Detailing the Dodge Viper is an amazing experience for any detailer. Check out my experience detailing two of these historic machines in the last few weeks.
You can probably imagine that after working on upwards of 2,500 cars over the course of a decade or so, I would no longer get excited about working on yet another car. That’s true for the most part but there are still the odd occasions when something rare and special comes along. Just recently I was fortunate enough to work on not one, but two iconic mid-90’s Dodge Viper GTS Coupes. I’m not an American Muscle guy but the Viper owns a special place in the pantheon of automotive lore, and it just happens to be my brother’s second favorite car of all time (the first being the 427 Cobra which was the inspiration for the Viper).
The Dodge Viper began production in 1991 after its development was heavily influenced by Carrol Shelby and burst onto the automotive scene to much fanfare. One of the most unique features of the vehicle was the use of an 8.0 Liter V10 engine that had been used previously in a few Dodge truck models. This behemoth engine in one iteration or another was a staple of the Viper for the entirety of its production run from 1991 to 2017. Only 32,000 or so Vipers were ever made (there were some breaks in production over the years as the car was discontinued and then brought back) qualifying it as a quintessential low-production vehicle which certainly helps collector value.
I must admit that many years ago I wrote a blog post about investor cars, and I selected the Dodge Viper as one that I did not think would escalate in value as much as owners might have felt. I based that on a few legitimate concerns, one being that the factory was consistently poor at documenting Viper production. This is true. I felt this could be a problem with some very rare models like the ACR’s as lack of proper factory documentation would open the door for fake versions being propagated as the real deal. However, I failed to account for the amazing affection collectors have for this car and recent prices of Series I and Series II Vipers seem to suggest that I may have been prejudiced against the Viper.
The owner of the two lovely Vipers that I worked on is selling the silver one that you see in our header photo for this post. This 1998 GTS Coupe covers less than 25,000 miles on the odometer, and I can assure you that the car is very nearly a museum piece. This original California car has pristine paint and an interior that looks untouched. When I researched these Coupes values, I saw examples going for as low as $68,000 to as high as $110,000. That’s significantly more than I would have guessed but I shouldn’t be surprised. With the historically low production numbers that we saw with the Vipers (hovering around 2,000 examples a year) it’s common sense that these vehicles will continue to go up in value.
Detailing the Dodge Viper: Things to Know
Detailing an icon like a vintage Dodge Viper can be complicated. There are several things that you need to be aware of. First, the vehicle is larger than you might think despite having an incredibly cramped cockpit. The front bonnet is huge and takes a while to buff out properly. Bear in mind that the body panels on the Viper are all composite. That’s a fancy way of saying that Dodge used bumper material to make all the panels on the car. The challenge with this is that composite does not dissipate heat as well as steel or even aluminum so you have to more careful and more patient when buffing the Viper’s panels to avoid over-heating them and burning the paint.
Second, the interior is very cramped and the materials (at least on these Series II Vipers) were not the best. The carpet used on the door panels is especially low quality and prone to fraying. Getting in and around things in the interior is difficult and more time-consuming than you would think. The car was designed to be fast, not easy to detail.
Finally, the wheels are quite small by modern standards (I believe 16 or 17 inches) and cleaning the back wheels is especially difficult. There is literally no room between the back calipers and the wheel so you must clean the wheel, then move the car to be able to access the area blocked by the caliper. No tool I know of would be able to get between those calipers. And the hood is huge and heavy and has a complicated 2-stage opening procedure. If you have never opened the Viper hood, have the owner do it for you to assure you don’t damage anything.
It’s perhaps most important to remember and understand that the headlights on these Series II Vipers are extremely expensive with used one’s going for an average of $5,000 a piece online. That’s not a pair that’s each headlight. So that means if you are in a front-end collision in a Series II Viper, and both headlights have to be replaced…you are looking at $10,000 just for replacements alone. So be very careful with them and be aware of the chemicals you use.
The Viper is an amazing car, one that will go down in the history books as a truly American Muscle Icon. I still probably wouldn’t own one, but I’m very glad I got to play with two amazing examples. If you want to learn more about the Dodge Viper, there is no better place to research than the Viper Owner’s Association. Check them out today for amazingly detailed information about what it’s really like to own a legend.
If you are interested in the silver Viper that is up for grabs let us know and we can put you in touch with the owner.
Till next time…