by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the June 2017 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
When the production version of the original Dodge Viper RT/10 was introduced for the 1992 model year, it really was like nothing else. Sure, Carroll Shelby’s legendary Sixties-era Ford-powered Cobras provided inspiration, but Viper’s in-your-face, all-American design and 400-hp V-10 engine captured the public’s imagination.
Twenty-five years later, Viper’s basic layout remains unchanged but the latest V-10 is rated at 645 hp, which makes the ’92 model seem downright tame by comparison. Regardless, Viper has been a slow seller in recent years and Dodge has announced production will end with the 2017 models.
The previous Viper’s run ended in 2010, but Chrysler’s bankruptcy pushed off its replacement to the 2013 model year. The ’13 was a bit better equipped than previous snakes, but otherwise was very familiar to Viper fans. Arguably the most significant news was that the car was being sold under Chrysler’s SRT performance-vehicle brand so it was technically no longer a Dodge. Another development was the discontinuation of the open-top model; all Vipers were now coupes.
Disappointing sales led to a rethink, and for 2015 Vipers were once again titled as Dodges. There was also a substantial price cut, including a $15,000 reduction for the base model. These changes didn’t improve the model’s fortunes, and annual sales totals remained stuck in the hundreds.
The 2017 Viper lineup is crazy complicated and includes SRT, GTC, GTS, and ACR (American Club Racer) models. Prices start at $87,895 for the SRT and go up to $118,795 for the ACR. Then there are six special limited-edition models: Snakeskin Edition GTC (25 units, $118,890 base price), 1:28 Edition ACR (28 units, $143,890), Snakeskin Edition ACR (31 units), Voodoo II Edition ACR (31 units, $141,190), GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR (100 units, $145,340), and Dodge Dealer Edition ACR (22 units). This last special is only offered through Tomball Dodge in Texas and Roanoke Dodge in Illinois.
Dodge also offers a “1 of 1” personalized customization program for Viper GTC and ACR models. There’s an almost-endless choice of 16,000 paint colors and 48,000 stripe combinations, not to mention other tweaks including seven different aero packages, four suspension setups, and 11 different wheel styles. Dodge says all this adds up to more than 50 million possible configurations, and that choosing to take part in the 1 of 1 program guarantees “a truly one-of-a-kind hand built American supercar” that includes a personalized dashboard badge.
- With all the limited-edition models and the “1 of 1” customization program there’s no shortage of Viper choices.
- Even though the latest Viper has softened a bit around the edges, this Dodge remains a brutally powerful track-focused sports car.
- Viper styling remains instantly recognizable. Even after a quarter century, there’s nothing else like it.
- Viper production has been running somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 to 700 units a year, so if that holds, a significant portion of 2017 production will be comprised of the limited-edition models. That could work against their supposed special nature. If many of the ’17s made are literally unique, then which one is rarer than the next?
- Vipers aren’t meant to be daily-driver friendly, so we’d guess low-mileage, garage-kept examples will be plentiful down the road.
- A six-speed manual remains the only transmission on offer, so if you want flappy paddles you’re out of luck.
Generally speaking, we suppose almost every Viper ever built is a collector’s item, and now that production is ending for the second time since 2010 this almost certainly is the end of the road for an iconic Dodge. Slow sales have undoubtedly inspired the bewildering plethora of options and limited-production variants to rev up interest. What this means for future collectors is uncertain, so we’d recommend buying what makes you happy, not what you think auction buyers will be seeking in 20 years. With Viper deliveries running at only about 50-60 units a month, no variant is abundant.