Future Classic: Dodge Viper

1989 Viper Concept
1989 Viper concept car | FCA photos

Originally intended as Chrysler’s modern take on the Shelby Cobra, the Dodge Viper concept was simple and straightforward in 1989: A no-frills roadster capable of going from 0 to 100 miles per hour and then back to zero in 15 seconds or less.

It was the principle behind the Cobra way back when, and the Viper development team wouldn’t have it any other way.

The concept proved so popular that Chrysler decided to give it the green light into production and to bring forth one of the most ludicrous automobiles ever to see the light of day. The sports car was powered by a huge, strong 10-cylinder engine that had been developed as a truck engine by Chrysler and tweaked for extreme use by Lamborghini, which at the time was a Chrysler-owned company.

1992 Dodge Viper
1992 Dodge Viper

Come 1992 and the Viper was on public roads. As the epitome of ass in the seat and rubber on the road, first-generation cars shared few features with other vehicles. Viper buyers got an outrageously designed body, a 400-horsepower engine, a steering wheel, 17×10  front and 17×13 rear wheels, leg-warmer side exhaust pipes and not much else.

The Viper was the coolest thing on the road. It had presence. It was truly a gem, a car that was so bad and actually really good, and you couldn’t help but love it. It was a car so tied up in itself, nothing else mattered and no matter where it went. It always became the center of attention. The aggressive stance of this car made its way onto every kid’s wall.

Driving a Viper was an event, and not only for the driver, but for anyone lucky enough to witness one.

The aluminum V10 was a hammer. Sort of a lazy lump until the revs built, but when they did, it hit loud and hard. Acceleration came like an unexpected punch in the face of a 4.5-second 0-60, and 9.2-second 0-100 mph time.

1994 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe Concept
1994 Dodge Viper GTS coupe concept

Handling was on the sketchy side. Comfort was a pipe dream. The car was literally only good for one purpose, and that purpose being able to haul ass.

Air conditioning would come later. So would a real top and, for that matter, and windows that really mattered.

And then a second-generation car that was lighter and more powerful, and then the GTS coupe with even more curves between its hips, a voluptuous double bubble roof, a bubble-glass hatch and a sharp ducktail spoiler.

In 1997, the RT/10 roadster made its return, with such “innovations” as exterior door handles, power windows, a removable roof and soft-touch interior. Air conditioning was standard, as were dual air bags.

All of it made the car much more user friendly, if maybe less fun to drive. And then there was a third generation, but it didn’t have the charm or the audacity of the earlier versions.

Pick of the Week: 1970 Challenger from ‘The Bucket List’

You might recognize this 1970 Dodge Challenger from its supporting role in ‘The Bucket List’
You might recognize this 1970 Dodge Challenger from its supporting role in ‘The Bucket List’

If a Hemi-powered muscle car is on your personal bucket list, here’s a 1970 Dodge Challenger with loads of bucket-list experience — Hollywood style.

Matter of fact, this Challenger is the very car driven by Jack Nicholson in the 2007 movie, The Bucket List, according to the California seller who’s advertising the hardtop on ClassicCars.com.

Anyone who has seen that popular film should be able to identify the Banana Yellow-and-Black Challenger from its role as the “hero car” for close-ups and driving shots. In the film, driving race cars was one of the bucket-list items for the terminally ill characters played by Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, and the Challenger became part of the dream.

Freeman and Nicholson head toward their dream cars in the film
Freeman and Nicholson head toward their dream cars in the film | Warner Brothers

The Challenger is not an original car but a resto-mod created by famed muscle-car builder Ted Moser, who also built them for the Fast and Furious movie series, the seller states. It’s powered by a newer 5.7-liter Hemi V8 backed by an automatic transmission and slowed by a set of Weldman disc brakes.

After The Bucket List movie, the car appeared in a few TV roles, including on NCIS with Mark Harmon, and the 2010 movie, The Runaways.

The asking price is $57,500, which would seem kind of high for a non-original car except for its interesting Hollywood provenance. Another selling point is that the Challenger has only been driven about 2,000 miles since its restoration for The Bucket List, with less than 60,000 miles overall.

So if this is the car you’ve always wanted, go for it before it’s too late.

Or as Nicholson’s character said in The Bucket List: “We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.”


My Classic Car: Bruce’s 1970 Dodge Charger R/T

Bruce Clark is older and wiser, and recapturing his youth | Bruce Clark photo
Bruce Clark is older and wiser, and recapturing his youth | Bruce Clark photo

In the spring of 1970 I received the dream car every 18-year-old boy thinks off: A shinny new 1970 Banana Yellow Dodge Charger R/T with white interior and white vinyl top . My parents bought it for me for my birthday one spring evening at the local Dodge dealership.

I don’t think they or I realized what a powerful beast that car was. Had they, it would have never been sitting in the driveway the next day. I drove it home that night from the dealership and remember it was the first time I had ever driven a 4-speed, but I learned quickly that night.

I immediately headed to the local teen hangout to show off my new wheels. My best friend at the time, Rick Banks, came running out of the local malt shop staring at the car with eyes wide as saucers as he jumped in and we screamed off down the road laughing like wild men.

The next day as I drove up to school the looks and stares I still remember to this day.

This Charger was loaded with 440 Magnum 375-horsepower stock from the factory, 4-speed pistol gripe shifter and Rally gauges.

I eventually added Hooker headers, boosting the horsepower to around 400.

Having never driven anything even close to the power of this Charger I was amazed at how fast and powerful the car was, as were all my friends. This was the heyday of the muscle car era so all my friends were driving muscle cars, Challengers, Boss 302s, GTOs and a Hemi GTX that was the bad boy of the clan.

We had a local quarter mile, a side street that ran along side the Atlantic City Expressway where we’d see who had the fastest car. My Charger rarely lost.

One day that spring when returning to school from a late breakfast with 3 guys in the car I headed down one of the back roads in our town full throttle pedal to the metal. Clocking at over 135 mph I looked in my rearview mirror to see about two miles back the flashing lights of a Glassboro police car chasing me.

I looked up and at the crossroad ahead:3 police cars had just entered the intersection and blocked it off. And yes they were all there for me!

I didn’t even realize the cop was following me until that moment as I slowed down and pulled over.

Needless to say he was one pissed-off officer who promptly handed me a ticket for reckless driving, which cost me my license for 6 long months.

After a slew of additional tickets for various infractions my parents said “enough” and that was the end of my beautiful Charger. I was forced to sell it.

Many years later as I grew older and more sane and vowed one day to create the car of my youth. The Charger you see pictured here is the Dream Car Part 2.

Pick of the Week: 1968 Dodge Coronet Super Bee

1968 Dodge Coronet Superbee

For the first entry in our new ClassicCars.com feature, Pick of the Week, we have a popular low-mileage piece of classic Mopar muscle that the seller claims to be an all-original car in great shape.  The blue 1968 Dodge Coronet Super Bee coupe has just 30,843 miles on its odometer, and it is a numbers-matching car with black interior and bench seat, according to the seller in Fulton, Missouri.

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1958 Dodge sways to top in British hill climb

John Harrison careens around a curve in his 1958 Dodge Coronet | Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb
John Harrison careens around a curve in his 1958 Dodge Coronet | Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb

Ordinarily, we would pass on publicizing the upcoming Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, a competitive event May 4 in Worcester, England. But this photo, and the story behind it, is too good to ignore.

Among the vintage sports and race cars that will run up the historic hill course – along with up-to-date racers competing in the Midland Hill Climb Championship – we have John Harrison of Wareham, Dorset, who again will entertain the crowd by roaring to the top in his 1958 Dodge Coronet sedan.

With its mammoth weight, towering tailfins, pronounced body sway and two-speed automatic transmission, the Coronet most certainly is the least nimble entry. But according to Harrison, that’s the whole point.

“The challenge of hill climbing such a totally unsuitable but exciting car is what appeals to me,” Harrison said in a news release from the hill-climb organizers. “The car is completely unrestored and retains its original paint, interior and drive train, with no power steering or assisted brakes and is running on authentic cross-ply whitewall tires to provide a true 1950s driving experience.

“It will reach 60 mph in first,” Harrison said, “so I just keep it in that gear and hang on for dear life as it wallows along and smokes its tires around the corners.”

Future classic: Dodge Magnum

Dodge Magnum | Photos courtesy Chrysler LLC
Dodge Magnum | Photos courtesy Chrysler LLC

First of all, yes, it had a Hemi.

Secondly, it wasn’t a sport utility vehicle, though it was just as roomy inside.

Instead, it was an amazing stylish station wagon — that’s right, an old-fashioned station wagon — but with a very contemporary, almost exotic, out-of-my-way-peasant presence as it filled a rearview mirror and intimidated traffic to move aside.

And it was ripe for customization.

All of which makes the Dodge Magnum a future classic.

D2006_107highFor the 2004 model year, Dodge resurrected its Magnum nameplate, which it first used back in 1978 — “the totally personal approach to driving excitement,” it claimed — on the full-size coupe that replaced the Charger Daytona (and does anyone remember that hideous, limited-edition — thank goodness! — appearance package that applied a two-tone paint job to the front and rear quarter panels of the ’77 Charger Daytona?).

The original and V8-powered Magnum got Chrysler back into stock car racing. However, the model lasted only two years before it was replaced by the slightly smaller and Slant Six-propelled Mirada.

Magnum, from the Latin word for great, has come to mean a surprisingly powerful bullet or an oversized bottle for sparkling wine. It also has been applied to the magnum opus, a great if unusually large work of art or literature.

Or, in the case of the Dodge Magnum, a great and relatively large and powerful station wagon based on the Chrysler 300, the full-size sedan that looks like a Bentley but costs a lot less.

Based on underpinnings from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, the Chrysler 300 freed American driving enthusiasts who needed full-size cars from the shackles of front-wheel drive. Dodge’s version was called the Daytona as a sedan and the Magnum as a station wagon. But while the Daytona lacked the 300’s styling, the Magnum seemed to lack nothing, especially in its Hemi-powered RT or SRT-8 models.


Best of all, however, was the European version of the car, the Chrysler 300C Touring wagon (left), which was basically the Magnum but with the 300’s Bentley-like grille.

The Magnum was in production only for the 2005 through 2008 model years. But in that span, Chrysler built around a quarter-million of them so it shouldn’t be that difficult to find one in great shape for driving now and maybe crossing the block a few years down the road.



Vehicle Profile: 1970 Dodge Dart


The Dodge Dart actually started life as a smaller, full-sized vehicle for 1960 and 1961.  In 1962, the Dodge Dart was downsized and offered as a mid-sized vehicle. It ended up as a compact vehicle from 1963 to 1976, which marked the end of its 17 year run.

The 1970 Dodge Dart was available in a 2-door coupe, 2-door hardtop and a 4-door sedan. The convertible models were dropped after 1969. For 1970, the Dart was freshened up with new sheet metal, front and rear. The grille and rear end designs were fashioned to look more like their full-sized counterparts. Trunk space was reduced to nearly half the size of the 1969 models and the tail lights were rectangular units set into the angular, wedge-shaped, chrome rear bumper.

Engine choices for the 1970 Dart included the following:  198-cid or 225-cid, “slant” 6-cylinder engine to a 318-cid, V-8, 2-barrel carbureted or 340-cid, 4-barrel carbureted, V-8 power plant, which produced some 275 hp. The 383-cid V-8 was dropped after 1969 to keep the Dart from interfering/competing with the new Challenger models in the muscle car arena.

After 1969, the Swinger 340 was the only true performance model in the Dart lineup. The Swinger name was also added to all Dart 2-door hardtops, with the exception of the high-line custom models and the GTS package.The Swinger 340 came with a pair of cool looking, slanted, but non-functional hood scoops. It was also equipped with front disc brakes, 14-inch bias-ply Fiberglass-belted tires on fashioned steel Rallye rims (keeping with the rage of the day). The Swinger 340 also came with beefed-up Rallye style suspension upgrades, including a 3.23:1 rear axle ratio and the rear 1/4 panel bumble-bee stripe and 340 decals. Options included: all-vinyl bucket seats, a center floor-console, a 6000 RPM tachometer, flat-black painted hood scoops and cool hood-pins, a custom vinyl roof in either black or white, power brakes, power steering and power windows were also available. Oddly enough, the only radio offered was an AM radio!

I did not own a Dodge Dart, but I did have a 1970 Plymouth Duster 340. It was a very quick and fun car to drive. That 340 motor could be tuned to produce some real arm-stretching, neck-snapping, slingshot like “G-forces” when you stuffed your foot into it! I had a blast with that little car and hold fond memories of the days cruisin the strip, red-light racing (stoplight to stoplight) and sitting in muscle car row at the outdoor theater!

Vehicle Profile: 1968 Dodge Charger


The second generation 1968 Dodge Charger was a complete redesign based on the mid-sized chassis (or B-Body with 117-inch wheelbase).  All 1968 Chargers were two-door, fastback coupes (the fastback was much toned-down compared to previous models). They, however, retained their signature blacked-out front grille with hidden headlamps. The former mechanical, rotating headlamps were replaced by a vacuum operated, “eyelid” type lamp cover instead. Also, the former body-wide, tail light panel was revised and replaced with a pair of dual round lamps at either end (outlined in chrome trim).

The doors and hood each contained a pair of racy-looking indents (faux wastegates if you will) with rear facing “tails” or “sweeps” which made the car look like it was going fast, even as if it was standing still. Both front fenders and rear quarter panels were rounded out and gave a bulbous, muscular look to the whole car. The chromed, racing style, “quick-fill” gas cap was located on the upper rear quarter panel. The new fastback body backlight was inset and had a rearward swooping panel that led into the trunk and quarter panel area on each side.  It bore the resemblance of the trailing-wing or “flying-buttress” styling cues of the day.

The 1968 Dodge Charger started out with a base 318-cid V8, 230 hp (rated), 2-barrel carbureted engine.  Later in the production year the venerable 225-cid “Slant” 6-cylinder with 1-barrel carburetor was also made available. The 383-cid big-blocks in both 2-barrel, 290 hp (rated) and 4-barrel, 330 hp (rated) were carried over from the 1967 first generation Dodge Chargers.  A new R/T (Road/Track) version came standard with a 440-cid Magnum V8 and a 4-barrel carburetor pushing 375 under-rated hp. Of course, as if that wasn’t enough, you could still opt for the awesome 426-cid Hemi V8 with two-4 barrel carburetors producing in excess of 425 hp (again under rated and only a $605 option at the time).

Dodge pulled some extra muscle power appeal from their war chest for 1968 R/T’s and announced the Scat Pack option, which included heavy duty suspension and brakes; special rear trunk bumble bee striping (wrapped around the rearmost area from side-to-side); a double wide racing stripe outlined by two thinner stripes and a special decal with a muscular looking bumble bee that had a V8 strapped to its back. The Torqueflite “727”automatic transmission came standard and mounted in the floor console with the option of a four-speed manual linked to a Hurst shifter.

The 1968 Dodge Charger had an all new “space-age” looking interior with many new safety features (some federally mandated and others just for sake of innovation). The cockpit style gauges were placed in front of the driver and angled for easy viewing at any speed. A tachometer was optional and the rallye style clock was standard.

The sporty looking door panels carried new map pockets (or ticket collectors, as the case may be). The front seats had safety latches to allow easy access for rear seat passengers. It also prevented the seats from unintentionally folding forward, especially in the case of impact. The ashtray was tucked into the dash for safety and the center of the steering wheel was padded (also for the unfortunate event of an impact). There was a new power window safety lockout switch to prevent accidental finger crunching. The ignition also had to be turned on for the windows to operate at all. Front seat head restraints were provided and seat/shoulder belts all the way around (at least at the driver and passenger sides, front and back, center rear lap only). Instrument padding was extended to cover the knee area of the steel dash for added protection. To help aid rear visibility, a rear-window defogger was added. There were 6 basic interior colors and 17 exterior colors and an optional vinyl top which was ordered on three out of four units.

Some 96,100 Dodge Chargers were produced, far more than the estimated 35,000 they thought they would need to build. Of those, only 470 units were built with the Hemi engine option. Wow, no wonder they are such desirable vehicles in today’s marketplace. The Hemi version was capable of 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and run through the 1/4 mile traps in 13.8 seconds at 105 mph. Not bad for a car that weighed over 4,300 pounds. Man, those were the days, and I for one, am lucky and proud to have grown up in that era! Dodge stated that “This is no dream car. It’s a real ‘take-me-home-and-let’s stir-things-up-a-bit’ automobile.”

Vehicle Profile: Dodge Viper

1995 Dodge Viper

The Dodge Viper RT/10 first appeared in 1989 with rave reviews, at the NAIA Show (North American International Auto Show) in Detroit, being quickly rushed into production shortly thereafter. Designed by a hand-selected group of engineers, nicknamed “Team Viper”, they began development in March of 1989, of what would soon become the production vehicle. Their goal was to create a new American made 2-seater sports car, which would be steeped in traditional, iconic designs of such cars as the Anglo-American AC Cobra that could go from zero to 100 mph and back to zero in under 15 seconds. Oh and of course, could compete with the dominating and legendary Chevrolet Corvette.

Even the seasoned legend, Carroll Shelby, was involved with initial design cues and even more-so when the GTS Coupe was introduced in 1996. The Dodge Viper would be considered, at least internally at Chrysler Corporation, as a modernized version of the infamous Cobra from days gone by.  At the time, Dodge had a cast-iron blocked, V10 engine available in their line of pickups which was too heavy for use in the new sports car.  To solve this problem,  Lamborghini (a Chrysler subsidiary at the time), was asked to help develop an aluminum-block, V10 engine.  With the engine design issue in the rear view mirror, a prototype Viper could be pushed out. This happened at the 1991 Indianapolis 500, when the pre-production Viper appeared for the first time, with the one-and-only Carroll Shelby behind the wheel.

The Dodge Viper came to market for the first time in 1992. Its design included a front mounted engine with rear wheel drive and 4-wheel independent suspension. It had a modern, sleek, low, wide and nimble look as well as a powerful V10 engine. The first generation Viper also featured low-profile tires and a body with seemingly never-ending curves, capturing the attention of sports car enthusiasts everywhere.  The first generation Viper was truly a beast of a beauty to be admired by car lovers the world over.

As modern as the first generation Dodge Viper was in many respects, it was also primitive in some areas, such as no roll-up windows. Instead, a pair of clear, flexible, zip-up, fabric trimmed plastic windows could be put in place where glass would normally appear. No hard top roof was present in the design either. A flexible soft top roof was available instead,  which was mainly useful for inside storage only. The first generation Viper also lacked outside door handles, requiring you to reach inside to open the doors, in order to climb into the cockpit. All the seemingly commonplace creature comforts were eliminated in order to keep weight to a minimum. No traction control or ABS brakes were available either.  All this “dieting” helped the 3,284 pound, 400 hp, V10, 488-cid, six-speed manual transmission Dodge Viper go from zero to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. The first generation Viper was also capable of traveling a quarter-mile in only 12.9 seconds with a speed in excess of 180 mph.