A perfect storm was brewing in Scottsdale. An early Dodge Viper—not just any Viper, but 1992 VIN #001, owned by Lee Iacocca—was about to cross the block during Arizona Auction Week. It was a high-profile car at a high-profile event, offered in a market that’s embracing low-mileage Vipers. A record sale price would have hardly been a surprise, and in the end, the car delivered exactly that.
VIN #001, showing only 6500 miles, sold for $285,000 at Bonhams, establishing a new high for an early RT/10.
“It looked like a typical, pampered, never-driven RT/10, but obviously it’s much more than that,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton. “This price has as much to do with the car’s early build date as with its Iacocca history, but together they make it incredibly desirable to Viper enthusiasts.”
Low-miles Vipers have been trending upward at auctions over the last couple of years, and “they did quite well at Scottsdale, for the most part,” Newton says. Although no other first-generation Viper came close to the Iacocca car, Barrett-Jackson sold a 2010 Dodge Viper ACR Voodoo (#1 of 31) for $236,500, a record for that model.
Technically, the Iacocca car is the second most-expensive Viper ever sold. A 2013 SRT went for $300,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2012 Orange County event, but that car was sold for charity, which almost always inflates the hammer price.
Iacocca made history (as he was wont to do) by bringing the curvaceous Viper to a company that was best known for minivans and compacts. Even he called the Viper absurd, but he believed so strongly in it that at the press conference announcing the car he declared it a classic. Brian Willey, regional president of the Viper Owners Association, calls it “the last great vehicle development program in automotive history.”
The Viper lasted five generations and kept its monster V-10 throughout. Early cars, like VIN #001, featured a canvas roof panel and vinyl windows that zippered in place; they had neither air conditioning nor exterior door handles. With a 400-horsepower engine and less than 3300 pounds sitting on massive rear tires with no traction control, the car required an attentive driver.
A 1992 Dodge Viper in #1 (Concours) condition carries an average value of $67,800, so at $285,000—four times that amount—the Iacocca Viper is far from average. Of course, that was obvious even before the auction.
“The Viper market has not had its big collector day yet despite strong interest,” Hagerty valuation analyst James Hewitt said beforehand, “but bringing to auction the first car built from the first generation of an American supercar—one owned by the company chief—it could break ground into a new price level.”
Should have been a weatherman.
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