Farewell, Friend

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Darren Jacobs

Saturday, October 17, 2009, presented a picture-perfect day for a Formula DRIFT (FD) event. Sunny skies, warm temperatures and a packed crowd made for a perfect setting at the 2009 FD season finale at “The House of Drift,” Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. However, a dark shadow clouded the bright festivities: the absence of Shaun Carlson, team owner of Samuel Hübinette’s Mopar-powered NuFormz Racing Dodge Viper SRT10® drift car.

Carlson, 35, and a Viper Nation favorite, passed away suddenly on Oct. 4. The longtime member of Team Mopar® had recently been diagnosed with Brugada Syndrome, a genetic disease characterized by an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system that can cause a potentially fatal arrhythmia.

Carlson enjoyed amazing success as owner of a Mopar-sponsored Dodge Viper in the growing motorsport of drifting, a precision driving sport in which drivers compete in head-to-head tandem runs ?and are judged on speed, line and angle.

?As owner of NuFormz Racing, Carlson maintained the Mopar Dodge Viper Competition Coupe Hübinette steered to ?the inaugural FD championship in 2004. Carlson worked closely that year with Nevada VCA President Marko Radosavljevic, who owned the Viper Comp Coupe in which Hübinette competed.

An Ontario, Calif., native, Carlson both owned and tuned the Mopar Dodge Viper SRT10 Hübinette drove to the 2006 FD championship. Carlson and Hübinette teamed for FD series runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2008 and nine FD event wins during their partnership—a series high. Through the years, the pair enjoyed a large following from the Viper Club of America. Crowds of Viper owners turned out to numerous FD events to support the team, including an annual Dodge Viper car corral at the FD event in Sonoma, Calif. (see sidebar).

“He was so helpful when we worked together in 2004. He had so much patience,” said Radosavljevic of Carlson, who was acknowledged as a trailblazing engine builder and fabricator in the sport compact and drifting worlds. Carlson also competed for Team Mopar in the NHRA Sport Compact Series and NHRA Pro Stock series. “I knew Shaun for so long, going back to 2000–2001, when he was drag racing sport compact cars. The Formula DRIFT titles Sam and Shaun captured together were very special to the Viper Nation. We stayed in touch quite a bit over the years, so his passing was a huge shock, a huge surprise. He’ll really be missed by the VCA.”

Despite their grief, Hübinette and the Mopar-powered NuFormz Racing team decided to soldier on in memory of their beloved leader with a poignant tribute at the Irwindale season-ender. Hübinette’s Dodge Viper SRT10 was wrapped with special “red Camo” graphics, donated by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Competition Graphics, featuring an image of Carlson with his trademark Mohawk haircut. The beloved and respected racing icon and innovator was also saluted with a moment of silence and a special FD video tribute prior to the Irwindale main event.

The NuFormz team and Hübinette did Carlson proud, qualifying in the ninth spot and drawing Frederic Aasbo in the Round of 32. Hübinette defeated Aasbo and moved on to the Top 16 main event in a close race with the FD newcomer. He then faced the formidable Joon Maeng in the Top 16. Hübinette followed on the first tandem run, bringing the crowd to its feet as he stuck his Mopar-powered Viper to Maeng’s door. Hübinette led on an evenly matched second tandem run with Maeng, prompting the FD judges to call for a “One More Time” (OMT). Hübinette came away with the win in the OMT after Maeng made a correction during the first run, prompting a passionate celebration from Carlson’s family and friends, who turned out in large numbers to witness the event.

Unfortunately, the team’s luck ran out in the Great 8 round, losing a close battle to Tyler McQuarrie. Despite the loss, Hübinette and the NuFormz team took special comfort in their fourth-place finish in the final standings. During Hübinette and Carlson’s partnership, the duo never finished worse than fifth in the final FD season standings since the series was formed in 2004.

“It was a good ending to the season for us,” said Hübinette. “We lost our team owner and friend, Shaun Carlson. Formula DRIFT did a great video tribute to him. I think it was really cool and I know his family was very pleased.
“We had some close battles in the Top 32 and Top 16, and I felt we got some extra strength from Shaun above. We wanted to win for him, and I’m bummed we didn’t, but we made the Great 8, which I think is remarkable given all the things the team has been through. I’m so proud of the NuFormz team, and I know Shaun would have been, too.”

“Shaun Carlson meant the world to me and this team,” said Scott Stanwood, NuFormz Racing crew chief. “We nicknamed him ‘Dad’ because he looked over us; he was our mentor. He was so iconic to the drifting and sport compact racing worlds, you can’t even put words to it. Shaun would have never wanted us to miss a race. We pushed ahead and made a good representation of the team. We gave Shaun a front-row seat with this paint scheme, is how I see it.”

No doubt “Dad” was once again looking over his NuFormz team, this time from a perch high above the drift course. Carlson’s legacy is that of a remarkable record of motorsports accomplishments that entertained and brought joy to Dodge Viper fans, and racing fans in general, for many years. Those memories and milestones will live on forever—as will the memory of Shaun Carlson.


Prior to Carlson’s tragic passing, the Northern California VCA hosted its annual car corral at the Formula Drift event at Sonoma, Calif., in September. NorCal VCA member Rocky Angen was treated to a ride-along in Samuel Hübinette’s Dodge Viper SRT10. Angen termed the experience “bitchin’.” The Angens brought their motor home for the club to use as a hospitality suite at their perch above the staging area. Terri Angen provided easy-ups for shade, rented chairs, and brought lunch and beverages for everyone. The colorful Vipers drew plenty of attention from the crowds.

Hübinette and his lovely wife Stina stopped by the corral for a visit. Samuel signed autographs while Stina sold copies of Samuel’s new DVD, “Drift Ya Later.” Samuel adopted that catchphrase from the Angen’s deceased son Brian’s phrase, “Race Ya Later,” as a way to keep Brian’s memory alive.
Samuel owns his own drift-ready Dodge Viper SRT10 and intends to compete in the FD Series in 2010. NuFormz Racing also counts a Mopar-powered drift Viper among its stable, so one way or another, it’s a good bet a Viper will drift in 2010 at Sonoma, with the NorCal VCA there to provide vocal support once more!

20 Years and Still Counting

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Roger Meiners

From left to right: Peg Sjoberg (Roy’s Wife and General Manager), Jean Buchesky (Dave’s Wife), Mike Stephens, Dave Sweitlek, Pete Gladysz (eyes closed) and in front of Pete is his wife Judy (purple sweater). Next to Judy is Dick Winkles in the open jacket. Over Dick’s shoulder is Ben Swears (not original Team Viper, but now with SRT). Above Dick is Bill Adams looking to the left. In the original Team Viper hat is Dave ‘Bo’ Buchesky. In the black boatneck sweater is Lydia Fleming. Next to Lydia is Mike Cipponeri’s wife, Diane, holding baby. Above the baby and holding a beer is Ray Schilling. Bearded smile next to Ray is Joe Gall, and in the blue shirt is Charlie Brown III. That handsome bald guy is Ken Nowak with Mark Vermeersch next. Dr. Helen Cost is in front of Nowak, and Brian Shea is in front of Helen. Jim Sayen sitting in the black shirt. Ira Fisher is in his ’96 Indy 500 Pace Car shirt. Mike Cipponeri in the black Viper sweater above Ira. Roy Sjoberg in the white sweater. Stranger in the photo looking to the right. Brian Hoxie in the flannel shirt and open jacket. ?Herb Helbig on the far right end. —caption by Ken Nowak.

During a recent meeting with Dick Winkles, he invited us to come along with him to a reunion of the original Team Viper members. We jumped at the chance and followed him over to the Moose Preserve on Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. There, we found over twenty of the team members and Roy Sjoberg, the father of the Viper.

When Sjoberg put Team Viper together back in 1989, his goal was to create a group of car enthusiasts/entrepreneurs who would be friends—even family. To that end he organized trips and social events during which everyone could be together and have fun. “Roy is a real social animal,” said Ken Nowak, who was the engineer in charge of building the prototypes—including the first-ever Viper, the first GTS-R and many other new Viper designs.

“We got together frequently—from the very beginning, whether it was a VFW post in Hamtramck or Roy’s beautiful house on Mullet Lake,” said Nowak. “The first big event up at Roy’s was a snowmobile trip, and we brought along a sled we made from a scrap Viper hood, upon which we mounted three bucket seats and handlebars enough for people to ride on the frozen lake.” Sjoberg’s mission worked beautifully, as we witness the great product that came out of the group—and continues to emerge today—enthusiasts having a party with their friends to produce the best sports car in the world. The party never ended for these original Team Members and the friendships are as strong as ever.

Here’s how Nowak puts it on the opening page of the Team Viper forum:

“We are friends. We are engineers. We are designers, mechanics, managers and technicians. We are executives and we are clerks. We are builders and drivers and racers. We are people with grease under our fingernails and not afraid to roll up our sleeves to pick up a wrench, a pencil, or a broom, and get it done. We are people who think the word “can’t” is a challenge that means we haven’t quite figured it out yet. 

“We pumped Viper Red adrenaline into a lethargic K-Car Chrysler with outrageous rumbling prototypes and found a whole new way to build cars and energize a tired corporation. We battled and bloodied, then picked each other up and forged ahead together. Race tracks and drag strips were our proving grounds, and from Rodeo Drive to Le Mans and Daytona, the world was our stage.

“We were, and we are, a Team. We are a team that accomplished what few in this industry have dared attempt. We accomplished the birth of a true American icon.

“We are the people who took an impossible idea called ‘The Dodge Viper’…and made it real.”

Tech Notes

Written by editor on . Posted in Tech Notes, Winter 2010

By Herb Helbig, Chief Engineer—Viper (Retired)

Q: ?I have a 2005 convertible Viper that just turned 19,000 miles. The A/C works great around the city; however, on long drives and high speeds the vehicle gradually loses all blowing capacity coming from the vents (decrease in air velocity). The cab temperature eventually reaches a point were the windows need to be lowered. This occurs typically after about 20 to 30 minutes of driving. I adjust the fan level to max, but I can only feel the coolness at the vent, and I can hear the blower working, but there is no air flow coming from the vents. If I stop the car and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, it will work again, but as soon as I get back on the highway, it does it all over again. If the problem is with the vehicle’s vacuum system, how can this be corrected? Or is it something else? I would greatly appreciate your help!

A: This sounds like it might be a problem with the duct work—especially since the A/C works well around town. Look for a restriction when you are experiencing the reduced-flow. Look at the intake area near the base of the windshield near the intake box. Good luck.

Q: I own a 2008 Viper SRT10® convertible with a set of Eibach springs installed. The vehicle has been lowered 1 inch. Typically, when I release the clutch quickly—at 2 to 3000 rpm rolling in first gear at around 20 mph—the vehicle wheel hops and I feel like I’m destroying the rear suspension. How can I correct this problem? The tire pressure in all four tires is at 30 psi.

A: Assuming nothing else has been changed on the car’s suspension, the hop issue may stem from the change in axle shaft angle because of lowering the car. Make sure that the fasteners are all retorqued properly—especially the shocks and control arms. If the Eibach spring rates are different than the stock springs, that may contribute significantly. Additionally, make sure the shocks are in good shape and show no signs of leakage.

Q: I’m the new owner of a 2006 Viper SRT10 coupe. The vehicle is black with silver stripe option M91. I need to know the Chrysler touch up paint part number for the M91 silver stripes as my dealer and local body shops are unable to find it. Also, what is the correct oil capacity for the 8.3L engine? My service manual shows 11 quarts; owner’s manual, 10 quarts; and 2006 brochure, 10.4 quarts—all with filter change.

A: The paint you are looking for is VA9. My paint expert suggested that you try to find a Dupont paint. This will give you the best match. The proper oil capacity for your car is 10.5 quarts with a filter change.

Q: After completing a hard run in my ’97 GTS, I noticed transmission fluid dripping from the transmission. The transmission fluid was changed recently. Is it possible the transmission was overfilled? If so, could this damage the transmission?

A: I’m assuming you had your car on a road course. You didn’t say what area the fluid was leaking from on the transmission. Most likely it’s coming from the vent which is on top of the trans. It’s possible it was overfilled, but it is also possible that the vent was dislodged during reinstallation. You need to take a look and see if the vent is still attached properly. Not easy to do, but you might be able to see it through the shifter opening.

Q: I have 4,000 miles on my 2009 SRT10. I recently smoked the clutch on a steep incline. During normal driving I still smell a burning odor; however, the vehicle still shifts fine. Do I need a new clutch?

A: Probably not. The dual disc clutch is pretty robust. The smell will probably take a while to dissipate but should eventually go away. As long as the car launches okay and shifts fine, you should be good to go.

Q: I own a 1996 GTS and I’m considering installing a Mopar® Cat-BackTM exhaust system (P5007274). How much horsepower could the engine gain with this system? Please mention any benefits and drawbacks for this system. Do you recommend any other Mopar parts to increase horsepower?

A: Assuming your car is totally stock, the system should be good for 5 hp at the flywheel. The reason that the number is so small is that the stock system is very low restriction. Benefits will include better sound quality and perhaps reduced sill heat. On the down side, you may experience some exhaust drone on the highway. If it’s bothersome, try shifting up a gear. Some other parts you might consider are rocker arms with a different ratio, camshaft and ported heads. With these changes, the addition of the exhaust system would yield a 25-30 hp increase.


Your technical questions are always welcome. Please remember to indicate the body style, model year and mileage for your Viper.

Tech Notes Editor
VIPER Magazine
PO Box 24425
Shawnee Mission, KS  66283
E-mail: [email protected]
Fax: (248) 499-1950

Rivalry Renewed

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Darren Jacobs

The SRT® vs. VCA autocross battle might not possess the tradition of a Yankees vs. Red Sox baseball game in Fenway Park, or the star power of a Celtics vs. Lakers dustup on the hard court. However, the titanic tussle every two years at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Mich., does have at least one thing in common with those other famed rivalries: both sides really want to win, and in the worst way.

SRT and VCA went head-to-head once again on Saturday, October 10, driving Dodge Viper SRT10®s supplied by Chrysler. SRT emerged victorious, winning as a group and retaining the trophy, led by Erich Heuschele, the fastest of all the competitors with a run of 92.759 seconds on the 1.3-mile cone-lined course, dubbed “Viper Lives, You Die.” Leading the way for the VCA was Bill Pemberton (96.589), Herb Helbig (98.788) and David Tenney (99.906). Coming in behind Heuschele on the SRT side was Chris Winkler (93.584) and Mike Shinedling, Viper Program Manager (97.034).

“Gee, how did those guys get so fast? Even the program management guy (referring to Shinedling) is fast,” said Helbig, the retired Chief Engineer of Viper and for years a member of the SRT squad, who switched allegiances for the recent event. “It was strange to be on the ‘other’ side, but the camaraderie was great. In the grand scheme of things, I was grateful to be invited and it was gratifying to still be considered part of the family.”

Unable to resist a good-natured dig at his former team, Helbig added, “I highly suspect that for the last two weeks, the course was set up and they (SRT) were practicing 2-3 hours per day!”

Inaugurated in 2001, the SRT vs. VCA autocross is held the same year as VCA Zone Rendezvous events. Each Zone Rendezvous (ZR) stages an autocross event, with the top two qualifiers from each ZR autocross moving on to the main event to take on the “pros” at SRT. In addition to rewarding the ZR top qualifiers, the SRT vs. VCA event also provides Viper owners and VCA Officers valuable face time with their manufacturer. Ralph Gilles, President and CEO–Dodge Car Brand, Chrysler Group LLC; Dan Knott, Head of Purchasing, Chrysler Group LLC; and Joe Grace, Vehicle Line Executive – SRT, Chrysler Group LLC, all participated in the autocross.

“I think that’s something unique about SRT and the VCA,” said Shinedling. “We have a strong connection with our customers. Not only do we want to understand their wants and needs, we also actually like to have fun with them. This is an opportunity to do both. We get the customer feedback and we also get to build that relationship by enjoying ourselves.”

“The SRT guys love it,” said Marv Spatz, National VCA Vice-President. “Ralph came out, even with all his new responsibilities. It’s a great thing to keep the relationship going, where SRT engineers can feel and see the excitement of the VCA owners. It’s an electric atmosphere.”

“It was great to touch base, because we hadn’t had a chance to sit down after all the excitement over the summer,” said National VCA President Chris Marshall of the opportunity to interact with the SRT and Chrysler Group LLC contingent. “This was a good chance to sit down, get some face time, and reassure them of the VCA’s commitment to the platform, and vice versa, with their commitment to building the car and making it the best it can be.

“It was mission accomplished for everybody, other than the VCA not winning the event. In that mission, we failed miserably. But we’ll give it another shot. Our plan for next time is to not take any chances whatsoever. We’ll drug them at dinner the night before the event and just take the trophy. It might be a boring autocross, but we’ll know for sure we can win.”

“It’s very much a friendly competition,” said Shinedling. “No one walks in with a chip on their shoulder.” That being said, Shinedling and his team definitely feel pressure to perform well at the event: “It’s an important thing for SRT engineers to understand the dynamics and capability of the car. It’s cool that we defend our honor. We should be good and we better be good! We have some creditability and respectability to uphold.”

The VCA seems to be at a bit of a disadvantage—after all, they are challenging the folks that build the Viper! And eyebrows were raised when it was revealed by Heuschle during the trophy ceremony that the SRT team had enjoyed some autocross training with professional drivers prior to the match (although in SRT’s defense, the training is a required part of their job duties).

Yet the VCAers remain unbowed, with an even stronger resolve to improve at the next event. The Club recently purchased a full set of wireless timing gear for autocross events. The set was used at the SRT vs. VCA autocross, and according to National VCA President Marshall, the gear will be put through many more workouts prior to the 2011 showdown.

“We have no excuses now, with the new timing system we purchased,” said Marshall. “We’ve vowed to get out there and set up some autocross events within the Club and get in a lot more practice. It’ll be like an autocross boot camp.”

The Viper Nation will have almost two years of “boot camp” before their next throw down with the SRT gang. If practice makes perfect, it looks like the 2011 SRT vs. VCA autocross is shaping up to be one heckuva war!

Participating VCA Club Members: Jack Bene, Bobby Cerchione, Andrew Cinque, John Gayton, Herb Helbig, Matt Huett, Jon Jacobs, Bruce Li, David Mazyck, Bill Pemberton, Marv Spatz, David Tenney, Dan (Dutch) Touhey.

Participating SRT Team: Marco Diniz-DeOliveria, Ralph Gilles, Scott Hershner, Erich Heuschle, Martay Jagoda, Dan Knott, Paul Mackiewicz, Tom McCarthy, Len Robison, Jeff Roselli, Vince Schrand, Mike Shinedling, Kevin Stepinski, Mark Trostle, Jim Wilder.

Special appreciation to SRT’s Joe Grace, Chris and Mary Marshall, and Paul Heuschele for supervising the timing system.

Rain Maker

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Darren Jacobs

It’s a given that the Dodge Viper is an obscenely powerful Snake. Less known is the fact that the Viper is also a chameleon. One day, it’s a dragster hurtling down the quarter-mile in a blur. The next, it’s a seductive cruiser, slowly gliding down the street, all the while drawing envious stares. But perhaps in its most vital role, the Viper is also a fund-raising powerhouse, helping to rain green on organizations that help those less fortunate. And in that guise the New England Viper Club of America has found the Viper to be a useful instrument.

The New England VCA has hosted the Northeast Exotic Car Show at the Budweiser plant in Merrimack, N.H., for five years running, raising thousands of dollars for the New England chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The show, headlined (of course) by the Dodge Viper, boasts a who’s who of exotic car nameplates, including BMW, Lamborghini and Ferrari, to name just a few. The New England VCA is the driving force behind the charity event, helping to fund the show, create event t-shirts and distribute trophies to car show winners. To date, the Club has helped raise $35,000 to grant wishes for seriously ill children.

“Every year we have sent a child to the destination of their dreams,” said New England VCA President Jerry Colpitts. “The kids have gone on trips to Walt Disney World, or similar fun places.”

The Northeast Exotic Car Show attracts about 200 cars a year. Businesses pay between $100-500 to sponsor the show, and Make-A-Wish mans a booth that generates nearly $1,000 in spur-of-the-moment donations on the show date. The New England VCA sells event t-shirts to raise money, and two Club members, Donna Mori and Maria Cote, bake cookies and cakes to sell. All funds are donated to Make-A-Wish.

“I get money handed to me by individuals at the show that want to give in the memory of someone,” said Colpitts. “They like the car show, appreciate what we do and want to help in any way they can.”

Past and present sponsors for the show include Meguiars, EXP4, NESN-TV, WBCN 104.1, Peter’s Nissan of Nashua, BMW/Lamborghini of Boston, Premier Car Club, Club Motorsports, Motorhead Extraordinaire, Yerardi Transportation, Wicked CAS and Synaptic 3.

The show has enjoyed a high of 45 Vipers that turned out to support the worthwhile cause. Regardless of the car count, dedicated New England VCA members back the show in large numbers each year.

“Our New England region is so strong,” said Colpitts. “They all pitch in, helping to park cars and doing other activities. The whole Club enjoys doing it. It’s a good feeling. It’s such a cool and great thing to do as a group. We are tight knit and we do a lot. We are wicked busy.”

Colpitts’ goal for 2010 is to better the $5,000 raised for Make-A-Wish at the 2009 event.

“I would love to do more,” said Colpitts. “It might be a challenge with the economy, but we’ll shoot for it. Make-A-Wish was part of the community when I got my first Viper and has helped people that I know, so it’s great to be able to give back to them. It brings a tear to my eye to be able to help these kids. Whatever we can do for these children is a great way to give back.”

Don’t bet against the New England VCA upping the charitable haul for Make-A-Wish next year—with the Viper on their side, they have a most powerful fund-raising tool, indeed!

Thank You for being a Friend

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Darren Jacobs

Snoop around a bit, and it’s easy to unearth evidence of Jerry Dobson’s reputation as a Dodge Viper mechanic par excellence. For instance, there’s the constant, 5-to-6 deep line of Vipers on the waiting list to be serviced in Dobson’s garage at his home in Lenexa, Kan. And consider the illuminating fact that Dobson repairs more Vipers than all Kansas City-based Viper dealers combined. Add it up, and there’s just no denying it: For Viper owners, Dobson’s wrench is a most trusted tool.

“Many of the guys are nervous about taking their cars to the dealership,” says Dobson, 44, and a member of the Kansas City VCA since 2001. “They feel more comfortable bringing me their Vipers.”

Dobson developed his superlative wrenching rep on various exotic cars, and worked as a mechanic at a dealership in Kansas City. He purchased his first Dodge Viper, a red 1998 GTS, in 2001. When fellow VCA members stopped by Dobson’s home, which features four-post and two-post lifts shoe-horned into his three-car garage, they witnessed the meticulous repair work Dobson performed on his own Viper. Soon the proverbial light bulbs went off in KC VCA members’ heads. In short order Dobson found a fleet of Vipers stacked up and waiting for his services. Now he juggles his Viper repairs with his job as a director of IT for an insurance company.

“Word of mouth spread that I was the guy to work on their Vipers,” says Dobson, who has been the KC VCA Vice President for six years. “The longest a guy has waited was 12 months to have his car worked on.”
“The bottom line is that Jerry Dobson is a savior to many a Viper owner, not to mention the Club to which he has dedicated the past eight years of his life,” testifies National VCA President Chris Marshall regarding Dobson’s talents. “For the increasing number of Vipers out of warranty (and decreasing number of certified dealer Viper techs), Jerry is the best friend a Viper owner can have. He works diligently as the Kansas City VP, has a full-time career, and then spends his remaining spare time helping other exotic owners—mainly VCA members. And what does he charge for all that work? Whatever the person wants to pay. Sometimes it’s pizza, sometimes cash, and sometimes nothing at all.”

Dobson’s infatuation with the Snake began in a fashion common to many Viper owners. He got a peek at the demo car when the Viper was released back in 1989 and had wanted one ever since. Dobson finally bought the 1998 GTS, but later sold it and purchased a Porsche (hey, we all make mistakes!). However, the siren call of the Viper proved too strong, drawing Dobson “back home.” He’s now back where he belongs after recently snapping up a 2008 Viper ACR, black with red stripes.

Dobson has enjoyed membership in a plethora of exotic car clubs, but he says one club is head and shoulders above the pack. Three guesses as to which one Dobson singled out (if you picked anything other than the Viper Club of America, your driving privileges should be revoked).

“There’s no comparison at all,” raves Dobson. “The VCA has more of a family atmosphere. Club members become your closest friends. We meet at least once a week, sometimes more. The KC Club does a number of things throughout the year, everything from ski trips, canoe trips, every year we do a cruise.

“These are things that are unrelated to the car world, but members are close friends, so you do those social activities outside of driving events. The VCA is by far the best run, most professional car club in the world.”


Member of the VCA: Since 2001

Current Viper: 2008 Viper ACR, black with red stripes

Region: Kansas City VCA

Favorite Viper Event: VOI.8 in Dallas

Dream Viper: The Nurburgring winning Viper

Favorite Perk of Viper Ownership: Socializing with the other VCA members

Sum up Viper in Five Words or Less: “The top of the heap”

Enter the Tail of the Dragon

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Maurice Q. Liang

Three hundred eighteen curves in 11 miles. Car enthusiasts, bikers and tourists flock to the Tail of the Dragon to experience this wonderful stretch of road. I have long wanted to drive the Tail of the Dragon and see the Smoky Mountains I’d heard so much about in country songs, so when VCA AL/TN president Chip Winter and the Viper Twins invited me to join them for this year’s event, I couldn’t resist. What better way to experience the place than with a bunch of Viper friends?

The event has become an annual thing, drawing Viper club members from Tennessee, Georgia, Utah, Florida, and yours truly from California. We converge at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn., for the start. It’s a mini-car show for anyone who happens to be driving by. A shiny twin-turbo V-10 sparkles under the hood of Matt Chambers’ silver SRT10® convertible. With 1250 rear-wheel horsepower, it’s one of the most powerful Vipers here. As a joke, I add another bolt-on—a battery-operated gerbil running around on a squirrel cage treadmill. “1250 HP + 1 GP (Gerbil Power),” laughs Chip. The waitress learns that I’m from California and says with a southern accent, “Well, ur a looong way from home!” To which I reply, “Yes, but look at all the friends I have!” That’s the neat thing about the Viper club. A couple of my new friends are Ed and Faye. Ed was one of the original owners of McDonald’s restaurants, and together with his partner, invented the famous slogan, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” Talk about a piece of American history, right here in our club!

After breakfast, it’s time to head up the mountain. We pull into a turnout for a group photo. I take off ahead in my rented Camaro to scout out a good photo spot. Three hundred eighteen curves, 11 miles, 34 Vipers, one Challenger and one Camaro, and guess who gets pulled over for speeding! Fortunately, Officer Millsaps is in a charitable mood and lets me off with a souvenir “time slip,” rather than a ticket. As I settle into my roadside perch, one-by-one the Vipers roar past up the hill. At the end of the Tail is the “Tree of Shame,” decorated with parts of fallen motorcyles. We stop for a break and people swarm over to check out the cars.

Headquarters for the weekend is the Shular Inn in Pigeon Forge. Just as we arrive, the heavens open up and an afternoon downpour begins. Perfect timing. We huddle under the overhang and watch Mother Nature rinse off our cars. Once the rain goes away, it’s off to the Alamo Steakhouse for dinner. After dinner, we head over to a go-kart track.

The morning sun comes up, turning up the color intensity on the Vipers as owners are wiping down their cars. Passersby check out the cars, and several club members give rides to young enthusiasts. Out in the parking lot, I meet Ben and Missy, and their kids Austin and Rochelle. With two Vipers, they’re a family that Vipers together. Missy got her Snakeskin Green convertible first, and then Ben decided that was pretty cool and added a Viper Violet convertible with the aero group. At first, they were hesitant to join the club, but after meeting club members at last year’s event, they felt right at home. “Viper owners are neat people,” observed Missy. “We went to a Corvette gathering, and the owners spent most of their time trying to keep people from touching their cars. But when a kid comes up to a Viper owner, pretty soon, the door is open and they’re sitting in the car.” Chip gives Viper fan Adam a ride to the gas station, and I give Adam a copy of my Viper Buyer’s Guide. Perhaps we’ve planted a seed today for a future Viper owner.

Today we’re heading up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. Near the top, we stop for a group photo. From 6600 feet, you can see forever. The mountains are layered upon each other. Bright green turns to dark shades of green, which turns to shades of blue. Now I see where the Blueridge Mountains get their name! An older couple is enjoying their picnic lunch with the breathtaking panoramic view in front of them. It’s picture postcard perfect and stunning.

That evening, the Viper Club of America shuts down the main street of Gatlinburg, as 40 Vipers cruise into town for dinner. Tourists stare, and cameras pop out as if Paris Hilton had just arrived, sans underwear. Jon B from PartsRack has donated gift certificates, which Chip awards to those who have driven the furthest, those with the least miles on their car, and those with the most miles. Viper earplugs are given to the two “Most Loud AND OBNOXIOUS” Vipers. And I’ve dug into my Viper treasure chest for some raffle prizes to hand out.

After dinner, we visit the “Cars of the Stars” auto museum, where we see famous cars like Herbie the Love Bug, James Bond’s BMW, Bob Hope’s country club convertible, the Flintstone mobile, and Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit.

The next morning, after a big country breakfast, we mount-up and head out of town. Chad has arranged a stop at the Knoxville Hooters for lunch. We take some photos of the Hooters girls around Bill’s Hooter Orange Viper. (What? That’s not the name of the color?)

It’s been a fun weekend—kind of like a mini-VOI—Vipers on twisties, a great bunch of people and wonderful scenery. The next time you’re traveling, see if there’s a Viper event going on. It might be a great chance to visit some of your “Viper family!” “It’s just beautiful here in the fall, during the color change,” says Viper Twin Lisa. Well, I jess might have to come on back for that, y’all.

The King Is Back (At LAGUNA SECA)

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Maurice Q. Liang

The red Viper ACR flew down the main straightaway at Laguna Seca like a scalded cat. As it scampered past the start/finish line, the lap time flashed up on the board, and a new record was set: 1:33.915 for the 2.238-mile course, shattering the previous record by more than 1.1 seconds. The Viper was once again King of the Track as the fastest production car to lap Laguna Seca.

Laguna Seca Raceway is one of the most iconic tracks in this country, if not the world. Located near Monterey, Calif., it’s known for its dramatic elevation changes, famed corkscrew, blind corners, and dramatic scenery—it’s the ultimate driver’s challenge. Ralph Gilles, President and CEO, Dodge Brand and Senior Vice President, Product Design Office, Chrysler Group LLC, squinted out at the twisting pavement and said, “No matter how many times I drive this track, I never get bored.”

Two years ago, Randy Pobst set a track record for a production car in a Viper ACR at 1:35.117 while working on an article for Motor Trend. But recently, the Devon GTX, a specialty-built car based on the Viper, bested that time. So when engineers were out testing the 2010 ACR at Laguna Seca, they took another run at the record.

November 24, 2009. It’s a brisk sunny morning in Northern California. SRT engineers set up the “Laguna Seca Edition” ACR. It’s red with a black driver’s stripe, the inverse of the red with black hood and red driver’s stripe car that set a lap record at the Nürburgring. The rear wing on the 2010 ACR features new endplates with cutouts and a new profile. Chris Winkler, an SRT vehicle dynamics engineer and hot shoe, takes the ACR for a couple of practice runs. After a few laps, an unofficial clocking shows him to be just slightly behind the track record. Winkler brings the ACR into the pits and the engineers make some adjustments and put on a fresh set of tires. Well-known Comp Coupe racer Bob Woodhouse and his driver Kumo Whittmer discuss the optimum line around the track with Winkler.

After a couple more practice runs, it’s time for the official run. Representatives from the major car magazines are on hand to witness this historic event, including Angus McKenzie editor of Motor Trend. With yet another set of fresh tires, Winkler goes for the gold. His first run comes in just shy of the record, but the next run comes in at 1:33.915. It’s official; Viper has taken back the title as fastest production car at Laguna Seca, beating the Devon GTX’s time by over 1 second.

After Winkler pulls into the pits, he reports, “It was definitely exciting, but somewhat uneventful lap overall from behind the steering wheel. There’s still more in it.” With a little more development time, he felt could drop the time even more. But there’s more work to be done on the other Vipers that are there for testing, and the mission is accomplished. Viper is King of the Hill again at Laguna Seca.

Mike Shinedling, ACR Program Manager, applies the Laguna Seca track decal to the back of the ACR as a badge of honor. “We’ll be producing a limited run of 33 ACRs in this paint scheme,” says Ralph Gilles. “We’ll call it the 1:33 edition.” If you want one, order yours soon!

Jon Brobst

I am a big road-racing fan, especially when Vipers compete. I was fortunate to attend the US-FIA Series Championships at Sebring and Laguna Seca in 1997. Chrysler clinched both the manufacturers and drivers titles. If I close my eyes, I can still taste the spray and recall the sticky residue of the “Champagne Showers” from both Victory Lane celebrations. The excitement was palpable, and “Viper Pride” was rampant on message boards and in VIPER Magazine. Chrysler pride caused 100 GT-2 {GTS-R Replica) Vipers to be created to honor that crowning achievement, Chrysler’s first. 

Team Viper won Le Mans in ’97, ’98, ’99, most of the ALMS races and the championships here. Attending several races, I enjoyed more champagne showers. It’s addicting! In 2000, Team Viper won the overall Rolex Daytona-24 hours, even beating the LMP cars. That winning Viper resides in the Chrysler Museum, and 360 “Final Edition” Vipers were built in 2002 to pay respect to the achievement. Having won everything in sight since 1997, business priorities changed and “factory” racing took a long hiatus—I miss it.

So when I heard that the 2010 Viper would be doing testing at Laguna Seca in late November, I respectfully cajoled an invitation. Stopwatches in hand, I was NOT disappointed. SRT was ready with a newly-liveried black/red 2010 ACR, whose paint scheme is an exact reverse of the red/black 2008 show car. A small but skilled SRT crew, complete with multiple sets of Michelin Sport Cup green and heat-cycled ACR tires, were ready to pull out 1-2 hot, “qualifying laps” in attempting to break the 1 minute 35 second Laguna Seca Track record.  In only one day!  [Like they did at ?the Nürburgring].

Accomplished SCCA champ and SRT driver Chris Winkler would have the pressure on his back, and he did not disappoint. Chris actually broke the record twice, to major displays of finish line excitement both times before his tires were past their peak.

The record result of 1:33.9 is a testament that the “decades old” Dodge Viper is still alive and well, and very competitive. High-fives, hugs, and backslaps were mandatory, as the press was invited in to a presentation and a lunch. Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles did the honors, and unveiled plans for a “1:33 Edition ACR” to commemorate the still-warm record setting ACR! Laptops blogged to the world that the Dodge Viper is back on top at historic Laguna-Seca. The VCA Web site was quickly infected with renewed Viper pride. Dodge dealers began taking orders: just 33 will be built, making the 1:33 one of the rarest special edition Vipers in history.  

Congrats Team SRT, and thanks for the peek. We look forward to more surprises. And if SRT decides to tackle the records at their other championship tracks of Sebring and Daytona, you bet I’ll close shop, break the travel budget, and try to be there. The excitement is still just as real and palpable. And who knows, it could lead to yet another champagne shower. 

Jon Brobst

VCA Oregon

2010 Viper Breaks Cover (and Breaks a Record)

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

Dodge officially unveiled the new 2010 Viper at the L.A. Auto Show—showing two new exterior colors—Toxic Orange Pearl Coat and Bright Silver Metallic Clear Coat—with a wider dual racing stripe pattern. Also new for 2010 is a revised fifth gear ratio—.80:1 instead of .75:1—for all Vipers, to dramatically improve high-speed acceleration. A standard Viper will reach 200 mph 14 seconds faster with the new gear. The idea came from SRT’s experiences at the Nürburgring, when Viper set the production car lap record. It was thought that the ACR would be even quicker with the new gear. Will we see a new expedition to the famous track in the near future?

The 2010 ACR and the ACR-X will have new slotted wing endplates to go with a revised wing profile to give more downforce in yaw. This means the 2010 ACR will be even quicker in corners, which would have been a factor at Laguna Seca a week earlier. ACRs also get a short-throw shifter and the new fifth gear.

To celebrate the new lap record at Laguna Seca, Ralph Gilles announced a Viper special edition ACR, to be built in the same special red and black livery as the record car. The paint scheme is the reverse of the one that was on the Nürburgring record-setter. The new edition’s name: “1:33,” to commemorate the record of the same number. Thirty-three (33) will be produced.

Lurking in the pits at Laguna Seca the previous week, and featured in the Chrysler booth, was Ralph Gilles’ black ACR with its new graphite-color driver stripe enhanced by red outlines. This menacing color combination is the hallmark of another new edition named “Vooodoo,” offered for this 2010 model year. Dodge will produce only twenty of these darkly beautiful monsters.

An improved gearbox, a better ACR aero configuration and gearshift, striking new colors, two exciting new special editions and two new track racers introduced at PRI—Viper is poised to have a great year in 2010 with even more goodies rumored to be in the pipeline as Dodge and SRT finish a legendary run and gear up for 2013.

ACR-X The Weapon for the New Viper Cup

Written by editor on . Posted in Winter 2010

By Dan Reid

New Vipers, New Race Series, New Record, New Features, New Colors and a New Web site.

The beginning of the holiday season brought Team Viper to both U.S. coasts for big events in California and Florida—starting at the Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, Calif., and then moving to the Los Angeles Auto Show; before heading back across the country for the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Orlando. At each event Dodge served notice that Viper isn’t finished astounding the automotive world. Dodge also announced a new Viper Web site, www.viperheadquarters.com, to be the focal point for news and information for the Viper nation.

The Dodge Viper SRT10® ACR-X, introduced at the PRI show on December 11, is a turn-key, non-street-legal race car slated to make its on-track competition debut in the new Dodge Viper Cup in July 2010. The brand-new race series will be sanctioned by the NARRA Viper Racing League. The spec racing series is exclusively for the new Viper ACR-X. Two races per weekend for five weekends will make up the 10-race Viper Cup schedule which includes July 9–11 at Virginia International Raceway; August 14–15 at Hallett Raceway; September 11–12 at Pocono Raceway; October 1–3 at Miller Motorsports Park and October 22–24 at Daytona International Speedway.

“The Dodge Viper ACR-X takes the performance attributes of Viper to an even higher level for a wide range of drivers starting with the grassroots racer all the way up to the professional,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO, Dodge Brand. “This project is a result of many years of performance engineering expertise from our SRT® team, combined with the passion and dedication of the Viper Nation, to keep the Viper racing tradition going strong on tracks around the country and the world.”

Combining the best performance attributes of the record-setting, street-legal Dodge Viper ACR (American Club Racer) and the safety equipment of the championship-winning Viper Competition Coupe, the Viper ACR-X is powered by the SRT-developed 8.4-liter V-10, equipped with factory headers and a low-restriction exhaust system, that produces 640 horsepower (40 more than production model).

The suspension is tuned and upgraded specifically for on-track usage, while the X-car is lightened by a full 160 pounds (versus the standard production Viper) to take on even the most challenging road course. Additional aerodynamic upgrades improve downforce, while enhancing stability and significantly improving grip in high-speed cornering.

Similar to the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, the Viper ACR-X contains factory-installed safety equipment such as a fuel cell, race seat and an SRT-designed 8-point roll cage. Additional racing components are added to meet the significant durability and reliability requirements for on-track competition.

Last month, the SRT team used a testing session at Laguna Seca raceway to shake down the Viper ACR-X for the first time. Behind the wheel was professional driver Kuno Wittmer from the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship series, who was able to run consistent 1:31.00 lap times around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn course. Wittmer’s lap times were more than 2 seconds faster than the street-legal Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR that holds the production car track record at Laguna Seca raceway.

“The Dodge Viper ACR-X is incredible,” said Wittmer. “After a short warm up, I was running lap times as quick as exotic GT race cars. I was blown away by the power and acceleration, and even more surprised at how the ACR-X navigated the challenging Laguna Seca corners and how friendly it was to drive at the limit.

“All aspects of the car work together perfectly to plant all that horsepower and torque without issue,” Wittmer added. “This will be a great package for someone coming out of grassroots racing with a desire to step-up to GT level competition. Dodge nailed it with this one!”

The Viper SRT10 ACR-X is designed to compete in the Viper Cup, Viper Racing League, Sports Car Club of America and National Auto Sport Association events.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR-X will be approximately $110,000 for a car finished in primer. Colors and custom paint schemes will be available at extra cost. Production is slated to begin in spring 2010.

For more information and to order your Dodge Viper ACR-X, call Viper Race Headquarters at (888) 960-3333 or visit www.viperheadquarters.com. Check out the Viper Racing League at http://www.viperdays.com/race_viper.php (the Viper Cup site was under construction as we went to press).

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