Okay, how I got here is pretty convoluted, so I’m asking you to just stick with me. I was doing some research on the oldest automotive platforms still in production, which led me to Iran Khodro, the Middle East’s biggest vehicle manufacturer, and the Peugeot 405s they build that date back to 1987. Now, couple this with the recent news that Iran announced yesterday that they’re willing to resume talks around reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States, throw in the concept of the Dodge Viper and inline-3 engines, and I think you can see where this is going. No? Let me explain.
Okay, let’s start with this whole nuclear deal. Essentially, the U.S. doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, for a number of complicated geopolitical reasons that are beyond the scope of this article. Let’s just leave it that America doesn’t want Iran to have nukes.
Iran seems like maybe they want to develop nukes. In 2015, the United States and a number of other nations entered an agreement with Iran whereby they’d cancel their nuclear missile-development program in exchange for relief of economic sanctions.
The Trump administration pulled America out of the deal, and Iran resumed development work on nuclear weapons.
Now they’re saying they’re willing to come back to the table to talk, but it’s likely the terms will be different, and Iran and U.S. relations are still frosty enough that everything has to be handled with European intermediaries.
Okay, so, where do the cars come in?
Simple. Everyone is tense and pissy and the stakes are high. It’s no fun. Something has to happen to warm everyone up a bit, take the tension down some. It’s been a tough couple years for the whole globe, and everyone is on edge.
So what can be done to sweeten the pot a bit for the Iranians, without giving up anything of real value on the American side? Well, to figure this out, let’s look at what cars Iranians have access to:
Look at that tedious lineup of cars! No wonder they want to build weapons capable of blowing everything up—they’re just bored. There’s not a single actual fun car in that mix, nothing with a real unhinged sense of visceral joy.
Our Editor-In-Cheap Rory picked up on this right away, noting in our Slack channel:
Sure, those old Peugeots are kind of cool from a nerdy American’s perspective, but what Iran seems to really need are car options that let people blow off some steam. As Rory said, likely fueled by his many morning Manhattans, zoomers and honk-honks.
Thankfully, making that sort of car is one of the things America does best.
I’m not talking about just trying to export and sell Iranians Mustangs or Challengers or Camaros—this needs to be something they can have some sort of ownership of, some sort of partnership between America and Iran, a joint car project that, as we know, is really effective at bringing people together.
So here’s what I propose: Stellantis, the new owners of Peugeot, are in a good position to reach out to Iran Khodro, since building Peugeots under license was how the company got their start.
Stellantis also owns the Mopar brands, including Dodge. Dodge must have the stuff to make first-gen Vipers sitting and rusting in some warehouse somewhere, right?
Well, how about this: Stellantis enters into an agreement with Iran Khodro to build new first-gen Dodge Vipers in Iran. The Viper is perhaps the most visceral, raw, hedonistic, expression of motoring fun, which will provide the release that the Iranian car-buying population needs, whether they know it or not. And it’s quintessentially American, which will foster positive feelings about America.
The original Viper used a V10 engine, but if we’re not comfortable with Iran having nukes, there’s no way we’re comfortable with giving them the raw, feral power of that Dodge V10.
But we can’t just shove some boring V6 or something in there—it has to be close to the V10, at least in some ways. And that’s where inline-3 engines come in.
You see, we can source modern inline-3 engines from Ford (who uses one in the Bronco Sport) or GM (who uses a turbo-3 in the Chevy Trailblazer and Buick Envoy) or, hell, even both, and we’ll take three of those I3s per viper, connect them to a common crank, end-to-end, and get the first mass-market inline-nine engine ever.
That long Viper hood can certainly handle the length of three I3s, and there’s something wonderfully bonkers about an I9 engine. It’s one less than the original V10, so American Viper purists will still have bragging rights, but the new Iranio-American Viper with the I9 will be a potent force, too.
There’s no sensitive technology transfer here: body and frame from an early ‘90s car with a ganged-up set of econobox engines all put together to make one gleefully cathartic whole.
Plus, the first-gen Viper was known for being a pretty basic car—the first gen ones didn’t even have side windows or exterior door handles—there’s no reason Iran Khodro couldn’t produce these just fine.
There are economic benefits for American companies and Iran Khodro—they can even export these Vipers if they want! I bet they’d be big in China!
Iranian consumers would finally have an exciting, soul-stirring new car option, the U.S. and Iran would have a seemingly frivolous but culturally valuable joint project, and as soon as the companies from both sides are involved in this venture, who’s really going to be interested in nuclear weapons or any kind of war at all, anyway?
If you go in halves on a project car with a friend, you’re not likely to stand to gain by setting their house on fire, right? This just makes sense.
New first-gen Vipers with inline-nine engines are the foreign policy tool America never knew it needed so badly.
Man, sometimes it feels really good to be doing the things it takes to change the world for the better. You’re welcome, world.