After showing off his 1993 Dodge Viper roadster, Jay Leno put that car’s successor in front of the cameras for a recent episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. This 1996 Dodge Viper GTS coupe was the next evolution of the breed, and, like the 1993 Viper, Leno has owned it since new.
Leno said he was talked into buying the GTS just three years after taking delivery of his roadster by then-Chrysler product-development boss Bob Lutz. Lutz, who also held prominent positions at BMW, Ford, and General Motors during his long career, made the same pitch to Leno that Dodge was making to the larger car-buying public. He promised more power in a (slightly) more civilized package.
Unveiled as a concept car at the 1989 Detroit auto show, the original Viper shocked the automotive world with its back-to-basics approach to performance. That also made the car hard to live with, though. The first-generation Viper had a flimsy canvas panel for a roof, vinyl side windows, and no outside door handles. Among other things, that means you can’t leave it unattended in a parking lot, Leno noted.
The 1996 Viper may look similar to the original, but it’s considered to be the second generation of the model. Dodge launched the GTS coupe that year alongside an updated roadster. Since the roadster was conceived as a modern version of the Shelby Cobra, the GTS was essentially a reincarnation of the Cobra Daytona Coupe.
With a fixed roof, side glass, and air conditioning, the GTS coupe was more practical and easier to live with than the roadster. But it was also more powerful: the 8.0-liter V-10 was tuned to produce 450 horsepower, 50 hp more than the original roadster. The V-10 was derived from a Dodge truck engine, but with a block and heads recast in aluminum by Lamborghini, which Chrysler owned at the time.
As usual, Jay takes the car for a drive later in the video, which lets us hear the rumble of the V-10. He says the pull from the engine is strong and he likes the view over the striped hood.
Viper production ended with the 2017 model year, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is merging with France’s PSA Group to become Stellantis, is unlikely to bring it back, though Jay thinks the name is too valuable to leave it lie. Check out the video for more on Jay’s beautiful 1996 Viper GTS coupe.