December 1, 2010 at 1:00 am

Chrysler to resurrect Viper

High-profile American-made sports car to return in 2012 after production hiatus

2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 (Dodge)

Chrysler Group LLC plans to bring the iconic Dodge Viper back to its lineup in the summer of 2012.

The all-new Viper will be a 2013 model.

The Auburn Hills automaker ceased production of the all-American sports car last summer after 18 years.

There has been speculation since then that the hiatus would be short-lived and Chrysler would bring the car back.

Ralph Gilles, head of the Dodge brand, confirmed the Chrysler board has given the Viper final approval and development is on schedule.

The new Viper "is not based on anything else," he stressed, countering speculation that it will share underpinnings with Ferrari or the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, given the partnership of Chrysler and Italy's Fiat SpA.

The car has its own underpinnings and while there is some similarity to the 8C, an overlay of the two vehicles shows their proportions to be quite different.

"Where the cabin is, relative to the wheels, is unique," said Gilles who is also head of design. "The Viper cabin is very rearward and the hood is very long. Few cars in the industry are designed with those proportions anymore."

The Viper will not get a Ferrari engine, but Gilles did not rule out a new engine for the car, which previously had a 640-horsepower V-10. "There won't be a part of the car that's untouched," he said.

Fiat, he said, will lend expertise in dynamics.

"We will use their expertise to open the performance envelope in the Viper," Gilles said. "Fiat has an awesome ability to tune cars. I want the new Viper to be a more forgiving car to drive and accessible to more people. We've never had stability control on a high-performance car, which is about to happen on the new car."

The lack of stability control and a powerful engine made the Viper a unique American sports car in the eyes of many.

"Dodge used the Viper better as a halo vehicle for the brand than Chevy ever did with the Corvette," said analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics in Birmingham.

The Viper also was the genesis of the performance SRT lineup that boosted Dodge's image, he said.

Dodge celebrated the final year of the Viper with a series of limited-edition models. The last one rolled off the line July 2 at Detroit's Conner Avenue plant.

Gilles