In the last decade or so, nearly all of the performance interest around Dodge and the other Stellantis (formerly FCA) brands has involved the Hemi V8 engine—particularly the 6.4L “392” and the supercharged 6.2L Hellcat engine.
But if you travel back in time about 30 years and look at the performance credentials of Dodge and the Chrysler Corporation, you’ll find that it wasn’t a V8 engine that had people talking, it was their V10 engine.
With Dodge V10 having been out of production for some time now, we thought we should look back on this groundbreaking engine and the cars and trucks that put it on the map.
Skipping the V8
Unlike Ford’s Windsor and later modular engines or GM’s potent small blocks, Dodge didn’t have much going for it when it came to V8s in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Yes, they had the Magnum 5.2L and 5.9L V8s which were updated versions of the classic LA small block, but they were really only found in trucks and vans.
And it was actually the Magnum V8 that served as the starting point when Chrysler began developing a new V10 engine. And interestingly, this V10 would be developed for two vehicles on opposite ends of the lineup: heavy-duty Ram pickups and the new Dodge Viper flagship sports car.
Both engines were effectively a 5.9L LA V8 with two more cylinders, for a total displacement of 8.0 liters or 488 cubic inches. The Viper version came first, with sales of the original Viper R/T10 beginning in 1992.
Engineering by Lambo
More than just a “big engine,” the Viper V10 was honored by Lamborghini, which Chrysler owned at the time. It had an aluminum block and heads, and had been designed from the block up as a sports car engine.
Rather than trying to build a high-performance V8 to compete with Ford and GM, Chrysler basically leapfrogged them with the Viper V10. When the Viper went on sale it made (astonishing for the time) 400hp and 465 pound feet of torque.
The V10 engine would continue to be the centerpiece of the Viper for the next 25 years or so, and the Dodge/SRT engineers continuously improved the engine during that period.
It saw a couple of displacement increases over its lifespan, growing to 8.3 and then 8.4 liters, and the addition of new technology like variable valve timing eventually lead to output topping out at 645 horsepower by the end of fifth-generation Viper production in 2017.
The Truck-focused “Magnum V10” was naturally the less exotic and more affordable version, with its heavier and more utilitarian iron block construction. It first debuted in the all-new ’94 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups and made 300hp and 450 pound feet of torque.
The truck V10 was aimed at pickup buyers who wanted big power and torque while running on gasoline rather than diesel—and the new, somewhat exotic V10 option only gave more appeal to what was a groundbreaking new pickup in many other ways.
The truck version of the V10 would be offered in 2500 & 3500 Ram pickups up through 2003, when it was eventually made redundant by the new Hemi V8 on the gas end and increasingly powerful diesel options for heavy duty customers.
Of course you can’t talk about the Ram pickup and the V10 engine without mentioning the radical Ram 1500-based SRT-10 pickup.
It was offered from 2004-2006 and was powered the the 8.3L Viper V10 making 510 horsepower and 535 pound feet of torque, and it will forever be known as one of the coolest pickup trucks ever built.
It may be gone for good, but the Dodge V10 engine has already gone down as one of the great performance engines of all time. And one that reminds us that big Displacement American power lasted well beyond the 1960s.
The Viper/Ram V10 is an all-time great and one sandwiched nicely in Chrysler’s history book between the classic 426 Hemi of the ’60s and the Hellcat of today.
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- On the other hand, as much as we love the V10, we still think it would have been cool to see a cheaper, V8-powered Viper to compete directly against the Corvette.