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The Viper was initially conceived in late 1988 at Chrysler's Advanced Design Studios. The following February, Chrysler president Bob Lutz suggested to Tom Gale at Chrysler Design that the company should consider producing a modern Cobra, and a clay model was presented to Lutz a few months later. Produced in sheet metal by Metalcrafters, the car appeared as a concept at the North American International Auto Show in 1989. Public reaction was so enthusiastic that chief engineer Roy Sjoberg was directed to develop it as a standard production vehicle.
The first prototype was tested in January 1989. It debuted in 1991 with two pre-production models as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 when Dodge was forced to substitute it in place of the Japanese-built Stealth because of complaints from the United Auto Workers, and went on sale in January 1992 as the RT/10 Roadster.
The centerpiece of the car was its engine. It was based on the Chrysler LA design, which was mostly used as a truck engine at the time. The original configuration made it too heavy for sports car use, so Lamborghini, then owned by Chrysler Corporation, revamped Dodge's cast-iron block V10 for the Viper by recasting the block and heads in aluminum alloy. Some within Chrysler felt the pushrod two-valve design, while adequate for the truck application, was unsuitable for a performance car and suggested a more comprehensive redesign which would have included four valves per cylinder. Chrysler, however, was uncertain about the Viper's production costs and sales potential and so declined to provide the budget for the modification.
Source: Wikipedia (original)