The mid-engined Dodge Viper that never was

The iconic front-engined Dodge Viper could have ended up with its monstrous V10 in the middle of the car, had a secret project exploring said possibility gone differently

There’s plenty of anticipation around the up and coming mid-engined Corvette, something that has been speculated for years. However, the Corvette wasn’t the first American icon to consider putting its engine in the middle. Did you know that there were plans for a mid-engined Dodge Viper? Hagerty has unearthed the truth behind the myth of this unusual exotic concept.

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Fact or fiction? Few sources can be more authoritative on Dodge Viper history as Chris Theodore, one of Chrysler’s general managers during the 1990s. CAD designs and wooden mock-ups of a mid-engined Dodge Viper were created in order to explore the possibilities for a more exotic muscle car for the next generation.

According to Hagerty, the aim was to keep investment to a minimum and retain much of the second-generation Viper’s underpinnings. There was some debate over how to mount the engine and gearbox, forward or rear facing, but the plan was always to retain the legendary V10 motor.

The small team of engineers worked hard to get the project to a stage where it could be presented to senior officials. That meant building a pair of chassis complete with bodywork and engine, creating a business case, and collating a report on the project’s journey.

Some grainy images of the project in progress shows a vehicle that echoes the 1996 Viper’s design language, but with a much shorter bonnet and stretched rear proportions. It is a fascinating glance into the secret world of internal design projects.

The report and cars were presented to Chrysler President Bob Lutz and Tom Gale who was in charge of design during 1996. Astonishingly both rejected the project, something Chris Theodore speculates might be because neither had any involvement with the mid-engined Viper. The team tried again with a revised design dubbed ‘Viper GTM’ but the plans were officially shelved when Daimler bought Chrysler in 1998.

Many of the stillborn mid-engine Viper team left the company, including Theodore, out of frustration and went to join Ford. Chris Theodore and some of his original colleagues would go on to realise their mid-engine dreams with the 2005 Ford GT.

This mid-engined Viper story is a fascinating window into what might have been in a parallel universe. While the Dodge Viper is no longer with us, new legends from its 22-year legacy continue to surface.

Concept photos: viperclub.org

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