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1992 Dodge Viper R/T 10

In this edition of Muscle Car Milestones, we take a look at the 1992 Dodge Viper. The Dodge Viper was the brainchild of Chrysler executive Bob Lutz. Word on the street is that while driving his Shelby Cobra replica, Bob had a “what if” moment and wondered if Chrysler could build a modern-day version of the Cobra. Bob pitched the idea to Chrysler design director Tom Gale, who was off and running to produce a clay model of Bob’s vision. In short order, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca gave the project his endorsement and the race was on to make the Viper a reality.

The Dodge Viper concept made its pubic debut at the 1989 North Ameri­can International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. During a press conference, Lee Iacocca introduces the press to the Viper as the supercar is driven onto the show floor with Carroll Shelby riding shotgun. While schmoozing with the press, Iacocca summons Bob Lutz onstage, hands him a miniature gearshift, and directs him to “go build the damn thing.”

And build it he did. With no apologies, Bob went on record stating “Viper is not for everyone. We knew that going in. This car is for the enthusiast who wants a great driving car and nothing more.”

The 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 was available in any color you wanted as long as it was Viper Red. The 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 features a long, low hood, floating windscreen, and curvy front fenders. This supercar also features a front wraparound air dam, teardrop headlights, and rollbar with head restraints and high-mounted brake lamp. Further inspection reveals the Viper has no side windows or exterior door handles. The only protection from the elements is a canvas top that stretches from the windshield to the roll bar.

The Viper’s interior features a stripped down, bare bones approach. Simple analog instrumentation includes a 180-mph speedometer, 7,000 rpm tachometer, and coolant temperature, oil pressure, and fuel level gauges. The Viper was devoid of safety features such as anti-lock brakes and driver and passenger airbags. Creature comforts, such as air conditioning, were also not available.

The 1992 Dodge Viper R/T 10 is powered by a naturally aspirated 8.0-liter V10 powerplant spewing 400 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque. Mauro Forghieri, an Italian engineer with Lamborghini, helped direct the creation of the Viper’s aluminum engine block. At the time, Lamborghini was a Chrysler affiliate, so tapping Lamborghini’s connections in the aluminum industry helped Chrysler create prototype castings for the engine. Furthermore, the engine’s forged aluminum pistons are set in cast iron cylinders. The aluminum cylinder head employs two valves per cylinder with higher-revving dual valve springs. The only transmission available is a six-speed Tremec T-56 manual with a limited-slip differential.

Road & Track flogged the 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 for their October 1992 issue. The Viper could sprint from 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds and dash the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 113 miles per hour. Those figures give the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 and the Porsche 911 a run for their money. Road & Track summed up the article by affirming “But let’s not kid ourselves. The Vi­per isn’t about numbers. It’s about unbridled emotion on wheels. It’s about explosive locomotion and the power to blast to 100 or 150 mph at will without working up a sweat. It’s about balance and a 50/50 weight distribution that lets a skilled driver arm-wrestle diffi­cult corners, approach and dance on the edge of the laws of physics without com­puter intervention. With a deep well of torque, you can accelerate out of cor­ners faster, and with the massive bind­ers, it’s possible to brake later.”

Dodge produced 285 Viper RT/10s for the 1992 model year. VIN #001 wound up in the hands of Lee Iacocca himself. Shortly after his death in July 2019, the Viper wound up on the auction block. During Bonhams’ Scottsdale 2020 auction, #001 hammered for a first-generation auction record of $285,000.

The 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 proved to the world that there was more to Chrysler than mini vans and K-cars. The 1992 Dodge Viper also showed that America could build a supercar to rival anything the Italians and Germans could create. The Dodge Viper’s success can also be credited to Lee Iacocca and Carroll Shelby’s penchant for creating sports cars such as the Shelby Cobra and Shelby GT350. Their collaboration on the Dodge Viper proved that lightning can strike twice.

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