This 1994 Dodge Viper Is Rebellion on Four Wheels

1994 Dodge Viper RT/10 11 photos
Photo: Pwright2/Bring a Trailer
1994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/101994 Dodge Viper RT/10
The Dodge Viper sits pretty high on the list of the coolest American cars ever made. The spartan sports car is a throwback to a time when American muscle ruled the road and performance was the main concern for cars. So, let's dive deeper into this.
The Vipers' story begins in the late 1980s. But, before getting to the car, we need to take a look at what inspired its creation. To do that, we need to go back to 1962.

Back then, Carrol Shelby created an unimaginably fast and dangerous car, which you might know as the Cobra. The Cobra was born with the help of Lee Iaccoca, and it planted the seed of American speed and power destroying European counterparts.

The go-fast dream would be cut short, though, due to the mandatory anti-pollution norms and the dastardly oil crisis, which I mentioned one or two times whenever talking about these classic machines. Moreover, the oil crisis hit every manufacturer hard, but Chrysler, in particular, took a pretty big beat down. In the meantime, Lee Iaccoca got to the top of Chrysler, and he was determined to bring the company back to its former glory.

1994 Dodge Viper RT/10
Photo: Pwright2/Bring a Trailer
To do that, he needed a plan. First of all, Chrysler acquired AMC and Lamborghini. The three shared resources, thus lowering development costs and expanding the company’s influence. Next, he came up with a revolutionary idea - build every car on the same, front-wheel-drive platform known as the K-Car.

But the K-Car platform consisted of boring cars, and sales were not up to expectations. So, in comes Bob Lutz, who was determined to bring Dodge back to their former performance-oriented selves. He owned a Shelby Cobra replica, and that served as inspiration for a no-nonsense performance car. The task was handed to one of the best designers Chrysler had in store, Tom Gale. He presented a sketch to Bob Lutz. It was approved, and the green light for the Viper project was given.

1994 Dodge Viper RT/10
Photo: Pwright2/Bring a Trailer
Team Viper was assembled in secret. A team filled with rag-tag engineers that had the same desire - to build a car whose only purpose is speed over anything else. And that's what they did. They had no rules except to keep the project quiet and don't spend too much. To keep the budget down, they borrowed parts from wherever they could - trucks, old racing cars, everything.

A concept car was finished, powered by an old, racing Hemi V8. Now, there was one little hair left in the soup - convincing Lee Iaccoca to give the green light to start production. Fortunately, Bob Lutz had a trick up his sleeve. When he went to Iaccoca’s office to pitch the idea, he brought with him a secret weapon - Carrol Shelby.

After seeing the prototype and talking to Shelby, Iaccoca agreed, and at the 1989 International Auto Show, the Viper was revealed to a star-struck audience.

Thus, the first-gen Viper started production in 1991 and today we have an incredible example from 1994 here to bless our eyeballs. But, I will be doing things a little differently today, and the first thing I’ll talk about will be the engine.

1994 Dodge Viper RT/10
Photo: Pwright2/Bring a Trailer
You see, the prototype was a hit with the public, but essentially, it was nothing more than a sheet-metal mockup powered by an old V8. That aging motor had to go, but be it laziness, convenience, or downright cheapness, the Viper received a truck motor. That said, the engine was sent over to Lamborghini - there, it was re-casted in aluminum, its parts were refined, and there is your Viper powerplant.

The 8.0-liter (488 ci) push-rod V10 churned out a monstrous 400 hp (405 ps). All that oomph made the Viper scary-fast. To quote Jeremy Clarkson, you didn’t really drive it; you just held on. The fact that your only safety feature was a seatbelt didn’t help either.

The rawness is found on every inch of the car. The exterior of this particular Viper is finished in Viper Red. Complementing the intimidating looks, you'll find 17-inch tri-spoke wheels and, perhaps, the coolest feature of the Viper - no door handles.

Stepping inside, you won’t find much. You get leather bucket seats, air conditioning, a stereo, and that's pretty much it. You also get a steering wheel which you’ll hold on to for dear life when you decide to mash the throttle.

1994 Dodge Viper RT/10
Photo: Pwright2/Bring a Trailer
Power is sent to the rear wheels via a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission, a limited-slip differential, and 335 wide rear tires! Another cool feature of this car is the side-exit exhaust. This design was short-lived, though, as people burned their feet when getting out of them. So, for the 1996 model year, the side-exit exhaust was ditched in favor of a rear exit system that was centrally mounted.

Keeping it somewhat planted, the Viper gets independent suspension on all four corners, but you still had to fight it with that big lump of a V10 hanging heavy over in the front. Another hairy aspect of drivability is the braking system. As I said, this is a really bare-bones car, and the only thing keeping you on the road is how good of a driver you are. So, it has four-wheel disk brakes with huge calipers but no ABS, which will certainly put you through your paces.

This particular 1994 Viper is up at auction in Sumter, South Carolina. It has 21,000 miles (34,000 km) on the clock, a clean Carfax report, and a clean South Carolina title. The price currently sits at 27,000 dollars with five days left on the auction.

The following Vipers got a little tamer but still kept that scary-fast philosophy. This car is the automotive equivalent to rock-and-roll cranked up to 11, a dying kind of car that we will probably never see again.
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About the author: Călin Iosif
Călin Iosif profile photo

Călin’s origin story is being exposed to Top Gear when he was very young. Watching too much of Clarkson, Hammond and May argue on TV turned him into Petrolhead (an automotive journalist with a soft spot for old pieces of... cars, old cars).
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