An early pre-production Dodge Viper, with its VIN ending in "4," will be sent to the crusher unless students at an Olympia, Washington, community college have their way. South Puget Sound Community College has used the Dodge Viper for automotive technology classes since 2007, but was recently informed the car must be returned to Chrysler and crushed.
Norm Chapman, an automotive professor at the college for 27 years, told Automobile Magazine that South Puget Sound received the Dodge Viper in 2007 from another community college in Washington State; that school originally received the car as an educational donation from Chrysler. Today, Chapman says the Viper is primarily used to teach students about engine emissions and tuning, and as a marketing tool for prospective students. The car apparently doesn't have a top-speed limiter, and much of its interior and wiring have been dismantled.
"They [students] can have all the test instruments hooked up to it in a controlled environment," Chapman said. "It definitely has that eye-candy appeal to potential automotive industry students."
On Tuesday, Chapman received an email from Chrysler stating that the company wanted the car back so that it could be crushed. While it's standard practice for donated pre-production models to be crushed after use, as they are not road-legal, Chapman's students loved the Viper so much they started an online petition to save it. The petition currently has 1258 digital signatures.
"When we have exhausted the educational value of a car, we crush it," Chapman said. "We're so thankful for having cars donated by the manufacturer… This one [the 1992 Dodge Viper] is pretty unique, and I think that's where the emotions ran high."
In a statement, Chrysler confirmed that it donated Dodge Vipers to vocational schools, and that the agreement forms at that time required that the cars be destroyed after they were useful. "With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students," the automaker said in a statement. "Chrysler Group fully understands and appreciates the historical significance of the Viper and is very active in preserving many of its legendary models and designs for historic purposes. However, none of these vehicles fit into this category."
News reports suggest that Chrysler wants to crush this car and other Dodge Viper models donated to schools because two were involved in accidents on public roads, resulting in costly lawsuits for parent company Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles. Chrysler, however, said it has, "No record of any legal proceedings involving pre-production Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions."
Unless he hears otherwise, Chapman said he plans to comply with the request from Chrysler. “We will destroy the car unless there is some 11th-hour pardon," he said. "My hope personally is that as a piece of Americana, that we could take out the [engine computer] and put it [the car] in a museum somewhere."
Photos courtesy Tom Witt.