Triple Threat

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2009

The folks in the Illinois chapter of the Viper Club of America often joke that the event known as the Longest Day should be renamed the Longest Weekend. The latter might best describe this event which combines three major driving disciplines into one huge two-day affair. Members from all over the Midwest participate in what has become a traditional event that incorporates drag, autocross and road course racing back-to-back-to-back.

Most drive in the day before to grab dinner together and get a good night’s sleep before the next day’s action. The weather was a question (the day before there was a tornado) and some drivers were scared off. But most are made of sturdier stuff as one driver said, “I don’t think a hurricane would stand between us and our track day.”

Day one always begins with a road course event at one of the club’s favorite tracks—Putnam Park in northern Indiana. This year’s event brought out more than two dozen Vipers and a good number of these contained rookie drivers.

Everyone arrived at the track bright and early to find that a nice sunrise was an indicator of good weather for the day. A short drivers’ meeting was held before the action started on the track. Longest Day veterans comprised the first group on the course while the novices sat through some much-needed classroom sessions.

As the day warmed up, so did the lap times. Alex Ristanovic, president of the Illinois VCA and Longest Day competitor said, “It’s just amazing what some of us can do with these cars and it shows what many years of driving experience can do to improve your skill.”

After Putnam Park, the group began their trek to northern Indiana to get to their hotels for the next day. But, as Ristanovic reported, it wasn’t a simple commute. He said, “As we were leaving Putnam, some terrible weather was coming through. It wasn’t more than 20 minutes that the caravans found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm with high speed wind.”

He continued, “The group of people driving Vipers battled the wild storm, even having to stop at times. Power lines were going down, trees were falling on roads, and two semis even tipped over. It was a wild ride! Luckily our group made it though without harm and continued on to our usual two restaurants for an evening’s dinner. I think it’s the first time we talked more about the weather than the day of racing.”

Day two brought everyone to US41 Dragway. The drag racing shootout was scheduled for the morning and the autocross later in the afternoon. However, the weather still remained a threat. Ristanovic said, “In the early morning a very light drizzle began which prevented the drag from starting. After just an hour delay, we began our session. The day progressed with dry conditions and we were able to complete the drag racing portion of the event without incident.”

With all eyes toward the sky, the drivers quickly hit the autocross course. “We started off with five runs each, figuring rain would catch up to us sooner or later,” Ristanovic said. “But by late afternoon we laid in another five runs with no weather problems. We even had sun toward the end of our autocross. Over 15 plaques were awarded to members posting the fastest and most consistent scores across all three events. And our overall winner was Tom Shapiro.”

As part of the closing ceremonies, a refreshing surprise was arranged by one of the Longest Day’s veteran members, Howie Frank. He served up ice cream for everyone at the track. Ristanovic said the treat was the perfect capper to the weekend. “By the end of the two days, folks could indeed say they got their fill of racing, and with this group, that is no easy accomplishment!”


Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2009

The case for a new transmission for the 2008 Viper SRT10® was summed up succinctly by Kevin Stepinski, senior product engineer for SRT® and the person mainly responsible for the Viper drivetrain. “We used to say about the old transmission, ‘You shift the T56 because you have to, not because you want to,’” he explained.

The new TR6060 transmission is the latest evolution of the Tremec T56 six-speed manual that Viper owners know and (conditionally) love. The T56 got the job done, but most Viper owners found it not to be as crisp with its shifting as they would have liked. The folks at SRT knew that if they were going to move the 2008 Viper along toward the 600 hp mark, they would need a new transmission that would be equal to the task.

The TR6060 is more than capable of delivering on that promise. Stepinski pointed out that, although they may look similar, the TR6060 has almost totally different components than the T56. He explained, “There may be two or three parts that are the same, but for the most part, it’s all new. Two of the biggest changes are the wider gears for higher torque capacity and a new synchronizer package.”

The new shifter system results in greatly improved performance. Stepinski said, “The shifter throws are 20 percent shorter than the T56. Going from first to second has been reduced by three-quarters of an inch. That’s a dramatic improvement. The TR6060 is the whole package—there is less free play, reduced shift travel and more shift precision.”

But improved shift quality is just part of the story behind the new TR6060. And part of the development history involves a couple of the Dodge Viper’s archrivals—the Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford GT.

Share and Share Alike

The research, testing and development cost that goes into a major component such as a transmission can be daunting—especially when the expense can only be spread out over a limited production such as the Viper’s.

Stepinski said that as SRT was planning to revamp the trans for the Viper, Tremec was already doing work on an upgrade for Ford and Chevy. “We all shared the design and production cost for the TR6060,” he pointed out. “It not only helps keep the overall cost down, it means we can devote more resources to other parts of the Viper.”

The objectives of the new transmission were simply stated, but certainly easier said than done:

  • Support increased torque levels of the new 8.4 liter engine
  • Meet durability standards
  • Improve shift precision
  • Improve driveability and ergonomics

“In order to accomplish these goals, everything had to be re-evaluated and redesigned,” Stepinski said. “One of the biggest changes was in the synchronizer designed. The old T56 had a double cone for 1–2 and a single cone for 3–6. The TR6060 has a triple cone for 1–2 and a double cone for 3–6. These enhancements reduce friction and improve engagement feel.”

Of course, the changes didn’t stop there. The TR6060 has gears that are 10 percent wider than its predecessor which gives the new trans a higher torque capacity. The shorter travel of the synchronizers makes extra space available for the use of stronger, wider gears.

The addition of wider gears is made possible through the use of special fine-pitch teeth synchronizers. Stepinski said, “Basically it means that there are now three teeth where there used to be two. This enables the driver to make quicker shifts. Skip shift and reverse solenoids are similar to the T56, but the heavier springload keeps you from shifting into reverse when you don’t want to.”

The TR6060 is 10mm longer than the T56 and the front adaptor is thicker. There is also improved case structural thickness which improves stiffness. The shifter has also been rotated forward to compensate for the extra length. The front cover casting has been strengthened with a larger input shaft bearing. “Some of these changes contributed to increased weight (the TR6060 is six pounds heavier than the T56) and, although this is not desirable, in this instance we think it was definitely worthwhile,” Stepinski explained.

More Drivetrain Enhancements

Throwing in a new transmission without reworking the rest of the drivetrain would not give SRT the performance improvements it was looking for. So there was a lot more work to be done.

The clutch and flywheel first came under close scrutiny. A small diameter, low inertia Sachs twin-disc design replaced the old large diameter single-disc clutch. The smaller, more compact design resulted in an 18 percent reduction in rotating inertia.

Torque capacity is more than 600 lb-ft and the improved design leads to reduced clutch pedal efforts and improved engagement feel. The clutch hydraulic system uses a revised slave cylinder mated to a clutch master cylinder and adjustable pedals, so the driver can achieve maximum performance and comfort.

The 2008 Viper SRT10 propshaft has a new larger slip yoke—from 47.879mm–47.904mm, although the overall length is the same as the 2003–2006 model years. The old yoke was 42.659mm–42.710mm.

There is also an all-new GKN ViscoLok speed sensing rear differential. With its 4-pinion design, the ViscoLok diff has a viscous shear pump and the sealed unit means quicker response time and fewer temperature effects. Stepinski pointed out, “Overall, the GKN differential gives the Viper faster response to traction transients, progressive and linear lockup characteristics under limited handling conditions and improved corner exit traction. In other words, it provides excellent vehicle dynamics characteristics.”

Stepinski added, “With this new differential, there’s an extremely quick response time. There’s no one-wheel peel, no delay and no leakage. It grips, it’s fast—so you better be ready.”

The 6-speed TR6060 uses Mopar® ATF+4® lubricant and is certified “fill-for-life,” requiring no fluid changes. The clutch is activated hydraulically, which automatically compensates for clutch disc wear, eliminating manual adjustments. The lower viscosity means there is reduced parasitic loss and it runs cooler. The Tremec TR6060 has evolved to a point that it requires virtually no maintenance in all but the most severe conditions.

And there’s even more good news about the TR6060 transmission—it’s not just for 2008 and beyond Vipers. Stepinski explained, “With just a few modifications, the TR6060 will fit in the 2003–2006 Vipers. Mopar is coming up with a kit next year, starting with the flywheel—so that it will be easy for anyone interested to make the switch. It should just drop right in.”

Pub Crawling UK Style

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2009

By Paul Lacey

One of the most exciting experiences a Viper owner can enjoy is driving on any road in the world and suddenly spotting a Viper in the traffic. This was situation as I was on my way to the UK’s first meet of the year. Travelling through roadworks on the M1 motorway at the prescribed 50 mph (converted from kph for our American audience–Ed.), I spotted a flash of red, then red with white stripes, then blue with white—wow! Being conscious of the camera-enforced speed limit, I took a chance by speeding up bit by bit and gradually caught the convoy and tagged on the back.

For those Americans who have never visited a British pub, they are a bit like having a drink and meal in your own home. Our destination—the Fancott Arms in Luton—was no exception with good home cooked meals, fine wines and especially that funny English beer. Fancote Arms was the perfect location to host our first Viper meet of the year which was superbly organized by Barry and Sam Adams for the last five years.

The strange thing is all the UK women really look forward to this event. If you have seen the movie, “The Witches of Eastwick,” you will understand a circle of attractive women sitting round drinking wine and coffee. All that was missing was the caldron in the center to make the scene complete.

Meanwhile the boys were outside talking superchargers, exhausts, brakes, etc. As always happens throughout the world in many languages and whatever the car, the women eventually drag themselves from the pub into the cold to support the men. A special treat was a phone call from Tator Dodge in New York. Chuck Tator called to speak with our guests on Viper-related issues.

Our biggest surprise was a 10-year-old boy whose mother drove 75 miles after having spotted information about our meet on the Viper forum. The youngster was such a Viper nut that Neil Brown just had to give both him and the boy’s sister the ride of their lives in their favorite car. Of course, giving to others seems to come naturally to Viper owners throughout the world.

Shortly after noon, we enjoyed a healthy lunch followed by more talking about the cars outside while the women gathered again for coffee. After a brief rain shower and a sprint to the comfort and warmth of the pub, goodbyes were said, kisses exchanged and we headed for home. But guess what? On the way home in the distance a couple of Viper owners spotted a flash of white with blue stripes and, in keeping with the tradition of Vipers around the world, sped up to form the caravan home.

Viper owners are still basking in the glow of the Viper Owners Invitational held in Detroit.

Written by editor on . Posted in Letters, Winter 2009

Classic Celebration

What a blast! I have to admit, I wasn’t totally pumped up when I heard VOI.10 was being held in Detroit—but I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong. From the first-class accommodations at the Motor City Hotel, to the tour of the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant to our cruise along the Detroit River, the event was just one highlight after another.

My thanks to Dodge, the VCA and all the sponsors who made VOI such a success. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we see an announcement for VOI.11 someday soon.

Max Falzone

Charlotte, N.C.

Relief At Last

I purchased my Viper (a 2003 convertible) about six months ago and while it has been a source of tremendous pleasure, it has also led to a lot of frustration. I mean, when I get to 70 mph in the first three gears, what am I supposed to do with the other three? The car wants to go, but I had to keep reigning it in. That was, at least, until the Viper Owners Invitational.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to take my Viper out on the road course at the Chelsea Proving Grounds or on the drag strip at Milan. Finally, my Viper was able to do what it was meant to—go fast! I wanted to add, however, how much fun the Caliber SRT4® head-to-head challenge was. Those cars are incredible. I attached a photo my wife took. You don’t need a Viper to have fun—but it sure helps.

Ted Cooke

Hillsdale, Mich.

The Best Ever

I’ve been to a number of Viper Owners Invitationals in the past, but for a number of reasons, I’ve missed the last few. So I didn’t really know what to expect when I came to Detroit for VOI.10. I know things haven’t been great in the auto industry in general and at Chrysler and Dodge in particular, so I was wondering if all the outside pressures would cast a pall on the proceedings. I’m happy to say the Viper Nation didn’t let me down.

The Viper ownership group is truly a special collection of people. You can put together all the racing events and banquets you want, but if you don’t enjoy the people you’re with, what’s the point? The people who own Vipers and drive Vipers are among the friendliest and nicest folks in the world. Being with them in Detroit made me realize what a mistake it has been for me to miss any of these special events. If there’s a VOI.11, let me know. I’ll be there.

Greg Hite

Huntingdon, Pa.


Due to an editorial oversight, the Steering Angle column in the Fall 2008 issue of VM contained text that was not approved by Kipp Owen. VIPER Magazine apologizes for the error.

May the Force Be With You

There are a lot of reasons to go to VOI, but for someone like me who doesn’t like to race my Viper (my baby is too precious to subject to that kind of punishment), I find pleasure in other areas. The biggest kick I get is from seeing the hundreds of Vipers, in a blaze of color, all parked together in one place. I took this photo at the parking corral on Belle Isle before the Detroit Grand Prix and I think it’s a good example of what I’m talking about. Seeing these Vipers out in force sends a message to everyone who wanders by—there’s nothing like a Viper.

Bruce Renton

Cincinnati, Ohio

One Question

OK, I made it back home from VOI and have finally settled down into my day-to-day routine. There’s just one thing I want to know—when is the next one?

Paul Widman

Boca Raton, Fla.

VIPER Magazine

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Farmington Hills, MI 48333-2117

E-mail: [email protected]


Full Speed Ahead for Viper Days

Written by editor on . Posted in Heads Up, Winter 2009

With all the uncertainty surrounding the auto industry today, it’s great to know that the Viper Nation can take comfort in two things: The Viper will continue to be produced for many years to come, and the organization known as Viper Days will not only continue, it will become bigger and better.

Those familiar with the history of the Viper know that Viper Days and the Viper Racing League have been part of the Viper legacy for more than a decade. These series, founded and operated by Skip Thomas, have literally helped thousands of Viper owners satisfy their need for speed, while also teaching them valuable lessons about how to safely handle their vehicles in any kind of driving conditions.

No one knows the value of Viper Days better than those who have participated over the past fourteen years, so a few months ago; several veterans of the series approached Thomas to see if he might be interested in turning the administrative reins of his series over to a new management group. That organization, led by Rick Girard, sought to acquire the rights to Viper Days and the Viper Racing League with plans to grow the series into one of the largest most respected amateur road racing series in the nation.

Rick Girard explained, “All the owners who have participated in Viper Days have the upmost respect for Skip and everything he’s done for us. After 14 years, we want to make sure that the driving and racing opportunities for the Vipers will continue for at least another 14 years. Somebody needed to step up and offer to take the reins, so I did.”

Through Girard and his investment group, Viper Days will become part of a larger enterprise that will encompass not only Vipers, but other makes, as well. They have formed the North American Road Racing Association “NARRA” and will sponsor three different series designed to accommodate every level of driver skill.

The first will be the Michelin Challenge Series, which is geared toward beginner and intermediate drivers. The method by which drivers will compete in this series is “timed laps,” which will judge their progress against others in their class. Second, will be the Hoosier Cup Series, which will feature Grand Touring and Grand Sport vehicles from a variety of different manufacturers. Finally, the Viper Racing League will be reserved for the most experienced drivers, who will race wheel to wheel with each other. To date, 19 Viper Racing League drivers have turned pro and raced many well known series such as the SCCA World Challenge and the Grand Am Rolex Sport Car Series.

Driver education and safety will continue to play a big role in both the Challenge Series and the Viper Racing League, according to Girard. “Skip did a great job of creating a safe environment for us to learn how to handle the most competent road racing car on the track, the Viper.

“Our updated business model will offer a wide variety of track opportunities to a diverse group of automotive connoisseurs, including other brands such as Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin, Mustang and Ferrari” Girard continued by saying, “Many people who purchase high performance cars are intimidated by the idea of taking them to the track. Viper Days will give those folks the chance to learn about what their cars are capable of without the fear of deadly consequences.”

Girard hopes that Viper Days will expand its offerings to include events for the entire family. “Our young driver program will be an ideal place for teenage drivers to learn a variety of skills such as; threshold braking, skid control and how to avoid overcorrection in the event of an emergency. We’ll also include other activities such as tailgate parties, car shows, and live auctions—something for everyone.”

Plans call for nine or ten events in 2009. “We’re still working on venues and track dates for next year, so our schedule is not finalized at this time, however, we will be going to some of the most famous tracks in the world, places like Sebring, Mosport and Homestead.”  Girard said.  Please visit or over the coming weeks to see our 2009 schedule and keep informed on our progress.”

Girard concluded, “This series became too large for one person to handle. Even though our group is taking over where Skip left off, he will remain with our new group as the Grand Marshall of all events. Knowing Skip, I think you’re going to find him wanting to return to his teaching roots. Heck, don’t be surprised if he climbs into your car, turns to you and says ‘Hi, I’m Skip, now let’s go 120.’”

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


Viper Club of America

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