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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Chrysler Archives, Viper Quarterly magazine, ACR
Published 6.22.2022

The first Dodge Viper RT 10 concept 1989 Chrysler Archives RESIZED 1The first Dodge Viper RT/10 concept, 1989 (Chrysler Archives)

From concept to reality, the popular Dodge Viper concept car went from wowing crowds on the auto show circuit to showrooms. The Dodge Viper concept was first introduced to the public as a concept in 1989. This was the same year that Chrysler introduced the popular cab-forward designs in models like the Concorde and Dodge Intrepid. 1989 turned out to be a remarkable year for the company remembered in our automotive history books.

The first production Dodge Viper front end view Chrysler Archives 2The first production Dodge Viper, front end view (Chrysler Archives)

When the Dodge Viper RT/10 made its debut in the spring of 1992, the model was manufactured in red with a black interior. The Viper RT/10 offered a great looking side exhaust system and could accelerate to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The composite body panels were bonded and bolted to a tubular steel frame. The two-seat roadster went on sale in early summer of 1992 and sold out immediately with a price tag of $50,000.

Rear view of the first production Dodge Viper Chrysler Archives RESIZED 3Rear view of the first production Dodge Viper (Chrysler Archives)

Some automotive enthusiasts have referred to the Dodge Viper as a “halo car” – a high-end, performance-oriented vehicle meant to represent the pinnacle of an automobile company’s capabilities. Chrysler demonstrated that under the great leadership of Chrysler design manager Tom Gale. Tom Gale and a great styling team were responsible for many Chrysler passenger vehicles during the mid-1980s, including the Dodge Viper. Gale, who started at Chrysler in an engineering position in 1967, was involved with the process of many popular models that Chrysler had manufactured for many years.

2000 Dodge Viper GTS R concept show car Chrysler Archives RESIZED 42000 Dodge Viper GTS R concept show car (Chrysler Archives)

I always thought that the Dodge Viper was a great looking iconic vehicle and was different by design. At the beginning, Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca was very involved with the development of the Viper along with Carroll Shelby.

The second-generation Dodge Viper was introduced in 1996. Only a few changes to the RT/10 models were made, including a fiberglass hardtop.

2003 Dodge Viper on the cover of Viper Magazine 52003 Dodge Viper on the cover of Viper Magazine

In 2003, a new Viper SRT-10 model introduced more great engine performance. By now, the Viper had built a dedicated fan base, with automotive enthusiasts praising its great levels of torque, acceleration top speed and power.

The Dodge Viper, along with the Plymouth Prowler, were iconic automotive designs, a great marketing investment that paid off in terms of brand image. The Viper was a handmade model manufactured on a proprietary platform not shared with any other Chrysler vehicle at the time.

Dodge Viper SRT Chrysler Archives RESIZED 6Dodge Viper SRT in blue (Chrysler Archives)

In 2013, the fifth generation Viper was introduced after being briefly discontinued in 2010 due to lackluster sales. By 2017, only an estimated 485 Dodge Viper models were sold, so Fiat Chrysler Automobiles lowered prices in hopes of improving sales.

2016 Dodge Viper RESIZED 72016 Dodge Viper

Unfortunately, the higher price tag for the Viper, relative to newly released popular competition within the brand from the Dodge Hellcat Challenger and Charger, meant the end was near. The last Dodge Viper rolled out of the Conner Assembly plant on August 31, 2017.

2017 Dodge Viper ACR RESIZED 82017 Dodge Viper (ACR)

In conclusion, the Dodge Viper was the only American sports car that could compete with the Chevy Corvette from General Motors. It is an icon that will live on in our automotive history books.


Jornecka, Rory. “All Things Dodge Viper on Automobile.” The Dodge Viper History, Generation, models and more. April 17, 2020.

American Supercars. “The History and Legacy of the Dodge Viper.” August 31, 2017.

Pavlik, Tina. “Why the Powerful and Popular Dodge Viper Disappeared.” Motor Biscuit, April 16, 2020.

Viper - The Quarterly Magazine for Dodge Viper enthusiasts.