When Dodge first introduced the Viper as a concept car over 20 years ago, the American automotive press wasted no time comparing it to another great American sports car: the Chevy Corvette. Since then the Corvette and Viper have been in a running battle for supremacy of America’s hearts, minds, and wallets, though not everybody thinks the comparison is worth making.
Head of SRT Ralph Gilles recently spoke with Automotive News, where he made it clear that the new Viper was never built to compete with the Corvette. He then goes on to outline all of the differences between the Viper and ‘Vette. But does all that really matter to consumers?
“We’re handmade,” Gilles said. “It takes 18 hours to paint the stripe on a Viper. We color sand the entire car, inside and outside. All the panels are beautifully finished. We’re trying to build a custom show car that you can own.” All of that is true, but there’s also the fact that the previous-generation Corvette ZR1 out-paced the Viper around Laguna Seca, leading to the development of the Viper TA, which still only just barely beat the supercharged ‘Vette.
There’s also the fact that Viper sales have been slow, to say the least, with Chrysler going so far as to cut production by a third. One of the reasons cited, beyond the intimidating nature of previous Viper models, is the lack of an automatic transmission. All Gilles would say is that they’re “open” to the idea of an automatic-equipped Viper, but one wasn’t underway anytime soon.
Regardless of how Gilles feels though, people will continue to compare and cross-shop the Viper and the Corvette. Maybe SRT just needs to step its game up?