Say what you want about its brutish nature, but if not for the Viper, I don't think we would have today's Corvette Z06 and ZR1, or the Shelby Mustang GT500, and while cars like the Porsche 911 Turbo would be around, they probably wouldn't be packing 600 horsepower. No, I'm pretty sure the original Viper was the catalyst that got automakers interested in pushing the envelope as far as how much horsepower they could cram into a performance car and still market it to the public with a warranty. The Viper is unapologetic about what it is, and it has stayed true to its nature, only reluctantly becoming more refined up until its demise this year (a new Viper will likely be on the market by 2012, never fear).
Dressed in appropriate and sinister black, this 1996 Viper RT/10 is an iron fist in an iron glove. No sneaking around, no subtlety, no pretext of being a law-abiding citizen, this sledgehammer of a car is, brutal, nasty, and blindingly fast. Vipers don't last long here in the RK Motors Charlotte showroom, and the last RT/10 roadster we had ended up with celebrity ownership and extensive modifications that include brakes, wheels, tires, and a killer stereo system. These are fun toys, amazing track weapons, and terrible daily drivers, which does exactly nothing to diminish their appeal. The GTS coupe debuted in 96, making the roadsters somewhat rare only 721 RT/10 roadsters were built that year.
The inky black hide on this snake belies its 14 years of fun and it looks every bit as good in person as it does in photos. Vipers were largely hand-assembled and enjoyed far better build quality than some of their Mopar siblings of the era, and this one shows you how much the guys on Team Viper cared about their jobs. Good panel gaps all around and the massive hood fits tightly and doesn't move around on the road no matter how hard you hammer it. Road rash is minimal despite the cars 34,472 miles, and like almost every RT/10 roadster (which had only a flimsy cloth top and side curtains) it has probably never been driven in the rain. This is one clean snake.
Tilt that massive hood forward and expose the heart of the beast: an 8-liter V10 that cranks out a brutal (for 1996 anyway) 415 horsepower and a forehead flattening 488 pounds of torque. The Viper designers knew that the engine was the centerpiece of their new creation, so they gave it one of the most spectacular intake manifolds in all of motordom, a bright red casting that features dual throttle bodies and long intake runners to maximize torque production. It's complimented by a set of matching bright red valve covers with the Viper logo engraved into their faces. Like the exterior, the engine bay on this car is virtually showroom new, showing signs of careful maintenance and no inclement weather in its past. Clean, well-maintained, and fully detailed by our own pros, you'll want to open up the engine bay any chance you get on this one.
And there's no question about Vipers reliability. These are not finicky, high-strung performance cars, but anvil-simple tools that run virtually forever despite the driver's inevitable heavy left foot. I've never heard of any major issues with these cars, and there are some enthusiastic owners with more than 100,000 miles on their cars doing nothing more than routine oil changes. I don't know if there's a bigger performance bargain in the entire universe than a clean first-generation Viper like this one.
A 6-speed manual transmission was the only transmission in these cars (if you wanted an automatic in your Viper, you should have your head examined), driving a very tame 3.08 rear gear set with all that torque, steep gears were not only unnecessary, but would probably slow the car down due to excessive wheel spin. As a result, this one cruises easily in 6th, barely above idle at freeway speeds, which saves both your hearing and your bank account (Vipers were never known as thrifty machines, but you already knew that). The chassis on this one is as clean as the engine bay, and there's further evidence that this car was a garage-kept toy from Day One. I'm especially fond of the timeless 5-spoke wheel, which I feel is a big improvement over the dramatic, but kind of dated, 3-spoke design of the earliest cars. This car currently wears a relatively recent set of Michelin Pilot Sport radials as well.
Inside, you're treated to one of the most driver-oriented interiors in years. One of the Vipers calling cars was a distinct lack of electronic and safety systems; no ABS brakes, no traction control, no airbags, nothing that can add weight and steal from the purity of the driving experience. The 3-spoke steering wheel would not look out of place in a race car, and the dashboard has a distinctly race-oriented design that suggests function was more important than style. The seats are incredibly comfortable buckets with grippy suede inserts, and their condition makes me believe that the previous owner was an absolute fanatic about maintenance. There's very little wear anywhere in the interior, and not even the driver's seat bolsters are notably worn, which is the first place these cars show their age. Carpets are excellent, the white-faced gauges are all 100% functional, and the center console doesn't even show an elbow dimple from where the driver undoubtedly rested his arm. A powerful aftermarket stereo system has been added, with enough kick to make itself heard over the side exhausts. Finally, the bare-bones trunk still carries its original space-saver spare, which appears to have never been used.
There's a lot of paperwork with this car as well, including the original owner's manual, warranty information, a brochure from Team Viper, and a clean Car FAX report.
I don't think you'll find a bigger bang for your buck than this Viper roadster. Beautifully maintained from day one, it looks like a vastly newer car hard to believe that the Viper itself is approaching 20 years old. There's still more than enough power here to create A LOT of trouble, and even years later, there are only a handful of street cars that can match its performance. Black on black is an unbeatable color combination (it seems like everyone's got a red Viper), too. We're proud to offer this brutally powerful and fast snake call today, because if this one is anything like the others, it won't be here long.