Who would win in a fight between a 3-headed hell hound and a snake? In a case important to a great number of high-horsepower-lovin' enthusiasts, it appears it's going to be Satan's canine.
In all the hoopla over the past few weeks about Dodge's new entry to the Muscle Car Wars, the media stories popping up hinting Chrysler may be thinking about discontinuing the Dodge Viper have gone relatively ignored by the majority of the product press. Unfortunately for those with a love of the serpentine-named supercar, we've learned through several of our sources that the decision to kill off the next generation of the Dodge Viper has already been made.
The next generation Viper roadster, referred to internally as ZC-D27 — and ZC-D29 in the case of the coupe — are no longer part of Chrysler LLC's future plans. They've been shuttled to the side — we're assuming as part of "Project Genesis," the new game plan "intended to align the needs and wants of the customer with its [Chrysler's] product portfolio and the dealer network." Or perhaps it was part of "Project Alpha" the game plan prior to "Genesis" and before Cerberus really got a good look at the books. All we know is the decision was made during the period Cerberus has been running the show in Auburn Hills.
In other words: Shit.
Originally, the new version of Dodge's halo car was set to start rolling down the assembly line in January of 2009 alongside two Chrysler badged platform mates. These two new Chrysler branded performance vehicles were to be modeled after the Firepower concept car. The first one, a roadster, was given the internal name ZC-C27, and a coupe version was given the internal name ZC-C29. However we know the decision to kill the Chrysler-brand versions was made sometime in the middle of last year.
This certainly would've hurt the business case for the entire "ZC" program. The Viper is hand built at the Connor Avenue Assembly Plant. A plant that, without the Firepower, would do nothing but build Vipers and the big V10 engines that go in them. Its a plant that we're fairly certain Chrysler's new Six Sigma-loving management would probably like to close.
The general unrest and financial struggles of Chrysler played a huge role as well. When this embattled company chooses how to spend their R&D money, they have to choose very carefully. Sadly there are many other vehicles in the Chrysler lineup that need attention before they can start to think about a low volume, hardcore sports car again — halo status be damned.
Chrysler recently launched the freshened, more powerful, fourth generation Viper for the 2008 model year. Original plans had this car being built for only two model years. It was meant to be a stop-gap model until the next generation "ZC" car could be brought online. Now that an all new Viper won't happen, sources tell us that the fourth generation Viper will instead be built until around the 2011 model year. We'd also venture a guess that so long as the fourth gen is being built, a few of the track prepped ACR models will continue to trickle out of the factory.
What happens after 2011? That's a question we don't yet have an answer for.
It's hard to imagine Chrysler leaving the halo car market for good — but we're thinking the future will call for a more affordable halo. Not just more affordable for the buyer but more affordable for Chrysler build. We know they'll want something that can still put up a fight with the Corvette — at least the base model — but at the same time, be much closer to the Corvette's base MSRP.
In the next one or two years, we can only a hope a concept car pops up on the auto show circuit that can give some hope for an all new, SRT hot rod. For now though, we mourn the loss of a legend.