Dodge Viper Central
 What's in a Dodge Viper (and how is it made?)

Popular Mechanics August 

Viper's 8.0-liter engine is the largest and most powerful available today in an American production sports car. Viper GTS Coupe and RT/10 Roadster share the same 450 horsepower (460 in GT2 and ACR models) engine, suspension, brake system and adjustable pedal set.

Air intake is through a cast aluminum manifold with formed tubes, including an integral fuel rail cored in the castings. The dual throttle bodies and bottom-feed high-impedence fuel injectors control fuel flow and mixture. Fuel is fed to the injectors by a sequential multipoint injection system.

The engine's forged aluminum pistons are set in cast iron liners. The aluminum cylinder head features a conventional two valves per cylinder with higher-revving dual valve springs.

While a natural extension of the classic American V-8 (the small-block LA series, to be exact), a number of the V-10's unusual design features were derived from Formula One engines. Among these features are a closed tappet gallery for better intake manifold seating, and a sophisticated internal water flow system which traces its route outside the engine block, inside the cylinder head, around each cylinder and inside each combustion chamber for increased engine cooling.

Spent combustion gasses travel through a stainless steel tubular exhaust manifold, then pass through unique sill-mounted catalytic converters and exit at the center rear.

The six-speed manual transmission was designed to harness Viper's substantial power and match its high-performance expectations. It boasts an electronic reverse lockout feature and first-to-fourth skip-shift for fuel economy.

In developing this engine, Team Viper set out to maintain the simple powertrain design of classic high-performance sports cars -- because simplicity leads to durability, reliability and serviceability.

Chassis Construction
Viper's massive V-10 engine is mounted on what is believed to be the stiffest sports car chassis ever built.

The engine is cradled by two massive rectangular-tube frame rails, which turn out at the front bulkhead and continue on down the sides. Positioned between the front bulkhead and the back of the cockpit is a central backbone of smaller rectangular tubes. This is attached at the back to a cage or box which encompasses the rear suspension, a 19-gallon fuel tank, a spare tire, the battery and the trunk.

The fully independent front and rear suspensions feature unequal-length upper and lower "A" arms and coil-over springs made of lightweight, yet strong micro-grain alloy steel. High-performance gas-filled shocks minimize aeration.

The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system features positive on-center feel and a fast 16.7:1 steering ratio for quick and responsive maneuvering. Lock to lock is accomplished in a mere 2.4 turns. Viper's turning circle is 40.5 feet and its maximum turning angle is 28 degrees.

Viper's high performance brake system features four-piston front calipers with huge 13" x 1.26" vented rotors up front and 13" x.86 vented rotors at the rear. This system was specially designed to help meet the stated test-track goal of 0-100-0 mph in less than 15 seconds.

Truly massive high performance Michelin Pilot Sport tires created for the Viper are instrumental in translating the car's abundant horsepower and torque to more linear terms. These directional tires, 275/35ZR18 front and 335/30ZR18 rear, are a major factor in Viper's 1g lateral acceleration capability.

The tires are mounted on forged aluminum wheels with Viper logo centers (BBS forged aluminum wheels with chrome Viper Head center caps for the GT2 and ACR models).

Finally, Viper's cooling system consists of a lightweight copper-core radiator and an electronically controlled dual-speed electric fan. A front-mounted engine air-to-oil cooler is also standard.

Assembly And Testing
Each Dodge Viper is hand-assembled at a special Detroit, Michigan facility on Conner Avenue by carefully chosen, skilled UAW workers with over 300 hours of training each.

Each Viper is made up of approximately 50 component modules which are shipped to the Viper facility from locations throughout North America. Stamping, casting, painting and welding take place off-site. Composite body panels arrive already painted. Complete instrument panels are supplied with the gauges tested and set in place. Engines are assembled and tested at a Chrysler engine plant.

The Conner Avenue Assembly Plant has adjacent work stations. Adjustments are made at each work station by individual craftspersons acting as their own inspectors, eliminating traditional repair stations and inspectors. Problems are immediately dealt with, even if they require a discussion with the on-site Team Viper engineer. All procedures are verified by assembly team members, with working team leaders coordinating efforts through craft managers.

The Viper assembly process is as unique as the car itself, even extending to testing procedures. For example, as is the case with race cars, wheel alignment includes adjustment of "bump steer." A special machine is used to align all four wheels off their wheel hubs. In this way, the wheels are moved up and down in their suspension travel and alignment is set in three different positions.

Every Viper is also "roll tested," which involves running the car at speed, in place, on special rollers right at the assembly center while the car is a "hot rolling chassis" minus all body panels. It is driven through all six speeds of its transmissions, up to 90 mph, in order to validate the proper functioning of all systems under actual driving conditions.