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So much for the “Valley of the Sun” — it’s a freezing cold January morning in the Arizona desert, and it poses the morning’s first big question: should we put the top up? With the original Dodge Viper RT/10, the answer likely would have been a resounding “no.” The roadster’s fold-up “toupette” was as ungainly as the folding lawn chair in a Laurel & Hardy short that would always collapse as someone went to sit down. So, with the Viper, you were more likely than not to brave the elements even in a hardy downpour.
Of course, this is the new Viper and it actually has a top easy enough to operate with one hand. Thanks for small miracles. But there are plenty of other, far bigger changes coming with the upcoming introduction of the first complete remake of the legendary Dodge sports car.
It’s hard to believe, but in model-year 2002 the Viper was the oldest vehicle in the Dodge fleet , and despite a continuous stream of improvements and upgrades, the original model was undeniably showing its age. The 2003 is designed to keep kicking asp with a blend of its traditional brute power and an assortment of new features that might actually be described as, well, “refined,” much to the consternation of Herb Helbig. During development, recalls the Viper team leader, “People kept saying we were civilizing the car. That kept me up with nightmares.”
Less is more
During a visit to Phoenix a few months back, TheCarConnection got an opportunity to take the eagerly-awaited ’03 for a spin around DaimlerChrysler’s Arizona Proving Grounds. The prototype we drove was still undergoing final tuning and tweaking, so there may be some subtle changes before the bodacious two-seater hits showrooms later this year. But the 2003 Dodge Viper remains at heart true to its original mission. It’s aimed, says Helbig, at “the guy who likes to rip large chunks of pavement out as he goes around a corner.”