What's the deal with Chrysler demanding colleges crush their Vipers? [w/video]Fri, 07 Mar 2014 13:30:00 EST
Students and teachers at a Washington community college are up in arms following an order from Chrysler that it must destroy the pre-production Dodge Viper that was donated to the school's automotive technology program ten years ago.
The Viper in question is said to be the fourth off the production line, based on its VIN, and has had its emissions controls disabled, allowing its ten-cylinder engine to produce 600 horsepower, according to a report from Yahoo! Autos. As one of the first Vipers ever produced, the school's AT instructors claim it could be worth $250,000 in a museum, while a local news report purports that Jay Leno once tried to purchase the car, but the sale was prevented by Chrysler.
As pointed out by our friends at Autobytel, though, there are a lot of things in this story that don't quite add up. Immediately noticeable from the news report embedded below – which shows the car at South Puget Sound Community College – is that the car in question is not a 1992 model. When the Viper went on sale in 1992, it was only available as an RT/10 with a (flimsy) soft top, like the red car shown above. But the car featured in the report from KING5 News (inset image) is clearly a hardtop Viper GTS, which didn't enter production until 1996. And even if, as reported by a local newspaper, the hardtop featured is a prototype, it doesn't explain the lack of another iconic feature of the first Vipers - their distinctive side pipes. This kind of pokes holes in the school's argument that this is the fourth Viper to ever roll down the line. At best, this appears to be a pre-production Viper GTS.
Regardless of the significance of the Viper, let's talk about why Chrysler is demanding it be crushed. First, the car was donated for educational use. It's fair to say that a nearly 20-year-old car – especially one that lacks traction control or anti-lock brakes – isn't really the best instructional tool in today's high-tech, automotive landscape for budding mechanics. In fact, according to the Chrysler press release we've included below, the college is under contractual obligation to return the car to Chrysler once it's outlived its educational usefulness.
Why not donate the car to a museum? We're guessing that if this is really just a pre-production Viper GTS, most museums, which as we've pointed out are rather strapped for cash, just wouldn't want it. A quick, nationwide search of Auto Trader revealed 55 examples of the Viper GTS built between 1996 and 2002, including a gorgeous 1997 GTS with just 5,500 miles on it for just $41,000. These simply aren't difficult cars to find. And from what we can see, there isn't much to distinguish this example from the 55 we found for sale. There's also the issue of the way this car has spent its life - being wrenched on by college students. Based on the news reports, it looks like it's due for some TLC.
At the end of the day, it's commonplace for automakers to destroy cars, even expensive high-performance models that can't legally be sold to the public for one reason or another. Your author was actually involved with a number of early Audi R8 coupes that were destined for the crusher as part of a past job. The very nature of "pre-production" vehicles includes examples built before they are legally able to be sold to customers – or even be kept whole in private hands indefinitely. Representatives of the federal government itself often preside over the crushing of said vehicles to ensure they don't get out into the used market, especially those that don't have valid Vehicle Identification Numbers.
It's sad, but by automakers loaning pre-pros to schools, these cars often live longer and more fulfilling lives than they were ever meant to – even if there's a finite timetable on their generosity.
Scroll down for the official statement from Chrysler and the news report from KING5 on the Vipers.
Response to Third-party News Reports of Vipers Being Destroyed
March 6, 2014 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - Attributed to Chrysler Group LLC:
Approximately 10 years ago, Chrysler Group donated a number of Dodge Viper vehicles to various trade schools for educational purposes. As part of the donation process, it is standard procedure -- and stipulated in our agreements -- that whenever vehicles are donated to institutions for education purposes that they are to be destroyed when they are no longer needed for their intended educational purposes. With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students. Chrysler Group fully understands and appreciates the historical significance of the Viper and is very active in preserving many of its legendary models and designs for historic purposes however, none of these vehicles fit into this category.
Chrysler Group has no record of any legal proceedings involving Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions being involved in accidents and product liability lawsuits.
About Chrysler Group LLC
Chrysler Group LLC, formed in 2009 to establish a global strategic alliance with Fiat S.p.A., produces Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, SRT, FIAT and Mopar vehicles and products. With the resources, technology and worldwide distribution network required to compete on a global scale, the alliance builds on Chrysler Group's culture of innovation, first established by Walter P. Chrysler in 1925, and Fiat's complementary technology that dates back to its founding in 1899.
Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler Group's product lineup features some of the world's most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300 and Town & Country, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Dart, Ram 1500, SRT Viper and Fiat 500. Fiat contributes world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-size cars, allowing Chrysler Group to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles.
By Brandon Turkus
See also: Lackluster Dodge Dart sales trigger layoffs, Consumer Reports says these are the worst new cars of 2014, Chrysler killing off the 200 Convertible, Dodge Avenger.