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January 25, 2005

2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe

Return of the tintop serpent.

Sun-in-face and wind-in-hair have been celebrated as essential sports-car joys ever since we discarded the horse, but these joys do have limits. When wind-in-hair is occurring at velocities north of 100 mph, it gets to be more like hair-in-wind, as the strands attempt to separate themselves from the follicles. Our experiences with this phenomenon include a 1990 session in a Viper prototype with none other than Robert Lutz at the helm, hurtling down Arizona back roads at a buck-fifty while his passenger's hair stood resolutely vertical.

Chrysler was still an independent business entity at the time, Lutz was its president, and the Viper was his baby. In the afterglow of this ride, while Lutz was discussing the joys of barely sublight speeds with a member of the Arizona protect-and-serve, we reflected on the distinction between closed and open cars and concluded, again, that having a solid roof and side windows (the original Viper possessed neither) is a Good Thing, in the sense of hair retention (assuming you have hair), general comfort, and going fast. Okay, make that going faster. No one would characterize a Viper roadster as slow, but thanks to cleaner aero, coupes are almost invariably faster than roadsters of equal power, even when the roadster is operating with its top up.


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