Project Viper GTS: Part 2 – General Maintenance

Project Viper Pt 2 Cover

Project Viper GTS: Part 2 – General Maintenance

by Billy Johnson

Before thoroughly enjoying the purchase of a used performance car, it’s important for the enthusiast to go through some routine maintenance items.  We prepare our 1997 Viper to be driven by changing the oil, coolant, spark plugs, wires, and go through a few miscellaneous items.  We then install an aftermarket temperature gauge to monitor how hot the V10 operates and to test the accuracy of the factory gauge.

In Project Viper: Part 1, we talked about the history and significance of the Viper, but we really didn’t mention much about our project car.  Project Viper is a pristine 1997 Viper GTS with less than 8,000 miles on the clock.  The previous owner made a few improvements with the addition of 18×10 and 19×13 Forgeline Wheels wrapped in Gen-3 specific “C1” Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s (275/35-18 and 345/30-19), and made the car slightly louder by replacing the rear muffler with straight-pipes.  This is a common modification which retains the factory cats and mufflers mounted in the side sills resulting in a slight increase in volume and character of an otherwise extremely quiet car.


Project Viper OutsideOur 1997 Dodge Viper was purchased with less than 6,000 miles on the clock before taking a 1,400 mile journey to its new home in South Florida.

This car was the baby of the owner of Roanoke Dodge, one of the largest Viper dealers in the country and despite all of the maintenance and recalls performed there, the record of the cars last oil change could not be found.  When buying an older performance car, most owners would be wise to maintain their own service records and go through known consumables before enjoying their new purchase.  For the Viper, overheating is a common issue and despite so few miles on the odometer, the spark plugs and wires are potentially 18 years old.

We went to our friends at RareFab in West Palm Beach, Florida to perform the maintenance work on Project Viper.  RareFab specializes in fabricating everything from roll cages and suspension components to high end turbo kits and exhausts for everything from Hyundais to Ferraris and Mercedes including the SLR.  Due to their quality and attention to detail, in addition to custom fabrication RareFab produces high quality mass production performance parts for such companies as Lethal Performance, Blood Type Racing, and one of the biggest names in Mercedes Tuning who happen to be located in South Florida.


RareFab shopWill and the guys at RareFabare meticulous and highly talented with a deep understanding of mechanics and fabrication.  When you spend your week making custom exhausts and turbo systems for Ferraris, Mercedes, and BMWs, working on a Viper and fabricating a few parts is pretty easy.
Oil PanOnce on the lift, we were very satisfied with how spotless the undercarriage was.  Vipers from northern states tend to develop surface corrosion along the frame, especially around the welds and develop a white powdery oxidation on aluminum components like the alternator and oil pan.  These cars are hand-built and it shows in the inconsistent, sloppy welds.  But then again look under the skin of any Murcielago, Gallardo, F355/360/430 and you will also see the quality of ‘hand built’ cars.
We then drained the oil which was very dark.  Since different oil brands and weights have drastically different properties and discolor at different rates, it’s impossible to determine the condition or age of the oil simply by looking.  So we took a sample and sent it out to Blackstone Laboratories for analysis just to be sure.  Since the car was regularly serviced and the coolant was changed over to the newer Mopar 5-year, I have no concerns that the oil was changed prudently.  Either way, it can’t be more than 8,000 miles old.

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