Snakes Alive

Written by editor on . Posted in Fall 2009

Story By Darren Jacobs

July 10, 2009—consider it the date the Dodge Viper was reborn. After months of rumors, dire predictions and forecasts of gloom and doom, a mere two paragraphs in a press release sent a revitalizing, life-giving jolt through the steel skin of the iconic American muscle car. The paragraphs read as follows:

“Chrysler Group LLC announced today that production will continue for the legendary Dodge Viper SRT10.®

“Originally slated to cease production in December 2009, the Chrysler Group Conner Avenue Assembly Plant—the exclusive home of Dodge Viper production since 1995—will continue to build the V-10 powered sports car. Chrysler Group is no longer pursuing a sale of the Viper business assets.”

And with that, the dark clouds parted, allowing the bright sunlight of a new day to shine on the Viper Nation. To paraphrase Dr. Frankenstein, the Dodge Viper is alive, baby, its 600 horsepower-fueled heart beating strong. As it has done since its birth, the Snake will continue to rule the streets!

“The Dodge Viper has successfully captured the hearts and imagination of performance enthusiasts around the globe,” said Mike Accavitti, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dodge Brand. “We’re extremely proud that the ultimate American-built sports car with its world-class performance will live on as the iconic image leader for the Dodge brand.”

Ironically enough, the greatly exaggerated rumors of the Viper’s demise first cropped up at the ultimate celebration of Viper life, the 10th Viper Owners Invitational, held in Detroit, Mich. The news spurred the leadership of the Viper Club of America into action. Frequent dialogue was held with Chrysler and Dodge executives by the VCA leadership, which worked tirelessly to convey the dedication and love the Viper nation possessed for the Viper. No doubt their passion, and the passion of the entire VCA, played a significant role in the Viper’s revival.

“The Viper Club of America and its membership are extremely pleased with the decision to keep producing the Viper as a Dodge vehicle,” said National VCA president Chris Marshall. “While the interest to purchase the platform was high, our hope was always to see the car continue to be built by Chrysler. We look forward to seeing the Viper continue as the performance benchmark for many years to come!”

“I’m glad it’s here to stay,” said Jon Brobst, a founding VCA member and owner of PartsRack, a longtime and respected Viper supplier. “I was very happy to hear it was going to continue in production as a Dodge. Part of the allure of the Viper is that it’s an American muscle car, and part of the attractiveness of the Viper is that it’s a Mopar®. I’m glad it’s keeping its DNA intact, and not splicing in some other DNA. It started as a Dodge and it’s staying a Dodge.

“I think that’s a good thing for the brand and a good thing for Viper owners, to have that continuity and consistency. My first Dodge was a Viper. Since then, I’ve owned Rams, Dakotas, Chargers, Crossfires, dozens of Chrysler Group LLC vehicles, all begun by discovering the Viper.”

Those expressions of joy were, of course, echoed throughout the VCA. “I was very pleased to hear the Viper was going to continue,” remarked Alabama/Tennessee VCA region president Chip Winter. “I’d hate for such an iconic part of the American auto industry to fall by the wayside.”

Added Chad Fritz, Georgia VCA president, “I think the Viper living on is great for not only every car enthusiast, but also young people who don’t even have a license yet. I, like many, dreamed of owning a Viper years before I could even drive or afford one. It gave me a goal and every day I worked harder to get closer to my goal. With the Viper continuing, this means that young kids can continue to read and hear about the new Vipers and their amazing performance stats. Hopefully they will start dreaming of owning a Viper and one day achieve their goal and join us in the VCA!”

Perhaps the most visceral proof of the Dodge Viper’s rejuvenation is the new Snakes born into the world each day at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant (CAAP). The production line was running as quickly as ever during a recent visit, with happy CAAP craftspeople buzzing about in their work as Vipers slithered off the line, awaiting new homes and happy owners.

“Everyone was excited to be back building the Viper,” said Melissa Holobach, Head of Viper Operations. “The morale is upbeat,” chimed in Janet Van Havermaat, Manufacturing Administrative Coordinator. “The craftspeople here are passionate about what they do, and they’re just happy to be back to work building the Viper for the customers.”

It’s no wonder the CAAP craftspeople were walking around with smiles plastered to their faces. The artisans at Conner are highly invested in their work, as they breathe life into the ultimate four-wheel dream. Many CAAP workers count Viper owners among their friends (heck, some even own Vipers themselves!). The bond between the CAAP craftspeople and the Viper is a strong one, a bond that thankfully remains unbroken, to the joy of those working at the facility.

“I was very pleased and happy to hear the Viper would remain in production,” said Chris Vitale, an Engine Auditor at CAAP who has helped create Vipers for 15 years. “I’m very proud to work on the Viper.”

“I want to see it live,” said Dave Ironsides, who has worked as a Viper craftsperson since 1992, dating back, in his words, “to VIN No. 30.” He added, “I want to see it live for quite awhile. There’s no better car to build.”

Truer words were never spoken. More than 20 years after the Dodge Viper was first introduced as a concept car in 1989 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and after the production of more than 25,000 Dodge Vipers, the iconic muscle car endures, primed to stir the passions of a new generation of car enthusiasts.

From CAAP, to Chrysler Group LLC headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., to VCA members spread around the globe, the word has gone forth, loud and clear—the Dodge Viper is back! Forum Feedback

“I’m lovin’ it!” — daytonprowler

“Long Live Viper.” — jdeft1

“I just bought my car last month … I love the fact they are continuing to make them! Now I have a Gen4 to look forward to.” — AbsolutHank

“This is awesome news!” — KenricGTS

“The Club we all belong to has done some fantastic work to keep the love alive during a difficult time in the auto industry. We … buy tons of Chrysler products, convince our friends to buy Chrysler products, and the VCA gang
of hard-working National Officers, Directors, etc., have done a superb job of … keeping our message current. I think many of us today are witnessing a rebirth, a vote of confidence and the continuation of the true iconic muscle car …” — Bill_Pemberton

First Born

Guess the identity of the first vehicle to roll off the assembly line following the formation of the new Chrysler Group LLC. If you picked a 2009 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR (pictured at left), you would be dead on the mark.

The decision was a no-brainer—what’s a more appropriate vehicle to kick off the next chapter in Chrysler’s long and storied history than the company’s renowned halo car?

You can bet this noteworthy Viper will no doubt attract great interest, not just from the VCA, but from any car buff with a sense of history. Surely many a Viper collector reading this issue is already licking their chops and scheming on how they can add this baby to their garage!

Fortunately, the crack investigative reporting team here at VM (with some sleuthing help courtesy of Viper Program Manager Mike Shinedling) sniffed out the whereabouts of this sure-to-be-sought-after Viper—the showroom of University Dodge in Davie, Fla. The Viper ACR remained available for purchase at the dealership as of press time, with a suggested price of $132,760 listed on the University Dodge Web site. But who knows where this particular Viper will end up by the time this issue is received?

The final destination of this illustrious Snake has the makings of a great feature article for a future issue of VM. Please send us an e-mail or letter if you have any information regarding the eventual home of this notable Viper.

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