Although Samuel Hübinette was unable to repeat as the champion of the Formula D Drift series, it wasn’t for lack of support. The Northern California VCA members showed up in force at Infineon Raceway to cheer for Sam’s Viper SRT10®.
Nick Smith III, owner of Moe’s Southwest Grill in Charlotte, N.C., chose this plate for his 2002 black and yellow Viper. When you stop in, be sure to ask for the Snake Special.
By Brad Elder
I was going to send in my Viper story a long time ago, but we all know how that goes. Coming from a family of car lovers, it made perfect sense to me to start driving as early as possible. It all started with the family Kubota tractor. I was maybe four and in no time I had that driving skill down pat. I then progressed to Honda 70 three wheelers, a Mini Trail 50 and then to dirt bikes.
When I was 13, dad had taken me out in my Grandpa’s old 1967 VW bug and taught me how to drive a manual transmission. Well, I was about to turn 15 and I knew that if you were signed up for driver’s training, you could get a permit on your birthday. During the next year I drove as much as I possibly could. When the weather was nice I was always asking my dad if we could go out in the Viper. The day came where dad finally asked if I wanted to drive it. With all that torque it is very tough when you are first getting used to the clutch, gas, acceleration combo. But I managed quite well.
In the middle of July, I was scheduled to take the written test for my driver’s license. I had phoned my dad at work and asked him if it would be all right if mom and I drove the Black Mamba up to the license bureau. Being the nice dad that he is, he said yes.
I passed the written test and the man behind the counter asked when I would like to schedule the road test. I told him I wouldn’t be sixteen for two more weeks but he said, “You can take the driving part any time within a month of your birthday—and we happen to have an opening right now if you are ready.”
I looked at my mom and looked at him and said sure. He told me to bring my car up front and an agent would meet me. The lady who came out to give me my test was clueless to what a Viper is or she was being very professional to hide how excited she was to ride in one. I showed her how to get in without touching the door sills (dad’s pet peeve). One of the few comments she made to me was, “That is cool how you push the button to start the car.”
After we got going the test went great. I had points deducted because I stalled it while backing around a corner. I am probably one of a few (If not the only) kids that took and passed their driver’s test in a Viper Black Mamba. Thanks mom and dad!
By Paul Lacey
Over the years both my wife and I have travelled to Germany often to attend VCA meetings. I was talking to Max Erdmann, the VCA chapter president, and he invited me to a local event which included a quarter-mile drag race, autocross and timed track laps.
Initially I thought I would be the lone traveler. Imagine my surprise that when I posted it on our forum, all of the UK VCA members were enthusiastic to join me for a European adventure. As the months went on it became clear that this event was going to be big and we would see a total of over 40 Vipers in attendance.
I contacted Skip Thomas and asked his permission to use the Viper Days logo with the addition of “Euro” in front and Skip very kindly agreed. He added he wished he could have been with us as he dreams of someday organizing a Euro meet for U.S. drivers.
Late summer saw 13 UK Vipers loaded onto the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) and transported to France to make the 400-mile run to the beautiful Mosel Valley. Our hotel was based in Kobern-Gondorf, close to the Mosel River. We arrived late afternoon and our German hosts had arranged taxis to take us to a superb local restaurant for dinner.
Friday morning most of us explored the town and marveled at the size of the boats and barges on the river. Later, we climbed into our cars for a well organized cruise (with a police escort) to a memorial on the banks of the Mosel River where it meets the Rhine. There we posed for some sunset pictures. The views were spectacular and the sight of so many Vipers snaking their way through the German countryside was truly amazing.
Saturday was the big day for the competitors. The quarter mile was run in true classic style, with a young lady standing on the back of a pickup truck waving a German flag. It was a nice change of pace from the green lights of a Christmas Tree.
The autocross was brilliantly fun and I enjoyed watching the smiling faces of each driver as they finished the course. For me it was a great opportunity to drive the Viper using mostly throttle for the steering.
At the track I had my biggest surprise. In our group was another White Mamba SRT10®! Checking his build plate I found it was number 85—the one before mine. What are the chances of that in Europe?
We returned to the hotel to get dressed up for the dinner held on a cruise boat on the Mosel. Max graciously allowed me to help give out the prizes (UK Cobra heads complete with eyes that light up) to the Team Captains and to members of the German VCA who had put so much effort into the event. Thanks to Mitch Simcox for producing these. I understand that he had a couple of requests to make some more.
Sunday morning the UK contingent headed for Nürburgring race track, the Holy Grail for gas heads from around the world and the same track that a few days earlier had seen the Viper ACR set the world record for production cars.
The “Ring” was very busy but some of the UK owners braved the heavy traffic for a couple of laps. I have heard forum tales of drivers who think they could hustle the ACR around this blistering circuit, but let me assure you it takes years of experience and loads of track time—something Neil Brown knows about.
When we found out that this day was Neil’s 40th birthday, we just had to book him a ride in the “Viper Jet.” This is a well tweaked Viper Taxi. The driver told Neil that he was quite experienced; having done more than 3,000 laps of the circuit. When asked about his lap, Neil just replied, “Well, we overtook every car in front of us.”
As we wrapped up the weekend, we headed for the coast through the beautiful German scenery, then into Belgium, through France then the CTRL. For me it was the very best event I have ever been to, so a huge “Well Done” to the German VCA from all of the UK “guys and dolls.”
By Tim Wollesen
The city of Branson, Mo., is famous for its family-oriented shows and entertainment. So what could be more fun for the family than a Viper cruise through the middle of America’s heartland?
The journey started in Springfield, Mo., as Viper owners from 10 states met at Premier Sports Cars, a dealer of exotic cars who also happens to be a huge supporter of the VCA. Altogether, we had 38 Vipers along with an assortment of other supercars such as a Lotus, a Shelby GT350 and two Acura NSXs. Along with the 81 pre-registered guests, there were many others who, seeing the event as they drove by, chose to join us for the car show and the tasty lunch provided by our friends at Premier.
Around 2 p.m., the entire group pulled out of the Premier lot for a scenic cruise along the back roads of the Ozarks. Our destination was Branson, more specifically, the Chateau on the Lake resort, which overlooks Table Rock Lake.
En route, drivers and passengers participated in a scavenger hunt game, identifying landmarks and answering questions about sites they spotted along the way. The answers were collected and a drawing was held the next day to hand out some cool prizes.
On Saturday evening, the group gathered on the Branson Belle showboat for a cruise of a different sort. During our trip around Table Lake we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and three different shows.
The next morning we met in one of the chateau’s banquet rooms for our prize drawing and an all-you-can-eat breakfast. The highlight was a question-and-answer session with our new VCA president Chris Marshall and our favorite Viper expert, Herb Helbig, also known as the “Grailkeeper.” After answering all of our questions, Herb offered to sign autographs and a long line soon formed.
I just want to thank Premier Sports Cars for their generous hospitality and Herb and Chris for joining us during our weekend of driving and cruising fun.
By Herb Helbig, Chief Engineer—Viper
Editor’s Note: In order to provide better answers for your questions, don’t forget to mention the year, body style and mileage of your Viper.
Q: After becoming more and more familiar with my 1998 Viper GTS I have noticed the passenger door has become difficult to shut. It seems that it needs to be adjusted, as, if I simply gently push it shut, it won’t close properly. If I hold it up as I push it shut all the way, then it shuts no problem. When I am parked on any kind of incline, the driver’s side doesn’t seem to stay open but the passenger side does. I can certainly live with these problems but I would like to get them addressed if there are simple things I can do to adjust them.
A: The passenger door sounds like it has sagged a bit. This can be easily fixed by adjusting the door hinge. Usually, this is a two-person job. You need to make sure that you only loosen the hinge bolts slightly so that the door doesn’t fall further out of adjustment. The job itself will be a bit of trial and error.
Q: After driving in the extreme heat here, I noticed that my car is running awfully hot. With the A/C on, it runs up to the notch before the red hot line. Where I live is in the mid-high 90s right now and the elevation is around 3,600 feet-plus. I took my car to a local shop to flush, refill and pressure test the coolant system. Today, it’s running hotter than ever. If 190°F is normal, is up to that notch way too hot?
A: I’m going to assume you’re Viper is an older model and built before 2003. If the car runs normally and it does not put the needle up as high when the ambient temperatures are lower, say 75°F, then you are probably OK. The car is just reacting to the high ambient temperature. Also, if the needle stays up near the mark prior to the red zone and doesn’t move higher but just stays there, that’s all right too. You must make sure that no air is trapped in the coolant system.
Q: I normally drive with my hands on the wheel and have never really noticed how much movement there is in the shifter when not shifting. I was lazy with my hand the other day and noticed that at about 2,000 rpm, if I floor it, the shifter pulls toward the passenger side about 3/4 to 1 inch whether in 2nd or 3rd gear. Is this amount of shifter movement normal?
A: The amount of movement you’re talking about sounds high. Of course, there’s always some movement, especially with high loads. I would look at the trans mount and make sure the rubber isn’t cracked. Also look at both engine mounts. If any of the three have started to separate, you’ll get excess shifter movement.
Q: I pulled the car out of the garage to let it warm up and circulate fluids. When I went to pull it back in, the clutch felt mushy. When I started to let it out, the car lurched forward and stalled. I pumped the pedal to regain resistance and got it back in the garage. When I went to pull the cap off the reservoir I noticed fluid had been leaking out around the cap. The fluid is also olive drab green in appearance. My question is that since I recently did a full cat delete and don’t know the clutch line locations, could it just be boiling?
A: You didn’t mention if you installed headers when you deleted the cats. If you did you’re probably boiling the clutch fluid. You also didn’t mention the year of your car—some Vipers had a protective insulating sleeve over the clutch line as it passes by the exhaust manifold. Make sure that the sleeve has not been removed. Regardless, make sure that there is as much room as possible between the manifold and the line. I wouldn’t worry too much about the color of the fluid. Most cars do have the fluid turn dark.
Q: I noticed today when I was driving with my top up that in third gear, if I take it past 2,000 rpm, and especially above 3,000, when I let off the gas I get a very audible whine. It sounded like an electrical whine at first, so I shut off the radio, but it was still there. Put the clutch in and it goes away. This is the only gear I have noticed it in. I’m assuming if it was the rear end, then it should whine in any gear, not just third. Perhaps this is a normal sound?
A: The whine noise you’re hearing is most likely gear noise. Since it’s when you let off the throttle, we call it coast down gear noise. It can come from the trans or the rear axle. Although it can be annoying all cars have some and it usually doesn’t mean things are going to break. Typically, rear axle noise occurs at the same vehicle speed not rpm. So if it’s the axle you should get it in any gear but at the same vehicle speed. You mentioned third gear. If you don’t get the whine in fourth at the same vehicle speed it’s probably the trans. The same idea applies, just because it whines a little doesn’t mean it’s ready to break.
Your technical questions are always welcome. Please remember to indicate the body style, model year and mileage for your Viper.
Tech Notes Editor
PO Box 24425
Shawnee Mission, KS 66283
E-mail: [email protected]
Fax: (248) 499-1950
By Mark Giannotta
The marketing folks at Dodge are always doing research into what kind of person purchases a Viper. Here’s the latest demographic profile of the typical Viperholic:
• 96% male/4% female
• 45 years old
• $173,000 annual income
• 44% college graduate
• 62% married
• Primarily executive/entrepreneurial
But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Here are VIPER Magazine’s observations as to what comprises the conventional Viper owner:
- Shows strong aversion to stop signs, red lights and speed bumps
- Prefers to drive in the company of other Vipers
- Feels national speed limit should be 120 mph
- Disdains any vehicle with less than 500 hp (unless it’s a Gen I or Gen II Viper)
- Avoids any hobbies or pastimes that don’t involve driving
- Experiences frequent interaction with law enforcement officials
There are also physical characteristics by which you can identify a Viper owner. They often will unconsciously move their right arms in a six-speed shifting motion. Their left leg will be visibly more muscular than their right due to a clutch-based exercise program. Their eyes will be wide open in a perpetual state of excitement. And they’ll be constantly smiling.
And if the marketing people focus on the more traditional demographic measurements, the staff at SRT® understands the more visceral appeal of the Viper and strives every year to make sure there’s significant movement in the Viper drool meter.
For 2009, the Dodge Viper SRT10® offers the outrageous power the Viper Nation has come to expect, with its 8.4-liter 600-horsepower V10 engine and its blistering acceleration—0-60 mph in under four seconds and 0-100-0 mph in the low 12-second range.
Get in the driver’s seat, look down the hood and you’ll get a glimpse of the large, efficient scoop for air induction and functional hood louvers to facilate cooling and front downforce—and it looks pretty cool, too. Your friends at SRT have also retained Viper design hallmarks, including deep-cut side scallops, swept-back fenders, lowered hood lines and the signature Dodge crosshair grille remain.
“With the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10, we’re carrying on the proud tradition of very powerful artillery for sports-car enthusiasts,” said Kipp Owen, Director–SRT Engineering, Chrysler LLC. “With 600 horsepower, 560 lb-ft of torque and 0-to-60 performance in less than four seconds, the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 remains the benchmark for the ultimate American sports car.” Which is the corporate way of saying this thing hauls ass.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2009
The 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 remains available in two body styles—ragtop and hardtop. Four new exterior colors
will be introduced throughout the 2009 model year—Anaconda Green Pearl Coat, Graphite Metallic Clear Coat, Viper
Bright White Clear Coat and Viper Race Yellow (resurrected). Furthermore, Silver will be available on VOI-X editions only. Dual, painted hood stripes continue to be an option with six stripe colors available. With a total of 11 exterior colors, six stripe colors and four interior choices, customers have more than 130 exterior/interior combinations to choose from.
Several exterior differences exist between the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster and Coupe. In fact, the only body panels the roadster and coupe share are the front fascia, fenders, hood and doors.
The Dodge Viper SRT10 coupe’s hardtop with its “double bubble” styling makes it even more torsionally stiff than the roadster (which will come in handy when you’re tracking this baby). The 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe offers downforce and high-speed stability with its sloping roofline and deck lid spoiler.
Plus, the Dodge Viper SRT10 coupe has an additional 6.25 cubic feet of trunk space over the Viper SRT10 roadster, for a total of 14.65 cubic feet. Granted, trunk space is not why you buy a Viper, but isn’t it good to know that your golf clubs will fit comfortably inside?
And if you’re a Gen I or Gen II owner, you may not have had an opportunity to enjoy one of the true pleasures of the new Viper—namely, the red push-button starter. As designer Ralph Gilles said when this innovation was introduced in 2003, “Introducing a start button was exciting for us. It’s as though starting
the Viper requires a ‘commitment’ from the driver.”
For those with a discerning eye for interior design, four cockpit colors will be available in 2009: black, black/red, black/blue or black/medium slate. A choice of bezel finishes on the center instrument panel and console adds to the increased level of customization.
Electric and hybrid cars are great, but the Viper is always going to remain true to its roots, which means for 2009 the Dodge Viper SRT10’s deep-skirted V10 aluminum block will still generate a whopping 600 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. Take that, Volt.
The V10 engine features some of the most sophisticated hardware around. For example, it has cylinder heads equipped with Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC)-shaped combustion chambers and ports, larger valves and Variable Valve Timing (VVT) with award-winning CamInCam® technology.
The VVT application used in the Viper SRT10 electronically adjusts when the exhaust valves are opened and closed according to engine speed and load, allowing the engine to “breathe” more cleanly and efficiently.
The SRT10 V10’s two-piece intake manifold combines a cast-aluminum lower plenum with smooth runners for better air flow, bolted to a die-cast aluminum upper plenum. The air-cleaner box with a low-restriction filter sends air through dual electronic throttle control modules into the intake plenum.
Within the cylinders, pistons are equipped with large-diameter floating pins in bronze bushed rods for high-load capability. The forged powder-metal connecting rods are secured with aircraft-quality fasteners for increased fatigue strength.
Engine lubrication is managed by an oil pump and a swinging oil pickup adapted from the Viper Competition Coupe engines, to improve oil pressure in high-rpm and hard-cornering conditions.
Spent gases exit through tubular air-gap headers, which not only improve exhaust flow, but also ensure quick catalyst light-off for improved emission control. The headers’ stamped stainless-steel outer shell acts as a thermal heat shield for the individual stainless-steel runners that contribute to better flow separation and exhaust tuning.
The 2009 Viper V10 channels its power through a twin-disc clutch. Introduced in 2008 model year Vipers, the ZF Sachs clutch reduces rotating inertia by 18 percent, reduces clutch-pedal effort and improves engagement feel. Transferring the Dodge Viper SRT10’s power to the rear wheels is a heavy-duty six-speed manual transmission. In other words, whatever you can dish out on the road or the track, this car can take it—and come back for more.
Stopping power is another carefully developed part of the Viper SRT10 equation, with 14-inch brake rotors gripped by Brembo 44/40 dual opposing piston calipers in the front and Brembo 42/38 dual opposing calipers in the rear. This system results in a world-class braking performance of 60-0 mph in less than 100 feet.
Viper SRT10 performance is further defined by a race-bred aluminum, fully independent, four-wheel suspension featuring lightweight, high-performance aluminum control arms and knuckles, damped by lightweight coil-over shock absorbers. Power is delivered to the pavement via a Dana M44-4 rear axle and a 4-pinion GKN ViscoLok speed-sensing limited-slip differential for higher torque capacity and improved traction.
The Viper SRT10 rides on polished forged aluminum 18 x 10-inch front and 19 x 13-inch rear wheels, clad in Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 non-run-flat tires. Each tire includes low-pressure sensors in the valve stem.
Add up all these numbers and you’ll come up with a vehicle that provides more power and performance (and thrills) than other cars costing two or three times as much. So we’ll give one more reason to purchase a new Viper—it’s the economical thing to do. Never thought you’d ever see that rationale applied to a Viper, did you?
It may surprise most people to know that the history of many of our current holiday traditions dates back more than 4,000 years. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the Yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals (parades) with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house and the holiday feasts can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians.
Every civilization in history has assigned special significance to at least a few holidays on a regular basis from the time that calendars were invented. From the times when people gathered outside their caves to rejoice over the successful mammoth hunt, people just seem to need to have holiday celebrations that commemorate events and persons of importance to the group.
Hence as soon as holiday celebrations were invented, the holiday feast developed soon afterward. As a result, the holiday calendar expanded as people searched out reasons to get together and enjoy the company of others, as well as generous amounts of food and beverage.
The history of Viper club holiday parties may not cover centuries, but what they lack in longevity they make up for in creativity and attitude. Since the Viper Club of America was founded in 1995, various chapters around the country (and the world) have chosen to celebrate the holiday season in a number of different venues.
These parties have taken place in restaurants, garages, aquariums, zoos, museums, race tracks, car dealerships, golf resorts, cruise ships—almost anywhere you can imagine. However, ask most people what they prefer and most will opt for the good old house party; especially when the homestead is like the one owned by Steve and Lynn Wedel, of St. Louis, Mo.
Most Viper club members will remember that Steve Wedel has been with the organization almost since its inception in 1995, has served as president of the VCA Gateway chapter and recently had a two-year stint as the National VCA president. But when his term came to an end, his involvement with the club definitely did not.
When it comes time for the annual holiday party for the Gateway club, the Wedels graciously open up their home for members to celebrate the end of one year and festively kick off the beginning of the next. Given the setting, it’s the social event of the year.
“We really enjoy all the preparation and anticipation that goes into this gathering,” Steve said. “There’s no greater group of people anywhere than Viper owners, so any excuse we can use to get us all together is fine with me.”
To say the Gateway members are into this party would be an extreme understatement. If the invitation says the start time is 3 p.m., you can count on people ringing the bell about 15 minutes early. There’s no time to waste.
As the guests arrive, the driveway begins to fill with a veritable rainbow of Vipers. First among them are two of the new Viper Blue SRT10® coupes, which provide a colorful counterpoint to the white of the Wedels’ two story colonial. Wave after wave of guests arrive, each bringing in another dish containing an appetizer or dessert to add to the growing accumulation of food. As one guest looks over the dining room table which is overflowing with gourmet delights, he decides to opt for what he calls “pre-sert”—that’s when you go for the sweet stuff ahead of everything else.
Of course the first gathering point is the kitchen, but everyone gradually spreads out (there’s a lot of room for that) to the rest of the house, with a majority of the celebrating taking place on the lower level. Down the stairs, through the rec room with the full size pool table, down the hall, past the fitness room, wine cellar, collection of classic LPs and autographed guitars (from the Rolling Stones and George Thoroughgood, to name a couple), they arrive at the ultimate destination, the party room.
As if the rest of the house wasn’t enough, Steve went to great lengths to ensure his visitors would have everything they needed to enjoy themselves. With a full service bar dominating one corner, scattered around the rest of the room was a Viper pinball machine, skeeball, a racing arcade game and a custom built, Viper-accented shuffleboard table.
Others took the opportunity to venture outside, over Steve Wedel’s garage, which not only housed several of his Vipers, but also two Challengers—both the new one and the classic version from the ’70s.
Once the partygoers were thoroughly fed and entertained, the focus shifted to a spirited round bidding on some auction items generously donated by the club members. Moderated by current Gateway president Michael Kneemueller, the auction raised funds that will go to the club’s activities for the coming year. A special presentation was made to one club member who lost a large quantity of Viperabilia in a house fire last year. Steve Wedel and others gathered some collectibles and made them a most welcome holiday gift to her from the rest of the club.
Later that evening, as the revelry wound down, Steve reflected on the day’s event, as well as his entire history with the Viper club. He said, “This is what makes it all worthwhile, seeing everyone enjoy themselves so much. We have such a great club with fantastic membership—it’s always a pleasure to get together. That’s what makes the Viper club so special. It’s not just about the cars, it’s about the people.”
Story by Maurice Liang
You can’t tell I’m smiling,” said Brock, as he looked up from his bed, “but I am!” Having endured three brain surgeries, his face couldn’t express his happiness, but inside, he was beaming as he clutched his new RidemakerZ Viper toy. Being a kid in a hospital is no fun. Being a kid in a hospital at Christmas is even worse. So the Northern California VCA decided to share some Viper cheer with the patients at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, Calif. this Christmas by hosting the first “Build-A-Viper Bash,” where children could custom-build their own Viper toy.
BIRTH OF A BASH
I first discovered the RidemakerZ Viper toys at VOI.10. They were used as part of the centerpieces. Similar to the Build-A-Bear concept, where you can create your own personalized teddy bear, RidemakerZ offers a line of toy cars—or “RideZ,” as they prefer to call them—that can be customized by choosing from a range of wheels, tires, hood scoops, exhausts and other accessories. The cars are a good size, not too big, not too small, approximately a foot long, and snap together quickly, making it easy for kids of all ages to build. And, fortunately for us, one of the RideZ is the 2008 Viper SRT10® coupe!
Robyn Pass, Partner Marketing Manager at RidemakerZ, and her “ZEO,” were enthusiastic about supporting this cause, and agreed to supply us with 120 Viper RideZ and accessories at a substantial discount. For any kids that might prefer to snuggle up to a stuffed animal rather than a car (gasp!), we also provided some Build-A-Bear teddy bears.
Selecting the charity was easy. Our club supports the Brian Angen Memorial Foundation (BAMF) charity, in honor of Brian Angen, son of Viper club members Terri and Rocky Angen. Brian died in a boating accident at the age of 23. BAMF supports the Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where Brian had received a prosthetic eye when he was a child. Jennifer Gabriel, Vice President of Philanthropy (whom we nicknamed “Jen I” to give her a Viper-sounding name) and Jen Rippley (Jen II), loved the idea, and helped us put the plan in motion and coordinate the logistics at the hospital.
Thanks to all those who generously contributed to the effort, the NorCal VCA raised enough money to sponsor a toy for each child and donate another $1,400 to BAMF!
Creighton laughed and giggled as he pretended he was racing a Viper around a track, as his father Stephen pushed his wheelchair around the circular driveway where our Vipers were parked. Kids that were well enough to go outside eagerly checked out our cars.
“A 3-year-old, recovering from heart surgery two weeks earlier was checking out the Vipers,” recalled VCA member Barbara Drummer. “I asked his mom which Viper was his favorite, and she pointed to the 2005 Copperhead. I answered, ‘That’s mine. Would he like to sit in it?’ The boy nodded quietly. At first, his mom placed him on the driver’s seat but he was so low in the car he couldn’t see out. So we put him in my lap and let him push the start button to start the car. I couldn’t see his face, but judging from his mother’s reaction, he was having a great time. He loved the loud roar of the engine, and the rock music!”
Added Glen McAdon, “We had a little guy who had his head in a halo wheeled out in his wheelchair to check out the cars. His name was Mikey. He was maybe 4 or 5 years old, with a sad look on his face, not talking much. We keep a few dozen toy Vipers in the car just for times like this. I asked him what color Viper he would like, red, blue, black or white. He said black. I went and got him a black one and the smile came out and he started talking like crazy.”
Even the hospital staff was excited about the cars! Chaplain Bernice Gotelli sat in Roger Gray’s red RT/10 and suggested that maybe she needed one as her company car.
THE MINI-VIPER PLANT
Inside the hospital, a mini-Viper production plant was in full swing. Toy Viper parts were spread across the table, smorgasbord-style. Kids would come in and choose the color Viper they liked, and which accessories they wanted to add. Club members took turns helping the kids assemble and decorate their cars. “We have SO many stuffed animals,” said one mother. “This is so neat because it’s something different!”
For patients who were too ill to leave their beds, the hospital’s Childlife staff escorted club members to the childrens’ rooms so we could build a Viper for them. Elsewhere, Rocky Angen headed up the “production room” where club members built “turn-key cars” for patients who couldn’t participate in the event.
Those who preferred stuffed animals had fun choosing the outfits. At one point, when we ran out of outfits for the stuffed animals, club member Toni Todd got creative. “I whipped out some felt and a glue gun and made some designer clothes for one little girl’s stuffed dog. Her buoyant jumping, combined with a radiant smile, made it all worth it.”
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Many club members have been contributing to BAMF for years, so this was a chance to interact with the patients, tour the facility and see the amazing kind of work that the hospital does for kids. Since the hospital specializes in children, everything is geared towards kids—from blood pressure cuffs the size of your finger (designed to fit around an infant’s arm), to complex blood purifying machines, to the brightly-colored décor on the ceilings (for when children are wheeled around on a gurney), to a staff that obviously adores children. It makes you proud to support such a worthwhile organization.
BAMF took this opportunity to present Children’s Hospital with a check for $10,000. Over the years, BAMF has contributed over $125,000, which has earned them a spot on the hospital’s “Bertha Wright” top-tier contributor’s list. The hospital’s CEO and President, Frank Tiedemann, thanked the Viper Club and the Brian Angen Memorial Foundation for their continued support. The hospital generously provided lunch for all our participants as well.
SPECIAL THANKS FOR A HEARTWARMING EXPERIENCE
A lot of behind-the-scenes effort went into making this event possible. A special thank you to Robyn Pass at RidemakerZ, Jennifer Gabriel and Jen Ripley at Children’s Hospital, Marilyn Freudlich, Marketing & Sales Manager from Build-A-Bears, Jon Brobst at PartsRack, and Terri, Casey, and Rocky Angen from BAMF. And, of course, a heartfelt thank you to all who contributed!
As I looked around the hospital, I saw a heartwarming picture. Club members whom I never would have expected gently coached the children on how to assemble their Vipers. Parents looked on with smiles. Kids smiled and even laughed. At one table, Alyssa, a very young cancer patient, sat in her dad’s lap as they shared a moment, building a Viper together. Jonathan and Shannon, two other patients, raced their new Vipers across the floor. It was magical.
“I had one of the mothers of a sick child come up to me in the parking lot at the end of the day to say thank you,” said VCA member McAdon. “She said her son had been sick and throwing up all morning, and when we arrived, everything changed. She said it got his mind off of how rotten he was feeling and made his day, and hers, too. This was the best Christmas party I have attended—ever!”
Jen Ripley from the Children’s Hospital summed up the day well: “The event was a smashing success. People loved the life-size Vipers! Staff and patients loved looking at the cars and getting to sit in them. I heard many oohs and ahhs. And the kids loved building the cars and bears.” Jennifer Gabriel concurred: “We truly appreciate the tremendous donation of materials, time and energy on your part, as well as the participation of the Brian Angen Memorial Foundation and the Viper Club. It was a remarkable day, one that will be remembered by our staff and patients for a long time.”
BUILD YOUR OWN BASH
If your VCA region would like to host a similar event, the Northern California VCA has made it easy to replicate. We’ve developed a checklist, provided sample material, and even have some recommended children’s hospitals from around the country. All you need to do is decide upon the charity you want to support, get your club members to sponsor the toys, and contact Robyn Pass at RidemakerZ. For more information, contact NorCal VCA president Maurice Liang at [email protected].
By Darren Jacobs
Scene: A man works quietly and intently in his garage, pruning, pinching and tending with utmost care to 200-year-old Bonsai trees. Content, the man wipes his brow, stores his tools, and, after hours of patient work in an ancient art begun in China over a thousand years ago, peels out of his garage in a Detroit-born, 21st century work of art—an 800 hp Dodge Viper.
Visitors to the awe-inspiring garage of VCA Gateway member Mike Perkins might not witness that exact scenario, but close to it. The St. Louis resident combines his love of Bonsai trees and Dodge Vipers under one impressive roof, marrying a passion that emphasizes the aesthetic miniaturization of trees with one that glorifies the ultimate amplification of horsepower.
“I’ve had a professional Bonsai artist working with me on my trees in the garage,” recalled Perkins, president of Perkins Contracting, a 53-year-old construction company founded by his grandfather. “It’s kind of weird seeing a guy working on 200-year-old trees under three Vipers.”
Perkins (known as “TREESNAKE” on the VCA Forums) began his pursuit of the Bonsai arts 15 years ago. His dedication to the hobby has spurred six trips to Japan in order to visit Bonsai exhibits and to study with experts on Bonsai care. Perkins also receives instruction from a professional Bonsai teacher who travels all the way from Milan, Italy, to Perkins’ garage 2–3 times each year. The hard work and devotion to all things Bonsai has paid off. Perkins currently has seven Bonsai trees ranked in the top 100 in the world, and has taken first-place in all five U.S. national competitions he has entered.
However, the 50-year-old was a late comer to the joys of the Viper Nation. He wasn’t Snakebit until 2004, when he purchased his first Viper, a 2001 GTS. A quick convert, Perkins rapidly made up for lost time. His collection has grown to number four Dodge Vipers in a short span.
Ironically, Perkins’ garage wasn’t originally built to house his duo of diverse hobbies. The edifice was constructed to accommodate another of his toys—a 30-foot twin-engine catamaran that can reach speeds in excess of 110 mph on the water. The boat was eventually stored elsewhere, leaving garage space that needed to be filled—and Perkins knew just what to fill it with.
The year-round climate-controlled garage features two BendPak single-post 6,000 lb. lifts and Go Jack car “skates” provided by XVIPERS, for use when the Vipers need repair or need to be moved in order to make room for Bonsai pruning. The garage is also lined with common indoor Luan hollow closet doors. The doors are hung on a closet track, continuous for the entire length of the garage, enabling Perkins to slide all doors to one end or the other, or open the doors anywhere in the middle.
The doors slide back and forth instead of opening outward, holding firm to Perkins’ commitment to child safety by limiting the possibility of damage to his “children” (the Vipers). Covered in a waterproof Sapphire laminate material, the doors were chosen for their durability and resistance to scratching, allowing Perkins to bathe his “kids” in the garage without concern of stray water or gunk. The doors are accented by a “tread plate” aluminum center trim cut to fit and glued into place. The trim at the top and bottom of the doors is stainless steel and custom fabricated to fit around wooden trim.
Perkins didn’t skimp on amenities. The garage features stainless steel sheeting cut to fit and installed behind a stainless “restaurant style” double sink with commercial fixtures. The area is also lined with stainless steel shelves, used to display Perkins’ complete collection of AUTOart 1:18 scale Vipers. A half bathroom is nearby, as well as an icebox for storing cold drinks. A Scott Jacobs VCA print also hangs on the wall.
Garage lighting consists of eight-foot fluorescent lights recessed into the ceiling, with the light focused straight down using custom bent aluminum flashing as reflectors. An extensive alarm system protects the Vipers and Bonsai trees when Perkins is away.
Like his garage, Perkins’ quartet of Vipers also boasts a host of modifications. His 2001 Sapphire Dodge Viper GTS sports a diamond-back hood from XVIPERS, Autoform race fascia, front splitter and roof scoop, Forgeline wheels with BFG drag radials, Eibach lowering springs, “painted” headlights and taillights, an all forged, all “studded” billet main, 488 cid engine from Arrow Racing, Striker heads, Bellanger headers with Corsa exhaust, and a ported Roe Supercharger—and that’s just a short list of the many modifications!
Perkins’ 2006 Sapphire Street Serpent Coupe #1 of 1 and 2006 Pearl Slate Coupe also feature an impressive roster of mods (his 2006 Black convertible is stock—for now). Design, installation, fabrication, and powder coating work on the vehicles was undertaken by JMB Performance. A large majority of all parts were provided by XVIPERS, with custom bodywork and paintwork completed at Paul’s Paint and Body.
Factor in Perkins’ Bonsai tree maintenance along with the loving attention he pays to his burgeoning stable of Vipers and it’s no wonder you almost have to forcibly drag him from his garage. It’s a rare spare moment that Perkins does not spend tinkering with a Viper or tending to Bonsai trees.
“I easily spend two hours in the garage each weekday, and at least 12 hours on the weekend,” said Perkins.
No need to rub it in, Mike. You’ve already given the Viper Nation “garage envy.”
Got your own “Garage Mahal” you want to flaunt for your fellow Viper owners? Send in photos, info and details of your glorious Viper garage to: VIPER Magazine, P.O. Box 2117, Farmington Hills, MI 48333-2117, or by e-mail to [email protected].