Dodge Viper Gen 3 VS 1500 Twin-Turbo Engine - Engine Builder Magazine
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Engine of the Week

Dodge Viper Gen 3 VS 1500 Twin-Turbo Engine

When a customer wanted a track capable street engine for a 1969 Dodge Charger, Dan Lesser, owner of Viper Specialty Performance, stepped up to the challenge by building a custom Dodge Viper Gen 3 VS 1500 Twin-Turbo engine.


Just like many of you out there who gain a great deal of business from repeat customers and referrals, this week’s engine was built for a customer who recently returned to Viper Specialty Performance after a few year hiatus. Remembering the shop was known for high-end engine work, this particular customer wanted a track capable street engine for his 1969 Dodge Charger. Dan Lesser, owner of Viper Specialty Performance (VSP) in Amherst, NY, stepped up to the challenge by building a custom Dodge Viper Gen 3 VS 1500 Twin-Turbo engine.

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“We specialized in really odd ball, high end work,” Lesser says. “This one happened to be a multi-generational conversion. It combined different generations of Viper architecture – a Gen 3 block and a Gen 5 head gasket, front cover, oil pan, manifold and throttle body arrangement. It has all the bells and whistles – a full motorsports wiring harness, integrated fuel management system, etc.”





The engine started from scratch using a core VSP supplied. The engine is a conglomeration of custom parts and packages that the shop, which opened in 2004, regularly does. However, this custom engine is far from regular.

“We integrated a slight variation of our custom parts and packages,” Lesser says. “One of the single hardest undertakings on this engine was the motorsports wiring harness because of how it is constructed. It literally takes forever – a couple hundred hours, and that’s just the engine section not the chassis side.”

The Viper engine also features Cometic gaskets, CP-Carrillo pistons and rods, ARP studding throughout, ATI components, Injector Dynamics fuel injectors, custom parts such as piston oil cooling jets, and factory parts such as the crankshaft, which has been modified.


The real unique aspect of this engine is the Gen 3-based configuration with a Gen 5 upper.

“Most of these kinds of engines are Gen 4 uppers, so this engine has a different manifold and slightly different head gasket design than others,” he says. “This engine has a lot more integrated into it because of the motorsports harness and onboard fuel control. A lot of the other engines are external. This engine’s wastegate control is all internal to the engine assembly as well. This engine also has the oil cooling jets. Most of the other engines don’t have those because it is one of our exclusive products. You won’t find those anywhere else except for us. Even Dodge couldn’t figure out how we got those oil cooling jets to fit.”


In fact, there are several custom parts on this engine that Viper Specialty Performance makes that can’t be found anywhere else. For that reason you won’t see photos of those parts either.


“Another special part of this engine is that we used, for the first time, Wiggins clamp type drive-by-wire throttles, and that is not typically seen,” he says. “We had to make those here.”

Another custom part was a Weldon regulator the shop redesigned. “It’s not the typical A2040 that you see,” Lesser says. “That’s why it has provisions and a sensor on it that you wouldn’t see on any other Weldon regulator out there.”


To help make those custom parts and do those custom jobs, VSP utilizes a machine shop that does its machining. However, Lesser ensures his shop does all of the engineering and assembly.

“We don’t have a high enough volume of engines that come through here to justify having all of our own machining equipment,” he says.

Restoration rendering of the 1969 Dodge Charger

Despite not having tons of equipment in-house, VSP offers regular service, purchase inspections, performance work and custom component design, and has continued to deliver high-end engine work like this Dodge Viper Gen 3 VS 1500 Twin-Turbo. According to Lesser, this custom short block will put out 1,500+ horsepower – plenty of giddy up for the track and the street. It will soon have a home inside this customer’s 1969 Dodge Charger, which is currently still being restored.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by Cometic Gasket

To see one of your engines highlighted in this special feature and newsletter, please email Engine Builder managing editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]

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