Unveiled at the 1997 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Dodge Copperhead was conceived as a sort of Viper lite a convertible two-seater offering the handling and open-air fun of Dodges brutish V10 sports car, but with a V6 engine and a practical price.
The hand-built prototype was based on a highly modified Neon floorpan, producing a package three inches narrower and eight inches shorter than the Viper, but with a 12-inch longer wheelbase for a smooth ride and gentle highway qualities. Much of the suspension was shared with the Dodge Stratus.
The Copperheads engine was brand new. A 2.7L V6 with double-overhead-cams and four valves per cylinder, it went into production the following year in the Dodge Intrepid. The version in the Copperhead used a dual throttle body and tuned exhaust system to produce 220 horsepower, 20 more than the production engine.
Of course, the Copperheads visual trademark was its paint, a unique color called Copper Fire Orange applied in 37 coats. With a multichromatic pigment (known in the custom car world as flip-flop) the paint seemed to change color under varying light conditions.
The Copperhead never made it into production, obviously. Corporate planners were focused on faster growing market segments at the time, reportedly, including sport utility vehicles. Still, you can bet that plenty of Dodge enthusiasts today would love to have a Copperhead in the garage.