Imagine for a moment you've been invited to a shootout. Guns will be present and you have your choice of weapons. Now before you get all politically correct on us, there's no risk to life or limb, since this is going to be a paintball free-for-all. At the most, you might suffer a bruise or two, so the pansies are invited to stay home and play with their Barbies. Now comes the important part: You can pick a muzzle-loading antique and get your clock cleaned, or you can show up with a high-velocity weapon with an incredible rate of fire that can trim the whiskers off a cat at 200 yards. All you have to do to win the event is shoot straight and knock off all the bad guys before they get you. If you have to think about the answer to this, just stay home and change your name to Ken.
Now let's jump to Real Street Eliminator at the Car Craft Summer Nationals. You're Keith Anderson and you discover the Car Craft guys have dared you to show up at their shootout. All the moons and stars are perfectly aligned because you live barely 30 minutes south of Minneapolis, and you have lots of road race seat time in a Pro Touring big-block El Camino. But best of all, there's a road course-tested '08 Viper coupe sitting in your driveway just looking for a reason to turn a tire in anger. What would you do?
If you answer, "Light the Viper!" you win the prize, as did Keith. Blame him if you will for wheeling the Viper into the fray like a Mopar-badged Lone Ranger sliding into a town full of black hat Corvettes-but applaud him for taking them all on with a large-caliber weapon that didn't have to rely on a power booster crutch. Screw those superchargers-we've got a V-10.
There's something inherently evil about a Viper. It's got to be the tires. From the factory, it rolls on 275 and 345/30R18 rolling pins, and there's room for even larger rubber. In a misunderstanding that was all our fault, Keith rolled in on street Michelin Pilot Sport tires that are no slouches but nothing like the monstrously grippy Hoosiers he left sitting at home. To his credit, when it came time to settle the score, he outfought the other RSE quick-draw artists with a combination of consistent driving technique and heavy-handed horsepower. The stock SAE rating for an '08 Viper is 600 flywheel ponies, but clearly Keith's tuning clicked because the retasked electrons combined with the upgraded exhaust to lay down a solid 578 hp to the rear wheels. The next closest Late Model competitor was Richard Adams' Corvette with 514 hp.
On the autocross, Keith started out slowly but kept hacking away at the timers. The competition tag-teamed him with a different car, John Boos' C4 Corvette shod with DOT-legal sticky race rubber. John pulled off an impressive 10.879-second run on our abbreviated course, but Keith hung in there with a Second Place finish at 11.133. It came down to the Launch Box, where Keith again had to carefully apply power to torque-manage that big V-10's twist, but it worked in his favor, cutting a Late Model class-winning 4.86-second elapsed time while nemesis John finished a distant Sixth. It was a shame we didn't have a road course in our back pocket, because that's where the Viper would have really thumped. We had a chance to peek underneath the Viper while shooting the photos for our feature and were surprised to see a mini-bellypan along with a rear cutout designed to not only direct cool air to the differential but also direct air up into the rear diffuser area. Keith says the car is incredibly stable at high speeds, which may be in part due to the aftermarket shocks and springs he's added in search of elevated lateral g's.
Keith hasn't always owned a Viper. His first true car crafting effort was with a '70 El Camino that he began building when he was 18. Over a period of years, he transformed it into a Pro Touring car that spent several episodes duking it out on road courses in the upper Midwest, knocking down 148-plus-mph top speeds and more than 1 g in the turns. So it's not too surprising that a Viper would inflict its influence on Keith. It wasn't long after the El Camino found a new home that a '99 Viper appeared in his driveway. The rest of the story will have to wait for future adventures at places like Road America. But don't take our word for it. Try it for yourself-or ask Keith to show you his in-car video. That's real high-caliber fun.
Who: Keith Anderson
Where: Lonsdale, MN
What: '09 Dodge Viper
Engine: One reason for the long hood on a Viper is to fit that monster 510ci (8.4L) all-aluminum V-10 SRT engine. Start with an aluminum block with pressed iron sleeves and cross-bolted steel main caps with a 4.060-inch bore and a forged crank 3.96-inch stroke. Then multiply that cylinder volume by 10 rather than 8. Perhaps the engine's only weak point is the hypereutectic pistons, even with their 10.2:1 static compression ratio. Keith's engine is relatively stock mainly because with a 600 SAE factory horsepower rating, you don't need to make too much more power to be really dangerous. In addition to the horsepower, these motors are rated at 560 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm. What makes this engine interesting is the cam-in-cam variable-valve-timing feature. It allows the factory to move the exhaust valve independently of the intake by as much as 37 degrees. The factory does this mainly for emission and idle stability reasons, but moving the lobes can also increase overlap for better power. Because the Dodge engineers expected all Vipers to see serious track duty, the new engines also come with a trick swinging oil pump pickup assembly inside the factory cast-aluminum pan. The heads were also new in 2008 with a complete factory CNC porting that also includes the combustion chambers. Sitting on top is a twin electronic throttle body, two-piece intake manifold. One place Keith added a little spice was with a set of M&M Performance 1 3/4-inch headers mated to a custom 3-inch exhaust system connected to a set of DynoMax Ultra Flow mufflers downstream of the stock catalytic converters. Controlling everything is a Mopar Performance PCM.
Transmission: Assisting with the transfer of power is a Sachs twin 10-inch clutch assembly splined directly to a Tremec TR6060 manual six-speed gearbox. The transmission is the next generation improvement over the original T56 and features triple First gear synchros and doubles for the rest of the box. Another big improvement for this Viper box is 10 percent larger gears compared with the older T56.
Rearend: All Vipers run an independent rear suspension built around the Dana 44 centersection using a relatively conservative 8.5-inch ring gear utilizing a 3.07:1 stock rear axle ratio and a GKN Visco-Lok limited slip, which Keith has retained-so far.
Suspension: The '08 and '09 Vipers come with slick factory forged-aluminum upper and lower control arms in the front and rear along with redesigned springs, shocks, and antirollbar enhancements. But even that wasn't quite enough for Keith. Here is where he spent some time adding a set of Hypercoil 500 lb/in front and 700 lb/in-rated rear coilover springs. Next he added a set of Motor Club Sport shocks that also come with external fluid reservoirs that you can quickly spot when the clamshell hood is opened.
Brakes: You can't blast into a corner and expect to come out shiny side up without reliable brakes. The Viper engineers loaded up the latest Viper with a set of Brembo four-piston front calipers with 44/40mm diameter piston, dual-opposing calipers clamping on to a set of 14-inch Eurotech drilled and slotted full-floating rotors. The rears are the same Brembo/Eurotech combo but with slightly smaller rear pistons. Of course, the snake is also equipped with ABS, which makes standing on that brake pedal really easy without incurring the wrath of the lockup gods.
Tires/wheels: We wouldn't be surprised to learn that the first Viper drawing started with monster tires and wheels and built the car around the rolling stock. The factory rolls these cars on ludicrously large 275/35ZR18 front Michelin Pilot Sport Z tires up front mounted on 18x10-inch wheels, while in back, the rubber swells to 345/30ZR19 Pilot Sport Zs snapped over 19x13-inch wheels. Then there are the supersticky 305/30R18 Hoosier gummies mounted on 18x11-inch SSR wheels for the front, while on the back the Viper masquerades as a steamroller using a pair of barbaric 335/20R18 Hoosiers mounting equally immoral 18x13-inch wheels.
Clubs: Keith is a member of the Viper Club of America, the Viper Club of Minnesota, and a member in good standing of the Road Rats. That last club sounds like a lot of fun-we approve.