The Dodge Viper has been one of the great creations of the American automotive industry, straddling the fence between a bona fide muscle car and a genuine supercar contender. The main aspect that sets this car apart from its Challenger and Mustang counterparts is the extra two cylinders under the bonnet.
V10s are extremely rare when compared to other power units in the industry and the Viper's unit is the largest capacity of them all - starting at 8.0-litres at the beginning of its life, it ventured up to 8.4-litres, out-flexing numerous V12s in the process. And although Americans may class the Viper V10 as one of their own, the engine actually has allegiances elsewhere.
During the Viper's development, Chrysler owned Lamborghini. After a decision was made to use the Chrysler LA V8 as a starting point, two cylinders were added to the unit that was generally used to power trucks of the '80s. That boosted displacement up to 8.0-litres but to get the maximum performance out of the engine, Lambo was given the project to ensure the Viper hauled some serious ass.
Lamborghini set about reconstructing the engine block, recasting the entire block in aluminium instead of the cast iron Chrysler unit. This will have severely lightened the engine, making it a much more applicable powertrain to a sports car from the previous bulletproof truck design. The end product was a 323kg mass for the Viper V10 making it around 50kg lighter than the cast iron truck version of the ten-cylinder.
Prototype engines were then cast by Lamborghini, with this process being the pouring of molten aluminium into a pre-set cast to form the different sections of the engine. The engine's inlet system was through a cast aluminum manifold and the pistons were also forged aluminium set within cast iron liners. The cylinder head (which - you guessed it - is made of aluminium) had a more conventional setup of two valves per cylinder but these are supplemented by dual valve springs to produce the high-revving nature of the V10. A number of the Viper V10's trinkets were thought to also be derived from Formula 1, like the closed tappet gallery which allowed for much better intake manifold seating. Cooling was also advanced through coolant routing that moved outside the block, through the inside of the cylinder head and coursed around each combustion chamber to maximise heat dissipation from the hulking engine.
This entire development process set the Viper V10 up to be a 400bhp+ monster that was very successful when placed in endurance racers, with the Dodge Viper GTS-R taking multiple wins in the '90s through its partaking in the American Le Mans Series and the FIA GT Championship.
You will now find the Viper V10 enlarged to a mighty 8.4-litres and tuned to 645bhp and 600lb ft of torque in the latest Viper and of course the all-conquering Viper ACR. And although Dodge should be applauded for continuing the development and manufacture of this performance icon, we should all stop for a second and recognise Lamborghini's efforts in the project, giving the Viper the engine it needed to demolish the muscle car elite.
What is your favourite powertrain still being produced? Do you have an American engine that sticks in your mind as the greatest? Comment with your thoughts below!