Of VIPERS and VOI

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Summer 2010

Dear Viper Nation:

As I began to write this, we were nearly through building out the 2010 Vipers. It was such a treat to see the holding area at Conner Avenue Assembly Plant. It looked like a giant package of M&M’s® exploded in our factory! Very inspiring stuff.

We celebrated the end of the current-generation Snake with a “Last Viper Off The Line” event on July 1. D’Ann Rauh received her custom Viper at Conner, followed by a reception at The Walter P. Chrysler Museum, which is showcasing “Born to Race – Dodge Viper Racing Heritage,” featuring an amazing collection of the most significant Vipers to hit the streets and the track since the Viper debuted in 1989 as a concept car. A special shout out to David Williams from Maryland, whose very first new vehicle purchase in his entire life is No. 2 of the Vooodoo Editions. Welcome to the Viper Nation—and you have great taste!

I hope each of you is doing whatever you can to make it to VOI.11, Sept. 30–Oct. 3, 2010. Salt Lake City is stunning; The Grand America and Little America Hotels and Miller Motorsports Park are amazing venues. There’s also World Challenge and Dodge Viper Cup series racing on Sunday! Chris Marshall, the other National Officers and several of the Salt Lake City area Viper owners have been working their tails off to bring you VOI at the lowest price it has ever been—without any compromises!

Although VOI.11 is truly an event for the people by the people, Dodge is 100 percent behind it. My family and I plan to be there, as well as a number of SRT® and Dodge staff. Dodge is sponsoring one of the dinners, the tech sessions and a very exclusive new product sneak peek … only for VOI attendees!

In the meantime, I am sweating the next “Ode to Viper!” and how and when we can get back to the Nürburgring!

Ralph Gilles

President and CEO, Dodge Car Brand

Chrysler Group LLC

It’s a Cool Day in Texas and Anticipation is Killing Me.

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Spring 2010

I have found an unusual gap in my schedule to fly down to Texas for the day. The goal is to sign off on the new ACR-X prototype at the now-defunct Texas World Speedway. The track is a great private venue to test cars and a favorite among racers looking for a safe, high-speed challenge. At 3 miles a lap, it is the perfect place to see what she will do. As I await my turn, I am watching our Pro driver Kuno Wittmer, a young Canadian who grew up in everything from open-wheel to touring cars. Kuno was putting down some incredible record-setting lap times in the new car. He is testing our brake-lining package and generally shaking it down. As he laps away, I am thinking to myself “What will it feel like?” “Like my car?” “Like the competition coupe I tested a couple of years ago with the bubble gum sticky tires.” “Like a Ferrari Scuderia I had the pleasure to drive last summer?” “The Enzo two summers ago?” OK, I digress …

After some routine system checks, I strap in. First thing I notice is the new Racetech seats, one sits lower in the racecar (helps lower the CG). I feel like a kid who snuck out to drive daddy’s car. Not because I can barely see over the wheel. No, it’s because I am so giddy with anticipation. I guess that’s what great cars like the Vipers are all about. Every time you strap in, you realize you’re about to have an unforgettable day. I push the familiar red start button and she comes alive with an authoritative rumble that resonates unfiltered about the uninsulated stripped-out interior. Haven’t even put it in gear yet and my heart’s already skipping away!

Slowly exiting pit lane, I immediately notice how much stiffer the suspension set-up is, as it virtually reads every ripple on the surface of the Old Texas World Speedway pit lane. After a few laps to warm up the tires, it is time to let it rip. We are running on the Ro-oval at TWS. As old and rundown as it is, it has a fantastic 3-mile long, undulating road course that has a scintillating series of high-speed corners that all link together in such a way that each previous corner can affect the speed through the next. Drivers call tracks like this rhythm tracks. The Viper in ACR-X guise feels like nothing I have ever driven. It is so unbelievably fast, yet so forgiving, stable, perfectly planted and confidence inspiring. The combination of the new super-efficient 2010 wing package and the Spec Michelin full-race slicks generate astonishing physics-defying grip. I kept pushing it lap after lap, shaving a half-second each time around. I simply could not believe the new-found limits of the ACR-X. I approach corners at speed that seemed comically precarious. Your brain is telling you that it is impossible to take this corner flat out, and the car just keeps sticking (In fact, if it wasn’t for Kuno’s lap times being 5 seconds faster than mine, I would not have believed it. For the record, I haven’t been behind the wheel of a race car in over a year … something to do with this day job!). The ACR-X feels like it is wired into your soul like an Avatar’s flying mate! After a few laps the Zone finally came on, and I was beginning to become one with the machine, looking further and further down the track and becoming used to the incredible closing speeds that I have never experienced in a car before. The limits of this car are simply otherworldly. Now I understand why it qualified among the top three out of more than 300 cars in the recent sports-car test at Sebring. The boys at SRT® have created yet another legend. To put it in perspective, the ACR-X (on less grippy tires than are now specified for the series) ran a 1:31:00 flat at Laguna Seca last fall, a full 2 seconds faster than our own world record setter—the ACR 1:33. The Viper, now nearing its 20-year anniversary, still continues to find new depths and impress.

We still have the ability to build an additional 25 ACR-Xs, if the demand should be there in the coming weeks. Even if you don’t plan to race in the series, any true track lover needs one of these in the stable! It will simply run circles around any production-based sports car I can think of. I can’t wait for the first Viper Cup race this July. It should be a blast. In the meantime, I want to thank all of our current owners and dealers who have ordered the 2010s. The entire allocation has been spoken for, and we have fired up Conner Avenue Assembly one more time to build them for you. They will be a challenge, as we have never taken on such a variety of custom builds at one time. We have collectively had to break some rules that we didn’t even know were there! But they should indeed be some very special Snakes for a very special and deserving Viper Nation. So here’s to springtime and to the last true American Supercar.

Ralph Gilles

President and CEO, Dodge Car Brand

Chrysler Group LLC

The Flame Burns Bright

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Winter 2010

Dear Viper Nation:

To say I am honored to be responsible for managing the great Dodge Brand is an understatement. I feel like only yesterday I was negotiating precious TV time with my folks so I could watch the Dukes of Hazzard … and it wasn’t because of Daisy! It has always been about the cars.

The Dodge Brand has fascinated me for years; it has always done things a little differently. I even have a place in my heart for a few of the K-cars—namely the Omni GLH (Goes Like Hell). But my real love affair with Dodge began in the late 1980s, when the Portofino Concept car made its debut. It was stunning as a supercar but more stunning as a beacon of the future for Dodge.

Shortly thereafter, the Viper Concept roadster made its debut in 1991 and absolutely reoriented my priorities and erased any doubt as to which company I would want to work for as a young designer. I still have the basic optimism in my heart for this great company and feel that we are on the cusp of another great era. I am happy to be surrounded by the most functional and dedicated management team to be assembled in a long time at Chrysler Group LLC. The changes are coming and they are coming fast. We will do all that we can to bring the pride back to this company.  

I also vow to do right by Viper. We have started the 2010 model year off with a bang by beginning to show the variety of very special and ultra-low volume Vipers, culminating with the yet-to-be-announced final edition. After a brief break in 2011, we plan to keep the Viper flame alive for many years to come on the street and race tracks with projects such as our new spec racer series run by the Viper Racing League. The Dodge Viper Cup will feature the fastest spec racer in the world—the purpose-built Dodge Viper SRT10® ACR-X. We will proudly support the new ACR-X with contingency prizes and some long overdue fanfare!

All these years later, and I’m still negotiating for precious time. The difference is today I’m negotiating for a few scarce moments behind the wheel of my personal Viper. For me, it remains all about cars. So stick around—the coming year promises to be one heckuva exciting ride for the car guys and car gals of the Viper Nation!

Ralph Gilles

President and CEO, Dodge Brand

Chrysler Group LLC

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.

Arrivederci!

Clay Thompson

President, J.R. Thompson Company

Publisher of VIPER Magazine

New Era is Just Ahead

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Summer 2009

President Barack Obama’s public address to the nation on April 30, 2009, announcing Chrysler LLC going into Chapter 11 restructuring was shocking and disappointing to many. The world changed for Chrysler employees, dealers, autoworkers, suppliers and many families on that day.

As of this writing, the honorable U. S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur Gonzalez is hearing this case in the Southern District of New York. His experience handling other complex corporate cases will no doubt help in the hearing of Chrysler LLC’s case. At this point we know two things for certain: 1) Chrysler’s alliance and plans with Fiat SpA are subject to U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval and 2) Dodge Viper remains secured under bankruptcy protection.

Take a step back and consider that an alliance with Fiat SpA represents Chrysler LLC’s best opportunity for the future. Could the brain trusts at Ferrari and Maserati have any influence on the Viper? Who ever thought that this is something we might contemplate? There’s also a very good chance that a third party may acquire the Dodge Viper. Either way, the future of Viper looks promising and interesting to say the least.

Fiat’s principal investment in Chrysler LLC is its intellectual property – namely the engineering and technology of fuel-efficient small cars. With the price of gasoline ratcheting up again, we all know that manufacturing fuel sippers is the right thing to do. It’s only a matter of time before we see more and more Americans buying smaller, more economical cars.

At this moment, Fiat SpA is working closely with Chrysler management to architect the way for “NewCo,” the soon to be reorganized and newly named company. President Obama has ordered Chrysler’s bankruptcy case to be completed as speedily as possible. It’s critical and necessary in moving the company forward.

Meanwhile, the Viper Nation is geared and ready for the summer driving season. Have you had a chance to go on a club road trip? Nothing beats the fun and camaraderie of a Viper club outing. There are many planned so make it a point to participate. Check out the upcoming events listed on www.ViperClub.org under Events or visit www.ViperMagazine.com and click on Calendar.

You might also take time this summer to plan and outfit your garage. Turn to pages 30–35 to see what some of your fellow Viper-holics have done with their garages. Those could be inspiration for what you might do to enhance yours. And when you’re ready to share your own shrine, submit your photos to ed@vipermagazine.com to be considered for one of our future garage features.

Keep the faith for good things to come and enjoy your summer!

Clay Thompson

President, J.R. Thompson Company

Publisher of VIPER Magazine

Viva Detroit! Viva Viper!

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Spring 2009

Addressing you in this column is a first for me. You don’t often hear from J.R. Thompson Company. We are mostly behind the scenes. Our founder, John R. Thompson, played a role working with Dodge and helping the founding members establish the Viper Club of America. Many of you know us for publishing VIPER Magazine dating back to the time when it was a newsletter (thank you Ron Smith). Others know us as VCA Headquarters, handling memberships and taking care of club business. Or maybe you’ve heard about us at one of the Viper Owners Invitationals where we helped Dodge manage these events. What a great honor and privilege it has been working with Dodge, SRT® and the VCA these past 15 years.

As publisher of VIPER Magazine and always mindful of continuous improvement, we recently e-mailed a “quick poll” survey to those of you who have given us your e-mail address. Our goal was to find out what you enjoy reading most and what you would like to see in future issues. Over 600 of you responded (thank you) and told us that you want more technical information, performance mods and features on customized Vipers (no surprise here). You also want more club articles, special interest stories of VCA members and features of cool Viper garages. We’ll be sure to deliver but we would also like more of your participation. Keep in mind that we have always welcomed editorial contributions. Why not become one of our contributing writers? You might enjoy writing a piece and joining the ranks of those who have already contributed. Don’t be shy. E-mail your suggestions to ed@vipermagazine.com. We will work with you to create a masterpiece.

One other word for the times: In the last issue of VM, VCA President Chris Marshall touched on the changes and turmoil we face here in Detroit with the auto industry and more at home with Chrysler LLC and Viper. Much of the news out of Detroit has been grim, but we are a resilient town and going to keep our wheels on.

Detroit is under tremendous pressure brought on in large part by the fundamental economic issues our nation faces. The American car industry is truly at a crossroad facing one of its greatest challenges of all time. We realize that it’s time for a major transformation and we are more than up to that challenge. We will prevail and we will see that Viper is alive and well when the dust settles. No economic crisis is going to smother the spirit of the Viper Nation.

Thank you for your support of the Viper and the VCA—you have all had a hand in making it the world-class car club it is today. Viva Viper!

The American Exotic Why the Viper Legacy Will Continue

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Winter 2009

Change, change and more change. As I write this gas prices are plummeting, the Big Three auto manufacturers are in a financial turmoil, the economy is on a roller coaster (which part remains to be seen) and a new U.S. president will soon be in office. Closer to home, the Viper Club of America has a new roster of National Officers and the entire Viper platform is up for sale by Chrysler. The Viper faithful and America as a whole seem to be holding their collective breath.

I let my breath out a while back—at VOI.10 in Detroit to be exact. Along with the other VCA officers, we met with everybody from the craftspeople at CAAP to the SRT® marketing folks to the executive ranks of Chrysler itself. In a time of turmoil you could not find a more dedicated group of people committed to the preservation of the Viper platform as a whole.

Like all of these groups, the VCA is firmly committed to seeing the Viper legacy continue for many years to come. To that end the VCA has teamed with Viper Marketing to offer a special referral program exclusively for VCA members—you can read more about it in this issue. The idea is to clearly demonstrate just how strong the Viper platform really is, even in times of turmoil. There is certainly no better time to get your hands on the latest and greatest Viper built to date.

The simple fact is that the Viper is America’s one true exotic muscle car: A hand-built, limited production, federally-certified supercar capable of speeds around 200 mph straight from the factory. Far smaller countries like Italy can support two such manufacturers. The UK and Germany have their own as well. America has only one that truly fits all the criteria and that is the Viper. It demands respect in every automotive circle and doesn’t blush when tracking with the Italians and their counterparts.

The legacy is for sale. With proper nurturing and expanded marketing efforts, the platform will exceed the wildest dreams of even its new owner. America is the birthplace of the muscle car and the Viper represents the pinnacle of the breed. Hundreds of thousands of potential Viper owners are out there just waiting to be found. Many, like most of us did, will take that obvious next step up to the Viper from the mass produced sports cars built in Dearborn and Bowling Green.

One thing is for certain: The Viper legacy will continue regardless of who owns it or what they choose to do with it. And the Viper Club of America will always be there to support that legacy for decades to come. You can count on it.

Chris Marshall

President

Viper Club of America