This was originally published on 10/15/2015, but with the news that the Viper has officially ended production, we thought you might want to read it. The story appears as it was originally published. - Ed.
This is the way the Viper's world could end: not with the bang of obsolescence or defeat at the hands of its megabuck Eurotrash competitors, but with the whimper of a union contract that just happens to close one small-scale manufacturing facility. The supposed end of the Conner Avenue plant in 2017 would also be the end of the Viper. There's just no case to be made for restarting production somewhere else. It might impact FCA's ability to turn out more crossovers or something like that.
There's still time for you to go out and buy a Dodge Viper. There's still time for me to go out and buy a Dodge Viper. Still time for all of us to save our pennies for a down payment. So we cannot say that we weren't given plenty of notice, plenty of warning. Because the day that Conner Avenue closes, it won't just be the Viper that growls off into that good night; it will be the idea of the Great American Car itself.
I don't know if the Viper has ever been a terribly good car. The first-generation cars had the half-life of flerovium-289 and seemed to disintegrate while you were looking at them. The early coupes were rattle-trap affairs. The 500-horsepower SRT-10 seemed to have had its emotional rheostat turned halfway towards the setting marked "Corvette." It wasn't until the Viper got variable valve timing and some serious chassis tuning that it became the all-conquering track weapon that we know today. As of 2015, however, the Viper still has some cheap interior parts and it still smells weird when it gets hot and it still sounds like a UPS truck at a distance. What can I say? If you want a well-rounded sports-y vehicle, get yourself an M235i xDrive.
No, the greatness of the Viper is in its very spirit, its very conception. It's the idea that supercars can be built in Detroit. It's the idea that the hyper-rich sheikhs and software moguls and Russian oligarchs out there don't get an exclusive monopoly on driving a six-hundred--horsepower nightmare chariot with wings that wouldn't disgrace a Bleriot monoplane. It's the idea that a working-class man in Phoenix can save up most of his life and spend his hard-earned money on something built by other hard-working Americans in Michigan and that at no point do we require the approval of Enzo Ferrari or Ferdinand Piech to make that happen.
It's the way the SRT guys set the "Nurburgring record" by using cars that were already in dealership inventory. It's the way that you could buy a Viper ACR-X and race heads-up against Ralph Gilles and have a good chance of beating him. It's the "1 of 1" program and all the wonderfully tacky ideas people have to make absolutely tasteless and trashy-looking Vipers that they earned the right to buy with the sweat of their own brows. And if you don't like it, friend, then I suggest you go to the Ferrari dealer and humbly petition to be permitted to buy a used 430 Scuderia at MSRP-.
The Viper is the Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide of automobiles: unashamedly gauche, brilliantly satisfying, absolutely fit for purpose. Yes, the Corvette is a great car, and it's made in America, but from the very moment the first one appeared in 1953, there was always a sort of Euro-longing about it. Only the ridiculous Coke-bottle Vettes of the late Seventies ever really managed to wave two fingers in the direction of our Continental betters. The rest of the time the Corvette has been deliberately aimed at Porsche and Ferrari and BMW.
Not so with the Viper. It's aimed at ... something else. Consider the fact that you can buy the ACR package and the full Laguna luxury package, all in one car. Porsche wouldn't let you do that, wouldn't let you have a GT3RS with puffy leather seats and the big sound system and all the useless trimmings, because Porsche knows what you need better than you do, and you should listen to Porsche when they tell you what to buy. The Dodge guys, on the other hand, will let you mix and match. Why not? So what if you make a bright-pink ACR with steel brakes and heated seats? What's it matter? This is America! You paid for the car, you should get what you want!
Don't worry about the hype: You don't need to be a pro racer to drive a Viper on track, and you don't need a titanium spine to drive it off-track. These final-generation cars are surprisingly pleasant to operate. Owning one isn't a test of masculinity. The decision to buy one, on the other hand—well, to go out and buy the last stick-shift, non-turbo, ten-cylinder, big-wing, hot-cockpit, snake-shaped car on sale in the world today, that's a pretty manly thing to do. Which is why most Viper owners are men. But there are female Viper buyers, too. God bless those ladies. Please write me care of this website.
So even if the sun is about to set on this splendid automobile, even if the tide of egg-shaped CUVs rolling out of FCA's union-approved factories exceeds in one hour the number of Vipers built for all time, even if every "supercar" you'll ever be able to buy from now on does everything from your differential adjustments to your laser cruise control for you, at least I can rest easy knowing that some of you will still pull the trigger before it's too late. As long as there are still Vipers in private garages somewhere out there, there is still hope for the renaissance of the truly American automobile. Don't let the Canadians who wrote "Red Barchetta" fool you: The last automobile to flee an "alloy aircar" at full throttle won't be a Ferrari.
It will be a Viper.