Chevrolet is preparing to unveil their first mid-engine Corvette next year but, in an alternative universe, Chrysler would have beaten them by nearly two decades.
According to Hagerty, Chrysler explored creating a mid-engine Dodge Viper in the mid 1990’s. As the company was working on the third-generation Viper, a team of engineers pushed for a mid-engine design which would have been a radical departure from its predecessors.
Things reportedly kicked off in 1996 when engineers began conducting a number of packing and feasibility studies. This eventually led to the creation of two wooden bucks which each explored different powertrain layouts. The bucks were reportedly created to see how many existing Viper components could be used in the all-new model as team wanted to keep costs down. As part of this effort, both were envisioned to use same front suspension and steering system as the second-generation Viper.
While some components carried over, the prototypes had a longer wheelbase than the second-generation Viper and a lower hood. Unfortunately, executives weren’t thrilled with the results. As Chrysler’s former general manager of small car platforms, Chris Theodore, explained, “[Bob] Lutz was not as interested as the team had hoped” and Chrysler design boss Tom Gale was “lukewarm to the car as well.”
The project stalled for a bit, but eventually led to the creation of a mid-engine GT concept. At least three scale models were created, but the project was eventually shelved following the ill-fated “merger of equals” with Daimler-Benz.
While that would normally be the end of the story, Theodore left Chrysler and joined Ford. He was still hooked on the idea of a mid-engine supercar and eventually pitched Ford executives the idea of a modern GT40. They loved the idea and this eventually led to the creation of the 2005 Ford GT.
Thanks to Lou for the tip!