Earlier this month, the very first Dodge Viper ever produced sold at auction. The auction was held at Bonhams in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the car went for a over $285,000.
The car, popularized by the 1990 Detroit auto show, boasts an 8.0-liter V-10 engine connected to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission, providing 400 horsepower. Like most early Vipers, it lacks door handles, door locks, traction control, ABS, airbags, and a roof .
Owned by the late Lee Iacocca, the car had only 6,220 miles on it at the time of the auction and was reportedly in excellent condition, with “a passenger seat that appears to have rarely been sat in.” It’s as close to mint condition as most cars this age come. Some suspect that Iacocca, who came to fame for his role in developing the Ford Mustang and Pinto as well as his revival of Chrysler in the 1980s, kept this initial Viper at his home in Palm Springs.
According to Bonhams, it has never left California, which explains its remarkably low mileage. The Viper’s pristine condition may also be why the car sold for so much more than the $100,000 to $125,000 it was expected to go for. Well, that and its impressive history and staying power among car enthusiasts. To afford this mint car, you’d have to be the owner of a Fortune 500 company. The name of the lucky auctioneer who swiped up the Viper hasn’t been revealed.
Early Vipers were modeled on the Shelby Cobra, a legendary car itself. Shelby’s original AC Cobras were designed to be “Corvette-Beaters,” although they weighed almost 500 pounds less than a Chevrolet Corvette. Shelby’s British-American sports car married an English hand-made body to a powerful Ford engine. The combination became an impressive contender at many races. But unlike the AC Cobra, the Viper has been an all-American classic since its introduction. In fact, at one time the Viper was number 10 on the “Most American Cars” list, a list of cars where 75% or more of their parts are manufactured in the United States.
Vipers were first introduced to the world at the 1990 Detroit auto show, and production ran from 1992 until 2017 when Chrysler ended production because they could not meet new safety regulations requiring the installation of airbags. After all, more than 15 million people have crowns and bridges for missing teeth, many of which are lost during accidents on the road.
During its production, the Viper racked up many accolades. This includes setting a top ten race time for The Nurburgring, outperforming much more expensive cars. Much of its performance is due to the Viper’s incredibly aerodynamic design. In fact, the latest generation Viper can go from 0-60 in 3 seconds, but even more impressive, it reaches 1.5 G of lateral acceleration in tight corners. The Viper’s ability to reach high speeds while maintaining control is what makes it a performer both on the track and the street. Unlike many sports cars that are built solely for racing, drivers report that the Viper handles well and offers a comfortable ride experience both on and off the track.
And driving enthusiasts aren’t ready to let go of this speed demon any time soon. Just this month, a modified third-generation 2006 Dodge Viper clocked over 250 mph at the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds, setting a new record for fastest speed in a Dodge Viper. It’s hard to imagine wasting 42 hours in traffic each year when you’re looking at speeds like these.
Further, rumors have emerged that the beloved roadster may make a comeback later this year. While many people thought this car was on its hospital bed, this new model is expected to sport a naturally aspirated V8 and provide around 700 horsepower. Though
no official announcement has yet been made, car enthusiasts across the country might have something to look forward to later this year.