The revival of the SRT Viper means Chrysler is a car company again, chief designer and CEO of the SRT brand Ralph Gilles said Wednesday.
"When I drove it onstage, I was actually almost tearing up inside the car," said Gilles, for whom the Viper's comeback was a personal crusade. "It really is a symbol of the spirit of the company. ... and the fact that it's American, and it mixes it up with the very best in the world makes a lot of people very proud."
Chrysler stopped building the previous Viper in 2010 when there weren't enough resources to develop another one. But Gilles, other Chrysler executives and the company's slow-but-steady financial rebound changed that.
The 2013 SRT Viper -- the prior Viper was sold under the Dodge brand -- checks in with an 8.4-liter V10 engine that generates 640 horsepower and nearly 600 pound-feet of torque. The high-performance sports car will reach dealer showrooms during the fourth quarter of this year.
Chrysler unveiled two versions of the ultra sports car: one for core enthusiasts and a Viper GTS. The GTS is an even higher-performance model with more technology and premium features. Gilles declined to reveal prices for either model.
Gilles also announced that Chrysler is re-entering the American Le Mans Series this summer for the first time since 1999, partnering with Riley Technologies.
Gilles said the new Viper was created in Auburn Hills by a team of six designers who worked many weekends, devoting countless hours to work on the Viper while they also were updating or redesigning 16 other Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models.
During the process, designers and engineers consulted with engineers at Ferrari and Maserati to learn how better to produce a low-volume, high-end performance sports car.
After considering other platforms, the team stuck with a classic Viper design inspired by both a snake and the body of a woman, Gilles said. The revived Viper keeps the original's signature long hood, stance and small interior cockpit.
A carbon fiber body and aluminum engine helped to shave 100 pounds off the last Viper. The new Viper weighs 3,297 pounds.
The Dodge Viper originally was shown as a concept at the 1989 North American International Auto Show and was sold from 1992 to 2010. The new Viper joins Chrysler's SRT, or Street and Racing Technology brand.
Chrysler wants to transform SRT into a line of performance vehicles.
The Viper and the all-new engine will both be built at Chrysler's reopened Conner Avenue assembly plant by about 150 workers.
Gilles said he expects to sell about 2,000 Vipers annually. That's more than the 1,500 in annual sales the Viper averaged during its previous life. Some of those will be from exports to other countries.
"We are not chasing volume; it's more about exclusivity," Gilles said.
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