For Dodge fans, it was a sad announcement when the Viper would no longer continue production past the 2017 model year. For Viper owners and fanatics, it was the most devastating news, now struck for a second time, that the bite of the Viper would no longer be felt.
The Viper endured many years, beginning life in 1992 as the Dodge R/T 10 Viper, and continued on until 2010 when it was announced for the first time that the Viper wouldn’t be back. In 2013, then SRT President and CEO Ralph Gilles pushed hard to bring the Viper back as an SRT model, much to the delight of the Viper community.
Later, when SRT had been unbranded and Gilles had moved on to his global design responsibilities, the Viper became a Dodge again. Because of a lot of red tape, though, it was announced the Viper would go under the ax once again by FCA, with no plans of reviving the vehicle past 2017.
Though speculation from other camps would cite poor sales and lack of interest in the model, the truth would be that the Viper must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 (FMVSS 208) and NHTSA deliverables (AFD-17) and be fitted with side curtain air bags. After careful consideration, FCA officials had decided it was not worth the millions of dollars in retooling the car, as the current model roof line would not accommodate side impact air bags.
This is just another way that government control has taken a vehicle and brought it to its knees begging for mercy. The Viper is often considered a specialty vehicle, hand built at the Conner Avenue assembly plant, and many feel it shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as, for instance, a minivan.
It was hopeful that the rights to the Viper would be sold to a private party where it could continue production, but in a court case it was determined that the offer to purchase said rights would not be in the best interest of FCA. That was last fall, and a lot has been learned in the past few weeks at FCA.
Current CEO Tim Kuniskis has had an ace up his sleeve, it appears. While finding crafty ways to bring the latest Dodge Challenger SRT Demon to fruition as a street legal drag car with ridiculous horsepower, Kuniskis has found a loophole in NHTSA Mandate AFD-17 that exempts certain specialty vehicles from meeting full FMVSS 208 regulations.
Specifically, if Kunskis can bring the Viper back as a limited production vehicle designated for road racing, that would waive the side curtain air bag requirement. In order to skate through this loophole, however, Dodge would have to design non-obstructive head restraint system that would protect individuals in a side impact.
Considered a street-going version of the HANS device used in auto racing, Kuniskis feels that his Viper Crate kit would make the Viper qualify for exemption from AFD-17. These announcements were made ahead of the New York International Auto Show, where the Demon is to be unveiled. Of course, the only thing that might get in the way of the new 2020 Viper and its Crate is the first day of April, the date when this news was announced.