Is this the 2013 Dodge Viper?

2013 Dodge ViperDodge is being very obtuse about the all-new 2013 Viper. First, it released a nearly blacked-out image with vague outlines of headlights, a grille, and a hood scoop. Then it showed the new Viper logo, nicknamed Stryker, but not the car itself. After that, Dodge released a photo of what could be an air vent, or an abstract painting.

Now the Internet is getting its first real glimpse of the 2013 Viper, but not because Dodge has reversed its policy of secrecy. Instead, Brazilian website T-Hunted, a website for collectors of Hot Wheels cars, claims to have the first photo. The grainy image above is from a series of thumbnails obtained by T-Hunted showing Hot Wheels’ 2012 line. Is this the new Viper?

The car definitely has some Viper cues. The long hood has a center scoop with fang-like extensions, just like the one on previous Vipers and the one hinted at in the first teaser image. The hood also appears lower in the center than the sides, again matching the teaser image. Below it, the silver badge looks to be about the same shape as the Viper logo.

The proportions are also classic Viper: long hood, short rear deck, and wheels pushed to the corners of the car. The shape of the windshield and side windows also resembles the old Viper coupes.

Below the mirrors (mounted on the doors, as with all previous Vipers), there is a line that could indicate a front fender air vent, another signature Viper styling cue.

The only thing that could create skepticism is the lack of a Dodge-trademark crosshair grille. However, it is possible that Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) group, designers of the Viper, got rid of it. Chrysler is trying to separate the Viper from the rest of the Dodge line and make it into a sub-brand, like Ram trucks. A more open grille would also improve airflow.

It is not out of the question for Mattel to get ahold of the 2013 Viper before the car’s public debut, since the toy company needs to tool up its production lines to make the Hot Wheels version. Having the Viper hit toy stores and car dealers at the same time would be a public relations coup for Chrysler.

The Viper has not been around as long as the Corvette or Mustang, but it is still an American performance legend. A bare-bones two-seater with a V10 engine, it has inspired love and fear among drivers since it was unleashed in 1992. After a two-year hiatus, the big snake will remerge this April at the New York Auto Show. Maybe Dodge will give away Hot Wheels cars instead of brochures.