A Viper, the Academy and a candidate for president
Rare car to be auctioned by The Grosse Pointe Academy has a history in U.S. presidential politics.
When Grosse Pointe Farms resident Maurice “Morry” Taylor’s daughter suggested that he donate his rare 1993 Dodge Viper with its V10 engine to The Grosse Pointe Academy for this year’s 50th Anniversary Action Auction, he didn’t hesitate.
“It’s for a great cause,” he said.
The car had been in environmentally controlled storage for years and is in tip-top shape, according to school auction officials. Taylor, 72, noted that the car has only about 16,000 miles on it, most of which were accumulated in Quincy, Illinois, where Taylor’s company, Titan International, a manufacturer of industrial and agricultural wheels and tires, is located.
“The car was used in Quincy for customers to drive, and some of my engineers liked to drive it around town as well because it was so fast,” said Taylor, who with his wife, Michelle, served as Action Auction chairpersons in 1990 and whose three kids and two grandkids attended GPA. “At that time, people actually thought it was the Batmobile!”
A car is born
The vaunted Dodge Viper SRT-10 was launched by Chrysler Corporation in 1992 to rave reviews. During its nearly four years in development, although a V8 engine was first used in the test prototype, the V10, which the production car was meant to use, was ready in February 1990. Official approval from then-Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca came in May 1990 and a year later, Carroll Shelby piloted a pre-production car as the pace vehicle in the Indianapolis 500 race. In November 1991, the car was released to reviewers with first retail shipments beginning in January 1992.
The first run of Vipers was small. In fact, between 1992 and 1993, only 1,043 Vipers were built, and of the 983 designated for sale in the United States, 39 ended up in Canada and 66 found their way to various foreign ports.
In its initial two production years, the Viper was only produced in red and black. In 1992, only one vehicle was produced in black and in 1993, volume was limited to just 115 black units, one of which ended up with Taylor, who noted that the vehicle’s interior and exterior have been professionally detailed to near-perfection. The Viper’s 8-liter V10 gasoline engine produces 400 horsepower, with 462 foot-pounds of torque, giving it performance specs that take it from zero-to-60 in just 4.4 seconds and through a quarter-mile in only 13.
Roaring into Iowa
In a recent interview with the Academy, Taylor recalled the time his Dodge Viper played a rather unique role during the 1996 presidential campaign.
Well, actually, both Taylor and the Viper were part of a Republican primary campaign that ultimately sent Senator Bob Dole up against Bill Clinton, who was seeking his second term as U.S. president.
Fed up then with what was going on in Washington, Taylor, who by that time was hugely successful in business, threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for president, vowing to balance the federal budget and cut one-third of government jobs in the process.
“I remember using that Viper during my campaign in 1996,” he said. “I actually drove it straight into Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, during the Iowa Straw Poll and was followed by more than 200 bikers!”
Taylor ultimately dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination that eventually went to Sen. Dole.
The Viper also left presidential politics to serve as Taylor (and Titan’s) “four-wheeled ambassador” in Quincy.
“That car is all raw horsepower,” said Taylor, who currently serves as Titan’s chairman of the board. “That baby was made for the track.”
And, the Academy hopes, that “baby” will be “Taylor-made” for one lucky Action Auction bidder.
More on the auction is here.
The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent, coeducational day school serving children age 2-1/2 through Grade 8. We foster an inclusive environment that respects all cultures and religious beliefs. We seek to remain faithful to our heritage as a former Academy of the Sacred Heart and to those who through their Catholic faith and perseverance sought to preserve and enhance the legacy of this past for generations. Incorporated as a nonprofit institution, The Grosse Pointe Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees working together to serve the Southeastern Michigan community.