Pontiac - Celebrating its 25th – and last birthday – the Dodge Viper got a police escort up Woodward Avenue Saturday to kick off the 2017 Dream Cruise.
The last Vipers are rolling off the line as Dodge discontinues production of its legendary supercar this fall. Some 200 Vipers – including yours truly in a 2017 Viper GTC/ACR - showed up for the party at Dodge’s Connor Avenue plant in Detroit. Then they were led by Detroit Police Chief Craig – a serious motorhead – in a black and white Viper police car (a “Dodge Law” sign on each door) all the way to Pontiac for the second annual Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge at M1 Concourse car club in Pontiac.
“I love the black and white Viper,” said the chief. “I used to work for the Los Angeles Police Department and they got a black and white Lamborghini. But I’ll be driving real Detroit muscle.”
Craig led the parade across 8 Mile and up Woodward Avenue with a full police escort – bringing traffic to a standstill and wowing gawkers along the route. I revved the Viper’s ground-shaking, 645-horse, 8.4-liter V-10 engine for go effect at appreciative passersby.
The Viper sports a top speed of 177 mph, but we never got out of first gear – 30 mph - on the long trek up Woodard. Fittingly, the parade’s terminus was M1 Concourse and its Champion Motor Spedeway race track. The Viper ACR is M1’s school car and owns the track’s lap record.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Tome Joranowski, 34, a Dodge designer who drove his 2017 Viper in the parade, about the Viper’s last year of production.
“This is the car that got me into the industry. It was the first scale model I built, and it was the first car I drew when I was eight years older.”
Joranowski is a testament to the Viper’s world-wide appeal. He came to the US from Macedonia to attend the College for Creative Studies as a young man. His goal: to work on the Viper. His GTC badged Viper is a custom model painted in Grigio Silverstone.
The Roadkill Nights drag races kicked off Saturday morning at 11 AM, but ran into a glitch when one competitor ran off the end of the 1/8 mile Woodward dragstrip and crashed into the end barrier.
No one was hurt but the incident – the first in the two-year running of Roadkill – set back the schedule of the drag races. About 150 cars are signed up for the drag runs, each receiving three runs. After their three qualifying runs, the fastest eight cars will compete for top time this evening.
The evening will also feature celebrity drag racing – including NHRA Top Fuel female star Leah Pritchett – at 6.15 PM in Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats. They are also expected to drag race the 840-horsepower SRT Demon for the first time also.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Reach him at hpayne@detroitnews,com or HenryEPayne on Twitter.