John Neff at Autoblog reported on August 27th that Chrysler’s halo car, the Dodge Viper, may be sold to a third party. Rumors have been swirling for some time that the Viper could be canceled. In attempts to streamline their line-ups, we have already seen Chrysler discontinue the Pacifica, Crossfire (which borrowed heavily from ex-parent Daimler), PT Cruiser Convertible and the Dodge Magnum.
The Viper is a well loved car, and enjoys strong fan support as evidenced by a healthy owners club. It’s no secret the Viper has been a successful race car as well. The question now is who would buy the Viper? Neff speculates it could be a tuner, or a group of investors.
Here’s my take. Most of us have heard of Steve Saleen-he’s the guy that took everyday Ford Mustangs and turned them into serious performers. Steve sold his old company and opened SMS Limited. One of SMS’ first projects was creating a heavily massaged Dodge Challenger. Saleen will be producing these cars at a brand new facility in Orange County, California. Saleen has the know how to build specialty cars, and I feel that this would be great for the Viper.
Some of you may lament that Chrysler, looking at its balance sheet, may not be able to justify the continuation of the Viper. But if the car could be sold, and continue to be built, it is a win-win situation. I’ve been lucky enough to have tested a Viper. The car is a positive riot. But you always knew where Chrysler wasn’t spending money on the car, and it showed. It made the car feel less special. I hated that the key fob was no different that that of a Dodge Stratus. The leather was of pretty poor quality. Cheap plastics, interior squeaks and rattles took away from the experience. A specialty builder like Saleen could address all these weak points, and still retain the sheer outrageousness that the Viper embodies.
The Viper has so much street cred it can easily stand on its own. The absence of a Dodge badge will not take anything away from the car. Dodge has little to lose here, since the car was sold and marketed almost on its own anyhow. To the boy-racer buying a Caliber SRT4, the loss of the Viper won’t make a difference. As Sting used to sing, if you love somebody, set them free. If this sale does happen, we owe a debt of gratitude to Chrysler for not taking the easy way out and just shuttering the Viper factory and throwing away the plans.