Digestible Collectible: 1994 Dodge Viper

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

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.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • 427Cobra 427Cobra on Feb 12, 2016

    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.

  • Jacob_coulter Jacob_coulter on Feb 12, 2016

    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.

    • Chan Chan on Feb 12, 2016

      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.

  • JMII JMII on Feb 12, 2016

    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.

  • Viperkim Viperkim on Mar 15, 2016

    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.