped up at the ultimate celebration of Viper life, the 10th Viper Owners Invitational, held in Detroit, Mich. The news spurred the leadership of the Viper Club of America into action. Frequent dialogue was held with Chrysler and Dodge executives by the VCA leadership, which worked tirelessly to convey the dedication and love the Viper nation possessed for the Viper. No doubt their passion, and the passion of the entire VCA, played a significant role in the Viper’s revival.

“The Viper Club of America and its membership are extremely pleased with the decision to keep producing the Viper as a Dodge vehicle,” said National VCA president Chris Marshall. “While the interest to purchase the platform was high, our hope was always to see the car continue to be built by Chrysler. We look forward to seeing the Viper continue as the performance benchmark for many years to come!”

“I’m glad it’s here to stay,” said Jon Brobst, a founding VCA member and owner of PartsRack, a longtime and respected Viper supplier. “I was very happy to hear it was going to continue in production as a Dodge. Part of the allure of the Viper is that it’s an American muscle car, and part of the attractiveness of the Viper is that it’s a Mopar®. I’m glad it’s keeping its DNA intact, and not splicing in some other DNA. It started as a Dodge and it’s staying a Dodge.

“I think that’s a good thing for the brand and a good thing for Viper owners, to have that continuity and consistency. My first Dodge was a Viper. Since then, I’ve owned Rams, Dakotas, Chargers, Crossfires, dozens of Chrysler Group LLC vehicles, all begun by discovering the Viper.”

Those expressions of joy were, of course, echoed throughout the VCA. “I was very pleased to hear the Viper was going to continue,” remarked Alabama/Tennessee VCA region president Chip Winter. “I’d hate for such an iconic part of the American auto industry to fall by the wayside.”

Added Chad Fritz, Georgia VCA president, “I think the Viper living on is great for not only every car enthusiast, but also young people who don’t even have a license yet. I, like many, dreamed of owning a Viper years before I could even drive or afford one. It gave me a goal and every day I worked harder to get closer to my goal. With the Viper continuing, this means that young kids can continue to read and hear about the new Vipers and their amazing performance stats. Hopefully they will start dreaming of owning a Viper and one day achieve their goal and join us in the VCA!”

Perhaps the most visceral proof of the Dodge Viper’s rejuvenation is the new Snakes born into the world each day at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant (CAAP). The production line was running as quickly as ever during a recent visit, with happy CAAP craftspeople buzzing about in their work as Vipers slithered off the line, awaiting new homes and happy owners.

“Everyone was excited to be back building the Viper,” said Melissa Holobach, Head of Viper Operations. “The morale is upbeat,” chimed in Janet Van Havermaat, Manufacturing Administrative Coordinator. “The craftspeople here are passionate about what they do, and they’re just happy to be back to work building the Viper for the customers.”

It’s no wonder the CAAP craftspeople were walking around with smiles plastered to their faces. The artisans at Conner are highly invested in their work, as they breathe life into the ultimate four-wheel dream. Many CAAP workers count Viper owners among their friends (heck, some even own Vipers themselves!). The bond between the CAAP craftspeople and the Viper is a strong one, a bond that thankfully remains unbroken, to the joy of those working at the facility.

“I was very pleased and happy to hear the Viper would remain in production,” said Chris Vitale, an Engine Auditor at CAAP who has helped create Vipers for 15 years. “I’m very proud to work on the Viper.”

“I want to see it live,” said Dave Ironsides, who has worked as a Viper craftsperson since 1992, dating back, in his words, “to VIN No. 30.” He added, “I want to see it live for quite awhile. There’s no better car to build.”

Truer words were never spoken. More than 20 years after the Dodge Viper was first introduced as a concept car in 1989 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and after the production of more than 25,000 Dodge Vipers, the iconic muscle car endures, primed to stir the passions of a new generation of car enthusiasts.

From CAAP, to Chrysler Group LLC headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., to VCA members spread around the globe, the word has gone forth, loud and clear—the Dodge Viper is back! Forum Feedback

“I’m lovin’ it!” — daytonprowler

“Long Live Viper.” — jdeft1

“I just bought my car last month … I love the fact they are continuing to make them! Now I have a Gen4 to look forward to.” — AbsolutHank

“This is awesome news!” — KenricGTS

“The Club we all belong to has done some fantastic work to keep the love alive during a difficult time in the auto industry. We … buy tons of Chrysler products, convince our friends to buy Chrysler products, and the VCA gang
of hard-working National Officers, Directors, etc., have done a superb job of … keeping our message current. I think many of us today are witnessing a rebirth, a vote of confidence and the continuation of the true iconic muscle car …” — Bill_Pemberton

First Born

Guess the identity of the first vehicle to roll off the assembly line following the formation of the new Chrysler Group LLC. If you picked a 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR (pictured at left), you would be dead on the mark.

The decision was a no-brainer—what’s a more appropriate vehicle to kick off the next chapter in Chrysler’s long and storied history than the company’s renowned halo car?

You can bet this noteworthy Viper will no doubt attract great interest, not just from the VCA, but from any car buff with a sense of history. Surely many a Viper collector reading this issue is already licking their chops and scheming on how they can add this baby to their garage!

Fortunately, the crack investigative reporting team here at VM (with some sleuthing help courtesy of Viper Program Manager Mike Shinedling) sniffed out the whereabouts of this sure-to-be-sought-after Viper—the showroom of University Dodge in Davie, Fla. The Viper ACR remained available for purchase at the dealership as of press time, with a suggested price of $132,760 listed on the University Dodge Web site. But who knows where this particular Viper will end up by the time this issue is received?

The final destination of this illustrious Snake has the makings of a great feature article for a future issue of VM. Please send us an e-mail or letter if you have any information regarding the eventual home of this notable Viper.

The 600 Horsepower Wager

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

By Roger Meiners

If you can get 600 hp I’ll make a bronze statue of you,” said Herb Helbig, SRT®’s Manager of Vehicle Synthesis. He was talking to SRT engine development engineer Dick Winkles at a meeting in early 2007. SRT engineering was discussing the new-generation Viper engine, then in the early stages of development.

The official Chrysler corporate horsepower goal for the new Viper engine was 560 at that time, but the guys in the trenches, the SRT engineers—passionate about the Viper brand—could not accept anything that did not begin with a six (as in 600 horsepower).

“Team meetings talked about the trials and tribulations of getting even 560 horsepower out of the new engine, but Herb said we needed to outgun the ZR1,” said Winkles. “So we made that the unofficial goal,” he added.

“I made the promise about the bronze statue, but I was using it as a figure of speech, not expecting to be held to it,”
said Helbig. But then Winkles delivered. “He wouldn’t let it go. He kept complaining, ‘600 horsepower and no statue.’”

Helbig’s son signed up for a bronze casting course at Oakland Community College, so Herb signed up, too, and when the time came to select a project, the choice was obvious. “I made two trophies, one for the engine team and the other I did in secret for Dick.”

Helbig delivered the trophy at lunch before the holidays. They took Herb’s car and the trophy was on the passenger seat
for Winkles. They both delivered on their promises and it’s all the better for our Viper owners.

Viper Garages

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Letters

Viper Garages

I love receiving VIPER Magazine. Over the years VM has featured many stories and photos of some awesome Viper garages. The last issue was even dedicated to this subject. While some of those garages are indeed impressive, I think we can all agree that ANY garage that is home to a Viper is an awesome garage. I am enclosing a photo of my garage, along with a photo of my license plate. The fact that my garage is on a Delaware beach is its strongest attribute.

Dan Perrino

Via e-mail

We agree. Any garage that has a Viper in it rules! And, you’ve got a garage on the water, and there is no substitute for that! Thank you for the kind thoughts regarding VM and for sending the photos.—Ed.

Viper Production Results

I’ve subscribed to VIPER Magazine for five years now and really enjoy reading and examining the year-end production results for each model year. These articles generally contain the number of each color produced and of each model. Where can I obtain this information for the 2000–2002 model years? Thank you.

Matthew Ames

Via e-mail

Matthew, exterior color production totals for 2000–2002 Dodge Vipers are below. The information is from the Viper Registry at A good resource for more information is at—Ed.

2000-2002 Dodge Viper Production Totals

Lunga Vita Viper!

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Ignition

Lunga vita Viper? That’s Italian for long live the Viper.

Thank you Chrysler Group LLC for keeping Dodge Viper in production. Grazie a tu Fiat S.p.A. executives for your decision to keep Viper in the immediate family. After all, Viper is Chrysler Group’s crown jewel and the epitome of SRT® performance vehicles.

Was it happenstance that the Viper was the first car to be put back into production under the new Chrysler Group LLC? Of course not. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Viper was symbolic of the re-emerging company. We were proud to see Conner Avenue Assembly leading the charge back into action!

Now that the Viper faithful can breathe a little easier, it’s exciting to think about what the future could bring under Fiat S.p.A. leadership. Imagine what could happen when the brain trusts of Ferrari and Maserati have a chance to mix with Viper performance engineers. Yes, the sparks will fly and yes, something American-Italian could be very tasty on tomorrow’s menu.

Speaking of something tasty, have you had a chance to purchase your VCA raffle tickets?
If not, you’ll want to act immediately by the Friday, October 16 deadline. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own #99 of 100 GTS-R cars Dodge built in 1998. Number 99 is extra special because it was specially hand-crafted for former Chrysler President Bob Lutz. And if owning #99 isn’t enough to satisfy your appetite, you can fill up on conversation over dinner with the man himself. Dinner with Bob Lutz is part of the package and many would say that alone is worth the price of a raffle ticket. For details on how to purchase tickets and the other prizes turn to page 37.

By the way, did you have time to participate in any Viper club outings or events this past summer? We hope so because that’s what owning a Viper is all about. If you were somehow cheated this summer, make it a point to go on a fall outing with your VCA friends and family. It’s a great time of year to enjoy a spectacular ride taking in the fall colors. We at VIPER Magazine would love to report on some of your scenic travels and fun you had with your Viper friends in our next issue.


Clay Thompson

President, J.R. Thompson Company

Publisher of VIPER Magazine

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