We all had bedroom wall cars, and one of the defining models of late-millennial poster vehicles was the Dodge Viper GTS. Being born in the ‘90s meant that you had missed out entirely on the last era of enormous-engined, ill-handling, rip-asunder-the-Earth-torque-creating American muscle cars. Japanese sports cars were stylish and quick but generally lacked in outright testosterone. The 5.0 Mustang was becoming a force to be reckoned with again, the Gran Sport had made the C4 into a formidable contender, and the Camaro was there also I guess.
The Dodge Viper, however, was the vehicular embodiment of the bully that would take their lunch money. Initially, it was a modern hot rod - it had no roof, side windows, or door handles, and was essentially a fiberglass tub with a V10 dropped in. A fantastic vehicle to be sure, but one that was hard to evaluate on the same playing field as other cars, which generally came with those amenities.
The second gen was when it became embedded in my mind as a muscle car that I aspired to. With 457 horsepower and windows, air conditioning, and a radio, it had fully transitioned from factory hot rod to the second coming of the muscle car. It would put vastly more expensive machines to shame without depriving you of basic comforts you would expect from a mode of transportation.
The improvements were more than comfort, however. Another aspect of it that appealed tremendously to me was booting up Gran Turismo and getting to thoroughly stomp the competition in the Team Oreca car, whose real-life counterpart won repeatedly in pretty much every endurance GT racing event during its campaign lifespan, including a win at the 2000 24 Hours of Daytona, where it beat the newly-introduced C5R race car.
Getting up close and personal with one of these coiled snakes 15 years later, especially one prepped for autocross with straight pipes, enormous Stoptechs, a roll cage, and bucket seats, absolutely did not disappoint. It made me happy to know that all this time, I had a hero worth meeting.