ASSEMBLY magazine reported on the Viper line when the first models were being assembled.

Chrysler LLC’s Conner Avenue Assembly Plant reached a manufacturing milestone March 12, building its 25,000th Dodge Viper. The new owner of the milestone 2008 Viper SRT10 is NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, who received the vehicle in a ceremony held at the Detroit facility in recognition of his racing accomplishments.

“This is one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever experienced,” said Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. “To be an active part in celebrating the 25,000th Dodge Viper to roll off the assembly line is an extraordinary honor and one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. ...I am just that excited,” said Busch.

We at ASSEMBLY magazine are excited, too. That’s because we were there when the Dodge Viper first started rolling off the line way back in 1996. (Frankly, we think we should have received No. 25,000, but we’re trying not to take it personally.) Senior editor Allan F. Benson visited the facility and produced an interesting account of the plant’s “back-to-basics” assembly practices. Benson is no longer with the magazine, but we’ve resurrected his article and posted the text as it originally appeared in our May 1996 issue. You can find the article among the rest of this month’s features. To read it, click here.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli presented the keys to Kurt Busch after the vehicle rolled off the assembly line.

“Reaching this milestone is quite an achievement considering the Dodge Viper SRT10 is a hand-built performance vehicle,” said Nardelli. “This unique manufacturing facility has allowed us to produce a true American legend.”

“Members of UAW Local 212 take enormous pride in every hand-built Viper we deliver to our customers,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department. “We’re very proud to team up with a proven winner like Kurt Busch. He knows world-class quality and craftsmanship when he sees it, and that’s exactly what he’s going to see in his new UAW-built Dodge Viper.”

The Viper was introduced as a concept car at the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Dodge Viper production began in May 1992. Production of the Viper’s V-10 engine was transferred from the company’s Mound Road Engine Plant to Conner Avenue Assembly in May 2001. In 2008, Dodge introduced the all-new, fourth generation Dodge Viper SRT10.

At the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, craftspeople hand-build the Dodge Viper SRT10 and its 600-horsepower 8.4-liter V-10 engine. Using 26 workstations on a 705-foot-long assembly line, 48 workers assemble each vehicle. Eight craftspeople build the 600-horsepower 8.4-liter SRT V-10 engine in the same facility using a 24-station circular line that is next to the vehicle assembly line.

“Back in 1992, the purpose of the Viper was to redefine what the Dodge brand was all about,” said Melissa Holobach, plant manager of the Conner Avenue facility and the Sterling Heights Vehicle Test Center. “We wanted to come up with something that was extreme and cutting edge. Twenty five thousand vehicles later, we’ve continued this incredible heritage with the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10.”