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Old 09-29-2005, 03:03 AM
Belair62 Belair62 is offline
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Default NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

The story all began back in 1992 when I was a Tech Editor and Managing Editor for Mopar Muscle Magazine and Musclecar Review. We wanted to do something interesting and unique, something that no other magazine had ever done. So we approached the people at Dodge/Team Viper and raised the idea of a Viper as a magazine project car. At the time, Team Viper was made up of a bunch of young rebels and upstarts and was happy to see that someone wanted to play with their baby, instead of parking it and speculating on how high the price would go. We told them we were going to test the car out and then work with the aftermarket to see if we could make the car better. Surprisingly, they agreed (though they wouldn’t give us a free car) and I ended up placing an order (with my own money at a “good price”) in 1992. Somehow through the miracles of Mother Mopar's intervention, the car was scheduled to be built in January of 1993. I got a call in Jan 1993 and we firmed up the date so I could be on the assembly line as it was being built. I flew up to Detroit and was able to photograph the car in mid-assembly. This was something of a coup at the time because before then, no cameras were ever allowed in that secret hallowed hall known as the New Mack Viper Assembly Plant.

It was just what you could imagine if you went back in a time machine to the 1969 Norwood Plant as the COPOs and ZL1’s were being built. Just amazing. I have an entire album of slides of the plant. I made sure I took a bunch of shots of just the bins of parts and part numbers of the various components awaiting assembly, for future reference. As my car was moving down the line, the craftspeople were busily working away. I stopped them as they were building my car for a group shot which I guess interrupted one of the guy’s concentration who was working on the trunk of my car: Because a few weeks later when I took delivery of the car, his Snap On ¼ drive wrench and socket were still in my trunk. I called the plant to see if they wanted it back but they told me to hang on to it as a memento!

Previously, we had met with the Dodge people and told them that we wanted to have the car in the Viper Blue and White paint scheme of the Viper Coupe show car. They indicated that there was no way to get that done, simply due to the fact that all the panels came into the plant as prepainted red assemblies. I then asked them if they could supply me with the paint codes for the blue and the white colors. They said there were proprietary formulas and could not be released to the public, but then in the same breath they said “We can’t send you the paint codes, but we can send you all of the paint!” And there began a constant stream of unmarked UPS boxes that would show up every few days. Cans of paint, extra wheels, tires, exhaust parts, etc., would show up with mysterious return addresses like “Jeep Engineering Division”. The most surprising part was the complete set of fluorescent blue emblems for the car: blue emblems had not existed up to that point since all the cars were red.

The car was delivered to us in red. That lasted exactly 12 hours. We photographed the “before” shots and then totally disassembled the body for repainting it in the factory blue and white. Once the car was all painted and reassembled we started having fun. The car was featured in each issue from August 1993 to May 1995. Each issue had us working with some manufacturer and modifying something and then testing the car. A great deal of testing was done at the Sebring International Raceway in Sebring Florida. I would run the car in the SCCA ASP class (A-Street Prepared). Despite its weight (3700 lbs without a driver) it was remarkably competitive and I won quite a few races over the two years I ran the car. I even held a lap record at Sebring for the ASP class in 1994.

I have some great video from back then from the in-car video mount. The best footage was from a track day back in 1993 when I passed both a Ferrari 288 GTO and an F40 during the same lap. I was a lot younger then…Those were the good old days when the only thought in your head at the end of the 150 mph short straight into the 25 mph hair-pin turn is: where do I need to be to set up for the next turn (and not; is my life insurance paid up, do I have a will, or even clean underwear…)

Project Pit Viper is still one of the most terrifying cars I have ever driven. The weight distribution is dead on at 50/50. The early (pre-1996) cars had an unforgiving race suspension: if you didn’t know what you were doing or how to handle the car, you were an accident waiting to happen (or worse). We chassis dyno-ed the car and learned it put out 402 horsepower at the rear wheels. (If you may recall these cars were rated at an advertised 400 engine horsepower back in 93!).

In late 1994 I left the automotive publishing arena for other ventures but I kept the car. It now has about 7900 Sunday (racing) only miles. It now sits, covered, in the middle of my garage and serves as a workbench for my other projects. I start it every few months and take it out for a very scary trip back in time. My kids love it just cuz it’s really, really loud!








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Old 09-29-2005, 03:03 AM
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Awesome Steve!

I like the part of the story about the socket still in the car when it was delivered to you.

I always enjoy your works in progress pictures...they are very informative.

Please find somebody to host your video...I'd love to see it!

Thanks for sharing the pictures and the story.


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Old 09-29-2005, 03:27 AM
Z-11 396 Z-11 396 is offline
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Steve, &lt;&lt;&lt; Great Car &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt; and story, I know what you mean about getting older part.....Thanks for the wonderful pictures, and sharing the past, and more of /// Furture Plans ///... .......Kasey
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Old 09-29-2005, 04:47 AM
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Here's a shot on the assembly line of my car VIN #102, being built in Jan 1993. The guy with the mustache is the one that left the wrench in the trunk. I know the photo is kind of dark, but it was scanned from a slide and the lighting was really weird there: mercury gas vapor lights from what I was told.


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Old 09-29-2005, 06:42 PM
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Great story Steve. Way to document it x100! Thanks for sharing your wicked ride.
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Old 09-29-2005, 06:51 PM
Chevy454 Chevy454 is offline
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

That's too cool the way Mopar back-doored some of the stuff to ya!
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Old 01-20-2013, 06:44 PM
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

It's been a while that this car has been serving as my workbench in the garage. I decided to do a mid-winter engine startup on everything in the garage today.

I reconnected the battery and nothing happened. I checked the voltage and the battery had 2 volts. Hmmmmm? [img]<<GRAEMLIN_URL>>/hmmm.gif[/img]

I swear I had just bought this battery before I put the car into storage. I checked the date. July 2006 on the battery. Has it really been 6-1/2 years since I last drove this thing?

Well, I charged the battery and hooked a set of jumper cables up to my truck and she started right up. (Every year I drain the fuel and replace it with 21 gallons of new gas with Stabil in it, so the gas was fresh).

I let her run, in gear, up on the jackstands for a half hour. I filled the tires with air and then took her down off the stands and went for a drive. I forgot how unconfortable and scary these things are. It'll do 60 in first gear!

My pre-teen, engine-building son finally got to see the car actually out from under the cover and was rather amazed. The last time he saw the car, he was in nursury school.








When I got back, I swept out the entire garage and backed her in, put her back up on the stands and covered her up. Just think, in another 5 years I can get those (25+ year old) vintage license plates for her!
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Old 01-20-2013, 11:35 PM
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Nice! Its the first time I have seen it uncovered too! [img]<<GRAEMLIN_URL>>/laugh.gif[/img]
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Old 01-20-2013, 11:35 PM
KevinW KevinW is offline
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Still registered in FLA?
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Old 01-20-2013, 11:52 PM
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Default Re: NJ Steves Project Pit Viper...

Those are the original vanity plates from back in the day. I have Jersey plates somewhere buried in the garage.
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