1997 Dodge Copperhead: The Viper Competitor that Got Stung

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1997 Dodge Copperhead Passenger Side Front

Expected to launch in 2000, the Copperhead faced random roadblocks, including turmoil with a Texas rockstar, that led to a change of plans.

The 1997 Dodge Copperhead has become one of the forgotten Chrysler Group concepts from the 1990s. Possibly due to legal issues with the name, it never went beyond this concept, but the sleek roadster displayed what else the company could do with the Viper chassis. This car was introduced at the 1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as an affordable option to the Viper, focusing more on handling than raw power. The company had originally planned to launch the Copperhead into production for 2000, but those plans fell through and the stunning one-off concept car disappeared into the company’s collection of unique vehicles.

Fortunately, a few years back, FCA pulled the 1997 Dodge Copperhead out of storage and displayed a few at the Dodge Brothers’ Meadowbrook Estate, where we were there to get some great shots of one of the coolest cars that the Chrysler Group never built. Welcome to the second installment of Dodge Forum’s “Concept Spotlight” series.

1997 Dodge Copperhead Front

Building the Copperhead

The 1997 Dodge Copperhead was built on the chassis of the Viper, there were extensive modifications made to differentiate between the two. The Copperhead is a bit shorter overall, but the wheelbase was stretched a foot to improve stability and handling capabilities. Of course, the body is completely different from the Viper, with the only exception being the rounded rear end, although it is hardly Viper-esque. The Copperhead also has some Viper-like taillights, as Dodge did want some relation between the two while making it clear that they were not the same cars.

1997 Dodge Copperhead Rear

Like the Viper, the Copperhead was a two-seater, but the concept car had uniquely-formed seats and a gauge panel mounted in the middle of the dash, which was nothing like the Viper.

1997 Dodge Copperhead: The Viper Competitor that Got Stung continued…

A lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years, Patrick Rall is highly experienced in the automotive world. He has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now auto journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

“Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500,” says Rall. “He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car: a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16. Meanwhile, I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

“Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group,” adds Rall. “While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

“Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never ‘work’ a day in your life. I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

“My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

“Being based on Detroit, I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.”

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