When the Dodge Viper was introduced in 1992, it immediately became a laughing matter. Its external, side-mounted exhaust pipes barbecued drivers’ calves. Like a toupee in a high wind, the convertible top flipped off at 145 mph. The car had no door handles, no air-conditioning, no roll-down windows. The absence of these features was an attraction only for those who prefer masochism with their motoring.
All that has changed. The Dodge Viper SRT-10 is comparatively civilized and close to becoming a daily driver. A V-10 truck engine still pumps out a monstrous 500 hp, and as the warning decals indicate, the doorsills are still exhaust-heated. But the styling is cleaner and not nearly so unyielding, with power door locks and even adjustable pedals for the vertically challenged. The $83,795 Viper remains a no-frills brute, but the car is no longer primal. It is basic, purposeful, and as American as a Zippo lighter, which, if you are not careful, can also scorch you.