Ron Flint, president of Hurst Performance, is quick to let you know that founder George Hurst's original intent was to make hot rods for gentlemen. It is ironic, then, that for the revived company's 50th anniversary, it has thrown its energies into a car that isn't a hot rod, and certainly isn't for gentlemen: a Dodge Viper. Leaving the heart of the beast well enough alone, Hurst merely tinkered with some oily bits, stuffed the thing with leather, and then slathered it in a hue something like a monochrome sunset. Autoblog was invited to be the first to drive the Hurst 50th Anniversary Dodge Viper, and you know what we discovered? There's (matte) gold in them thar hills. Follow the jump for the story and video of our drive, and be sure to check out the gallery of gorgeous high-res images below.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Another admission before we begin: this is the second time we've been to Hurst and not been able to properly drive the chosen car. Last time, with the Hurst Hemi Challenger, it was because of the prototype wheels that weren't ready for prime time G-forces. This time it was because of a wrong turn that put us in some stupendous Friday afternoon LA traffic, and because the car is 1-of-a-kind. Surrounded by an innumerable school of SUVs and jalopies (compared to what we were driving, at least), all of them menacing to bend our fenders – or maybe worse – we chose heedful over horsepower. Autoblog did not want to send Hurst to Barrett-Jackson, where this car will be auctioned on Saturday, with a picture of what the car is supposed to look like.
So it was another babying session. Nevertheless, the beautiful thing about the brutally-fanged Viper is that even when treated with a baby's care, its performance is convincing.
Exercising a restraint that lives in opposition to the car itself, Hurst hasn't made many performance modifications. An adjustable Moton Sport Suspension with Eibach springs gives the car a ride that is firm, taut, and while not exactly hot-butter smooth, does not often jar. The Corsa exhaust livens up the exhaust note and gives it a lasting finish as the V10 up front takes its time returning to idle revs. And the rolling bullion package rides on wheels bigger by an inch - 19-inch up front, 20-inch in back - with Michelin Sport PS2 tires on traction duty.
On the subject of wheels, those you see are the same ones from the Hemi Challenger, substitutig a coat of black chrome for polish and gold inserts. Along with the paint job, they make the Viper sing like MIMS, repeating endlessly: "This is why I'm hot." The difference is this time you don't get tired of it.
The result is that the car pretty much goes and stops like a Viper with a richer hiss.
What the car doesn't do, however, is look like a Viper. That's all about color. Hurst gave this car a matte gold job, and most of the time it mops up the light like it's gathering energy. Even in the shade, the car seems to have an aura, a corona, that is simply waiting for some runic incantation or astral alignment before it erupts into some blinding, halcyon blast. And just like so many other secrets even back to pre-history, the source of unlocking that potential lies in the sun. Drive this car right into the eye of Apollo, or cruise through a coastal sunrise and sunset, and it is alive, aflame, glowing like an ember. It really is like something from Indiana Jones: far superior to any crystal skull, it's like the gold skull from the very first movie, dangerous, beautiful, sure to bring you adventure. And on top of that, it hums, and it has a V10, which has got to make it even better than some cursed cranium.
Another detail on the paint job: notice that the striping stops at the end of the hood and trunk - it doesn't full wrap to the bottom of the car like it usually does on striped Vipers. That's because Hurst didn't want to break up and minimize the horizontal aspect of the car. The effect is to make the car seem even wider than it normally does (and actually is).
The only disappointing thing about the inside of the car is that you can't see more of the outside of the car. The cabin is almost all Viper, with just two tweaks. One is the Katzkin-leather-wrapped seats, which are so grippy you could call them cocoonish. The other is the Hurst pistol-grip shifter with the shift pattern engraved on the thumb depression. Add a Hurst plaque on the dash, which will soon be engraved with the winning bidder's name, and you've still got... a slow news day.
Which is why it is fitting that this car is going up for auction at Barrett-Jackson - it really does belong as part of a collection. Even Archangel Gabriel, tooling sedately around some quiet corner of heaven, would have a hard time caring for the matte paint job, worried it would be marred by a malevolent cloud. And again, since the outside of the car is so devine, that's where you want to be when you're around it. The only way to drive it properly would be to rig some extra controls so you could pilot the car from the roof, or a rumble seat in the trunk.
You could buy the only other matte gold car that will be built, and allot one for your collection and one for the road. That second matte gold car will be a roadster, and it's not going up for auction – it will be available to some regular (kind of) Joe with money. Hurst, though, hasn't figured out how they're going to choose that recipient, so our recommendation is to be really nice to... Autoblog... and we'll put in a great word for you.
There will be 48 other builds of the 50th Anniversary Hurst Viper, and they will all come in Hurst's trademark white/gold stripes and black/gold stripes packages. Woodhouse Dodge in Nebraska is the only place to buy them. As for this one, it will be on the plinth and under the gavel for this weekend's Barrett-Jackson auction, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. And after that, it will be shedding its light on the life and collection of some fortunate owner.