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A Snake Pit of Dodge/SRT Vipers

May 10, 2014
Dodge Vipers on display

For a while it seemed that American automobile manufacturers had forsaken power in the interest of better gas mileage. Then along came the Dodge Viper in 1992. The Viper redefined the American muscle car. It was a muscle car that handled!

That partially explains the roar you will soon be hearing coming from the Rose Hotel. The other half of the explanation is that the Nor Cal Viper Club will be here for its 20th anniversary gathering, and its members will occupy the entire garage with Vipers — and only Vipers.

It is the rare automobile that attracts this kind of devotion, particularly when it only dates back to 1992. The race-car styling and the throaty roar of mechanical power sucking the air for combustible oxygen are the telltale sight and sound of the Viper. Not bad for a car whose manufacturer almost ceased production because of financial problems. But in September 2010, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announced a new 2012 SRT Viper model.

All Vipers have V10 engines and 6-speed manual transmissions. The Viper is the brainchild of former Chrysler president, Bob Lutz. Lutz suggested to fellow company executive Tom Gale that the company should consider producing a modern Cobra, and a clay model was presented to Lutz a few months later. Initially produced in sheet metal, the car appeared as a concept at the North American International Auto Show in 1989. Public reaction was so enthusiastic that chief engineer Roy Sjoberg was directed to develop it as a limited production vehicle.

Sjoberg selected 85 engineers to be members of the Viper development team. The team asked the then-Chrysler subsidiary Lamborghini to cast a prototype aluminum block based on Dodge’s V10 truck engine.

The latest iteration is the 5th generation of the Viper.  It’s now powered by a 640-horsepower V-10, giving it a top speed of 206 mph, and retails for $100,000 to $140,000, depending upon options. That’s a lot of expensive and powerful hardware in The Rose Hotel garage.

NorCal Viper Club Celebrates 20th Anniversary
The Nor Cal Viper club first met in May 1994 at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville.  Fourteen Vipers gathered for that historic first event. Bay Area resident Maurice Liang is the founding president, and has continued as president of the Nor Cal Viper Club for 20 years. Liang went on to found a national Viper club called the Viper Club of America in 1995, with the blessing of Dodge. In 2004, the Nor Cal club met again at the Blackhawk Museum for its 10th anniversary. In 2014, Liang founded a new international owners club, the Viper Owners Association ( Though only four months old, VOA has close to 1,700 members in 34 regions around the world. The Nor Cal Viper Club is the Northern California Region of the VOA, with more than 100 members in the Bay Area.

The NorCal Viper club is returning to Blackhawk on May 18th to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and chose the Rose Hotel as their headquarters hotel. Thirty-plus Vipers will fill the plaza in front of the museum, and more than 100 guests are expected, including several senior executives from Chrysler.

For more information, contact Maurice Liang at