Project Viper GTS: Part 2 – General Maintenance

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 Outside
Our 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 shop
Will 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 Pan
Once 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.
Chrysler’s original recommendation of the older 10W30 weight oil used previously in all Viper generations was revised in the early 2000’s to Mobil 1’s newer 0W40 European Car Formula.  Most Viper shops and experts agree that it is a great oil to be used in all previous generation cars.

I’ve always been fond of Mobil 1’s 0W40 and used it in my old BMWs and even our Project NSX.  It’s also a popular oil weight that many E9X M3 owners are using in their S65 V8s, like Project E90 M3 instead of the very thick Castrol TWS 10W60.  With the filter, the Viper’s service manual states 8.5 quarts of oil are needed but it’s better to add 8 quarts and check the level after letting the car warm up and adjust accordingly.

Quick Reference:

Page 1 – Oil Change
Page 2 – Oil Change, Power Steering Tube, and Spark Plug Wires
Page 3 – Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs
Page 4 – Quality Wires & Stock Temperature Gauge Values!
Page 5 – Stock Water Temp Sending Unit & Roe Silicone Hose & Bleeder Kit
Page 6 – Coolant Concentration, Cap & Water Wetter
Page 7 – AC check valve & Water Temp Gauge install
Page 8 & 9 – Water temp gauge install


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