Off-Road Viper Build by Ex-Tesla Engineer Gets Serious With Live Rear Axle on Factory Chassis

A Viper driver’s greatest fear, especially for the first two generations? That’s an easy one. Well, this Gen II Viper project is the kind you’ll want to drive through a ditch and then maybe use it for dune jumping. That’s because we’re looking at the world’s first off-road Viper, a build being put together by former Tesla, Apple, and NASCAR automotive engineer Matt Brown. And, as the man himself describes it, this is nothing short of a Hot Wheels fantasy come true.

Nobody has given a Viper a serious rugged terrain treatment so far—at least not outside the rendering realm—and it’s safe to say many people are awaiting for this dream to come true. Then again, the engineer, who is known online as Superfast Matt, seems to be pretty good at fulfilling automotive dreams, be they his or collective.

And the examples range from the man Kawasaki-swapping a Nissan Leaf and building a land speed record car on his own—it’s an ongoing project—to challenging Elon Musk on Twitter, as you can see in the Viper-unrelated Tweet below.

Unlike the skill of certain Viper drivers—it’s not always the car, you know—Matt’s commitment to this project goes deep. For now, the man lays out his plans and gives us a possible timeline for the go-anywhere conversion of his 1999 Dodge Viper RT/10.

Matt’s off-road Viper will sit somewhere in between Safari builds that mostly rely on lift kits and big tires and those budget-blowing prerunner builds and trophy trucks, which can tame any kind of terrain while going above the highway speed limit.

12 inches of added ride height for the first off-roading Viper

The snake will gain 12 inches of ground clearance, which means installing custom suspension and then some. Having converted a Toyota 4Runner for heavy terrain use, Matt has all the experience he needs for the task.

He plans to use fully custom, laser-cut, and -welded double-wishbone front suspension, which is easy compared to what has to take place at the back. This is where the beast is getting a live rear axle, complete with a locking diff (think: low gearing).

Of course, all this is easy when you do it with LEGOs. But with a real car, the man has to cut bits off the lower frame rails, reinforce the chassis altogether, install bump stops and the list goes on.

Having clearly done his homework, Matt knows the Viper wasn’t exactly designed for dramatic landings. However, judging by his plan, it seems this example should handle z-axis stunts just fine. So I’ll go out on a limb here and say this thing will cover more serious jumps than a stock C8 Corvette.

In the powertrain department, the engineer is going for a balanced approach. So while the 450 hp of the 8.0L V10 is more than enough (he didn’t specifically say the unit will remain stock, though), the engine will be mated to an automatic transmission. This will most likely be the “70” version of the ubiquitous ZF8HP 8-speed. However, since an AWD conversion would require either extra cutting up front or a ridiculous lift, this bad boy is probably set to stick to its factory RWD setup.

Electronics? This was one of the final years that saw the Viper coming at its drivers in bare form, so not even ABS is on the list. Problem solved! Thus, the builder can focus on adding fiberglass fender flares, metal bumpers and some proper rollover protection. As for the trunk, the lid is going away, so a pair of spare wheels and some other goodies can fit in there.

Now, Matt would love to finish the off-road Viper in time for SEMA 2023 (October 31-November 3). And, if he doesn’t, we have some extra minutes to wait for the man giving us an American supercar for a different type of canyon carving. After all, Middle Eastern builds and their wacky lifted and sometimes 4×4 muscle cars can’t have all the fun, can they?

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Update: The off-road Viper had its first drive (yep, it was amazing!)

About one year after first taking a sawzall to the chassis of his 1999 Dodge Viper, Matt Brown proved he’s a worthy engineer and absolute Mad Man Max: he (nearly) completed his Off-Road Viper build and took the contraption for its first drive out in California.

Matt didn’t just fulfill the off-road suspension promises, but also revived the OG Viper’s side exhaust tips, just the way the reptilian overlords intended!

And while the build and my personal SEMA expectations were two different things, it currently feels a bit like a SEMA build, since there are still some aspects to polish (e.g., exhaust hanging by steel wire poking through holes in the chassis).

It looks like someone drew a cartoon and then made a Hot Wheel of that cartoon. And then made a real version of that cartoon Hot Wheels car. I love it, I absolutely love it!” Matt explains in the Off-Road Viper first drive video below.

And you know how else loves the Off-Road Viper? The Californian policeman who crossed paths with Matt on the contraption’s first drive, and the red ’92 Dodge Viper RT/10 sitting in my garage—it’s just a Hot Wheels garage, though, but hey, the theme is consistent with the cartoonish look of Matt’s creation.



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