The Dodge Viper Bites the Dust

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The last Dodge Viper has snaked its way down the assembly line, marking the end of an era for the 18-year-old, iconic American sports car.

A bronze and gold beauty, the last of the current generation of Vipers to roll off the assembly line, was custom made for Viper enthusiasts D'Ann and Wayne Rauh, who own more than 40 Vipers, Chrysler says.

The discontinuation of the Dodge Viper line follows parent company Chrysler’s takeover by Italian automaker Fiat in 2009 after the U.S. manufacturer filed for bankruptcy last spring.

The Viper is just one loss that American car lovers are facing, however. The phase-out of several other Dodge and Jeep vehicles, including the Dodge Grand Caravan, is also among Fiat’s cost-cutting plans, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.

The 2010 Viper is still in showrooms and the base model comes with a $92,885 price tag, which could easily reach more than $100,000 with custom accoutrements. But while 88 workers were employed at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant where the Viper was built, fewer than 2,000 Vipers were sold per year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Viper was first conceived in the 1980s and was approved by legendary Chrysler and General Motors (Stock Quote: GM) design executive Bob Lutz as an homage to the Shelby Cobra, Lutz recalled in an interview with the Corporate Design Foundation. The Viper was first unveiled at the 1989 the Detroit Auto Show.

Even then, Chrysler was facing money troubles. “Since we were going broke at the time, we figured we might as well go out with a bang,” Lutz told the foundation.

For more on the best American sports car designs,  check out MainStreet's video,  Redesigned Icons at the Auto Show.

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