Chrysler Explored A Mid-Engine Dodge Viper In The 1990’s

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!

  • eb110americana

    I feel you would be remiss to leave out the 2004 Chrysler ME Four-Twelve concept:

    • Mr. EP9

      Probably the best thing Chrysler ever made than never made it into production.

      • Astonman

        Amen to that brother! Someone could build that today and it would still look relevant.

    • kachuks

      Is it true, Ludacris owns one of these?

      • Mike anonymous

        I don’t think so. From what I know, there are only 2 in the world. One of them I believe is owned by Chrysler (or some Chrysler museum) and the other is somewhere else. I don’t think he owns it today (maybe he did at some point), but I personally doubt it.

    • Mike anonymous

      People give Chrysler a LOT of hate, But they were on their own for a few years and during those few years they had plans to do amazing things, release a vehicle that would compete with the likes of Aston Martin, Move up-market to compete with Mercedes, etc… But before Chrysler could get to any of that, along came FCA.

      But what many people don’t know is that prior to this Chrysler was trying desperately hard to build vehicles such as the ME-412 and the FirePower (both of which were ready for production and more luxurious than anything Mercedes and Aston were building at the time.

      Chrysler developed these vehicles (relatively) without Mercedes Benz (who owned them at the time) knowing. When Mercedes Benz found out that the “ME-412” Would not only beat the likes of the (newly released) Bugatti Veyron and their SLR McLaren, they forced Chrysler to shut it down. They never allowed Chrysler to grow and flourish because “they didn’t want Chrysler competing with Mercedes”,.. essentially forcing Chrysler to make (no offense, but) crap. It’s a little known fact but M.B. after seeing what Chrysler had planned for their future line-up (Supercars, (real luxury, not the 200/300, but higher) Sedans, and luxury sports vehicles),. Mercedes-benz got scared and said basically “if you compete with up, we shut you down for good”. (Almost) Hilariously, Mercedes has tried to remove almost all evidence of this from the web and their own historic records.

      So they way Chrysler has been for the last few decades has little to do with Chrysler itself. Under the umbrella of under-appreciation with FCA and the manipulative Iron-clad grip of Mercedes, Chrysler was never allowed to do what it REALLY wanted to do (which was to become a TRUE/REAL luxury brand once again), nor have they been given the funds/resources/attention to flourish and do so today.

      • Stephen G

        Nicely put. I too believe this to be true. What Daimler did to Chrysler is despicable and dumping them off to Ceberus is unforgivable. I’m not crazy about the FCA thing but I’m happy that Chrysler still exists.

        • HaltestelleLuitpolthafen

          You mean Mercedes giving them the platform for the LX based cars, which are still being sold to this day. Or was it the platform sharing for the ML/GLE which resulted in the insanely popular and profitable WK2 Grand Cherokee.

          • Stephen G

            On the contrary. The wildly popular and awarded WK2 was developed by Chrysler. The LX was “derived” from the W211 and reworked (extensively I’m guessing). Both very successful today. The W211 was so good that MB started work on its replacement the day it was launched and finally abandoned using it in 2009. Motor Tend wrote “but the introduction of the W212 series took the E-Class’s original reputation for solid build quality and refined elegance and established it once again”.

          • HaltestelleLuitpolthafen

            “The Grand Cherokee (with the 2011 Durango) WK2 platform uses a derivative based on Mercedes-Benz’s W166 series.”

            The W166 is the ML/GLE. Derived meaning the source is from Mercedes. Do you remember how terrible the WK Grand Cherokee was? Or the second gen Durango? They were awful, terrible vehicles. Marchionne even said the Commander (WK based) was “not fit for human consumption”.

            Again, Mercedes gave Chrysler the base (along with many other components) for some of the best models that they EVER produced.

          • Stephen G

            WRONG. The only thing MB about the WK Jeep was the 2007 V6 CRD. It went into development at the same time Daimler took Chrysler over, there wasn’t chassis sharing until the LX. Wiki says “The WK2 and 2011 Durango use a Chrysler designed and engineered platform/chassis that MB later used for the MB W166 series”. I owned a WK GC and it was a perfectly fine vehicle. And stop making up fake Wiki quotes.

  • pcurve

    I mean, with hood that long, it practically is mid engine…

  • Merc1

    How stupid. You can’t even build a decent family sedan and you were wasting time on mid-engined sports car. Chrysler = failure.


    • Ben

      What is a “decent” family sedan in your opinion? To be frank, the Charger is the only American made sedan keeping true to the formula that many enthusiast appreciate, naturally aspirated V8 engine and rear wheel drive. FCA has obvious quality issues, but I don’t think anyone can say they’re making boring cars or tone-deaf designs in regards to the consumer’s wants. Also, you need to build a halo vehicle to trickle down design elements. Seeing as Dodge/Chrysler isn’t a luxury brand, making a performance halo, such as Hellcat, would seem beneficial.

      • HaltestelleLuitpolthafen

        Uhhh, Ben, the Charger is made in Ontario, Canada. It isn’t “American” made at all.

        Also, Chrysler is a joke. They offer two models, one of which is ancient and uncompetitive, and the other is unreliable FCA garbage.

        • Ben

          You know exactly what I mean by American made. Very few vehicles are 100% built and manufactured in their own country of origin. The ones that are aren’t affordable for the everyday consumer.

          Dodge is doing quite well in terms of consumer interest. Chrysler isn’t doing so hot, but if you’ve had your driver’s license for some time, I’m sure you can also remember when other automakers were having issues too. Nothing is certain in the automotive landscape. Chrysler at this point is essentially idling and waiting for the prime time to either sell or rebrand, no shame in that.

  • LouInPA

    His turbine car is a Cadillac.

  • Subi-Rubicon1

    All those could haves, would haves, and should haves…Chrysler is full of missed opportunities. Shame.

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