By Eric Roa, Son
Being born and raised in India made Nippani R Rao’s journey to the Viper team different than most. He pursued engineering in school because it promised him the best future and the best possible chances of coming to the United States.
After beginning his career with Cincinnati Milacron and the development of new products for Herman Miller, he took an opportunity to work for Ford Motor Company and move to the Detroit area.
After a few years with Ford, he accepted a position with The DeLorean Motor Company to develop a new concept called the DeLorean. This is where Nippani found his love for working with prototype development projects in automotive and sports cars. After a short period of employment with WR Grace in Massachusetts, he left to pursue his passion of working in the automotive industry in the Detroit area. In 1989, he accepted a position at Chrysler Motors to develop a new concept called the Dodge Viper. He loved team Viper from the very first day he joined the team. He was inspired by the concept design and the thrill of the Dodge Viper. On the occasions when Nippani got to drive the Viper, he loved giving rides to everyone. He constantly gave rides to family, friends, and anybody he knew so he could share the thrill of the Viper with them. Nippani never smiled more than when he was driving the Viper or speaking about the Viper. It was the highlight of his career and professional life. Nippani was a humble man and would never consider himself a Hall of Famer. We all know that he is so proud of all his accomplishments, and we know he’s looking down with that big smile on his face.
As we reflect on Nippani’s love for the Viper, we realized he spread the spirit of the Viper all the way to India. Here are some though from his nephew, Ranga.
“When I was still in India, I did not exactly know what uncle was responsible for in the Viper project, but I told everyone in my college that my uncle is building this super-fast car in US that looks amazing. I remember taking a small viper poster that uncle gave me to college once and showing off. I had the bright red Viper poster. All my buddies were so amazed and jealous that I had a Viper poster.
When my friends and I were working on getting admission to US schools for our master’s program, we had several questions about the whole process. My friends would always say “Ask your Viper uncle. He will know”. Some of my friends still refer to uncle as “Viper uncle”.
My second day in US (when I stayed with uncle and family in Farmington Hills) uncle took me to CTC building. He showed off the building to me and took me to an area where there several Vipers parked. That was the first time I finally saw this car that I knew so well 😊.
Uncle then proceeds to get keys for one of them and next thing I know he asks me to sit in one. It was a blue one with white stripes on it. We rode the Viper home that day. I still remember feeling very scared on the ride back as it was too fast for me 😊.
We rode in it to go to an Indian grocery store, and I know everyone was watching us. I felt like a movie star. Took several pictures with it.
I had several Viper memorabilia that Uncle gave me. Had a black and red Viper polos. Posters that I talked about and a Viper key chain that I still have.
Viper the car and the team are an integral part of Nippani’s family in India. We are all so proud of uncle. For all of us, uncle built the Viper.
I have been in the US for 26 years now, but am I still very proudly tell my friends “My uncle was responsible for the body of Dodge Viper” when we talk about iconic sports car 😊. Him going into Hall of Fame is just a perfect ending for his legacy. Nippani was a trailblazer in his family, and he is responsible for everything I am today.”