One of the greatest all-American sportscar rivalries of the 21st century raged between the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper. Both were corn-fed, driver’s cars vying for America’s automotive heart — and each had that the racing success to back up their claims of superiority.
In competitive venues across the globe, both the Corvette and Viper garnered fans with cult-like devotion. The two cars duked it out on road and track, trading blows for several model years before things escalated in the early 2,000s.
It was 2008 when the Corvette/ Viper war went nuclear. That radioactive spike was a result of Dodge releasing the ACR trim (American Club Racer) Viper into the world. With a Hardcore package deleting AC, radio, sound-deadening material and about every other creature comfort possible, the Viper was arguably the most hardcore street-legal car produced on our shores.
Its massive rear wing, front splitter, and dive plains delivered over 1000 pounds of downforce at 150 mph. When coupled with the V10’s 600-horsepower output and practically slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, the car set a production car record around Nurburgring’s Norschelfe (German for North course) of 7:12.13-seconds.
What was Chevrolet’s response to the radioactive fallout? The Corvette ZR1. At the time, it was the fastest, most powerful Corvette ever to assault public roads. Its 638-horsepower LS9 engine could propel it to 60-mph 3.3-seconds and up to a top speed of 205-mph. The car also had an advanced adaptive shock system that allowed it to pull a racecar-like 1.15Gs of lateral grip.
When put to the test around the Nurburgring, it managed an exceptionally impressive 7.19.63-second lap. While a blisteringly fast time for any street-legal car, it was a decisive round win for team Viper in terms of ultimate performance.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the birth of the C7 Z06 Corvette, a machine that leaves the last-gen ZR1 in the dust. With a new, direct injected engine platform that sings to the tune of 650-horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, the power bar has once again been raised. To harness that out-of-this-world thrust, a completely redesigned chassis and suspension capable of a neck-snapping 1.2Gs of grip resides under the car.
The Z06 (equipped with the Z07 package) can sprint to 60-mph in a stupid-quick 2.95 seconds. Those numbers were reserved for uber-exotic supercars only a few years ago. We could ramble on about how insane the C7 Z06 is for a while, but the news of impending danger requires urgency. Such a threat comes in the way of a new Viper ACR.
If the previous Corvette/Viper feud was WWII, strap in for WW3.
Chrysler put out a Viper ACR concept at the SEMA show late last year. And, within the last few weeks, news of a production car has begun to trickle out amongst the automotive press. Specs are still ambiguous, but this much we know.
If previous ACR examples have taught us anything, it’s that Chrysler engineers are more likely to focus on aerodynamic improvements, weight reduction and adjustability rather than upping the car’s already-ample unmentionables.
Previously published interviews with Viper engineers have led us to believe that the V10 architecture’s output is nearly tapped (due to emissions regulations). We’ll keep our thoughts on that subject politely to ourselves.
The ACR concept displayed at the SEMA show had two-piece carbon ceramic brakes and a traditionally massive aero package. Also, we expect all unnecessary entertainment electronics to be plucked from the interior along with carpet, insulation and anything not bolted down.
The Z06 package has always been a track-oriented option/model in Corvette lore. And, the latest car is pushing that initative to its extreme. While it isn’t the stripped-down, war-time machine that the ACR is destined to be, the Z06 is poised and ready to put up a helluva fight.
In their last matchup, the Viper ACR was inarguably the rawer, more performance-oriented car. It was stiffer, lighter and infinitely more adjustable than its ZR1 competitor, and thus, far more at home on a racetrack. The ZR1, in our opinion had more of a sport-touring quality to it. The polar-opposite Viper had the civility-be-damned nature of a bare-knuckle boxer, and that demeanor never wavered in any of its generations. We expect nothing less of the ACR to come. The C7 Z06 however, was developed directly alongside its C7.R racecar brethren, making it the most track focused Corvette Chevrolet to date.
Will there be a clear-cut winner? Of course. Lap times paint a very black and white picture. But, for this upcoming race, we expect the Z06/ACR battle royale to have a much tighter margin of victory than ever before— though we’d be hard pressed to wager our limited funds on either side.