By on February 12, 2016

1994 Dodge Viper

As a classic car fanatic, I should be fundamentally opposed to the idea of the Dodge Viper. After all, the Viper was Chrysler’s attempt at co-opting the heritage of the Shelby Cobra. The later coupe was even worse in this respect, aping the legendary Cobra Daytona Coupes.

It’s blasphemous, I tell you. Imagine the uproar should Mazda, for example, try to recreate an MGB or Lotus Elan.

Anyhow, I’m still intrigued by these big, brutish roadsters. I’m seeing the early cars approach affordability in some cases, with prices as low as $25,000. This 1994 Dodge Viper is just a bit more, at $29.995.

Vipers rarely have high mileage, as I’d have to imagine that long trips are, at best, miserable in a loud, wide tired, open-topped roadster with virtually no creature comforts. As a masochist who folds his linebacker-sized frame into a Miata regularly, I’d relish the idea of a cross-country top-off cruise in a Viper.

I’m told there are very few things that actually go wrong on the Viper. Plastic bits are cheap, so they crack and fade, but mechanically there isn’t much to fail.

If I had thirty grand to throw down on a toy, I don’t see how I could go wrong with an early Viper.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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61 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 1994 Dodge Viper...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    -No roof, so you gotta garage it all the time lest it rain. Also, can’t drive on a day when it might rain.
    -No build quality, it’s nearly a kit car

    I’d wait until the coupe was available in budget (in blue and white). These way early ones have almost no appeal to me. I’d import something unusual before spending this money on a Viper.

    Plus, I bet insurance is sky high.

    Edit: You can get a coupe for same price! And it’s got half the miles of this red example here.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dodge-Viper-2dr-Open-Spo-/262258878828

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      It has a fabric roof panel and side curtains, just like a Cobra, an early Midget, or a Lotus 7.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Interesting. I didn’t know it actually had no side windows either. Very… agricultural.

      • 0 avatar
        mike1dog

        Maybe I’m misremembering, but I thought the top couldn’t be used while going down the road, making it more of a parking aid than a real top.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I’m pretty sure the fabric top was rated for all legal speeds in this country. It wasn’t suitable for top speed testing though.

          • 0 avatar
            viperkim

            Also the Gen 1 came w soft top n hard top.you could get soft or hard side curtin n windows. Most of them dynoed at 425 hp, very good for 1992 to 1995. It was a beast,and a real tough competition on a road course. I have no plan to get ride of my Gen 1,it is a great example of a raw sports car,before government regulations killed the automobile.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Heh… what a garage slug ‘twould be.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I saw one that apparently lived outdoors in Florida, so I imagine the top is at least somewhat watertight, although it isn’t particularly pretty, and I don’t think that visibility through the side curtains is very good. I didn’t see why you couldn’t drive down the road with it, though. Maybe it’s like some of the Lambo targas, where you’re not supposed to exceed a certain speed with it. (I had fun at a car show a few years ago pointing out to the rep who was hyping it, that a Miata had a higher top speed with the top up.)

      Time hasn’t been great to these, but they still have presence.

    • 0 avatar
      MarionCobretti

      “Edit: You can get a coupe for same price! And it’s got half the miles of this red example here.
      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dodge-Viper-2dr-Open-Spo-/262258878828 ”

      While a much better deal, that’s still a roadster, though, just with a tacked on plastic roof. The coupes were badged as GTS, not RT/10, and had a fastback profile.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Powerful junk.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I was in middle school when these were new and it was about the coolest car I could think of at the time.

    I get that they are crude and a bit harsh for the casual driver. That said, whenever I see an old Corvette, Mustang, or Cobra kit car, they barely register with me, yet I always notice these on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I can remember for many years the print automotive journalists bitching that the Corvette was just too crude to be a world class car. It was clearly becoming a sophisticated and refined machine around about the time the Viper came out, and naturally all the reviews loved what a crude blunt instrument the Viper was.
      I kinda despise auto journalists.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also I must point out (for same price) THIS!

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dodge-Viper-Ram-1500-/182018350935

    Viper Ram truck.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Maybe not the most “cultured” car ever built, but man, what a rush to drive, if even just once. A friend of mine owns two Vipers (one much like this and a race-prepped GTS). On a sunny day, the feeling of being shoved back into your seat is rather intoxicating. Would I want to own one? I don’t know…maybe as a weekend toy, if even then. But God Bless Chrysler/Dodge for even building them.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    What a great car, if you have the 30k and the inclination, why not?

    The ride and build quality can’t be any better or worse than a 2nd hand factory five Cobra replica. Driving a car with no windows or top at the ready is not that big of a deal. Did it for years in the Plus 8. Worse things can happen I life than getting a little wet. Weather forecasting these days is fairly accurate…

    Even though these came out in the early 90’s, I want to say 93′ was the first year they scream 80’s to me just like the Grand National. Whatever your feeling towards them in terms of whether you want one in your real/fantasy garage I would think you have to give a tip of your hat to the cat who is out cruising in one.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Did the front get repainted? The emblem is in the wrong spot.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    For 30K I could find plenty of cars I would want as a weekend toy, hell you can get a MB e 500 and a used Vett for that money.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    How about a 2006 GTO instead?
    The GTO has a sealed fixed roof and costs about ten grand less.
    Both have 400hp.
    Viper 0-60 recorded time is 4.4 seconds. GTO is 4.7.
    GTO will only try to kill you on occasion instead of every time you turn a corner or accelerate.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      And the GTO has merely bad, not terrible, build quality.

      • 0 avatar
        Jillybeans

        Yeah but the GTO has no presence. It looks like 90s grand am with a scoop.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          The ’04s didn’t have the scoop, so they looked like rental Grand Ams.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          First of all, Grand Am GTs had hood scoops.

          Secondly, I’m not sure how you can say it has no presence. The mere fact that it looked like a Grand Am means it was exactly like every other Pontiac GTO that existed since they all looked like LeManses with scoops. That would then mean that no GTO ever had presence. Which, admittedly, you could agree with and your original point still stand.

          • 0 avatar
            Jillybeans

            I’m admittedly not educated on the gtos, I still just think it is very simple and generic looking. Take off the badges and it could have come from a piece of word clipart.

            I can’t imagine someone who is shopping for a used viper isn’t in it for the head turning, at least a little bit.

            Edit: wanted to add, I’d totally take a gto over a viper personally. I drive a vibe gt it isn’t exactly a head turner lol.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          “I can’t imagine someone who is shopping for a used viper isn’t in it for the head turning, at least a little bit.”

          Agreed 100%
          Comparing the two, Viper would be Type A personality and the GTO Type B.

        • 0 avatar
          Zackman

          The GTO looked like a stretched Cavalier. No presence at all, but it would go pretty good.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    These always struck me as a blunt instrument. Like pulling out a machete and announcing you are going to use it to field dress the deer you just shot.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    A buddy of mine bought a GTS and I drove it a few times. Blunt instrument is very accurate. I went with him to talk with a couple other owners on one occasion and that’s where I learned about the early vipers reputation of slamming into stationary objects rear end first. I also knew someone that used to race these professionally and always wondered how those two linked, although I’m fully aware her car was heavily modified.

    If you want that rumbling, big engine feel, it’s a good choice. Of course it’s sans anti-lock brakes and any resemblance of stability control. And, well, it looks cool too. I just think there are some better options if you want some all around performance.

  • avatar

    >>>As a masochist who folds his linebacker-sized frame into a Miata regularly, I’d relish the idea of a cross-country top-off cruise in a Viper.

    As someone with a much more compact frame, I’d relish the cross-country trip in the Miata, especially the parts on back roads through the Appalachians, the Rockies, and the Sierras.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I’m in the market for one of these.

    However,
    It must be a 1997-1999 with the factory forged internals motor. Preferably a GTS however roadster will do.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    It can’t be that good a car to drive, judging by how little the owner has actually driven it: 24K miles over 22 years, or barely over 1,000 miles a year.

  • avatar
    Ko1

    Kind of a funny story.

    Back in 1994, dad and I dragged the family’s 1967 Newport Custom out of storage in grandma’s garage and were driving it around Winnipeg. I remember we were driving down Corydon Ave. when we spotted a bright yellow Viper sitting across from one of the cafe’s. We had to check it out because it was pretty much the first Viper we’d seen in Canada. When we were done looking and turned around, there was a small crowd gathered around looking at the Newport. Apparently a rusty old 1960’s 4-door family car was more interesting than Dodge’s latest speed machine.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Awesssssssome license plate!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This is one of those cars you drive purely for the attention, and I don’t really like the attention. Crack pipe. Especially since it would only be usable for about a third of the year around here.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Remember that 1st-gen Vipers did not have ABS. That said, I wouldn’t mind a GTS with the real roof. Vipers really carry a ton of presence on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      Yes, yes they do.

      1997-1999 Viper GTS has more road presence than many new sports cars today.

      I look forward to acquiring one.

      There are only 3 cars I deeply desire:
      1. 1997-1999 Viper GTS
      2. 1993-1998 Toyota Supra Turbo 6mt
      3. 2002-2005 Acura NSX

      Unfortunately, the Viper is the only one attainable under $40k “unmolested”

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    blunt instrument indeed… much like the Cobra. I had, until last month, a Shelby Cobra replica (Backdraft) with an all-aluminum 427 Windsor stroker putting out 612 hp/615 tq in a car that weighed in at 2300 lbs. I owned it for 8 years, and it never ceased to scare the crap out of me… despite having a BMW 3-series derived suspension that imparted excellent handling. These cars demand attention… whether you want it or not. Seems almost every time I’d be out in mine, there’d be some yahoo in a Z06 chasing me down… wanting to race. Not gonna happen… not on the street. The downside to the early models (much like my Cobra), is that there’s no way to secure them. The lack of a permanent/semi-permanent roof & windows relegate it to weekend toy status. I put barely 4000 miles on my Cobra over 8 years because it was not practical to take on overnight trips… and you always had to worry about someone burning their legs on the (hot) sidepipes. It’s the nature of the beast. That said, I wouldn’t mind having a Viper to replace the Cobra, tho I’d likely go with a GTS. The exposure and wind-buffeting get VERY tiring after an hour or two.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Where did all of these go?

    It seemed like Viper sightings were pretty common in the 90’s, now I might see one on the road once every 10 years.

    I’m sure 99% of them are still perfectly road worthy. Really odd.

    If you ever got up close and personal with one of these, it was amazing how crappy they really were. I’m glad Chrysler built it, but comparing a Viper to something like an NSX at the time that was slightly more expensive was an epic gap in quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      There had been a dearth of Vipers on the streets, but now I’m starting to see them come back. First-gen cars are finally being bought by people who actually want to drive.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The ultimate track day toy. I assume the only downside would be paying for rear tires constantly. This car pretty much captures “because racecar” mentality. There is nothing good about it on the street, because it was meant to live on the track. I’ve always heard them described in one word: “brutal”, because it applies to acceleration, ride quality, fit and finish. Don’t buy one if your shy or don’t want attention because people swarm over these. As mentioned they command a presence very few vehicles do, maybe a Lambo but that is it. Every kid in America has a bed room poster of a Viper. Some really nice, high priced rides can just blend in (Telsa & Bentley for example) but a Viper always draws eyeballs. I could see having this a toy one day or a Miata with LS swap.

  • avatar
    viperkim

    Ok enough is enough, contrary to everyone here,I have b owned 4 vipers from Gen 1 to Gen 5.I have road raced ,I have driven cross country, I have been in and organized car shows, etc etc.I’m 60 years old ,I have owned and still owned numerous cars in my collection. Some have gone up in value a few have staid flat, but all were fun to drive and enjoy.by far the vipers have given me the most joy of all my cars. The Gen 1 was far from a kit car,but a great design project from chrysler that set the muscle car world ablaze.ending w Gen 5 viper acr setting more track records than any other production car in history. Viper was built for the track, was raced endlessly and is going out on top.if you ever had the desire to own one, nows the time they will never be cheaper. With less than 26k total production and half of those totaled and sitting in junk yards, now is the time. The gene viper is world class quality, fit n finish, rides and handles Luke a dream 2017 will be the last year. BuY one Enjoy the ride.


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