• Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock

An original Viper with delivery mileage? The most tempting thing that wants to kill you

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The 1992 Dodge Viper was Chrysler’s way of saying ’we’ve now sold enough Minivans to be able to fund an exciting halo car,’ which the Viper truly was. Devoided of modern creature comforts or safety features, the RT/10 was a Corvette eater. This red example from the first year of production somehow managed to gather just 34 miles on the odometer and could be yours for just under $100,000.

You barely ever see cars like the Viper come out of the doors of a major manufacturer nowadays. The Viper itself was axed in 2017 because Chrysler couldn’t put curtain airbags on it nor was the V-10 monster in demand anymore. With it went the Conner Assembly Plant, and all that’s left now are the hopes that somehow, in the future, the Viper will be revived, although that’s hard to imagine.

This Forgotten 1992 Dodge Viper Deserves to Be Bought and Driven, A Lot

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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The Dodge Viper is one of the most recognizable and legendary American sports cars. It’s also one that went through an amazing evolutionary process that saw it reach Nurburgring lap record heights on top of a more-than-enviable track record in competition. I mean, how many more modern production-based race cars can you think of that have won the 24 Hours of Daytona outright? I can think of only two others. That’s it. But the Viper also won at Le Mans, at the Nordschleife, at Spa-Francorchamps, at Sebring and almost everywhere else in between.

The car you see here isn't one of the revered race cars campaigned in the mid-to-late '90s, nor is it one of the last, fifth-generation, models that got most of the things right. No, this is an RT/10 from 1992.

This is one of the very first Vipers ever made from the SR1 generation that started the myth and the legend. At face value, you’d argue that it isn’t a particularly great car. In a 2015 article, Road & Track didn’t mince its words when fleetingly describing the first Viper: "The first-generation cars had the half-life of flerovium-289 and seemed to disintegrate while you were looking at them." But, as the author goes on to point out, the Viper wasn’t conceived to teach Porsche a lesson or two on build quality or to push BMW to come up with a cleverer suspension setup or engine control unit.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Instead, the Viper was conceived to send shivers down the spine of any mortal who managed to fit behind the steering wheel and who had the guts to push the loud pedal deep enough. That’s because it was inspired by another no-nonsense American automotive legend, the Shelby Cobra. Carroll Shelby himself tried to channel the spirit of his creation from the ’60s barely a few years after the RT/10 hit the market, but he failed. The Viper, however, succeeded.

This particular example, currently listed on eBay with a 'Buy It Now' price of $99,885, is a staggering time machine back to '92 with only 34 miles on the clock.

It even has the original window sticker with the MSRP. As a car built in June of 1992, it’s one of the first cars built and, according to the seller, it’s a ’barn find’ that was ’delivered new to a collector.’ For reasons that fly above our heads, that collector decided the Viper would live a sedentary life or, maybe, he drove it a bit and decided he loved life too much. Regardless of the reasons, this Viper has barely been driven and currently rides on its original Michelin tires. It’s debatable whether or not an RT/10 is worth as much as a 2019 Porsche 911 Carrera 4, complete with a 3.0-liter flat-six that develops 370 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, enough to take you to a top speed of 181 mph and from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. But, before we try to make sense of it all, here’s a short history lesson.

The Creation of the Dodge Viper - The Most Down-to-Earth Halo Car That Has Ever Existed

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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"I was walking down the hall, Bob called me in the office - and it was just a five -minute discussion," said Tom Gale quoted by HowStuffWorks. "I can remember it like it was yesterday. He said, ’I’ve been thinking more and more. We really ought to kick off doing a project like a reborn Cobra.’ That was our intent right from the very beginning." Tom Gale was Chrysler’s Chief of Design while Bob Lutz was the President. At the time, in 1988, Chrysler had some of the parts needed to build a sports car like that: it had the tech and, following a clever scheme, it also got around assembling a dedicated group of people to build the car, a group affectionately known as ’Team Viper.’ With this being said, the automaker wasn’t all that well from a financial standpoint, but we’ll get to that later.

As Francois Castaing, then-Chief of Chrysler's Jeep and Truck Engineering division, recalls, Chrysler was working on a V-10 engine to power full-size trucks around the time he joined the company, in 1987.

"Jokingly, we said, ’That’s the kind of engine that, back in the ’60s, Bizzarrini and DeTomaso would have bought to create the great sports cars of back then. You know, very powerful, torquey, big gas American engine, put into a nice body.", recalled Castaing who started out as an engine builder working for Renault Gordini on the motorsport side of things. Lutz, who was driving a Cobra at the time on his days off, reasoned that it didn’t matter whether the parts came from "the car bin or the truck bin" as long as they were there already and cost could be kept down.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Carroll Shelby himself was contacted before the first Viper prototype even turned a wheel as he acted at the time as a consultant for Chrysler. "We sat down about 30 minutes and conceptualized the car," remembered Shelby. "[Lutz] wanted to do what I’d been trying to get done around the company for nine years. In 30 minutes we had the concept. And we ended up with the Viper, where it might have been years before we would have gotten management to agree to build what I was building." Sadly, health problems meant that Shelby played no further part in the Viper story and it wouldn’t be until 1998 that his own ’modern Cobra,’ the Series 1, would hit the road.

Gale came up with a few drawings and renders, ones that harkened back to the 1985 Izod concept, a few weeks after his initial five-minute talk with Lutz and the project was given the green light to build a concept car for the 1989 North-American International Auto Show.

The car took shape at Chrysler’s Highland Park Advanced Design Studios, and the result is unreasonable. Unreasonable, as it happens, is also the word that Castaign used to describe the Viper as a whole.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Unreasonable or not, the Viper Concept, called "Copperhead," appeared at the Detroit Auto Show painted in gleaming red and with a narrow windshield and an integrated roll hoop behind the seats. It offered barely four cubic feet of interior space for the two passengers because the engine took precedence. And it was a mammoth of a unit with 8.0-liters of displacement from 10 cylinders. It took the world by storm and people started asking how they could get their hands on one. Some even sent down payments directly to Chrysler and there were even cases of celebrities trying to brine Lutz himself into giving them a spot on the waiting list. However, there wasn’t an entry list. The Copperhead was built to gauge people’s interest. The work only actually started after Chairman Lee Iacocca gave his blessing for the project, encouraged by the overwhelming success of the prototype.

How did Chrysler move from ’Copperhead’ to ’Viper’? "What it was is, you wanted the snake, and we couldn’t have ’Cobra,’ explained Lutz. "It was as simple as that. You didn’t want ’Sidewinder’ because it had military connotations and, secondly, you could see all kinds of buff-book headlines with the car going sideways. ’Asp’ doesn’t sound too good. ’Python’ — they’re big and fat, and they swallow pigs and then lie around in the sun for a week. So ’Viper seemed to roll off the tongue easily."

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Car & Driver wrote in 1990 that the Viper was built in a different fashion compared to ordinary cars. The whole project was carried to completion by a group of Chrysler engineers selected by Chief Engineer Roy Sjoberg. "It’s a small, dedicated team of people behaving as if they were the owners of the Viper Car Company," Lutz said in the article. "They have goals and budgets, and so long as they stay within that framework, they’re their own bosses."

Chrysler learned from the hits and misses of Team Viper and went on to use the same approach of employing platform teams to create the Intrepid, the Neon, the Stratus, and many more including some of Dodge's best-selling minivans and the Ram.

So, the Viper wasn’t only "the pride of Chrysler en­gineering" as Castaign put it, but also the test bed for a new kind of management that could make Chrysler money. Team Viper even handled the business of supplying parts, although Lutz offered to help with this delicate matter. Many suppliers shrieked at the idea of the Viper, a car, they thought, will never make it on the road. This is where Lutz stepped in: he argued that suppliers should have trust in the team behind this project and invest in it as if it was a project of their own doing. However, if a supplier flat out refuses to join in, he’s free to discuss matters with the President himself over lunch. "I’ve had only two lunches," Lutz said.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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It all seemed to work, and the first test mule was out before the end of ’89. Known as ’VM01’, it had under the bulging hood a 5.9-liter Chrysler LA V-8 engine. It was the biggest engine Chrysler had at the time, based on a design that debuted in 1971, and it was only to be found in trucks and vans. The second prototype, VM02, featured a cast-iron V-10. This was also a unit meant for trucks, and it was a derivative of the LA 360 V-8 engine.

While long-time Chrysler engine builder Willem Weertman was enlisted to help improve the V-10, it was Lamborghini who proved instrumental in the creation of the production version. Chrysler owned Lamborghini at the time, and Team Viper was thus able to cooperate with Italian engineers as the V-10 made its transition from a cast-iron block to an aluminum alloy one. Lamborghini also aided with the cooling system, the crankshaft’s balance, weight reduction, and preliminary fine-tuning. The first aluminum V-10 was about 150 pounds lighter than the cast iron unit.

Team Viper tested the mules at both Road Atlanta and Nelson Ledges.

The final pre-production prototype was ready by early 1991, and Carroll Shelby drove it around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in The Month Of May on race day for the Viper replaced the Dodge Stealth as the Indianapolis 500 pace car that year.

The press had already had a taste of the Viper in late 1990 when Lutz drove journalists around the Arizona desert, but the public had to wait until May 1992 when the first cars that rolled off the New Mack Avenue assembly line arrived. They were spread across the dealers via unmarked trucks, Chrysler deciding which dealer gets a Viper by looking at where there’s a higher density of Corvette owners and customer satisfaction with each dealer.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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While Lutz promised a price of "under $50,000", the Viper went on sale with an MSRP of $52,000 although some dealers added a %100 markup to make an easy profit off the burgeoning demand.

That would be about $180,000 in today’s money. It was about $12,000 more expensive than a Corvette at a time which advertised for $40,145 or $72,024 today. Then again, you’ve got to take into account the $2,600 gas-guzzler tax, and a $2,330 luxury tax that was applied back then on high-capacity exotics. The 196 1992 model year Vipers sold in an instant in spite of all that and, by July, 70% of the 3,000 cars slated to be built of the 1993 model year were also paid for.

Is a 1992 Viper With Very Low Miles Worth $100,000?

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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The history bit tells the story of a group of car guys that put their hands and heads together to create a monster of a car in just three year’s time. For the story alone, a 1992 Viper RT/10 is worth it. Is this one worth almost $100,000? Well, in a world where a 1994 Supra sells for over $120,000, the answer could be yes.

First off, with an RT/10 you get that amazing-looking curvaceous body. It somehow epitomizes the roundness of the '90s, only turned up to 20.

The car is wide, measuring 76 inches in width, five inches more than a Corvette C4 and 0.4 inches wider than a Porsche Carrera GT and with a height of just 44 inches, it’s lower than an F40. It’s also devoided of creases or weird design lines. You’ve got the four openings in the nose, the standard front fascia element on any Dodge at that time, the narrow, rounded headlights and the two fog lights on either side of the grille, just above the protruding lip. The larger than life hood hinged in the front features two vents next to the A-pillars and also wide openings before the doors to let the exhaust pipes make their way down to the rocker panels. The Viper GTS abandoned side exhausts, but they returned on the SRT-10.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Then you’ve got those doors with their black vertical elements that don’t actually hide door handles. In fact, the RT/10 lacks exterior door handles which is why it also lacks side windows. As a result, the soft top comes with soft top-style zip-up side windows which can be unzipped so you can reach the door handle on the interior door panel. A hardtop was also available if you wanted your Viper to look less crude in bad weather. In the rear, bumper extends quite a bit beyond the edge of the trunk lid. On the bumper, you’ll the name and model of the car embossed in the sheet metal. Appropriately, the car got its own special badges and unique three-spoke center-lock wheels with 13-inch disc brakes behind.

Inside, there’s not much to see. T

he big, straight dash, which dwarfs the simple steering wheel, is a collection of little gauges and knobs that continues with a huge transmission tunnel in between the seats that means the driver and the passenger are in different time zones.

The RT/10 doesn’t have airbags, nor A/C, nor any safety features such as ABS, traction control or anti-lock brakes. It’s all in the interest of saving weight, as is the use of resin transfer molding fiberglass body panels and structural urethane-foam trim interior door panels. As a result, the car weighs just 3,285 pounds. By comparison, a base Porsche 964 was actually lighter at 3,031 pounds as was a Corvette C4 that weighed 46 pounds less. You can blame the extra weight on the 712-pound V-10 engine.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Talking about the V-10, in its first iteration, it put out 400 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 465 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm.

That was enough for a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.6 seconds, 1.1 seconds slower than the 2017 Viper Coupe and just 0.2 seconds off the Corvette C4 ZR1 with its 375 horsepower Lotus-improved engine. Also, the Viper RT/10 reaches 100 mph from naught in 9.2 seconds and completes a quarter-mile run in just 12.6 seconds at the speed of 113.8 mph while top speed is 165 mph. That was less than what the LT5 V-8 on the ’Vette could do as the ZR1 was a +180 mph machine. Still, the Viper didn’t have a fixed roof and, anyway, the LT5 V-8 was a huge improvement over the standard L98 which could only power the C4 to 150 mph.

That power and torque was sent to the back wheels with their chunky 335/35R tires through a Borg Warner six-speed manual. The torque is enough to spin the wheels in third gear, but the steering is precise, and the gearbox isn’t sluggish although the throws aren’t the shortest. Car & Driver more recently described the RT/10 as "an elemental testament to the pleasure of mechanized movement" and "a paragon of bizarre perfection."

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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The Viper sits on unequal-length upper and lower control arms all around, the lower ones tracing their roots back to the Dodge Dakota.

The suspension arrangement is completed by coilovers with Koni dampers and anti-roll bars at both ends. The 50-50 weight balance, said Road & Track in 1992, allows "a skilled driver arm-wrestle diffi­cult corners, approach and dance on the edge of the laws of physics without com­puter intervention." But the RT/10, frankly, is more about the exercise of eating straight-line roads at an unimaginable pace. As Motor Trend put it back in 1996, "getting into the throttle is like unleashing the power of the Biblical Beast and with a wide, flat power curve that seems to go on forever, it sometimes seems like the Viper’s six-speed transmission has about four more gears than it really needs."

Is the RT/10 worth $99,885? If you want one of the least used examples you can find, yes. Is the RT/10 worth at all? Also yes. If you don’t think it is, I’ll direct you again to the words of Bob Lutz: "Viper is not for everyone. This car is only for the enthusiast who wants a great driving car and nothing more."

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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Of course, it’s not a daily driver, and the build quality isn’t top notch. Let’s not forget that it was basically hand built and five people carried out the building process of each car, assisted by computerized checks. It’s also not particularly practical inside, and the brake pedal is way too high for you to heel-and-toe while the whole arrangement is offset to the left.

It's also awful if it starts raining as the canvas top takes forever to install and if you're not getting that $99,885 example, it may be leaking by now too.

But it doesn’t matter because, if you manage not to bin it, the Viper offers "one of the most exciting rides since Ben Hur discovered the chariot," as Car & Driver wrote almost 27 years ago. It’s also a car that borrowed its name to two TV series where the Viper is, basically, a distant relative of K.I.T.T. and the Transformers.

Car for Sale: 1992 Dodge Viper with Just 34 Miles on the Clock
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The RT/10 also wrote the first lines of the Viper's story in motorsport.

Two RT/10s were entered by the French Rent-A-Car Racing Team in the 1994 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The yellow and orange lightly modified Vipers competed in the GT1 against the likes of Porsche with the Dauer-developed 962 GT1 prototype-turned-gt-racer and the Bugatti EB110 GT of Michel Hommel. The orange No. 40 car driven by ex-Renault F1 driver, Rene Arnoux among others, finished a respectable 12th overall and third in class behind the 962s. The GTS-based race cars would be built on the early success of the RT/10 and claim three back-to-back wins at Le Mans as well as championship titles in the U.S. (ALMS and Grand-Am) and Europe (FIA GT and a myriad of national GT series).

Further reading

1992 - 2010 Dodge Viper
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Dodge Viper GTS-R

Read our full review on the 1992-2010 Viper

2014 SRT Viper High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2014 SRT Viper

Source: Ebay

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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