Randy Lindberg would have been just fine with a traditional surprise party for his 40th birthday, but his wife Mindy had something a little more exciting in mind. Along with her uncle, who is a member of the Viper Club of America in Ohio, she set up a day for Randy at Pittsburgh International Raceway (PIR) to take his 1994 Viper on the race track.
What made the day most special was the fact that Randy, who has very limited eyesight due to optic atrophy, was able to get behind the wheel and drive his own Viper, which he and his dad spent nearly two months restoring from salvage. The laps around PIR marked the first time that Randy had ever guided his Viper through a turn, although he had driven it straight on a number of occasions in the parking lot of his family-owned furniture store.
“It was a dream come true,” said Lindberg, whose eyesight is limited to objects that are very near. “I never really thought I’d have the opportunity to take a corner. I could find a straight line here or there to do, but to come out of a corner and accelerate and to brake going into a corner, even at 35 miles per hour, was something I never thought I’d get to do. It was just amazing.”
Randy’s first on-track session at PIR was in the passenger seat of his Viper with his wife at the wheel. The pair followed track owner Kathy Stout, who was driving an SUV around the scenic road course that is set in the rolling hills just outside of Pittsburgh. Then, after turning a few laps behind the wheel himself, Randy received yet another surprise. A seat had been bolted into the passenger side of Kathy’s SRT® Viper Competition Coupe and she took Randy for a few hot laps at speed, providing the ultimate Viper sensory overload.
“It was such a privilege that Jim and Kathy Stout let me do what I was able to do,” beamed Randy. “It was so overwhelming, the kindness they showed by giving us their time and letting us use their track, as well as driving me around in their Competition Coupe. It’s good that I rode with Kathy after I went around because if I would have tried any of that I would have ended up in the tulips. It was just amazing and incredible and I can’t thank them and my wife enough.”
Randy fell in love with the Viper the first time he saw the original Viper RT/10 concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 1989. He was just 16 years old at the time, and told himself that one day he would have a Viper all his own.Fast forward to 2005. After doing extensive research, he found a ’94 Viper buried under cardboard boxes in the back of a warehouse at a salvage yard near Cincinnati, Ohio. The car had a significant amount of damage to its front half, including the frame and front suspension. Thanks to a box truck from his furniture store, Randy was able to bring the Viper back to his hometown of Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania.
That’s when the real work began. For seven weeks straight, Randy and his father, a mechanic and body man as well as a car fanatic in general, who also has optic atrophy, worked on restoring the Viper. Many 10-12 hour days were spent with the Viper. In less than two months, the pair had restored the car to a like-new state and were out cruising, thanks to family members who didn’t mind taking the wheel of the iconic supercar.
“Getting everything to fit right was the biggest challenge,” shared Randy. “We didn’t have anyone around us who had a Viper, so we didn’t really know how it worked. We just had boxes of parts and were trying to figure out how to make it all fit together. After we got it just about done, we found a guy who had a Viper and we went to look at his, just to make sure our tolerances were right and the clearances were good. We were very pleased with the work we had done.”
Having the Viper to ride in made all of the sweat equity worthwhile, and being able to drive it at the race track was the proverbial icing on the cake for Randy. Going down the back straightaway at PIR he got the Viper into sixth gear (estimated to be 60 mph by observers), and that’s something he will always remember.
“I would love to do it again,” noted Randy. “I don’t know if I could do much more than I did at that point, but if you give me eight hours, I could run through as much gas as you could put in there.”With the help of dedicated VCA members, family and friends, Randy was able to receive the full Viper experience. That’s what the VCA and SRT communities are all about.
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