When the Viper first came to us in the early 1990s, it could tear the lungs out of a contemporary Corvette and was a nicer car to look at than just about anything being produced in the United States at the time. With its ten-cylinder truck engine, side-pipes that would burn you if you weren't careful, and minimal use of creature comforts or driver aids meant that the Viper was always a wild car, not to mention a world-class performer that made buying a C4 Corvette look daft. Eventually, though, General Motors caught on and gave the Viper a run for its money with the Corvette Z06. The Viper then lost some of its cachet and, in the summer of 2010, production of Chrysler's flagship sports car ceased.
But it wasn't too long before another Viper was in the works, and at the New York Auto Show in 2012 the newest version was unveiled. No longer branded as a Dodge, the Viper from now on is to be known as the SRT Viper. It still very much looked the part with styling that clearly takes it all back to the old GTS of the 1990s with the double bubble roof and curves in all the right places, rather than the more angular appearance of the third and fourth generation Vipers.
The rest of the car is actually quite familiar as well, and that's probably a good thing. The V-10 engine is still comically large at 8.4 liters, the wheelbase is still the same and the car still rides on basically the same steel frame as it did a couple of years ago. The new Viper, then, is not a completely new take on the old serpentine sports car, but the general improvement of a machine that never should have gone away in the first place.
At Le Mans in 2013, Chrysler proved again that they are staying genuine to the Viper name by unveiling a racing version, the GT3-R, which has been developed in collaboration with North Carolina-based Riley Technologies. The new racing snake is directly descended from the lightly modified GTS-R racer that Riley also prepared. This new one, though, won't be ready to race until next season. Its list of tweaks includes a new aerodynamics package, upgraded brakes, sequential transmission, multi-plate racing clutch, and 40 more horsepower (680 from 640) and and 40 more lb/ft of torque (640 from 600) than the street car.
The old Viper was a dominant force in international GT racing for some time, so it will be interesting to see how this new car holds up in the very competitive fields of today, especially in FIA GT3, where it will be up against the likes of McLarens, Audi R8's, Astons, and of course the Viper's natural born enemy: the Corvette. If anything, it will be great to hear ten big American cylinders thumping around the world's race tracks again.