Very few people have the ability to take a pile of parts and turn it into a running vehicle — it’s a task that requires both determination and skill. Tony Finley decided that he wanted to take on a basket-case 2000 Dodge Viper GTS ACR project and make a twin-turbo Drag Week-style car out of it. Tony’s dedication to the project has netted one of the wildest street cars you’ll ever see.
The story of how Tony decided to build a wicked twin-turbo Viper starts like so many other racers: with a son learning the mechanical ropes from his father. Tony’s dad introduced him to cars when he was a kid and that was it…from that point forward, unless it had an engine and wheels he wasn’t interested in it.
“I’ve been a full-time mechanic since I was 15 years old — it’s really the only thing I’ve wanted to do. The racing side of things has also been a big part of my life since I started working on cars. When I was just getting into racing, my friends would have to actually drive my car to the track so I could race since I didn’t have a license yet. Being at the track and around cars made me that happy and I had to find a way to enjoy both no matter what,” Tony says.
Life can get in the way of racing dreams and Tony learned this first hand; he took some time away racing while focusing on work, and in 2010 he finally found the time to get back into the racing scene. A Fox-body Mustang was Tony’s chassis of choice for his new project, since it was what he had laying around. The Mustang was outfitted with a stock bottom end 5.3 liter LS, a few spare parts, and a pair of turbos for good measure. This combination ended up making over 800 horsepower to the tires and was a fun street car that Tony could drive to and from the track.
While the Mustang was a lot of fun to play with, Tony wanted something that was different. He had built plenty of cars around the iconic Ford chassis, but he was ready to move on to something new. While looking for a new project in 2014, one of Tony’s friends was growing tired of his Viper GTS build, and things just lined up for the car to change hands.
“I stumbled across this Viper because a friend was building it for 1/2-mile racing and I happened to see it in his shop. He had another Viper that he was building and lost interest in this one — we worked a deal out and I was the new owner of a Viper that was in a million pieces. This was perfect for me since it checked all of the boxes I was looking for, and you just don’t see many people building these into drag cars,” Tony explains.
Tony’s original plan was to just throw a cheap engine and transmission in the car to go racing, but after some careful thought, that changed. This was a fairly rare Viper, so he chose to take his time and build the car right. Tony would soon realize that since there weren’t many off-the-shelf parts for an application like this — he would have to make many of them himself. If all of this wasn’t enough, Tony planned on keeping the Viper a street car so it could compete in drag-and-drive events.
The Viper had a mild steel roll cage installed when Tony purchased it, but that wasn’t going to enable him to meet his goals, so that had to go, along with the stock IRS suspension. To make the car safe, Tony built his own 25.3 certified chassis, as he planned on making some big horsepower.
“I started by cutting the entire frame from the firewall back and building a new chrome-moly frame. I finished the rear off with a custom 4-link and 9-inch rearend with 35 spline Moser Engineering axles with 3.25 rear gears. I then moved to the front of the car and made a custom set of chrome-moly control arms that moved the spindles in 2-inches per side. I also built a custom front rack that holds three radiators to help keep the engine cool while driving it on the street. Finally, I sent the frame off to be sandblasted so it could be painted and be ready to start with the next phase of the build,” Tony says.
With the chassis nearly complete, Tony needed to turn his attention to the Viper’s engine. At first, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to build the V10 that came with the car, since it was torn down and would require a lot of custom parts to complete. After talking to a few people who specialize in building V10 engines, Tony took the plunge and began the process of building the monstrous mill.
The block and crankshaft were delivered to Competition Engines so the machining process could begin. Competition Engines bored the stock sleeves .002-inches over so they would be fresh and clean for the new JE Pistons that Tony purchased. A set of Eagle H-beam connecting rods and stock Viper crankshaft round out the rotating assembly. The Gen2 Viper heads were massaged before they were fitted with stainless steel intake valves from Manley and Victory exhaust valves.
Tony used a set of .660-inch lift valve springs, titanium retainers, and a custom camshaft from Brian Tooley Racing. Hydraulic lifters from Johnson of the short travel variety and a set of T&D rocker arms round out the V10’s valvetrain. Dailey Engineering supplied the four-stage oil pump that Tony used for his custom dry sump system. Behind the engine is a BTE Powerglide that’s attached via an ATI adapter. Tony had to machine his own spacers to get the GM-style torque converter to fit his custom V10 flexplate.
The Viper GTS ACR was designed by Dodge to have near-supercar performance levels from the factory, but it wasn’t designed to have a pair of 80mm VS Racing turbos under the hood. That said, Tony had to get creative with how he fabricated the Viper’s turbo system. Tony started with a set of custom stainless steel headers with Burns collectors and he then decided to mount the turbos up front. This choice proved to be a challenge and required Tony to fabricate a new accessory drive to run the Viper’s water pump and alternator.
Tony had more challenges to address when he came to devising a fuel system for the Viper. Since he planned on street-driving the car a lot, and tackling Drag Week, it would need something that would work with both pump gas and E-85. The solution was a 15-gallon fuel cell that could hold the pump gas and a 5-gallon fuel cell that would be used for E-85. The fuel system uses three 525 LPH Walbro pumps — one is wired to be active while the car is running, and the other two are controlled by the ECU and will crank up the volume of fuel on demand.
Wiring was the final step for Tony and it would require him to do a lot of custom work that included parts that he built himself. To control the engine and other functions of the Viper Tony selected an MS3Pro ECU. To make everything communicate, Tony made his own relay panel, captive touch screen panel, and a multi-channel CAN box. Tony added plenty of sensors to the electronics system, including speed sensors, pressure sensors, EGT sensors and accelerometers. The power windows, power locks, and all of the factory gauges still work. Tony wanted all of the gauges to work so the Viper would continue to feel like a street car.
Tony has really enjoyed building the Viper his way and looks forward to getting it out more in preparation for some drag-and-drive fun in 2021.
“I built the car to compete in Drag Week at some point, and my goal is to start and finish the event. The car is a work in progress, and like any hot rod it will never be done. DIYautotune, Lucas Oil, and Aeromotive have helped out with the car and I can’t thank them enough. It’s taken over four years to build this car and I’m fine with that because I had a specific vision of how I wanted it to turn out. Driving something different like this to the track and on the streets is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see what it does turned all the way up,” Tony says.
It’s not every day you see a Dodge Viper rolling down the road on some big drag radials and sounding as rowdy as Tony Finley’s ride. The time and effort that he has put into his Dodge really shows in how it looks and how it will run. This Viper has plenty of boosted venom on tap and it will be fun to see it unleash it at the track with Tony behind the wheel.