The highlight of this week’s automotive news is certainly the launch of the new Viper at the New York Auto Show. After retiring the car in 2011, the Viper has replaced the old Dodge badge with a shiny new SRT badge. This upgrades Chrysler’s Street, Racing and Technology team from a tuning division to a whole new brand of car.
Reading the news brings back memories of my internship at Chrysler in the early 90s when I was fortunate enough to experience brutality of the wind at while roaring around the test track at 170 mph in a Viper. There was no subtlety or refinement to the original Viper. The scoops and curves sculpted into the body were gross exaggerations of historic race cars. The design was a perfect match for the mad power rumbling under the hood in the form of a V10 engine pulled from a truck and recast in aluminum.
Over the years, the best and brightest from Chrysler would refine the Viper from raging beast into a world class sports car. Starting in 1996, the Viper dominated at the race track with class wins and an amazing overall win at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2000 – the first for a production-based American car.
Now that the Viper has been with us for 20 years and earned a reputation at the track, I figure it’s time to start looking at these cars from a collector’s view. There is no doubt the Viper has earned its place in automotive history but what is the market doing?
A few years ago, Pamela Anderson put her 2000 Dodge Viper RT/10 up for auction with all proceeds going to PETA. The auction exceeded expectations by selling for $75,000, just a bit more than the original MSRP of $67,000. In 2008, Hurst Performance celebrated their 50th anniversary by releasing a special edition Viper. The first of these special edition cars was auctioned at the Barrett-Jackson Auction on January 17, 2009 with the proceeds going to Victory Junction, a non-profit group dedicated to improving the lives of sick kids. Bringing in $275,000, this car goes on the books for being the most expensive Viper sold to date.
Looking at car sales without a charity or celebrity attached, the value of the Viper takes a beating. Not being old enough to be classified as a classic car, it’s surprisingly easy to find mid-90s versions of the car selling for under $20,000. Low mileage and good condition raise the price to the mid thirties, which is less than half the original selling price for these cars.
I believe these cars will start appreciating in value as soon as they pass their 25th birthday and are officially granted the title of “classic”. It’s hard to imagine a car that upset the status quo with unique styling and outrageous performance that proved itself at the track not becoming a collectors item in the years to come.
The diecast market has already embraced the Viper with models released by all the major players. AutoArt, Hot Wheels, Maisto, Welly, Burago, Matchbox and Johnny Lightning all have excellent examples of the Viper. My personal favorite though is Takara‘s Binaltech Transformer, Sideswipe. The designers managed to capture tons of detail from the car and make it transform. Even the chromed engine transforms into a gun. While this is a bit of a departure from my typical model, the Viper is a departure from the typical American car.
For a bit of fun, head on over to Daytona Mag from Japan where they are sharing this paper model of a 1993 Dodge Viper you can build. There is a fair amount of detail in the paper model so be prepared to invest a bit of time if you want to make it look good.