If you haven’t heard yet, Chrysler Group is demanding a number of early (and even some pre-production) Dodge Vipers crushed. As a longtime fan of this marque (I was 15 when they came out and it is my all-time favorite automobile), I was brokenhearted. Cars get donated to schools and destroyed after their useful lifetimes all the time. Chrysler claims these cars are not historically significant (although I would say any small-batch car is historically significant, especially pre-production ones). Chrysler claims “they felt it was time,” but a little digging shows a couple of these cars got into the wild.
Let’s back up for a second…the donated cars are used to teach students how to work on cars. The reality is technology has come a long way in the last 15-20 years, and the Viper has been one of the few cars that (at least up until the Generation V’s) you could work on from home without complex computer systems. These cars have never been forgiving to drive (stability control is brand new on them in 2013) and somewhere around 20% of all new Vipers end up wrecked. This is the draw of the Viper—as close as you can get to a street-legal race car off the showroom floor. This isn’t a car for new or under-skilled drivers. Again…this is the draw.
With this knowledge in hand (and recalling that the Vipers loaned to schools were worked on by students, taken apart and put together over and over again over the years, and were deemed unsafe to drive. That’s probably a fair sentiment, a well-maintained Viper in the hands of an unskilled driver is potentially unsafe (the same could be said for the Corvette ZR1, Lamborghini Aventador, or any other high-powered car). You don’t put that much power into the hands of an unskilled driver. Take a beast of a car like the Dodge Viper, give it 15 years of being worked on and modified by students just to make changes, and the car gets out? What the f*** do you think is going to happen?
We live in an age of lawsuits, and Fiat (via owning Chrysler Group) gets sued when someone gets hurt. I’m not sure at which point Fiat was at fault, it seems to me that the dimwit who took the car for a joyride is the only one to blame. If ignorance of the law is no excuse, than ignoring the common sense of you don’t f***ing drive a car that’s been worked on by students for years should also be no excuse.
Vipers by Generation (semi-official)
|Generation II||RT-10, GTS, ACR (’99)||1996-2002|
|Generation III||SRT-10: Roadster, Coupe (’06)||2003-2006|
|Generation IV||SRT-10 Roadster & Coupe, ACR||2008-2010|
|Generation V||SRT, GTS, TA (’14)||2013-|