17th Aug2010

1,487 Miles in a Dodge Viper Part 1

by Trent

In preparation for Part 2 of this story, we are re-posting part 1 here to refresh your memory about this epic journey. Look for part 2 this Thursday!

I thought we might be on to something, I thought I was going to prove to everyone that cars were meant to be driven and driven hard. Nothing tests a car’s endurance like taking it 1500 miles through the desert where’s it’s 105-degrees during the day and drops to the 30’s in the canyons at night. No sweat, no worries. I’ve got a semi-functional heater and no Air Conditioning. No A/C? Yes, but there’s also no top and no windows to keep us cool. It was a plan half baked in awesomeness, then the first of many ‘check engine’ lights came on.Dodge Viper Road Trip

It was a warm 90-degree afternoon when we left Salt Lake City. We departed during prime rush hour traffic and construction on the roads only compounded the traffic. Not to mention the couple of accidents we passed. It was a rocky start, but when you’re rocking a Viper V10 under your right foot and a 6-speed in your right hand, all is well in the world. The music was keeping things pretty chill until we hit the open road. Above 60-mph, the music is fighting the wind noise. Road noise also grabs your attention and refuses to let go. So, the music got shut off, no big deal, all I have to do is step on the gas and hear the motor roar. We made a pit stop in Fillmore, UT to grab some food and top off our fuel. Despite stop and go traffic, I was happy to see I returned 20.98 mpg. It wouldn’t be the only surprise fuel fill up of the night.Viper V10 Engine

With a full tank of gas and full stomachs, we were all too happy to get going on the road again. It remained uneventful until St. George, UT when stopping to stretch our legs, I checked the oil and the level had dropped, but we we’re still in the safe range. I commented to Mike that we should get some oil in Vegas to be safe. We didn’t make it to Vegas.

Shortly after leaving St. George, we got into the great twisty roads in Arizona and the Virgin River Gorge where cell phones go to die. Bam! Big red light in front of me, ‘Check Engine’. Once we creeped our way into cell phone coverage again, we pulled off the road to inspect. It was dark and there’s no underhood light so I looked for pistons coming through the block as best as I could. After the block appeared in tact and letting the motor sit a few minutes, we fired the V10 back up and the light was gone. “We’ll inspect in Vegas”, we said. Again, we didn’t make it to Vegas.Viper Interior

The next town down the road was Mesquite, NV. The light came back on, and we pulled over. Thinking it was the oil, I checked the dipstick and sure enough, it read low. I bought a quart, checked again, it was safe, but not where we wanted it to be, so I added another half-quart. Onward to Vegas we went! The car was doing well, we were sure the issue was solved. When we got close to Vegas, the light came back on and we slowly pushed to the first Vegas gas station. We were shocked! Even though we had only used a half tank of gas, I decided to top off. Imagine my surprise when I calculated our mileage to see we had reached…35mpg! I checked, re-checked, and even tried to add a little more fuel. The gauge read full and the tank wouldn’t take any more. We’d achieved the impossible! This 16 year old 10-cylinder beast managed to shame my 4-cylinder daily driver in fuel economy…amongst other things. In my elation, I didn’t bother checking for problems, just checked the oil and looked for a hotel.Dodge stuck in traffic

I was getting delusional and sleep sounded glorious. I called my old standby hotel that offers cheap rates and valet parking so this open top Viper doesn’t have it’s seats jacked or the DVD player ripped off. They were sold out and the next cheapest hotel that offered valet and a watchful eye on the car was $109/night. Hardly worth it considering we were only planning to sleep a few hours, then hit the road again. After debating about sleeping in the car and realizing how horrible that would be, we pushed on. Having the car sit for awhile must have helped, as we didn’t hit trouble again until Baker, CA. Here, I was quite tired and the car was just plain annoying. We sat with the hood open for a good 45 minutes and I attempted to nap. Diesel trucks thwarted that attempt, so I loaded up on the energy drinks and hit the highway. I slowly drank my drink as to prolong it’s affects and since I was constantly inputting small amounts, I was going to experience the crash of energy drinks. At this point it was 2:45am, it all made sense in my head.

The weather was nice and cool now and it prolonged our attempt all the way to somewhere. I can’t remember exactly, it was off the 91 freeway. It was a short stop as we were looking for heat. The weather went cold quickly and Mike’s well thought out shorts and undershirt worked well for the 90-degree weather, but was a “let’s invade Russia” level of bad idea for 50-degree weather with heat that only works on your feet. Jumping back on the road, we stopped in Norco, CA and developed a new problem, an interior light that would not shut off. In retrospect, it was bugging me enough to keep me awake. Fortunately the light situation was remedied with some careful finagling by Mike. Soon, the sun started to rise and we made it on to the I-5, our last freeway change. The final stretch was tiring and cold, but the end goal was in sight. Finally, our exit arrived, we jumped off, and fortunately had a garage to park in that night/morning. Being the Viper is both wide and fairly long, we had to kick the other car out of the two car garage to fit the Viper. This is a Southern California garage after all, and space is at a premium. Minutes after getting in, I set my alarm for an unrealistic time and crashed. Some 5 hours, several text messages, and a couple calls that I missed PAST my alarm time, I was woken up by Mike. We had managed to survive the first leg of the trip.

Viper at the beach

Words by Trent Bray, Photos by Michael Chandler and Trent Bray.

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners. Images and words may not be re-posted, re-distributed, modified, or copied without expressed written consent from CAMAutoMag.Com.

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