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I Bought a 1997 Dodge Viper GTS, and I Drove It 500 Miles Home

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2016

The DougCar has arrived. It has 450 horsepower. It has 10 cylinders. It has no traction control, no stability control, no side airbags and no anti-lock brakes. It's already inspired a celebration among my most loyal readers, who saw its announcement here on Oversteer last week.

And I have my fingers crossed that it doesn't kill me.

Yes, I finally bought the car everyone asked me to get -- the car that won the "What Car Should I Buy?" competition twice in a row by an enormous number of votes across virtually every platform. The Dodge Viper. Mine is a 1997 GTS coupe model, painted in the famous Viper Blue with white stripes and featuring an 8.0-liter V10 engine under the hood. It looks absolutely insane. It's cramped inside, and it scrapes going over most speed bumps.

It'll be a fun year.

Of course, I didn't just buy a Viper and have it shipped to me, like I was ordering a water bottle shaped like a killer whale from Amazon. That would be obvious and predictable, and I'm never obvious and predictable. Unless, of course, you predicted I'd buy a Viper.

No, I bought my Viper in some faraway, mythical land (I believe it was the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, where it was so hot I could've cooled down by licking a lit match), and then I drove it home, more than 500 miles, on the highway.

I love buying a car and immediately driving it a long distance, because the drives home after the purchase are always full of an enormous amount of fear and apprehension that mayyyybe you bought the wrong car. You're cognizant of every noise. You notice every flaw. At one point, I drove past a tree full of loud insects, and I became convinced the noise was actually my differential failing.

Adding to my fear was that virtually everyone I told about my impending Viper adventure convinced me the Viper would, at any moment, attempt to kill me. I'm serious! I had professional drivers, people who I've known for some time, email me and say, "If you buy a Viper, BE CAREFUL. It will try to kill you." I honestly thought I'd be cruising down the highway, going 60 miles per hour in a straight line, and the rear end would swing out and find a telephone pole to wrap itself around. I truly expected that.

But it didn't happen, and I'm happy to say I lived through all 500 miles, which even included a few periods in heavy traffic near Raleigh and Washington, D.C. I'm also happy to say the Viper also lived through all 500 miles without an issue. It didn't overheat. It didn't make any strange noises. It only scraped on a few gas station ramps and speed bumps. In the end, I found it ... surprisingly comfortable.

Yes, you read that correctly. I found the Dodge Viper surprisingly comfortable. While people are busy describing the Viper as a scary, angry, ultra-fast killing machine that performs all manner of societal ills, like scaring the elderly, kicking puppies and running with scissors, they conveniently leave out how it has a pretty good air-conditioning system and really comfortable seats. And how the ride is rough but not race-car-on-the-roads rough. And how the engine is loud but not club-with-strobe-lights loud. And how the clutch is heavy but not let's-go-pick-up-that-79-year-old-oak-tree heavy.

Really, it all comes down to expectations. I was expecting the very worst -- a crazy, murderous, rampaging vehicle that'd prove difficult to control at any speed and annoyingly uncomfortable at every speed. But a lot of this hype comes from people who have never owned a Viper or people who owned a Viper but had no other exotic car for comparison. The truth is that the Viper isn't so bad.

Yet.

I say yet because I often have these little honeymoon periods right after I buy a car when I like it for a while, but at some point I realize it's horrible and I'd really rather drive around in anything else, including one of those foot-powered plastic cars designed for toddlers. So, we'll see if this happens with the Viper.

In the meantime, keep checking back here on Oversteer and on my YouTube channel, because I have a lot of exciting things planned for my Viper ownership. It's going to be a fun year, indeed.

1997 Dodge Viper

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I Bought a 1997 Dodge Viper GTS, and I Drove It 500 Miles Home - Autotrader