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The Viper sets the pace.

That ultra-sporty Dodge you will see pacing the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race this month can't be found at your neighborhood Dodge dealer. In fact, it won't be in anyone's neighborhood for several more months.

That's because the Dodge Viper leading the pack on the pace lap will be a prototype. It'll be so new that the paint will hardly have had time to dry by race day. It'll be so fresh out of the gate that Dodge isn't even saying for sure whether it'll look exactly like the artist's rendering. In fact, the Viper at the brickyard will be one of a kind, and that in itself is a rarity among Indy 500 pace cars, because the United States Auto Club normally requires delivery of three identical pace cars two months prior to the race.

When the 1992 Viper does hit the public streets next January, it'll still have that one-of-a-kind feel. The automaker plans to build no more than 500 Vipers initially, maybe as few as 200.

That's certain to add some mystique to the Viper's public debut, and the car's performance likely will add to its reputation. This is no car for the common man. It's powered by an 8-liter V-10 engine. It features a six-speed manual transmission made in Muncie by Borg-Warner Automotive Transmission Division. According to Borg-Warner, the transmission features a pair of overdrive gears and is the only transmission available with the torque capacity the Viper requires.

Combine Viper's performance engine with Borg-Warner's performance transmission and you have a fast car, a car that can hit the highway speed limit with the tachometer barely pushing 1,200 rpm. How fast can it go? Dodge isn't saying. How much will a Viper set you back? Dodge isn't saying that, either, but some educated guesses have been in the $50,000 range. This is not your father's Dodge.

As steep as the rumored price tag may be, the limited production means the Viper won't add that much to Chrysler Corp.'s revenues. Not directly, anyway. What the Viper does promise is an immeasurable boost for Dodge's image, as well as for Borg-Warner's. After all, the thinking goes, if Dodge can engineer and build a car as slick as the Viper, the rest of the Dodge fleet must be pretty slick, too. And if Borg-Warner's transmission is the only one good enough for the Viper, it also speaks well for other Borg-Warner products.

As Dodge finishes hooking up the hoses and tightening the bolts on the Viper that will debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one question remains unanswered. When the first Vipers roll off the assembly line, to which dealerships will they head? Initially, there will be only one Viper for every five or 10 Dodge dealers, maybe only one for every 15. If Dodge has decided who the fortunate few will be, the company isn't saying.

Will there be Vipers in Indiana after Memorial Day? The prospects would seem somewhat iffy. As fast as the cars are that whiz by at the speedway, conservative Indiana in general isn't known for its exotic autos. This isn't California or Florida.

The answer may not come until later this year. In the meantime, Hoosiers can take pride in the fact that the hottest new U.S.-made car will make its first public appearance not in Los Angeles, not in Miami, but in Speedway.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Dodge Viper to be pace care at Indianapolis 500
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:evaluation
Date:May 1, 1991
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