Chrysler to schools: Crush Vipers

This unique early Viper coupe at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, Wash., was ordered to be destroyed by Fiat-Chrysler.

This unique early Viper coupe at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, Wash., was ordered to be destroyed by Fiat-Chrysler.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A community college in Washington State is fighting to keep the pre-production Dodge Viper the college has been ordered to destroy.

South Puget Sound Community College admits the 1992 Viper SRT, the fourth produced by Chrysler, has little educational value to the school’s automotive program, the Olympian reported. But officials say the car is a great promotional tool, much in demand at high schools and auto shows.

“Everybody wants their picture taken with the Viper,” Bob Riggin, a teacher at the college, said. “This car belongs in a museum, not in a crusher.”

The original Dodge Viper revealed in 1992 was a beast of a machine — an attempt by then-Chrysler exec Bob Lutz to revive the spirit of the Shelby Cobra and give Chrysler a world-class sports car. Powered by a massive V-10 with 400 hp, the early Viper’s brute force overwhelmed many drivers.

Chrysler, like other car companies, donates vehicles that cannot be legally driven on the street to high schools and colleges as teaching tools for future auto mechanics.

The Olympia college has about 20 donated vehicles in its auto shop. Their Viper stands out. It was the fourth Viper ever built, with a prototype hard top years before Dodge offered a production version. With no emissions controls, and no speed limiter, the V-10 can make 600 hp, and school instructors say it could be worth $250,000 to a museum or private Viper fan.

Norm Chapman, who teaches automotive technology at South Puget Sound, said the company told him that Fiat-Chrysler ordered all 93 Vipers now in educational programs destroyed because two of those 93 had been involved in accidents by joyriding students, creating a major liability for Chrysler.

Chrysler Group, however, released a statement March 6 that they haves no record of any legal proceedings involving Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions being involved in accidents and product liability lawsuits.

They did, however, explain their position on destroying Vipers:

“Approximately 10 years ago, Chrysler Group donated a number of Dodge Viper vehicles to various trade schools for educational purposes. As part of the donation process, it is standard procedure — and stipulated in our agreements — that whenever vehicles are donated to institutions for education purposes that they are to be destroyed when they are no longer needed for their intended educational purposes. With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students. Chrysler Group fully understands and appreciates the historical significance of the Viper and is very active in preserving many of its legendary models and designs for historic purposes however, none of these vehicles fit into this category.”

Olympia school officials say they were told March 4 they have a two-week deadline to destroy the Viper. The school has asked Chrysler to give the car a reprieve and LeMay-America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Wash., said it would be interested in giving the car a new home.





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