The automotive industry is full of incredibly fascinating tales of what could have been
We can think of numerous examples, but one we’re sure few have heard of has just surfaced: Dodge built a business case for a mid-engined Viper in the 1990s.
Dodge could have beaten both Ford and Chevrolet’s C8 Corvette to the punch with a mid-engined supercar over two decades ago, but ultimately executives weren’t thrilled about the idea.
Classic car insurance experts Hagerty told the story in a report with thoughtful insight from Chris Theodore, Chrysler’s former general manager in charge of small-car platform engineering. If Theodore sounds familiar, it’s because he went on to help put the previous-generation Ford GT into production.
So the story goes, Dodge engineers kicked off a CAD study in 1996 and created two wooden bucks to understand how much of the existing Viper could be used in a third-generation model boasting a mid-engined layout. Things got serious when engineers started looking at the two bucks’ pros and cons; one was a reverse engine layout, while the other was a forward-facing engine buck with the transmission behind it.
Engineers figured out how to keep investment to a minimum and a business plan and sourcing strategy came together within the small skunkworks team. Eight engineers then assembled two chassis with body panels, suspension, steering, and the Viper’s hallmark V10. In October 1996, the team brought a 50-page report to then-Chrysler President Bob Lutz and design chief Tom Gale.
Neither were exceptionally receptive to the project. Theodore guessed there may have actually been some sour feelings over the fact neither of the bosses was involved in the project from the beginning.
The team tried one last time to bring a mid-engined Viper to life, supposedly called the Viper GTM for “mid-engine GT,” but Daimler’s purchase and acquisition of Chrysler in 1998 officially put the project to bed.
Frustrated, Theodore moved to Ford along with some engineers from the Dodge/Chrysler team. There, they pitched the idea of a reborn GT40, which eventually became the 2005 Ford GT. Theodore may have gotten his wish for an American mid-engined supercar, but Dodge, to this day, never did.
Sadly, Dodge defanged the Viper for good last year.