new srt viper logo!!
Nice post there. I like the way the logo has successively gone more aggressive with each revision.
Here is a lovely review of the Viper SRT 10 by Jeremy Clarkson:
God, I hate being English sometimes. Latin people don’t seem to care when they tread on a social landmine, while Americans just open their arms in a heartfelt gesture of apology. Us, though? We come over all hot and spluttery, stuttering our way out of the gaffe with a series of Hugh Grant-style crikeys and goshes.
Just last week a fresh-faced young man from the press offce at Chrysler wondered why I hadn’t written about the Voyager people-carrier I’d borrowed in July. ‘Gosh,’ I said. ‘Crikey.’
The truth is that I’d completely forgotten about it, but being English it was impossible to say so. That would be like admitting you couldn’t remember someone’s name. Or mistaking their baby boy for a baby girl. Stuff like this is the first commandment for the middle classes here – way, way above ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Thou shalt not hunt foxy woxy’.
To compound the problem, I can never remember anyone when they’re out of context. I once introduced myself to a chap at a dinner party in London. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I know who you are because we’ve been on the same shoot all day.’ If I meet the man who comes to murder our moles in the pub, he may as well be from the moon. Once I met my dad by coincidence in the Imperial War Museum and it took me a moment to place him.
But this Voyager business: it’s the first time I’ve ever forgotten a car. I vaguely recall now that it was too big to fit in a standard British parking slot, and that its sliding rear doors opened electrically, which I thought was pretty cool. But the engine, the layout of the seats and the performance? A complete mystery.
Happily, I’m unlikely to forget the subject of this morning’s story for some considerable time because it’s the new Dodge Viper, one of the worst cars I’ve ever had the misfortune to drive. And one of the best.
The old Viper was created during one of Chrysler’s seemingly endless financial crises. So the whole process was done by just 17 men, for $50 million – one-twentieth of what it usually costs to design a car. The cost cutting did show in certain areas, such as the complete absence of windows, and the roof, which had all the sturdiness and weather protection of a bin liner.
Under the bonnet there was the 8-litre V10 engine from a truck and a chassis made from melted-down tramp steamers. It was as sophisticated as a Russian hammer, but you had to love the simplicity; the honest-to-God recipe of big, big power and four big, big wheels.
I have an even bigger reason to love it. You see, Chrysler provided one to take my wife and me from the church to the reception on our wedding day. The church had seen some devilment in its time – it was where Patrick Troughton had been pierced by a lightning conductor in The Omen – but that was nothing compared with the noise of hell I made leaving the graveyard.
What was it like to drive? Well, if you’ve ever tried one on your Gran Turismo game, you’ll know. It’s like trying to wrestle with a tiger in an out-of-control nuclear power station.
I’d been hearing stories about the new Viper for some time, and they were not good. Word was that Chrysler, now owned by those dour Germans from MercedesBenz, was trying to civilise the concept. It was trying to make the beast a bit more mainstream, a bit more usable.
And at first glance it looks like Chrysler has succeeded. It has a proper canvas roof that stows away, albeit manually, in a neat recess behind the seats. It has windows that go up and down, and, horror of horrors, it has pedals that can be adjusted electrically to suit your shoe size. This is like giving Lucifer a side parting and a cardigan.
But don’t worry. Chrysler may have sprinkled the surface with a veneer of twenty-first-century living, along with a million safety notices advising you to ‘drive carefully’, but underneath beats a heart that’s still as cold and as unforgiving as stone.
The engine is no longer an 8-litre V10. Now you get 8,300 cc, which means the brake horsepower has shot up from 400 to 500. That’s pathetic by European standards, but because the weight of the car hasn’t gone up it means the Viper, to be called the Dodge SRT-10 when it’s sold here early next year, goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a top speed on the wild side of 190. It is an idiotic engine that uses fuel like it’s coming from a fire hydrant, but the torque is sensational, and the noise coming out of the side exhausts sounds like Beelzebub barking.
It’s not all mouth, though. Put your foot down and, when the wheels have stopped spinning, on Tuesday, it lunges off towards the horizon, not so much like a rabbit as like a wrecking ball. The build-up of speed is not electric, but it is relentless. And then you get to a corner. There is masses of grip from tyres that are so wide they could roll a cricket pitch in one pass, but when the grip is gone so are you. All is well – and then, in the blink of an eye, you’re going backwards in £1,500 worth of thick, cloying tyre smoke.
Then there’s the gearbox, which works with all the fluidity of a Victorian signal box, and the steering, which has a full centimetre of play around the straight ahead. And now you’re going backwards again, desperately looking for the traction control switch, which isn’t there. The devil doesn’t do traction control.
You could compare the new Viper with any Porsche, Ferrari, BMW or Mercedes. You could even compare it with the new Corvette, and it would lose badly. As a driving tool it is just as wayward and just as hopeless as its predecessor.
The windscreen seems designed to push as much air as possible into your face, the dash seems to have been made for £4.50, it’s cramped, and the £80,000 price-tag seems awfully steep.
Also, it is catastrophically vulgar. Maybe, just maybe, David Beckham and his boyfriends in Britain’s footballing elite could get away with such a thing, and possibly it will find favour with 28p and his fellow rappers. But with that ludicrous bonnet and those bling chrome wheels, even Cheshire would deem it too ostentatious.
You know what, though? I don’t care. It’s as fabulous as an epic piece of weather – a huge thunderstorm or a hurricane, perhaps. If I may liken the Euro cars to Dire Straits and Phil Collins – technically perfect and beautifully produced – the Viper is like George Thorogood and the Destroyers: loud, proud and bad to the bone.
If it were available with right-hand drive I’d love to have one. It would set me out as someone who won’t conform to the English norm, someone who can forget who you are and not give a damn. It is the concept of hedonism made real.