They’re closing Conner Avenue. I’m a Viper fan, not a Viper owner, but the news still came like a punch in the stomach, like the realization that your life is nothing but an attempt to balance on a massive Jenga tower and somebody just pulled a load-bearing block out from under you. I though of Margot Timmins singing, “That old brick building / Still stands like a cenotaph / To a vision lost and buried in / A very distant past.”
At least they went out on top. The final Viper ACR was the best, most ruthlessly effective track car ever built by any major corporation anywhere, a sledgehammer with the edges planed and sharpened to microscopic levels of precision. If you had $140,000 in your pocket and you bought any sports car but a Viper last year, you should hold your manhood about as cheap as the fellows who stayed home when Prince Hal went to France before St. Crispin’s Day. Now the car is gone and we shall never know its like again.
The factory was nearly as fascinating as the car.
The factory was nearly as fascinating as the car. It was a small-batch bespoke production facility hiding inside a Big Three automaker. It made the Viper and the Prowler and nothing else. Even the engine was made on-site. Everything that we claim to cherish about “artisanal” production was present and accounted for in the Viper’s birthplace.
You have to fault Chrysler for not making a bigger deal of Conner Avenue in their marketing. I truly believe that they thought the Viper’s performance story spoke for itself–and it did. But some people want to know the story from beginning to end. Like it or not, the fact that the big snake was made in a specialized facility makes it more valuable than if it had come off the line between a Durango and a Grand Cherokee. It’s the same story that sells Shinola products at a tremendous markup. People are willing to pay more for “Made In Detroit” than they are willing to pay for “Made In America” or,…