Evolution of an Icon
The 1995 Dodge Viper GTS
The Dodge Viper GTS wasn’t just a Viper with a hardtop and a set of fancy wheels. On the outside, it may have looked almost identical to the original car, but under the skin, about 90 percent of it was all-new. Harking back to the 60s Cobra theme, the inspiration for the GTS stemmed from the Shelby Cobra Daytona coupe. The iconic sweeping double-bubble roofline not only gave better headroom but also contributed to a slipperier drag coefficient, pushing the top speed up to over 180mph.
“The question is, was it any better to drive?”
Inside the GTS, the facia was all new, with the speedo and rev-counter nestled closer together in front of the driver. An airbag intruded where a glove compartment used to sit in the open-topped version. A more practical addition to the GTS was a usable boot — for the first time the Viper had a luggage compartment. Accessible through a glass rear panel, it was generously sized and could easily hold two or three large cases — a rarity among sportscars.
“The iconic sweeping double-bubble roofline not only gave better headroom but also contributed to a slipperier drag coefficient, pushing the top speed up to over 180mph.”
The V10 engine also gained an extra 35bhp and 10 extra lb/ft of torque thanks to reworked heads and block. All in all, the final car was actually 27kg lighter than the original, despite having to lug around more glass and sheet metal due to being a hardtop. The question is, was it any better to drive?
Though still a challenge, the combination of a lighter chassis and reworked suspension paid dividends. The Viper GTS was just a little bit more forgiving which was a welcome improvement in the hands of an expert, and a lifesaver if a novice was behind the wheel. Steering remained razor-sharp, whilst the brakes still worked like lead anchors. The Dodge Viper was never a car for the self-conscious owner but with the added hardtop, Viper drivers could now pose in all weather conditions and perhaps brag about its newfound practicality.
Holloway, H. and Buckley, M., 1999. The A-Z Of Cars. Godalming, Surrey: Colour Library Direct.
Daniel is a writer, senior teacher, and geographer based in Malta. His main passion is empowering students to fulfill their aspirations and reach their goals.