Long-time fans of Chrysler’s quirky supercar, the Dodge Viper, have gotten an early Christmas present, though they’ll have to wait a few years to unwrap it.
As part of its restructuring, the automaker wrapped up production of the Viper earlier this year, (Click Here for more), after an 18-year run. But as TheDetroitBureau.com first reported in November 2009, a revival was already under study. (For more on that story, Click Here.) Chrysler is now confirming that the 2-seat sports car is scheduled to make its comeback in 2012 as a 2013 model.
Don’t expect Chrysler to simply pick up where it left off, however, says Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s corporate chief designer and the head of the Dodge brand. “There won’t be a part of the car that’s untouched,” he tells Alisa Priddle, of the Detroit News.
While Gilles won’t provide all the details – perhaps because some significant development work is yet to be completed – he did drop one big surprise. Shortly after taking control of Chrysler, after its 2009 bankruptcy, Fiat sources suggested that the next-generation Viper would be paired with one of the Italian maker’s models, most likely the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Alfa used that high-performance model to launch a limited return to the U.S. market, two years ago.
That approach seemed to fit the broader Fiat-Chrysler strategy of sharing platforms in an effort to reduce costs and improve economies of scale. A Fiat platform will be used for a planned 2012 replacement of the new Chrysler 200, for example, while the new Jeep Grand Cherokee’s “architecture” will provide the starting point for an all-new Alfa SUV.
But according to Gilles, while there might be some visible similarities, the 2013 Dodge Viper “is not based on anything” else in the Fiat-Chrysler line-up, and has a distinct silhouette to prove it.
That’s not to say the folks at the Chrysler Technical Center, in Auburn Hills, Michigan, are doing the supercar project entirely on their own.
“We will use their expertise to open the performance envelope in the Viper,” Gilles told the News, adding, “Fiat has an awesome ability to tune cars.” One only has to witness brands like Alfa, Maserati and Ferrari to confirm that.
Whether the 2013 Dodge Viper will get the last-generation model’s 640-hp V10 engine remains to be seen. The good news for the development team is that they have an extensive array of alternative powertrains to choose from in the Fiat portfolio. One thing seems certain, however: the next-generation Viper will be expected to at least match, and more likely exceed the performance numbers of the last 2010s.
The original Dodge Viper was the brainchild of Bob Lutz, the one-time second-in-command at Chrysler who went on to become “car czar” at General Motors, before retiring this year. While some felt it was meant to simply give Chrysler a way to battle back against the long-running Chevrolet Corvette, Lutz originally had a very different product philosophy in mind.
That meant stripping the “snake,” as fans often called it, down to the bare essentials. That meant no traction or stability control, not even anti-lock brakes, in the initial version. In fact, the first generation didn’t even have airbags, the only car in the Chrysler line-up to skip that safety feature otherwise mandated across the line-up, in 1989, by former Chairman Lee Iacocca.
Later models did get more technology and a few more creature comforts, but the focus of the Viper team was pure performance. The original car debuted with a then-impressive 350 hp – something the 2011 Ford Mustang comes close to making with its new V6. Dodge later made headlines bumping the figure up to 400 hp, a first from Detroit using modern horsepower measurements. And, as the global auto industry dove into a full-fledged performance battle, the final version hit that 640-hp mark.
Another question that remains to be answered is where the 2013 Dodge Viper will be built. Since 1995, it rolled out of a low-volume factory on Detroit’s East Side. That facility was shuttered following the end of the 2010 Viper run, this year.