A Ripple in the Water

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Parting Shots

By Lance Kouchi

Like a single drop into a still pool of water, the same rippling effect happens when the keys to a Viper hit your open palm for the very first time. Waves of energy radiate outward and quickly become entwined with others that share a similar fortune. That is what draws and bonds the Viper Family together.

Dave Cawthorne spent 32 years as an international captain piloting 747s for the Flying Tigers. If he wasn’t in the air flying, he was with his wife, son and daughter in their SSC Saleen racing at various track events. Dave eventually found himself in his retirement years and purchased a brand new 2002 Race Yellow Viper GTS. The keys hit the palm of his hand and he sent waves across the pool. Armed with years of experience and a creative desire to tweak and improve each and every “weak” point in the Viper, Dave started developing replacement and upgrade parts for the Viper.

He found himself back at his favorite track, Willow Springs International Speedway, testing parts on his own Viper. He engineered a way to adapt the fantastic SRT10® brakes to the early Vipers and quickly became known as “Big Brake Dave.” He shared his knowledge with everyone, always providing helpful information, and treated others like long lost friends. He would say, “I build this stuff for me,” but the reality is that he did it for all of us. He did it because he truly loved the Viper and interacting with other owners.

I met Dave in 2005 and will always remember his warm greeting to the club which made me feel very welcome. He rarely missed a club event and always played an integral part in some way. Whether it was organizing an event, mapping out a cruise route, or leading a long line of Vipers through the San Diego back roads, he always found a way to contribute. His energy was contagious and it drew people in. Over the last four years, we shared countless meals, e-mails, phone calls and laughs, and put over 15,000 miles on the odometer together. He was a true friend and a big part of my family. While I was lucky enough to know him face-to-face, there are many people in the Viper Nation that shared the very same vicarious friendship by reading and interacting with him through his posts on the Viper forums. His waves of energy traversed all distances.

He closed out 2008 with another Member of the Year award and was ready for another full year of events in the Southern California Club. In spite of not feeling 100 percent health-wise, he coordinated the first club cruise of the year in January, provided technical advice at our Tech Day and took up his position trackside watching over all of us at NARRA/Viper Days in February. He still wasn’t feeling any better when the Western Zone Rendezvous in Las Vegas rolled around in March, but nonetheless, he was there helping out and leading us around the Las Vegas Speedway road course. As soon as he returned home from Las Vegas, his doctor put him through a series of tests, and determined that he had colon cancer …

He calls me at work and instead of the usual, “Hey dude, what’s going on?” I hear a quavering voice shudder, “Bad news … I’ve got cancer.” It was a solid blow to the mid-section. As hard as it was to hear, it was even harder over the coming weeks to sit and wait, hearing his voice deteriorate, and not be able to do something to just make it go away. As word spread, everyone shared the same desire to do something, anything.

So the Viper Family far and near rallied to show support for our friend by “stacking the deck” in his favor. Playing cards with well wishes were sent to his house from members all over the Viper Nation as well as numerous “get well soon” posts on the VCA forums. He felt our waves of energy, but his body was losing the battle from within. In a final outpouring of support, over 30 Vipers and other cars assembled in a day’s notice and paraded past Dave’s house. There in the garage sat Dave in his yellow track chair, his wife on one side and his Viper on the other, waving a final goodbye. One week later, on July 10, 2009, our dear friend “Big Brake Dave” peacefully passed.

A tear rolls off the cheek and sends ripples in the water … He will be missed!

Hulk Viper

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Viper Lifestyles

By Bill Lombardi

Here’s my Hulk Viper, or should I say my Snakeskin Green Viper with the Massachusetts “HULK” license plate. I’m a New England VCA member since August 19, 2002, and at that time, I owned a beautiful ‘96 blue-with-white stripes GTS. The car was mint and I was going to keep it forever until I saw the 2008 Snakeskin Green Viper coupe with black stripes. I had to have it! I looked for some time and tried to make a couple of deals with dealers but every time I was ready to pull the trigger—SOLD.

Well, I discovered that Bill Pemberton at Woodhouse had one and I called him and didn’t even flinch. We made the deal. He took my ‘96 on trade and when it was delivered I couldn’t believe the color, it was awesome! So of course, I needed a plate for my new Snake because my old plate “VENOMS” just was not for this car. So I started looking and thinking, and it actually drove me nuts. I called our state RMV a couple of times and almost went for “GRINCH,” but damn, it was taken, and I needed something green and strong.

I could not believe it but “HULK” was available. Done, HULK was my plate!

So then, I had to juice up the car with green items. I visited eBay and looked under Hulk. I couldn’t believe it but Marvel Entertainment Inc. was selling off every one of their Hulk promotional statues from 2008. They were expensive and there were only 200 made. I didn’t care and purchased the statue as I felt this would be awesome to be able to stand this monster with the car—especially with the HULK license plate.

My friend Glenn Cote, also a New England member, was able to get a trailer and planned a road trip to Connecticut to pick this thing up. Once we got there and saw it we couldn’t believe it. We were not sure if it would fit on the trailer. Glen said, “We can do it, no problem!” The road trip back was long but worth it. We had just as many thumbs-ups as we do driving our Vipers.

Blain Family Vipers

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Viper Lifestyles

Brothers, Bob and Brad Blain and Bob’s son, Scott, from Rochester, N.Y., are now all Viper owners. Brad always dreamed of owning a Viper. When brother, Bob, came back from a trip to Atlanta, Ga., with his newly purchased 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10, Brad had to live up to his dream. He then purchased his 1998 GTS Coupe and the brothers cruised around together. Most recently, Bob’s son, Scott, joined the Viper family with his purchase of a new 2008 SRT10® Viper. Now the three Blains enjoy driving their Vipers around town together and watching heads turn.

Keeping it in the Family

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Viper Lifestyles

By Margie Yost

I would like to formally introduce you to someone you may have met at a VOI or various Viper events held by the VA/MD and PA/WV clubs. His name is Carlos Ugaz, Sr.

Carlos has been a Viper owner since 1996, when he bought a red 1994. About a year later, he began changing the look of the car with custom paint and new interiors to reflect his unique style and taste. Very few off-the-shelf customized parts were available for Vipers at that time, so Carlos designed, and in many cases created most of the parts himself.

On the interior, he has changed the instrument and door panels, consoles and seats. On the exterior he has changed the decals, replaced the exhaust, and added a unique spoiler. The finished result is an attractive, cohesive design that flows well with the Viper look and untouched components of the car.

Whenever Carlos drives his Viper, he is questioned by admirers. They never focus on one specific element, but seem to be struck by the overall package. “Can I take a picture of your car?” he is often asked. People even hold cell phones out of car windows to capture the image. This puts a smile on his face, as it would any of us.

While the cars draw a crowd today, there were lessons and challenges along the way. For example, when Carlos replaced the exhaust for his first Viper, he did not realize until the car was raised on jacks that a metal cover concealed the entire underside. He knew the removal would be a lot of work, but with determination it was finally completed—not just once but twice. The first set of exhaust pipes was too loud so he had to replace them with a specially designed pair that had a better sound.

To add to the Viper family, Carlos ventured out and bought another Viper, this time a red 2004 convertible. With ten years between the designs, the two Vipers looked quite different. And as Carlos worked on the ’04, the differences between the cars increased. Carlos modified some vehicle appliqués into snake-eye covers for the headlights. When looking at the front of the car, it looks like a snake is staring you down.

In 2008, Carlos bought his third Viper, a blue convertible. When the car was delivered to the house, he went right to work taking everything apart. The seats were still covered in plastic from the dealership. He hadn’t even driven the car yet and there it was, in pieces. With more than ten years’ experience, Carlos is a pro at Viper customization.

As with any work of art, the artist is never satisfied. Carlos continually thinks of new ideas for customizing his cars. Every weekend, he can be found at the parts shop, dropping off or picking up finished parts that he has designed.

This past July, Carlos drove the red 2004 to Carlisle, Pa., for the 2009 Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals. A couple of days later, he was notified that his Viper won first place in the 2002–2009 Viper Coupe/Roadster category. In 2008, he took third place in the same event. For Carlos, these were fulfilling accomplishments.

As Carlos travels to club events, the question he hears most frequently is, “What have you added to your car?” Being original has always been a part of his personality. He has attended four VOI events and loves looking at the different Vipers and talking to other owners.

Two years ago, my husband and I finally talked Carlos into selling us his 1994. At least he still gets to see it. I am sure deep down he wanted to keep it. Now as a family we enjoy the regional Viper events and VOIs together. And now my husband and I are asked about the car wherever we go. I just smile and say, “My dad custom made it.”

Carlos still owns two Vipers and the only challenge for him and his wife Judy is to decide which Viper to drive that day.

Viper’n in Northern England

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Viper Lifestyles

By Graham Lambert

July 4 is just an ordinary date to us Englishmen, but not so in 2009 as this was the date the UK Viper Club had their 4th annual Northern Viper Run (NVR) or “Peak Raid.”

A bright sunny morning saw eight Vipers, a Ram SRT10® and a Holden Monaro congregate at a hotel on the outskirts of Mansfield ready for the 150-mile drive through the Peak District—Britain’s first National Park. Taking part in two stages over the course of the day, the driving was split equally either side of lunch. However, this was not just a leisurely drive through stunning scenery; there was a purpose to this outing—winning the NVR ‘09 Trophy for the best score in
the road quiz. Puzzles, observation, general knowledge and Viper silhouettes all had to be found somewhere on the route.

The 68-mile morning drive began near Mansfield taking us via Hardwick Hall, an Elizabethan country house and through the grounds of Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. After taking in some fabulous scenery on the western side of the Peak District, we arrived at the Three Acres Inn near the Emley Moor TV transmitter station for an excellent buffet lunch. Many thanks to Andrew and Jenny for supplying the American flag cake for Independence Day and managing not to squash it with the spirited driving!

The 70-mile afternoon drive took us through quintessentially English villages, such as Holmfirth and Glossop, attracting huge amounts of attention from young and old alike. The most dramatic part of the route took us over the famous Snake Pass at 1710 ft and through the heart of the Peak District and finally onto the Brimington Hall Hotel near Chesterfield.

For the evening, a private function room was booked for dinner and presentation of the prizes for the days road quiz. Andrew and Jenny Blackmore were once again worthy winners, regaining the trophy off yours truly! Afterwards a few beers and well earned sleep ready for the Sunday drive to the Muscle & Crab pub where Bruce and Alison once again put on a superb lunch for everyone.

This fantastic weekend could not have happened without the dedication and organizational skills of Mich and Suzie Simcox, for which we are all very grateful and look forward to NVR ’10!

Hot Damn

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009, Viper Lifestyles

Fast cars and photography are two of Illinois Viper Club member Mike Caplan’s favorite hobbies. So it’s only fitting
that he’s found a way to merge those passions. Mike, who is also a TV weatherman at the ABC station in Chicago, recently started a side business showcasing some of his images at www.caplanstudios.com. “These awesome cars are beautiful on their own, but when you’ve got a gorgeous wife and two other supermodels-in-training eager to pose, the combination is jaw-dropping,” Mike notes. “I think these images of Laura, Tera and Jen show off our ’05 Copperhead and my buddy Steve Loudin’s ’08 Viper Bright Blue Pearl coupe in a way I know I won’t soon forget!”

Mary’s Excellent Adventure

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

By Roger Meiners

“You have to meet Mary,” said practically everyone I met at the PA–WVA Viper Meet at Carlisle’s All-Chrysler Nationals this summer. The most vociferous about it was Terry Bosserman (but I learned later that he is always the most vociferous—especially about Vipers … and about Mopars, too).

“OK, fine,” I answered, thinking I’d get to it just as soon as I studied the details of all five hundred thousand Mopars that were on display at the fairgrounds. The show was just down the road from the Carlisle Indian School where Jim Thorpe made that “All-American” movie. Remember Jim Thorpe? He’s the guy who set all those Olympic track and field records back in the days of your grandfather. He actually didn’t make the movie. Hollywood made the movie about him. They called it Jim Thorpe—All American. I bring him up because he was like a Viper; tough, strong, fast and all-American.

Anyway, when I got back to the “Viper Compound,” smelling like rubber smoke—I watched the burnout competition—the clamor about Mary continued, and they pointed out her ACR-look-alike 2009 red Viper. Then I learned that Mary had two Vipers and one of them showed 120,000 miles on the clock! So now I was getting excited.

I had to meet her.

As I approached the car, I caught sight of a very elegant, beautiful blonde (see photos) who turned out to be anything but “blond” (in the sense of those disrespectful jokes about fair-haired females). Indeed, she is one of the most interesting people I have ever met.

Her name is Mary Petitpren and she hails from Georgia, by way of a long residence in New Orleans that ended with Hurricane Katrina (she wasn’t there, but her car was in the garage. She did not get in to see it until three months later. The car was not damaged).

A widow, Mary was married to George Petitpren, an aerospace engineer, with whom she traveled widely, living in those parts of the country where he was employed. He passed away a few years ago of pancreatic cancer, just after she purchased a Viper and joined the Viper Club. Mary coped with the help of a Viper Club member—Bob Kocur of St Louis—who contacted her when he heard the bad news on the Forum. “He offered to talk to me any time, day or night, and I took him up on it,” she said. She called frequently during the depths of her sorrow and received solace and advice on the stages of grief she endured. He encouraged her to do the things she wanted, and not to just stay home. “I am following his advice.” “The Viper Club is filling my life,” she says. “I want everyone to know what an impact he and the Club has had on me.” She has never met Kocur and wonders if he is still in the club.

Mary told me that she has driven over 200,000 miles in the three Vipers she has owned, including, “A 2000 GTS (which I still have), a 2004 SRT10® (convertible, sold in December 2008), and a 2009 SRT10 coupe, my DREAM CAR (purchased in December 2008).” She can boast of having more miles than anyone, male or female, behind the wheel of a Viper. We believe her. She has no other cars, by the way.

Mary’s major contribution to society was her 42 years as a school teacher. “I demanded respect and attention from my students,” she said, “and I got it, though it usually took six weeks to get the class acclimated to my regime.” One can only imagine the struggle that went on in her classroom. Mary can recall only one student in her entire teaching career with whom, through no fault of her own, she could not connect. She spoke with sadness about his unfortunate situation that prevented any chance for learning.

During our conversation, I discovered that Mary was planning a visit to Detroit, so we made tentative plans to meet, and perhaps meet my wife, Katie, whom I think is a lot like Mary.

A few weeks later I was at McLaren Performance Technologies, Inc., in Livonia, Mich., near Detroit. McLaren designed and developed the new Viper V-10 engine that is currently in production. Known as McLaren Engines in the late 1960s, this company built all the engines for the McLaren CanAm and Indy cars, and also developed the Buick Indy engine as well as a series of BMW racing cars in the 1970s and 1980s. I was with just-retired McLaren CEO Wiley McCoy, positioning a dozen rare and famous McLaren and BMW racing cars for display at McLaren’s 40th Anniversary event, to be held the next day.

The phone rang. It was Mary. She had just arrived in Detroit. Before she could say much of anything, I held the phone and, thinking of Mary’s beautiful Viper, asked Wiley if he would like to display it at the big event the next day to highlight McLaren’s most recent engine success. His face immediately lit up and he said, “Yes.” I knew that McLaren did not have a Viper in the show.

“Would you like to go to a party tomorrow?” I asked Mary. After a few minutes I convinced her to consider it, and the next day there she was with her beautiful red and black machine, parked near three bright orange 1970s McLaren racers, including the 1971 CanAm championship-winning M8F and the 1974 winner of the Indianapolis 500. The latter car’s driver, three-time Indy winner Johnny Rutherford, was there and Mary met him. She also met retired race driver Don Devine, owner of the 1972 McLaren M20 CanAm car. Many other drivers and former race mechanics came by to meet her—while I virtually abandoned her to carry out my duties for the 40th anniversary reunion.

Later that day, I touched base with Mary to apologize for leaving her to herself for so long. She asked if I was going to the Meadowbrook Concourse the next day. So we went together and I got photos of her with those same McLaren race cars, on display to continue the 40th Anniversary celebration.

These events were only the tip of the iceberg in Mary Petitpren’s Excellent Adventure. She also took a plane ride in her brother Steve Harvilla’s Piper Tri-Pacer, got her photo taken with ex-Chrysler President and Viper proponent Bob Lutz (who parks his fighter plane near the Piper). She also visited and toured the Viper plant and Viper Headquarters at J.R. Thompson Company.

“My Viper Experience this summer was more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “The McLaren 40th Anniversary and the Meadowbrook Councours d’Elegance. Wow! How privileged I feel.”

She was grateful for the visit to J.R. Thompson Company, “…having a tour of the facility by a most gracious gentleman, Bob Mason, Managing Editor. I know he took time out of his busy schedule to be so accommodating.”

“At the Viper Factory tour, I felt like a celebrity,” she said. “Melissa Holobach, Plant Manager, arranged for my visit, thanks to Herb Helbig. The tour guides, Janet and Rick, answered many of the questions I had regarding the production of the Viper. They even opened the ‘Viper Store’ for me so that I could take home some memorabilia. My aim was to get a picture of my Viper in front of the plant. They did that for me.” She sent a few of the photos—one is published here.

Mary was most excited about meeting Bob Lutz, “The gentleman who said, at the conception of the Viper in the early ‘90s, ‘Build it … NOW!’ I thanked him for being the driving force in the birth of the Viper for myself and all VCA members. He said that the car was built for car enthusiasts such as Viper owners. What a remarkable person! It was a humbling experience meeting a man so distinguished and charming.” (Not unlike Mary, we would say—distinguished and charming).

Mary went on to describe her travels so far this year: “I had the good fortune to meet the following celebrities this summer: Stan Wilson, who demonstrated the difference between my Viper and his Challenger (I must say it was rather exhilarating) … Maurice Liang, an icon in the Viper Community (Tail of the Dragon Event in May) … Herb Helbig, a genuinely amicable and intelligent gentleman (Carlisle Event) … Melissa Holobach, a very accommodating young lady … Don Devine and his beautiful race machine … Bob Mason, a soft spoken, intriguing gentleman … Bob Lutz, a monumental symbol of accomplishment …” She also mentioned me with some kind words.

As we go to press, Mary is driving to Niagara Falls with the Illinois Viper Club, by way of Detroit, where the group will visit the Chrysler Archives and car collection. Maybe I will finally introduce Mary to my wife. Or then again, maybe I won’t.

Coming Up Roses

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

Winning is not a new experience for Aloha, Ore., resident Cindi Lux. The Viper Nation fan favorite and driver of the No. 12 Lux Performance Group LLC Dodge Viper Competition Coupe has amassed twelve road racing championships, 75 victories and 150 podium finishes in her career. Yet perhaps none of her previous wins carry quite the significance of her two victories in the 49th Annual Rose Cup, held June 12–14 at Portland International Raceway.

Yes, the Rose Cup is the largest club racing event west of the Mississippi. And, yes, hometown favorite Lux was rooted on by her friends and family. But the highest honor for Lux was joining inaugural Rose Cup winner Dick Hahn on the list of victors. What’s so important about Mr. Hahn? Well, his daughter is Cindi Lux!

“There is nothing better than coming home to race,” said Lux, who posted her Viper Comp Coupe on the pole for both SPO-class races and never trailed in either. “I just love running in the Rose Cup race, not just because of our family heritage but just how much fun it is. The Rose Festival Association certainly knows how to promote a sports car race here in Portland and makes this event very fan friendly.”

Lux competed in 2007 and 2008 in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Series, earning two Piloti Rookie of the Race Awards and also setting the SPEED GT record as the highest finishing (fifth) and highest starting (third) female driver in that professional series’ history. She also put on a show last year at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix for more than 800 Dodge Viper owners and guests in town for the tenth Viper Owners Invitational (VOI.10). Lux steered her Viper Competition Coupe to a top 10 finish in the SPEED GT class and earned Hard Charger and Holeshot race awards before a cheering throng of Viper faithful.

Lux’s 12th trip to the Rose Cup was her charm.

“The Viper was unbelievable to drive,” raved Lux. “It was absolutely on rails the entire weekend. It was great doing a race in our hometown, especially for our guys in the shop. They hardly get the opportunity to come out to the track and watch the cars they prep actually race. I can’t tell how good it felt to get back behind the wheel again of our Viper. Nothing is better than passing all those Corvettes and Porsches … especially under braking! They think the Viper is all about horsepower but in reality it’s all about the handling and braking. They got a quick lesson on Vipers this weekend!”

Daskalos Masters Mosport

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

Albuquerque, N.M., native Jason Daskalos hails from the Southwestern U.S., but he won’t soon forget his recent trip up north to Canada’s Mosport International Raceway. Daskalos powered his No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper Competition Coupe to his first career SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT win on May 17 at Mosport.

Daskalos gridded second but wasted little time in slithering to the front. He passed pole-sitter Randy Pobst on the standing start, in the process earning the AutoWeek Move of the Race Award. Daskalos proceeded to lead the entire 30-lap event and claim the win in only his 22nd SPEED GT start.

“It’s amazing to win,” said Daskalos, the 2006 Viper Racing League champion. “Honestly, it’s a dream come true. When I started out in World Challenge, in my rookie year, it was tough to even get into the top 10 and we worked hard and it’s paid off. I’m thrilled.”

Daskalos followed up his inaugural triumph with a sixth-place showing at Watkins Glen on July 4 and an impressive fifth-place result at Road America on Aug. 16. At press time Daskalos was the highest-ranked Viper-powered SPEED GT driver in the standings, just outside the top 10 in 11th-place.

Charmed Life

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

There’s good luck, like finding a penny on the ground, or not having your number called during jury duty. Then there’s jump for joy, shout out loud, wake the neighbors and shake your money maker type luck. And that’s the kind recently enjoyed by South Florida VCA member Art Jones.

Fortune’s favor fell upon Jones the afternoon of Friday, May 15, when his winning VCA Raffle entry was randomly picked from a barrel full of tickets. Jones ponied up a few hundred dollars for the raffle tickets; he walked away with a 1-of-1 2009 VOI.10 Special Edition Coupe valued in the tens of thousands of dollars. That’s reason for the most conservative among us to dance like they have ants in their pants!

“It took a while for it to soak in,” said the fortuitous Jones. Now he’s letting his new Viper soak up the rays of the sun as he cruises around South Florida. Perhaps Rod Stewart said it best: “Some guys have all the luck.”


Feel lucky? Well, do ya? One VCA member will soon join Art Jones in the happy pantheon of Grand Prize raffle winners—the next VCA Raffle drawing is already on tap for Oct. 30, 2009!

Listen up—this here raffle is rather unique. You’ve heard of dinner and a movie. How about dinner and a Viper? The lucky Grand Prize raffle winner will take ownership of Bob Lutz’s 1998 Dodge Viper GTS-R, built especially for him—#99 of 100. And Lutz, the driving force behind the creation of the Dodge Viper, will personally hand over the keys at a dinner with the raffle winner and a guest in scenic Ann Arbor, Mich. You get to dine with an automotive legend and then drive away in his Commemorative Edition FIA GT2 Championship Viper—one of the most valuable Vipers ever made (That’s at least worth a 20 percent tip on the check!).

Second Prize is a set of Michelin tires (Winner’s choice of style and size from current production tires.). Third Prize is one (1) Optima Battery (excluding Group 32), two (2) 2010 World Challenge tickets and two (2) 2010 World Challenge posters.

You must be a current VCA member to purchase raffle tickets. If you’re not—well, then you better get crackin’! Call Viper Headquarters at 1-800-998-1110 to become a VCA member or to renew your membership by October 2, 2009. VCA Raffle tickets are $125 each, three for $300, or five for $500 for VCA Venom members only.

For complete information and rules on the VCA Raffle, or to download a Raffle Ticket Order Form, visit

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