2000 Dodge Viper GTS. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Justin Pritchard
I’ve recently celebrated a very special anniversary. A year ago last week, after meeting online, I finally met my dream girl. She moved in a few hours later, and I’ve never looked back. She’s big and black and has enormous hips, has a bit of a drinking problem, frequently burps in public and weighs a few thousand pounds, but it’s been an interesting year, and I look forward to many more to come.
Yes, an interesting year with my new-to-me Dodge Viper indeed. The original Viper GTS is a car that’s as compromised as it is awesome – and owning and daily-driving one is a learning experience. After a year together, I have gathered some notes to share with fellow car-buffs of the manliest sort who may be considering snake ownership, as I have.
But remember – this isn’t a car for everyone. In a nutshell, everything about the Viper GTS that makes the enthusiast side of my brain salivate is counterbalanced by something that raises a red flag in the car-reviewer side of my brain. But, ultimately, it’s big and noisy and awesome and I just love it. Probably, so will you.
Here’s a look at what I’ve learned in the past year.
• Good tires are key to staying alive in this car – as the light weight and immense torque can break rear-wheel traction with no warning at full throttle anywhere in first, second or even third gear. Keeps you awake. Be careful, especially if it’s on the cold side outside. Or if there’s moisture on the pavement. Or a little dirt. Or you sneeze. Or blink. Or breathe.
• Obviously, nothing with an eight-litre engine is aiming to do your wallet any favours, but this thing is off the charts. Have any fun with it, and you’ll put away 24 litres every 100 clicks in the city. It’s not uncommon to see half a tank disappear by the time your trip meter reaches 150 kilometres. I had a new Chevrolet Silverado 4×4 as a tester one week, and drove it, instead of the Viper, to help save gas. So, ya. Bit of a drinking problem.
• Because of the Viper’s drool-inducing, instantly recognizable body, I’ve become fond of driving past McQueen’s Furniture on Barrydowne road in Sudbury, because it’s a long building covered in windows I can use to see how much of a boss I look like in my new Viper. Turns out, few cars make you look like a boss as much as a Dodge Viper GTS. Even 14 years later, it still gets photographed by cell phone–wielding pedestrians and passenger while driving around town, and gets pointed at, even by very young children.
• Popping a Viper’s hood is a pain in the ass and requires two people. That’s why at Cruise Night, you don’t often see Vipers with their hoods open. Or mine, anyways.
• Corvette owners are snobs. I’ve seen Corvette owners wave at each other in traffic, as there are enough Corvettes around that you can see multiple examples driving around when it’s nice outside. I wave a friendly wave at Corvette owners I pass, to say, “Hello, my fellow fan of American performance cars!” The response is almost universal – that “Yeah, okay buddy!” look on their faces, no wave, and a head-turn the other way. Maybe it’s piston-envy, or something.
2000 Dodge Viper GTS. Click image to enlarge
• Under no circumstances should you ever park a Viper on snow. I had to wake the car from its winter slumber one morning and park it in the driveway while I built some shelves in the garage. A few hours later, I attempted to get it into the garage. With the rear 335-series rubber frozen solid and an inch or two of snow beneath, the result of easing out the clutch (which was frozen and took some convincing to engage) was a shift sideways in the driveway, and no forward movement. After about 63 cycles of digging, adding ice-melter and gaining an inch towards the garage, I finally got it back inside. A quarter tank of gas and 2 kilometres of wheelspin later.
• I met another Viper owner who lives in my town! I spotted this guy cruising down a main street one evening and sped up to say hello. Driving beside each other with the windows down, I asked what year his car was, where he got it, and if he likes it. But he couldn’t hear me – both of our exhaust notes bouncing off of each other were beyond too loud. After several attempts asking my questions at increasing volume, we settled for a wave and thumbs up, instead.
• The exhaust noise can be too much. My neighbours give me dirty looks, sneaking up to or away from anything or anyone is impossible, and even idling, you’ve got to shut her down in the Timmies drive-through so they can hear you asking for your double-double. It’s also audible inside of buildings several hundred feet away, which is awesome. The drone after a few hours on the highway? Not so much.
• Vipers aren’t waterproof! No matter how handy I’d become with a tube of silicone and garden hose, I still get a few damp spots in the trunk if it gets wet, as well as occasional drips down the inside of the windows or past the door seals and onto my leg. I looked this up on an owner’s forum for advice. The responses included “bring some towels for the drive” or “It’s a Viper. Don’t drive it in the rain”. Apparently, random water leaks are a part of the nature of the beast.
• The doors are a bit fussy. They use a single, fairly dirty-looking hinge, similar to what you might find on a piece of military equipment, to support the door. But apparently, as Vipers get old, that hinge begins to weaken, requiring periodic adjustment. Adjusting a door hinge is painstaking work that requires tremendous patience and meticulous precision, so I left it for the pros.