Just a few miles away from Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills is a small team of painters who take each body panel of the SRT Viper and puts them through an hours-long painting process on par with techniques used for supercars around the world.
Prefix Coatings converted a 10,000-sq.-ft. old Kmart in a vacant strip mall into a small paint plant after Chrysler contacted the company with plans to revive the Viper. I visited the team here and talked with them about how they get the job done.
Before the Viper is fully assembled — by hand — at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, each panel hangs separately in a prep room for hand-sanding. It's done separately to keep dirt contained.
Each body panel is then positioned on a stand exactly as it would be assembled on the body. The panels are primed twice before moving to a paint booth.
Two painters work on each panel at a time in the paint booths. And if the body color calls for stripes, it's moved to a separate room where specialists in striping carefully apply that detail.
Parts are then moved to a finesse and polish room, where workers spend up to hours on each part smoothing out rough spots, looking for unfinished areas and scanning for defects.
The final booth is for the topcoat. For drying, the parts are moved into giant rooms that resemble something of a human-sized front-loading washing machine and baked at 185 degrees.
There are about 60 employees in the plant and zero robots. Some employees have worked on the Viper since it was debuted in the 1990s, but every employee has to have a specific skill set just to get their foot in the door. There's an additional team of quality-control experts that inspect each body panel before they're shipped back to Detroit for assembly.
"It puts us in the same caliber as Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari," says Eric Zeile, the plant's program manager.
Many employees stuck with the program during the Viper's hiatus from 2010 until now.
"So much of it is built in Detroit which we think is really cool," Zeile says. "It's one of the last built-in-Detroit vehicles."
[Photos via J9 Media Solutions. Thanks Janine!]