Eager enthusiasts bid triple the Viper's $50,000 list price to be among the first in line for the ride of a lifetime.

Vince Manocchi

Dodge Viper Production

Deliveries to dealers began during May of 1992, in unmarked trucks. To distribute the 196 1992 Vipers among its 2800 retailers, Chrysler identified the nation's top 40 markets for premium-priced sports cars (by checking the number of Corvette registrations), and pinpointed dealers based on sales and customer-satisfaction ratings.

The 1992 sticker showed a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $50,000, plus a $700 destination charge, a $2600 gas-guzzler tax, and a $2330 luxury tax, for a total of $55,630. Demand was so strong, however, that some dealers added $100,000 to the price, while buyers were bidding as high as $200,000. "If someone wants to pay a large amount of premium not to have to wait," Dodge Division General Manager Martin R. Levine said, "I don't have a problem with that." To ease the crunch, dealers were authorized to accept orders on the 3000 Vipers slated for production as 1993 models. By July 1992, some 70 percent were reportedly sold.

Viper's core buyers aren't the ultra-rich, but rather those of somewhat lesser means who tend to "spend a disproportionate amount of their income on automobiles," Levine said. Further, its lure isn't likely to be strongest among buyers of Ferraris or even Porsches, but among fans of classic American muscle. "If you realize what a big-block '67 Corvette goes for, you realize what a deal this car is," Levine explained. And while Chrysler's goal is to always build fewer Vipers than it can sell, speculators might be frustrated by the relatively open-ended production. "I think long-term, a Viper is going to be an amazing investment," Lutz explained. "But short-term, as production ramps up, I don't think the speculators are going to make money on it."

At this point, Chrysler is definitely committed to "niche" vehicles like Viper -- and perhaps more than one in any given year. Yet, the Viper we now know should be around a good long while. Lutz explained: "This is a car that could easily live 10 years -- if you don't overproduce. We'll continue to massage it, but I don't see it getting a 'mid-cycle restyle' any more than the Cobra ever did."

To learn more about the Dodge Viper and other sports cars, see: