There's still nothing on the road today that can compare to the Viper in terms of sheer audaciousness. An 8-liter V10, six gears, and no windows or roof? No other car in recent memory has such a single-minded purpose, and seeing one on the road, even almost two decades after their debut, is still a special occasion.
This 1996 Viper is the one we all wish we had purchased and socked away when they were new, and here's your second chance. With just 257 original miles (yes, two-hundred fifty-seven), it is a time capsule that's a perfect snapshot of the fastest, nastiest car on the road in the mid-1990s. Better yet, it's sinister black on black, and includes what appears to be every single piece of documentation issued by Dodge that year. It's rare to call a newer car “investment quality” but that's exactly what this is.
1996 was the last of the “Phase I” RT/10 roadsters, and once production ended in 1996, they switched to GTS coupe production, which brought myriad improvements to the entire lineup. Nevertheless, the car received some significant upgrades in 1996, including more power thanks to a rear-exit exhaust system that eliminated burned calf muscles and improved the engine note. It also received new 5-spoke alloy wheels that were, in many people's opinion, a vast improvement over the trendy but quickly dated original 3-spoke design. And there were three new styling themes, among them, black with silver stripes. A proper hardtop was added to the options list as well, and it is included with this car.
What can you say about a car that is virtually new? The paint is as good as factory paint got in 1996, and on the Vipers, it seems Chrysler went the extra mile to make it look spectacular. The paint is deep and glossy, and the Viper's plastic body panels show no signs of age-related stress. Those silver stripes are decals, and remain firmly adhered to the hood and deck lid surfaces with no curling or discoloration. Glass, emblems, lenses and everything else on the exterior of this car is similarly well preserved. It also includes the optional matching hardtop and side curtains, which have never been installed and remain as new. Are you getting the picture here? This is a brand new 1996 Dodge Viper.
The engine under the massive clamshell hood needs no introduction. Displacing 8 liters and making 415 horsepower, it is one of the most outrageous powerplants to ever settle between the fenders of a production car. Dodge designers knew it would the focal point, so they went out of their way to dress it up—the bright red intake manifold, the cast aluminum valve covers with the Viper logo, dual throttle bodies all add up to something that's just made to show off—I'm surprised they didn't put a window in the hood like the guys who designed the new Corvette ZR1 did. The engine is absolutely immaculate, and perhaps the fluids have been changed, but otherwise it is as it was when it rolled off the assembly line. Have those throttle cables ever stretched to the wide-open position? Has the fan ever had to kick on to cool the engine after a 150 MPH blast? Has the air cleaner ever attempted to swallow a squirrel as the engine inhales almost 1000 cubic feet of air every minute? Unlikely. Rather, this car has probably done some idling, a few passes down the street on the day it came home, but otherwise has abstained from the joy for which it was designed and built. And while that's a shame, nobody can argue that preserving this car for the future was a mistake.
Underneath, you'll find a spotless chassis, complete with a 6-speed manual transmission and an upgraded rear differential that was part of the 1996 improvements. The frame was reinforced to improve precision and address concerns about cowl shake, and the suspension geometry was revised to make the Viper a little more user-friendly, if such a thing is even possible. And of course there's the new rear-exit exhaust system I mentioned earlier, which now peeks out from under the center of the rear bumper, but no longer does the Viper sound like a UPS truck on nitrous. Those new wheels are as handsome as they are large: 17x10 up front, and 17x13 in back, still wearing the original vintage 1996 275/40/17 front and 335/35/17 rear Michelin Pilot Sport tires.
The interior is as black as the body, with the only contrast being provided by the white-faced gauges (which were a fresh idea in 1996). The seats are spectacularly comfortable, so much so that Dodge offered an office chair that used a throne out of a Viper. The steering wheel is airbag-free, and 1996 was the last year of the tiresome passive seatbelts mounted in the doors. And yeah, that's a cassette player in the center of the dash, although you'll be relieved to know that this snake does have the optional A/C installed. It appears in the paperwork that the original owner thought there was some kind of imperfection in the front passenger seat, and got the selling dealership, Great Northern Dodge, to agree to install a new one that he supplied—whether that happened or not, I can't say, but the seat now in the car is pretty darned nice with only a slight bit of stretching from one or two passengers, perhaps on that maiden 257-mile voyage. Oh, yeah, there are some Viper-logo floor mats, too, just in case you think about taking this on the road while wearing dirty shoes. The trunk is all business, with a space-saver spare and jack, but little else—there's no mat or padding or anything back there, but who cares?
Documentation is extensive. There's the original owner's manuals, window sticker, and other paraphernalia you get when you buy a new car. We also have the original invoice and purchase order with receipt for the $5000.00 down payment. Then there's the original odometer disclosure statement, and even the original temporary tag that was on the car when it acquired most, if not all, of those 257 miles. In addition, the owner seems to have collected every piece of printed matter with a Viper on it that appeared in 1996: magazines, Skip Barber Driving School brochures, Johnson Controls (who built the seats) office furniture catalogs, artwork brochures in case you want to buy a painting of a Viper, incentives to join the Viper Club, the Viper Holiday Gift Collection catalog, and, well, you get the picture. If it had a picture of a Viper on it, it probably comes with this car.
So given all that, I'm pretty confident in stating this is an investment-grade Viper. There are surely not many that have lower mileage, and none with as complete a document package. The realities of depreciation being what they are, however, means that the original owner, despite immaculate care and feeding of this super snake, has still lost a pile of money on it. What that means is that as a savvy investor, this is your opportunity to buy low and wait for the market to catch up. ZR-1 Corvettes of this vintage are seeing some upticks, and there's no doubt in our minds that the Viper is right behind. If there's one to own, this is it. Call today!
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$299.00 Dealer Administrative Charge is not included in advertised price. All prices and offers are before state, city and county tax, tag, title and license fees. Out of state buyers are responsible for all state, county, city taxes and fees, as well as title/registration fees in the state that the vehicle will be registered. Dealer not responsible for errors and omissions; all offers subject to change without notice, please confirm listings with dealer.
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