Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced that the Detroit factory where Dodge Vipers were assembled will be converted into a museum and meeting space.
According to Auto Week, The Conner Avenue plant built Vipers for the majority of their long run as one of American auto history’s most recognizable sports cars. The currently defunct space will reopen to the public as a nearly 100,000 square foot showroom featuring 85 historical and concept cars that highlight seminal moments in the Chrysler brand’s long tenure.
The Connor plant opened in 1966, making Champion spark plugs, and began building Vipers in 1995. During the 2000s, the factory churned out Vipers as well as Plymouth Prowlers, though both models saw a steady decline in popularity and sales over the years. After an initial shutdown in 2010, the plant resumed operations for the latest generation of Vipers in December of 2012. Throughout their tenure, employees of the Conner plant assembled the legendary cars almost entirely by hand, right up until the final Viper pulled off the line, marking the end for both car and factory in August of 2017.
The Dodge Viper enthralled automotive enthusiasts from the moment its visceral silhouette debuted as a pace car for the 1991 Indy 500. Even more impressive than its aggressive styling was the powertrain underneath, highlighted by an enormous 8.0-liter V10 cast out of aluminum alloy with help from Lamborghini (which was at the time owned by Chrysler). The first generation Viper V10 churned out 400 horsepower, and over the years that number increased to well over 600 as the displacement slowly increased to 8.4 liters. The powerful engine remained a staple throughout the Viper’s many iterations, although it can also be considered a major contributor to the Viper's demise thanks to its meager fuel economy.
No date has been set for the plant’s reopening, but in the meantime, fans of Dodge’s epic sports car can get their fix by bidding on thousands of pieces of Viper memorabilia left over from the two decades of production, from models to posters and even many of the Viper’s signature long hoods which have been signed by factory workers. All proceeds from the auction benefit the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. The auction is currently live and closes April 13, 2018.
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