Decades of Venom: Our Dodge/ SRT Viper Drives Through The Years

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We already know that the SRT Viper is going to be quick--with 640 horsepower on tap thanks to an 8.4-liter V-10 and a lightweight body, it could be nothing but fast. And the Viper has been that way for a long time: we took the opportunity this morning to look back at all of the coverage we've given the bad boy supercar over the years. As it turns out, little has changed.

January 1989: The Dodge Viper stuns the crowd at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit

December 1990: Bob Lutz offers Automobile editor-in-chief David E. Davis Jr. a cigar and a ride in a Dodge Viper development mule. DED accepts both.

"The eight-liter cast iron V-10 didn't sound like a vee-configured engine at all. If anything, it sounded like a straight-eight with a leaking intake manifold…It sounded like, well, a truck engine…which is exactly what it is…Halfway through the first left-hand corner, Lutz stood on the loud pedal and all hell broke loose, as did the rear end (450 pounds-feet of torque will do that). In an instant we were at a 45-degree angle to the center line, and in another instant we were pointed off the other side of the road but still traveling in more or less the hoped-for direction."

November 1991: Jean Jennings becomes the first journalist to drive the Viper RT/10, although the vehicle was still a development model.

"As a beast, the Viper is a smashing success. 'Bubba bubba,' it said when I fired up the engine. A big burble escaped when I goosed the throttle a bit, and the sound rumbled through my chest. Ooh, lordy. I, of course, then stood on it…What then? Well I was barreling down the pavement in a rattletrap…but what an engine!"

Robert Cumberford had an opinion, but not about the engine: it's "the toughest-looking car in production today," he said.

August 1992: Jennings takes the Viper (then a production model) to California just hours before L.A. breaks out into riots. Before the melee begins, she notices something: the Viper has animal magnetism.

"Even moving under cover of darkness, the Viper is paralyzing the surrounding traffic. I have never seen anything like it, not even from the driver's seat of a Lamborghini Diablo. Cars swarm the Viper, front, side, and rear. Cars that speed past lay on the brakes abruptly as they catch a glimpse of the sleek red Dodge roadster tucked away in the middle lane."

1996: The Dodge Viper gives birth to the Viper GTS. None of the roughness--or the magic--is lost.

"Make no mistake, the roadster is a blast and a half to tool around in, but there is a certain fragility of image about it. It's a rough-and-tumble show car with a license plate. Dodge doesn't make enough of them to care how anyone but its customers thinks about it, and that's okay." - Jean Lindamood.

February 2000: Mark Gilles takes a look at the Viper GTS-R, a show-car designed to predict the next-generation car. "It bears a strong resemblance to the current car--albeit meaner, lower, and wider--that was intentional."

April 2001: The Viper SRT-10 surprises the Detroit Auto Show again with an 8.3-liter V-10 making 500 horses and 500 lb-ft of torque. A year later we name it one of the hottest new cars of 2003.

November 2002: We pit the Viper SRT-10 against the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and the Viper somehow makes the Z06 look tame. Perhaps it's the Dodge's side exhausts: "on a very hot summer day, the Viper is trying out to be the most accelerative two-seat deep-frying apparatus I've ever come across." But the point is almost moot: "[500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque] gives you bragging rights out the wazoo."

November 2005: "The Viper gobbles up the short straightaways on these roads and is surprisingly deft around even the tighter corners," writes Mark Gilles.

2006: The Dodge Viper SRT10 is more civilized than before, but it's still not exactly polished.

"While the original Viper was a true reptile, at times ill suited for polite company, the new one poised to hit the showrooms this fall has been taught proper social graces. Raw edges have been polished off its exterior, the chassis is tuned for performance and poise, and practically all of the first generation's silly shortcomings have been corrected."

April 2012: The 2013 SRT Viper wows the New York Auto Show…and then stuns the crowd when SRT marches out the GTS-R Viper racecar.

September 2012: The SRT Viper is more refined than ever, its engine more willing (and more powerful), and interior/amenities actually rather good.

"The 2013 SRT Viper provides superior performance compared with the last Viper while offering greater refinement yet hasn't lost the longstanding character that so many present owners love. The new Viper is undoubtedly better than the old Viper on the track, and all signs point to it being better than the old Viper." -Marc Nordeloos

How much better? You’ll have to check out the full First Drive story by clicking here.

RON ELSWICK
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