The American Club Racer concept moves upscale.
Building on the incredible success of the Neon American Club Racer, more than 5900 of which have been snapped up by enthusiasts eager to race on the cheap, Dodge is taking its American Club Racer concept upscale -- way upscale -- by announcing the new Viper ACR for 1999.
The idea is to encourage Viper owners to race their cars, particularly in the SCCA's T1 class for essentially showroom-stock supercars such as the Acura NSX, the Chevrolet Corvette C5, the Ferrari F355, and the Porsche 911 Carrera.
By building a special run of Vipers optimized for such racing, Dodge can convince the SCCA to accept the ACR Vipers as factory stock cars. And by substituting the upgraded components for the standard Viper pieces, Dodge can hold down the overall price of the package.
As one would expect on a road-racing car, most of the upgrades focus on the suspension. Koni double-adjustable racing shocks, similar to the ones used on the Viper GTS-R pure racing cars, replace the stock items. These shocks are wrapped with Meritor coil springs about twice as stiff as the stockers. Michelin Pilot Sport tires from the standard Viper are fitted to BBS one-piece wheels.
The ACR's engine is unchanged, save for the modest reductions in intake and exhaust restriction that were performed on last year's GT2 championship-edition models. These add 10 horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque to the huge V-10, which is motivating 60 fewer pounds of weight on the ACR, owing to the deletion of the air conditioner, the fog lights, and the radio. Those pieces can be optioned back into the ACR, but would-be racers would be better served by fitting the optional front-brake cooling kit into the fog-light openings.
Inside, the ACR comes standard with a five-point competition harness, a dash placard, and the revised interior trim common to all '99 Vipers. From the outside, the Viper ACR will be identifiable by its distinctive wheels and small logos on the front fenders.
We took a quick spin in a preproduction ACR at Laguna Seca Raceway in California and found it to be even more comfortable on the track than the already capable standard model. The stiffer springs and shocks seemed perfectly tuned to the track's smooth surface, and the slight understeer present in the standard Viper was absent.
Depending on demand, Dodge expects to build between 100 and 200 Viper ACRs for '99. The price has yet to be announced, but expect it to be a few grand dearer than that of a standard Viper. Dodge also plans to offer kits allowing owners of existing Viper GTSs to upgrade their cars to ACR specification. Either way, obtaining a racing Viper will get appreciably easier.