Dodge Copperhead: The Cheap Viper Variant that never came to be

In 1989, Dodge unveiled a supercar concept at the Detroit Auto Show, the Dodge Viper. It featured monstrous V10 which produced 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet (610 Nm) of torque, sent all to the rear wheels. It’s interior was bare bones, and didn’t feature many creature comforts, not even traction control.

The glorious Viper hit the mass market in 1992. Well, mass market was kind of an overstatement, because when it was new in 1992, it had a pocket-emptying MSRP of $75,000. Adjusted for inflation, it would cost $134,732 today. So what would the average person getting an average salary do?

5 years after Vipers unveiling, A cheaper alternative was teased in 1997, the Dodge Copperhead. The numbers on the Copperhead were not nearly as impressive. It featured a 2.7 liter V6, which made a decent 220 horsepower and 188 pound-feet (255 Nm) of torque. It was smaller, however, and featured a larger wheelbase, making it more agile than the Viper. The market for the Copperhead was mainly to compete with German made roadsters, like the BMW Z3 and Mercedes SLK, except not as pretty The whole thing looks out of place, like a real-life version of one of those generic, non-branded Hot Wheels cars (although the did make a Copperhead) To be fair, there have been uglier cars, but in its market, it was an atrocity compared to its seductive European counterparts.

The car looked just too 90s, it was just too bubbly. Despite the turn off from the design, the hype was high, and people were interested. A more agile and comfortable Viper for less than half the cost (projected MSRP in 1997 was $30,000 or $47,110 today) sounded great. Only, it didn’t take off, and as previously mentioned, it was not the looks. It simply was not the right time to release such a car.

While a small handful of them got auctioned off to private buyers and museum curators, the car never hit the mass market. Around this time, the SUV craze of the early 2000s was starting up, and corporate planners decided to go with that route, as it was seen as more profitable than manufacturing the light sports roadster, a trend that started to die as the 90s came to a close.

It is rumored that the Viper will make a comeback in 2021, and even that is unlikely, but it would be interesting to see the Copperhead roadster make a return, as the trend of the light sports roadster slowly rises from its grave


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