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Video | Was Buying the Cheapest Dodge Viper in the U.S. a Mistake?

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author photo by Tyler Hoover October 2018

For the last 5 months, I've secretly owned a 1995 Dodge Viper. I wasn't hiding it because I was embarrassed about my car hoarding or because I'm laundering money for a drug kingpin. The truth is I needed to keep the purchases I made on my reality show a secret -- but that's somewhat changed. Due to complicated circumstances, I don't have to worry about that as much anymore, which gives me the freedom to show you a really big problem with my cheap Dodge Viper.

My reality show project consisted of me driving all over the country to buy cars. In total, I purchased 22 cars, and since production wrapped in July, I've sold off the bulk of them. The project was 100 percent funded by Verizon for their Go90 streaming platform, but that service was shut down shortly before we finished filming. Verizon still wanted the project for one of their websites, called RatedRed.com, but that, too, was shut down at the end of August. The good news is my show will find a home somewhere, but I have no idea when that's happening.

For me, the most surprising part of the filming experience involved the sellers of the cars. Despite knowing they would appear on TV and knowing that I was planning to drive their car hundreds of miles home, a number of them dumped some very serious undisclosed issues on us. Since I'm already there with a full production team with a very tight schedule, we couldn't walk away from these cars, even though I really wanted to sometimes. At least it made for some great TV -- just like how the bigger basket cases on my YouTube channel seem to do as well.

With the Viper, I'm not sure if the seller knew it overheated easily, since he had barely driven it in the past year. Under normal cruising, the car can maintain a higher-than-normal temperature, but after any kind of high-engine RPMs, it overheats very quickly. A thermostat didn't fix the problem, and a test of the cooling system confirmed exhaust gases were present. So I was left with the worse case scenario for Viper cooling problems: Bad head gaskets.

For most supercars, this would be a wildly expensive repair, but the Viper isn't your typical supercar. Despite its crazy looks, the car really is a dinosaur underneath, and its pushrod V10 engine isn't very complicated. With the hood removed, you have unlimited access to the engine, and everything comes apart very easily. Honestly, it didn't feel much different than pulling the head on the 4.0-liter inline 6 in my old 1998 Jeep Cherokee.

Since I'm a horrible mechanic, just pulling one head took me all afternoon, but with everything out of the way, the other side would have been off in less than an hour. Having the tools, knowledge and occasional super-human strength of the Car Wizard made it much easier as well. Even without my help, the entire job wouldn't have cost me more than $2,000, which is unheard of in the supercar world.

So it won't be long before I can actually start enjoying this Viper without worrying about the engine impersonating a giant teapot. Then, maybe I will make videos that nobody has ever done in a Viper, like seeing what it's like to drive in the snow or teaching my friends how to drive a manual transmission -- or maybe taking it to Carmax for an appraisal. Brilliant!

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Video | Was Buying the Cheapest Dodge Viper in the U.S. a Mistake? - Autotrader