Back from the dead: The life, death and rebirth of the Dodge Viper

The Dodge Viper is unique among American cars in that despite only being on the market for two decades, it is still considered one of the all-time classic examples of domestic muscle. What's even weirder about the production run of the Viper is that it has only been sold intermittently over the course of its life, taking upwards of two years off between redesigns – a break that would've killed a less venerable nameplate.

In 2009, while Chrysler and pretty much the rest of Detroit was undergoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the auto world prepared to say goodbye to one of the final masterpieces designed by visionary craftsman Carroll Shelby. The Dodge brand was forced to trim the fat as part of their deal for a bailout from the federal government and the Viper was among the first things to go.

It's hard to imagine how the bosses at Chrysler could mistake this lean, mean, driving machine as fat-in-need-of-trimming, but production ceased nontheless and auto magazines the world over prepared obituaries for the supercar.

However, the top-brass at Fiat recognized what an American icon the Viper name was and wasted no time looking to bring the model back to the assembly line. This time, however, instead of relying on a design template that has remained largely unchanged since the original Viper hit the streets back in 1992, a collaboration between Detroit and Italy has produced an all-new supercar.

The 2013 Viper is equal parts American muscle and Italian swagger, as it features style cues from a design collaboration with Ferrari incorporated into a quintessentially "hot-rod" stance and layout.

Ralph Gilles, VP of design at Chrysler and CEO of the Dodge division, told the press recently that the new Viper was designed to look like "a naked woman on the beach." Whether or not that was the end product, with 700 horses under the hood and an ultra-lightweight body, this car will certainly be as fast as one.

Are you excited to see a new Viper, or do you think that Fiat should let the Viper name rest in peace? Leave your comments below: