Redesigned, re-engineered Viper introduced by Chrysler

Due to hit the market by the end of the year, the new Viper makes significant use of carbon fiber and glass fiber composites in some body panels and underhood structures.

Automaker Chrysler Group LLC introduced on April 6 the newly redesigned and re-engineered Viper high-performance sports car. The car, due to hit the market in late 2012, will be offered in two models: GTS, with more appointments and features (leather-wrapped interior, power seats, etc.); and the SRT Viper, which is a base model with fewer features.

Mike Shinedling, Viper program manager, SRT engineering, reports that the hood, roof and liftgate are molded of carbon fiber prepreg, manufactured by Plasan Carbon Composites (Bennington, Vt., USA). The windshield surround is a glass/carbon fiber sheet molding compound (SMC). An optional exterior package includes exposed carbon fiber weave at the front brake ducts, roof duct, rear appliqué and diffuser.

Shinedling adds that carbon fiber was a key enabler as it allowed Chrysler to achieve a 32 percent weight reduction on the exterior. He admits, however, that not all exterior panels are composite (doors are aluminum); these decisions, he says, were driven by economics balanced against part volume and weight savings. In particular, he says, Chrysler wanted to use carbon fiber up high in an effort to lower the center of gravity.

The rear quarter panels are produced via reinforced reaction injection molding (RRIM) using polyurethane. Molding was done by Romeo RIM (Romeo, Mich., USA), Shinedling says.

He also reports that SMC is used in non-Class A splash shields, three-sided underhood wall structures that hold up front fascia and a number of underhood chassis components. These structures, visible around the tires when the hood is open, were molded by Premix (North Kingsville, Ohio, USA). Premix also molds the windshield and door surrounds in SMC. Trunk pan on the car is SMC, supplied by Magna (Aurora, Ontario, Canada).

Some of the molds for the carbon fiber parts on the Viper were manufactured by Weber Manufacturing Technologies Inc. (Midland, Ontario, Canada).

Look for more details on the Viper in High-Performance Composites magazine.