Very few people will know this – except perhaps the die hard Ford fans – but let me ask you this question ..
What does the Ford GT350 and GT500, Shelby Cobra and SuperSnake, have in common with the Dodge Viper ?
If you know, then you already know, but if you don’t, then you’d be shocked to find out that the common denominator is in fact, Mr Caroll Shelby !!
That’s right. for a short while in the early ’80’s, King Cobra himself, Caroll Shelby had a break from Ford Motor Co and did a short stint with Dodge where he was engaged as a Performance Consultant.
It was a little later, that Robert A Lutz, President of Chrysler, and Tom Gale, Chief of Design, were coveting Shelby’s classic Cobra of the ’60’s and in particular the formula of a big brute motor in a sleek body sports car.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday”, recalled Tom Gale about the conversation with Bob Lutz.
“He said,’I’ve been thinking more and more. We really ought to kick off doing a project like a reborn Cobra.’ “
What Bob Lutz had in mind was a sports car with a modern engine management system, but one that still allowed the brute force to communicate directly with the road and the driver – like the Shelby Cobra.
At the same time, Chrysler had been working on a new V-10 engine for it’s truck series. When the conversation came up again about creating a Shelby Cobra like car themselves, it occurred to Lutz that the engine used in their truck series would be the ideal candidate!
“It occurred to me,” Lutz explained, “that Chrysler had all the bits and pieces in the parts bin. Whether it’s the truck bin or the car bin, who cares? But we had all the pieces in the bin to do a show car that would pick up on the theme of the Shelby Cobra.”
Talking about using the brash Cobra as a benchmark meant that Caroll Shelby would have to be involved and would in fact be an irreplaceable influence!
Shelby had recalled Lutz’s proposal:
“‘Why don’t we build a sports car, something like the old 427 Cobra, only let’s build a 1990’s version of it — and what did I think of the idea?’ We sat down about 30 minutes and conceptualized the car. He wanted to do what I’d been trying to get done around the company for nine years. In 30 minutes we had the concept . . . And we ended up with the Viper, where it might have been years before we would have gotten management to agree to build what I was building.”
Now jump to over 50 years later, and the 2020 version of the production car lies in concept waiting to be produced. Along side, is the 2022 racer version concept that will no doubt tackle Le Mans, GT4 and other high performance classes around America and Europe.
We’ll keep a Snake Eye on that, but feast your eyes on this ….