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When Steve Loudin and Tom Drewer hit the road this May in a heavily modified SRT Viper, they’ll be carrying a message that ought to resonate with anyone who likes Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” campaign: Buy American.

The Prefix/Forge Ahead USA team SRT Viper will take part in the 2013 Tire Rack One Lap of America May 4-11 before going on tour and making appearances at a series of performance-driving challenges, enthusiast gatherings, car shows and the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas in November. The idea is to put the Forge Ahead USA “Buy American” message in front of as many people as possible, said Kim Zeile, owner of title sponsor Prefix. Prefix is a Michigan automotive supplier whose business includes painting bodies for the new Viper and building prototypes and show cars.

Forge Ahead USA is a national campaign designed to help companies market their “Made in the USA” products as a sales advantage. It promotes buying American products, supporting American manufacturers and recycling dollars back into the U.S. economy.

“This Forge Ahead USA message is much bigger than putting an ‘American-made’ sticker on a product,” Zeile said. “The future of our economy depends on all of us making the decision to buy American whenever possible.”

The car at the center of the program is a 2008 Viper coupe owned by Loudin (it was actually his wife’s driver), that has been upgraded to 2012 Viper ACR standards. It should produce about 700 hp, Zeile said.

Although Chrysler isn’t a direct sponsor, Chrysler design vice president and SRT chief Ralph Gilles attended the Forge Ahead USA Viper’s recent unveiling at the Prefix plant near Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. And Gilles says he certainly supports the message.

“Every chance I get I remind people that the Viper is built in Michigan,” Gilles said. “This is a great initiative by these guys and we really support it.”

Now that the Viper’s makeover is complete, all that’s left to do is hit the road—and judging by car, its livery and its message, the Forge Ahead USA Viper won’t slip under anyone’s radar.

“Absolutely not,” promised Loudin.

Additional team sponsors include: Whelen Engineering, Archer Racing, Forgeline Wheels, American Racing Headers, Arrow Racing, Tricel Corporation, K&N Engineering, Corsa Performance, PartsRack, Thule, and Jason Industries.

Follow the team at


Photo by Jeff J. Dolphin

By Bob Gritzinger