Chrysler recruited Carroll Shelby - human linchpin of the AC Cobra - as a consultant on the Viper project. He was eminently well-placed to assist - both with its venom-spitting power, and serpentine lines. On its début - at the '89 Detroit Motor Show - the Viper mesmerised all who saw it. Such was the frenzy that the concept car created, that Chrysler hastily hatched plans to put it into production. Fast-forward two and a half years - and the Viper was sliding onto the highway. Its 8-litre V10 gave 400bhp. Top speed was 180mph. Thankfully, it had been fitted with 13″ rims ... which went some way toward transmitting torque to tarmac. For, torque there was - 450lb ft of it!
The Viper's motor had begun life in a truck. That was before Lamborghini were given it. They cast the block from aluminium, rather than iron - and designed a bright-red cylinder-head. That said, it was hardly cutting edge. It had just two valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters, and pushrods. With Shelby's help, however, big numbers were coaxed out of it. The transmission was state-of-the-art. A 6-speed 'box was still a rarity, in the early '90s.
Styling-wise, the Viper hit the target. Its sinuous bodywork was seriously aerodynamic. Drivers loved the Viper. A real seal of approval came when it was selected as pace car for the Indy 500 race. Stateside, sports cars had been in the doldrums. Thanks to the Viper, they were reinvigorated. For Carroll Shelby, the Cobra was always going to be a hard act to top. The Dodge Viper, though, had 'em dancing in the aisles. Well, in the showrooms, at any rate!