|Vehicle:||1998 Dodge Viper GTS-R Coupe|
|Original List Price:||$85,200|
|Tune Up Cost:||$300|
This car, Lot F175.1, sold for $87,980, including buyer’s premium, at the Mecum Dallas sale on September 5–8, 2012, in Dallas, TX.
Without going into all the minute details of the development of the Dodge Viper, we can all agree that Chrysler made a bold move to design a modern-day supercar (at least by domestic standards) that plenty of red-blooded, middle-aged car guys could stroke a check for.
The first prototype hit the test tracks in 1989 and debuted in 1991 with the first pre-production model pacing the Indianapolis 500. Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca tapped his old car buddy, Carroll Shelby to drive the car, a brilliant marketing move — and one that further entrenched the car’s DNA to the original CSX Shelbys. The following year, it was offered to the public as the RT/10 Roadster.
The nucleus of the design was largely inspired by the performance platform set forth in the 1960s by Carroll Shelby’s CSX Cobras — meaning, “Let’s stuff a huge engine into a two-seat rocketship with a long nose and lightweight body that will scare the living daylights out of the driver and unsuspecting passenger.”
In fact, Motor Trend magazine did a head-to-head shootout in 1997, lining up a 1965 427 S/C against the Viper RT/10 Roadster. The modern-day RT/10 summarily trounced the Cobra, but the author still lusted after the original Shelby for its raw, pure, driving experience. Still, much like the original Shelby, the Viper’s design was spartan, with very little in the way of buttons, knobs and switches to distract the driver. Air conditioning wasn’t even offered until the 1994 model.
Chrysler first designed the original V10 engine for their truck line — but the weight of the cast-iron block and heads was deemed too heavy for the Viper. Chrysler, owners of Lamborghini at the time, tapped their performance and engineering expertise to revamp the iron horse by recasting the block and heads in aluminum alloy. The result was a 400-hp powerplant with 465 pounds of foot torque, which propelled the radical Viper from zero to 100 mph in a respectable 12.9 seconds.
At the time, Car and Driver magazine referred to this generation of the Viper as “the world’s biggest Fat Boy Harley,” and likened driving it to “playing ping pong with a Louisville Slugger baseball bat.” The car was also extremely well versed in hugging the pavement, partly due to the steamroller-sized tires.
The second generation was born in 1996 and could now be had in the coupe, aka the “GTS Double Bubble” for its double-humped roofline for taller drivers — or to accommodate a helmet for track duty. The Roadster also remained as the original option.
Power increased, the weight dropped and the chassis was now better equipped to handle the massive amounts of torque. In 1997, Motor Trend tested the car in a modern supercar comparison, with the GTS coming out on top in all categories except braking. The much-anticipated ABS brakes became available in 2001. As the car evolved, more creature comforts became available to lure in more buyers and make the car more palatable to a broader market.
Enter the GTS-R
By 1995, Chrysler knew they had a winner on their hands, not only by performance-sales standards, but on the track as well. The GTS-R was an all-out, limited-production race car built specifically to take on GT-Class competition. Race teams could order the car with a 525-, 650- or a 750-horsepower V10 engine. The cars did very well, clinching the 1997 FIA GT2 championship and the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT2 class.
Needless to say, Chrysler was giddy over the Viper’s track prowess, so they decided to celebrate (aka create a marketing opportunity), building 100 street-legal versions in 1998 to replicate the GT2 Championship edition Vipers. The cars would be fitted with a 460-hp V10 with 500 foot-pounds of torque — peaking at a quick-off-the-throttle (or wet-your-pants alarming) 3,600 rpm.
Special badges and graphics included a “Viper GTS-R” banner on the windshield and hood sides, and an American flag appeared on the upper quarter panel with “FIA GT2 Champion” underneath. Other identifications included a black interior with a somewhat gaudy blue accent color and a dash plaque with the vehicle identification number.
A five-point safety restraint system was also onboard that was branded to the systems used on the ORECA team race cars. A rear-stabilizing spoiler wing was also festooned to the beast, but it was not adjustable and set at zero angle.
The car included many body panels that were manufactured by the original suppliers to the racing GTS-Rs. Other niceties to congratulate the original owners included a special factory car cover embroidered with the VIN, and a disposable camera that photographed the car as it made its way down the assembly line. The car’s factory stat sheet shows an impressive 12.5-second quarter-mile run and a staggering 185 mph top speed.
The market speaks with consistency
With only 100 of these rockets built, the SCM Platinum database is understandably a tad light on comparable sales.
We show two selling at Barrett-Jackson, one at their 2009 Palm Beach sale for $97,900 and another at the Scottsdale sale in 2011 for $95,700.
The earlier Palm Beach sale was for chassis #003; chassis #56 sold at the Scottsdale sale. Naturally, a single-digit chassis number is somewhat more desirable than a two-digit car — with the only exception being chassis #001 or #100 — as the first and last are usually the coveted “money cars” for a limited-production specialty supercar, especially as time passes.
Adding one of these with exceptionally low miles to your collection is the norm rather than the exception. Of course, most if not all, will be accompanied by all the documentation you’d expect for a car of this stature.
The GTS-R originally retailed for $85,200, with some guys quickly handing over a six-figure check for the privilege of first dibs. Like the Ford GTs, the cars are coveted and have managed to retain their value since birth — provided that the car remains extremely well cared for and the mileage stays in check.
Our subject car sold for $87,980, including the buyer’s premium. The miles were right, and, as seen with other sales, the car was reported to be in fine condition, with very few notable signs of wear. This was also a one-owner example, which sweetens the pot a bit, as it should have all of the original documentation — plus, the first owner is often the most fastidious.
I also perused the private-sale market for these and found a few for sale, mainly by dealers, for plus or minus $100,000. The lower the miles, generally, the more the seller wanted, with at least one “wrapper” GTS-R up for grabs. Given the limited supply, and how much it might cost to put another one in your garage — I’d call this GTS-R slightly well bought, provided that the market remains steadfast via the “rarely offered” supply. ?
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)