Fate of Dodge Viper at SPSCC prompts national outcry

OlympianMarch 12, 2014 

Student Mike Murphy of Yelm washes the one-of-a-kind, $250,000 Dodge Viper SRT in the automotive shop at South Puget Sound Community College in Tumwater on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Chrysler ordered the entire collection of educational Vipers - believed to be about 93 cars worth tens of millions of dollars - to be crushed.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff Photographer Buy Photo

The destruction of a rare 1992 Dodge Viper GTS at South Puget Sound Community College has touched a nerve among car enthusiasts nationwide.

The Olympian recently reported about the heartbroken automotive students who took care of the $250,000 sports car. Automotive technology professor Norm Chapman had received a notice from Chrysler that the company planned to destroy its fleet of educational Vipers. The college’s Viper was among dozens donated to schools across the country.

The news sparked a Twitter campaign called #SaveTheVipers where fans have expressed outrage or suggested alternatives to crushing the cars. SPSCC students launched the online petition “Operation Save the Vipers,” which had gathered 8,428 signatures as of noon Tuesday. A few online commenters even advocated stealing and hiding the Viper, which is not street legal. Canadian race team Johnathan Schwemler Racecars announced it would ask Chrysler to donate the car toward the team’s program for injured or ill soldiers and veterans.

The number of cars headed for the junkyard was initially reported at 93, but Chrysler told Detroit media outlets that the number was around 35 in the U.S.

Citing standard procedure, Chrysler has announced that the pre-production Vipers must be destroyed because they no longer serve educational purposes. In a statement to the media, Chrysler reported that no records exist of legal action involving its donated Vipers at educational institutions. The company denies any reports of the vehicles being involved in accidents or liability lawsuits.

“With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students,” according to the company, which added that these Vipers have no historical significance and will not be preserved.
In the meantime, the automotive program at SPSCC has accepted the Viper’s fate.

Chapman has heard some legal theories that might allow the college to claim ownership. However, Chapman said the college has no interest in fighting the car’s destruction in court, and said that a legal challenge may cause manufacturers to shy away from donating vehicles.

“We might win in court, but we’d lose in the long run,” he said last week.

Chapman and the staff are not against the destruction of the Vipers, but only this particular vehicle. The college’s car is different from the rest because of its blue paint, hardtop and status as the fourth Viper ever made.

“If this were a red convertible, I wouldn’t say anything,” he said. “My only point is this one is unique.”

Chrysler set no deadline to destroy the car, but asked that it be done “expeditiously.”

Staff photographer Tony Overman contributed to this report.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869
ahobbs@theolympian.com

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