By Darren Jacobs
Quick: Create a mental picture of Northern California VCA president Maurice Liang’s garage. Most likely you imagined something along these lines: A cavernous cathedral, roomy enough to accommodate both the ultimate Viper fanatic’s Snakes and his legendary treasure trove of Viper memorabilia; ultra-rare Viper collectibles cover every inch of wall space along the vast, warehouse-like edifice; Maurice sleeps peacefully near his beloved Snakes, clad in his Sneaky Pete pjs.
No doubt this would be a common assumption in the Viper community concerning the car crib of one of the founding fathers of the VCA, an acclaimed Viper author with another book in the works—in short, a man whose picture should be listed in the dictionary under “Viper nut.” But the reality, as is often the case with preconceived notions, is far different. In fact, Liang’s garage is a fairly reserved affair, an understated Viper domicile adorned with a few carefully chosen Viper baubles.
What’s the reason for the conventional quality of Liang’s garage? Frankly, it’s because when he first purchased his home Liang was still your normal, run-of-the-mill car enthusiast. His Viper obsession was blossoming, but had yet to fully bloom.
“Like most car nuts, when I first bought the house I didn’t have a Viper yet,” recalls Liang. “The goal was to find a house that would have a good garage for the Viper. I looked for about eight months to find a house that had more than a typical two- or three-car garage.”
Liang finally found a house that met his specifications, located in Los Altos, Calif., near San Francisco, with a four-car garage and a huge driveway. He purchased his home in January 1993 and began remodeling the garage for a “baby” that would arrive in June of that same year—a 1993 red Viper Roadster. Like any proud papa, Liang made the room ready for his new “child,” painting the garage grey so his Viper would be set off nicely and adding red striping on the walls to tie into the red Roadster.
Years passed. Liang’s Viper collection grew, as did his legend as a Viper buff and his gigantic collection of Viper memorabilia. Joining the 1993 Roadster (“I have long-term relationships with my cars,” says Liang) in his garage now is a 1996 GTS coupe with blue-and-white stripes, a 2008 Snakeskin Green SRT10® Coupe and a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8.®
“It’s not a ‘Garage Mahal.’ It’s a normal garage that’s been decorated,” says Liang. “Time goes by and you collect more stuff and more cars and you run out of space. I got Snake bit. I thought I was going to have one Viper and that was it. Then you get bitten and the next thing you know you want the Coupe because it’s different from the Roadster and it just keeps going.
“There’s a whole lot more Viper memorabilia I have—I could fill a warehouse. My envy is somebody like a Jerry DeYoung or a Michael von Quilich. When I look at the garages of those guys, I think, ‘I would like to have that some day.’ My garage is doing the best you have with ‘normal’ resources.”
Liang recently built a second overflow garage to accommodate other cars in his collection and additional motorsports toys, such as snowmobiles and dunebuggies. He stores his famed Viperabilia collection in a Viper “shrine room” in his house, although much remains packed away in boxes (Perhaps not for long—Liang is working with the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. on an exhibit of his Viper memorabilia later this year).
Once infected with the Viper bug, it’s usually for life. Thus, it’s no surprise that Maurice has his eye on expanding the size of the garage at casa de Liang.
“My goal is to someday build a larger garage where I can have all my collectibles displayed,” Liang says. “It would be great to have a personal mini-museum. I would like to have the dream garage, and that’s why I have a lot of the stuff I have, so I can one day exhibit it all. My original goal was to have a second story on the garage with a clubhouse displaying my Viper memorabilia, with a Plexiglas floor so you could look at all the cars below. The problem, as is the case with many communities, is building restrictions, so it’s been a little tough.”
A little thing like building restrictions won’t stop a Viper lover like Liang for long. He’s already consulted an architect who has proposed plans for expansion that might seem a bit outlandish, until you factor in the magnitude of Liang’s passion for the Snake. Ideas on the table include taking the garage underground, sideways—or even into the house itself, with a driveway that leads all the way into Maurice’s living room! Don’t think he’ll do it? Then you don’t know Maurice.
“This guy is a very creative architect. I like his ideas a lot,” Liang raves. “It’s just a question of money and time, and going through the permit process. Bob Lutz said at the very beginning when the Viper first came out, ‘Vipers are for people who spend a disproportionate amount of their disposable income on cars.’ And that’s true. Cars are what are important to me. I’m not saying that’s the right priority. The problem is I’m not married, so no one’s telling me to do otherwise.”
Here’s a little tidbit: When Maurice first purchased his home, he was married. The wife is gone. The Vipers stayed. With that in mind, a home with a Viper in the living room is perhaps the most apropos of housing arrangements for the most diehard of Viper devotees. After all, home is where your heart is—and Maurice’s heart is definitely with the Dodge Viper.