First-generation Dodge Viper recalls true David vs. Goliath story

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The Viper looks to be in factory stock condition

With the movie Ford v. Ferrari premiering next week about GT40s winning against cars from the storied Italian marque, the Pick of the Day focuses on a true underdog story.

Now, I don’t dislike Ford and I am not in love with Ferrari, but it is estimated that Ford spent as much as $500 million in the mid-1960s to beat Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That to me is more like Goliath beating David.

A more-interesting and more-recent story is that of the Dodge Viper at Le Mans.

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The Viper was the brainchild of the great Bob Lutz, who wanted Dodge to build a modern-day Shelby Cobra. So, Lutz being Lutz, he went off and made it happen.

The project was top secret, even from the leadership of Chrysler. What Lutz created might be considered the last truly no-holds-barred driver’s performance car. But the story just begins there.

In 1996, Dodge decided to race the Viper, and what they wanted was to win Le Mans. It took just two years, when a factory team Viper in 1998 took first in class at the storied French race.

That sounds good, although a factory team winning its class at Le Mans is nothing new. The amazing part of the story is that Dodge did it with a total budget of only $5 million. Now that is truly David beating Goliath.

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Which leads me to the Pick of the Day, a 1994 Dodge Viper R/T10 that seems like the best supercar deal on the planet. The Viper is finished in the classic livery of brilliant red with a black leather interior and black removable top, according to the Kentwood, Michigan, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com.

From the pictures with the ad, this car looks to be a nice, unmodified example of the first-generation sports car. Viper owners tend to modify their cars for greater performance, and finding one that is stock can be difficult.

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Sure, modifying the car can give you more power, but keep in mind that the 1994 Viper in stock form has an 8-liter V10 engine and can cover 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds and has a top speed north of 165 mph. There are claims that these cars can reach 180 mph in stock fettle. I am not sure that I would require more power than that.

The total mileage of this car is 41,000 from new, the dealer says. The driver’s seat shows some wear, but that wear is well in line with the car’s mileage, and an easy fix.

These cars are complete throwbacks and very much met Lutz’s idea of a modern Cobra. In classic roadster fashion, they use side curtains instead of roll-up door windows.

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While the purists out there might say that the only first-generation Viper to buy is the 1992 introductory model, I would take the 1994 as it has air conditioning, something the Viper needs to be at all livable.

Viper are serious cars that can bite back; with no real electronic driver aids to keep an unwary driver out of trouble, the Viper demands that you drive it properly and always be on your ‘A’ game.

And don’t forget that all Vipers were literally built by hand in Detroit, which is something we are never likely to see again for a production car from the U.S.

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So, if you think your driving skills are up to the task of shepherding a Viper around, this one has an asking price of only $21,900, which is great deal for such an important and storied automobile, the likes of which probably will never be built again in the U.S.

 

 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Actually not a bad price for a first-gen Viper!
    I drove a 2004 Viper once and d*^* that car was fast! It’s hard to describe with polite words just how much raw, brutal power that car possessed. Such fun!

  2. I purchased a ’94 in ’97 (used, 3,200 miles), proceeded to DD the thing for 8 years and over 100k miles in Florida. Miss it now.

  3. Your feet will cook, a/c or not, and the split sidepipe exhaust makes a terribly agricultural noise- and not in a good way, ala Subaru.
    But it’s a great price for an otherwise brilliant handful, and the heinous "broken Deere" sound can be addressed by the aftermarket (a crossover and some Magnaflow love works wonders). Worst part in my experience is you just wanna drive it all the time, but in the rain these things are lethal in untrained/inexperienced hands. Think air-cooled 911 Turbo snap oversteer, with twice the power and a lot more mass. You can, however, brake in corners, even if that’s gonna be too little too late. That, and in silver they attract cops like an active shooter in a WalMart, can’t imagine a red one.
    A great deal for a mature owner, tho’.

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