Courtesy of Leake Auction Company
  • 8-liter, 450-hp aluminum V10 engine
  • 6-speed manual overdrive transmission
  • Power steering
  • Power disc brakes
  • Factory air conditioning
  • Original window sticker
  • Part of Falbo Collection
  • Only 431 original miles

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1994 Dodge Viper RT/10 Convertible
Years Produced:1992–96
Number Produced:3,083 (1994)
Original List Price:$54,500
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $32,200; high sale, $60,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Base of windshield, driver’s side
Engine Number Location:Serial number on lower right front, above oil pan; VIN stamped in rear of block near bellhousing
Alternatives:1992–95 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, 2001–04 Corvette Z06, 1999 Shelby Series 1 roadster
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 2505, sold for $42,000, including buyer’s premium, at Leake Auction Company’s Oklahoma City sale on February 20, 2016.

Can you remember the first time you saw a Dodge Viper in the flesh? I can. It was red, of course. I remember being struck by how dangerous it looked, even as it posed topless, spinning on a turntable while a wall of middle-aged men ogled its sexiness.

To get a better look, I weaseled my way through the crowd, all of whom were intoxicated with the curvaceous form in front of them. I popped up at the edge of the stage — just as the fattest radials I’d ever seen swung slowly by, and, just like that, the 15-inch wheel was dead to me.

I can still remember gawking at those long, red plenums under the hood of that voluptuous, instantly recognizable silhouette — and thinking someone was going to be in big trouble whenever their boss found out what they’d done. I was only a bratty tween then, incapable of interpreting the measurements — that 488-ci engine with 400 horsepower and 465 foot pounds of torque — the way the more mature, experienced crowd could.

But I knew enough to know that I was witnessing the introduction of something special.

Bringing muscle back from the dead

The 1980s saw video kill the radio star, and very nearly managed to strangle the life out of American OEM performance for good.

Sure, Pontiac Fieros, digital speedometers and T-tops were pretty rad, but there was virtually nothing poster-worthy coming out of Detroit at the time.

Much has changed in the near quarter-century that has passed since I was first introduced to the Viper — I became a middle-aged man — but I don’t think any of us could’ve imagined then how influential that shiny red monster would be.

When Bob Lutz and Tom Gale began re-imagining the American supercar back in the late 1980s, they were trying to relight a fire that had been extinguished — pitifully and without ceremony — nearly two decades prior — and they weren’t the only ones.

Keep in mind that the Corvette, the closest thing to a true American sports car, had been very nearly choked to death under the grip of federal regulations (180 horsepower in 1980!). Ford was still hanging in there with the decade-old Fox-bodied Mustang, but by the early 1990s, that car was most aptly suited to Vanilla Ice music videos.

None of the Big Three were offering much to be proud of, but it was Dodge/Chrysler — the company that gave the world the Hemi and several of the most iconic muscle car legends ever built — which had fallen the hardest.

Looking back, it almost seems as if the Big Three all decided they’d had enough all at once. The early ’90s gave us the ZR-1 Corvette and dramatically improved pony cars in the SN95 Mustang and the fourth-gen Camaro, but it was the Viper — and its ginormous 488-ci V10 engine — that allowed us to dream again.

A bare-bones road burner

The very idea of cramming 400 horsepower into a factory-built, side-piped machismo machine blew my mind in the most amazing way possible. The kids these days may not be very impressed with that number, what with their Hellcats and their supercharged LT4s and Coyotes, but back then, 400 horsepower was an achievement of heroic proportions — OEM or not.

Alhough the exterior styling may appear a bit pillowy and plasticky when compared to the edgy aggression of today’s models, the first generation RT/10 was a bare-bones assault on the performance standard — just like the Cobra it was built to emulate.

The cars lacked virtually all the nanny-tech that has since become standard-issue equipment in the ever-advancing effort to protect overly enthusiastic drivers from themselves, and, as a result, this Viper can be a quite a handful at full song.

Like a disgruntled Stepford wife, those massive 335s had a nasty reputation for stepping out unexpectedly and leaving nothing but an expensive pile of yard art in their wake. As the serpentine-derived name implies, excessive provocation often results in someone getting bit.

The fact that enthusiasts now have numerous factory-warrantied options pushing 25, 50, and even 75% more power than the Viper debuted with — many of those options sporting back seats — speaks volumes of the glorious new era of American performance in which we now live.

Prices on the rise

If the birth of this era could be attributed to one singular moment, the introduction of the Viper would certainly have to be on the short list. As prices continue to trend upward, it seems the majority of collectors would tend to agree with me.

Chad Tyson recently reported in American Car Collector — SCM’s sister magazine — that sale prices for first-generation RT/10s are up over 50% from a mere four years ago, and I don’t expect we’ll see a decline anytime soon.

We’re currently seeing average prices for first gens hovering a little north of $40k for the 1992 cars, and slowly dropping by about $10k by the time we get to the ’94 cars. Keep in mind that fewer than 4,500 cars were built over that three-year span, and fewer than 300 were available in the first year. Although the median prices over that span are fairly consistent, we’re likely to see more dramatic spikes in sales of first-year cars as they become available.

It’s not red

Unfortunately, our subject car is outfitted in arguably the least Viper-like of the four colors available in ’94. However, Viper Bright Yellow was also the lowest-optioned color offered, with well under 100 units produced, so there is an upside to the downside.

The early RT/10s, like our subject car here, were also delivered sans roof, side windows, exterior door handles, and a/c in an effort to keep weight and production costs to a minimum. In my opinion, they should be kept that way. If ever a car wore a cheap toupee, it was a Viper RT/10.

Get out and drive

Although the ’94s like our subject car are far and away the most abundant of the first gens, they’re still a fairly rare bird — barely 3,000 were produced that year.

Our car’s sale price was likely shifted northward due to the super-low mileage — 431 original miles — but the extra money spent only makes sense if this owner intends to continue the preservation efforts, which seems like torture to me.

If you’re looking for one to drive, a lightly broken-in car with 20,000 or 30,000 more miles for $10,000 less is a deal that will likely continue to appreciate on a similar curve — without forcing you to miss out on all the fun.

All things considered, I think we can call this a good deal all around. It may not be a first-year car or wearing the preferred red or black, but it does have exceptionally low mileage and was painted in the rarest color option.

The buyer also benefits from the peace of mind that is often included with a purchase from a well-known collector, although those warm-and-fuzzies don’t always come free of charge.

Assuming the new owner intends to tuck it away out of sight for a few years, we’re unlikely to see this one cross the block for anywhere near this number in the future — especially as more folks my age decide that we’ve been dreaming long enough. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Leake Auction Company)

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