The original Dodge Viper is one of the craziest modern cars, thanks to a wide range of unusual items that just seem out of place in, well, a modern car. Consider, for instance, that it doesn’t have roll-up windows, but rather window coverings you have to clip into little tabs if you want protection from the elements. There’s no real roof, but rather a crappy soft-top that doesn’t really get the job done. There’s no traction control, no stability control, no airbags, no anti-lock brakes. And, of course, there’s the side-mounted exhaust that burns your legs every time you step outside the car.
It is, in short, highly compromised — but also highly focused on delivering an old-school, muscle car experience, unchanged by modern safety concerns and regulatory issues. In short, the original Viper was a special car.
Over the years, the Viper got a bit less special: Dodge added windows and eventually an airbag; they made a hardtop, then a coupe version, and then they started putting in other safety stuff. Eventually, the side exhaust was covered, so it wouldn’t really burn your leg when you got out. I don’t want to say the Viper was neutered because it was still quite an amazing car right up until the very end — but it certainly lost some of its unrefined charm.
And, for that reason, I think the original Viper is going to gain in value someday. Not every Viper, mind you, but a red one from the first few model years with the three-spoke wheels and none of the creature comforts you’ll ever want in a vehicle. Early Viper models are currently shockingly cheap on Autotrader, with the average asking price for a 1992-1994 model, from the first three years, seemingly hovering around $30,000 to $40,000. To me, that’s a bargain for what I consider an iconic car and for one of the most special vehicles made in the 1990s.
Admittedly, Dodge made a lot of early Viper models, which usually suggests values won’t rise — but given how cheap the Viper got and how dangerous it was, I suspect there are many fewer Viper models left than originally produced. I suspect that, coupled with the car’s uniqueness compared to everything else on the road at the time, may eventually send the Viper into "unaffordable" territory.