A few weeks back, our editor Nicholas Maronese noticed a surge in both the volume and prices of Dodge Vipers, especially low-mile first-gens, sold on internet auction site BringATrailer.com, commonly known as BaT.
Unfamiliar with the site, I swooped in to take a look. Nick wasn’t wrong: the site’s auction history reveals a sharp climb in both the number of Vipers recently sold; and the amounts they were sold for, starting in early 2021, and accelerating around July.
What’s behind the trend, and why are so many Dodge Vipers popping up for sale? As a former owner of a 2000 Viper GTS, and the current owner of a 2008 Viper SRT-10 Coupe, I was as curious as anyone. I asked James Hewitt, an Information Analyst with Hagerty, to help explain.
Hewitt works closely with Dodge Viper owners and owner clubs on a regular basis, and has worked extensively on Dodge Viper pricing guides while tracking sales figures and costs.
“Premiums are being paid for reliable, analog cars with a supercar driving experience,” he says of today’s market generally, noting that elsewhere in the used-supercar market, people are paying six-figure premiums on certain vehicles to have one with a three pedals.
“For instance, people have paid an extra $150,000 for top-condition Lamborghini Murcielago LP-640s, just to have one with a manual transmission,” Hewitt comments.
The shopper he’s describing here is called “the Collector.”
The Collector is very wealthy, likely has numerous high-end vehicles at their disposal, and frequents sites like BaT in search of something new and cool to have in their collection.
The Collector is willing to donate extra six figures to get a manual transmission in their Lamborghini, or a certain paint scheme on their favorite Ferrari. The Collector also seems to be noticing the early Dodge Viper more and more these days — perhaps as a steal of a deal on something rare and exclusive and analogous — and with that all-important supercar driving experience.
All Vipers came with a six-speed manual, but the collector is willing to pay big bucks for other exclusives, like having a particularly significant Viper model, like the debut-year ’96 GTS Coupe, or virtually any Viper ACR. The Viper is rare and special, but these extra-special models of importance come with additional bragging rights that the Collector has deep pockets for, especially on such a (relatively) affordable car.
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To buy these highly exclusive Vipers, Collectors fight each other in bidding, which drives prices up. This stirs attention, which generates more demand. More demand raises prices, prompting some owners to sell, and others, to begin collecting and snatching up Dodge Vipers, often several at once.
“As long as people are willing to pay more, people will keep competing,” Hewitt says of the Collector. He even described one collector who created an investment portfolio out of 23 Dodge Vipers. “Collectors like these are continuing to buy the Viper, even as prices climb,” he adds.
That’s called speculation, and it’s something that the Collector does. By speculating, collectors might assume the value of the car will continue to climb, and continue to buy in hopes of a future profit. “They’re buying these cars assuming they’ll be worth more money in five years, not less,” Hewitt says.
On the ground, it’s Viper-mania.
The biggest price increases are going to the most significant and specialized Viper models, though in general, used car values are climbing across the board.
For instance, units similar to my favorite Viper, the GTS, have sold on BaT for double what I paid for mine eight years ago. The signature blue-and-white-striped units from this generation, especially with low mileage, are commanding enormous money and being snatched up by collectors. This is a rare car, and rarity is worth money to the collector.
“In the past year, an excellent condition 1992 Viper” — the model’s first year of production — “has increased [in value] 117 per cent, whereas a 1995 has increased 20 per cent” Hewitt says, offering another example. “This shows just what happens when collectors decide a certain car is the one to have — the 1992 in this case.”
Today, if I sold the 2008 SRT-10 I bought four years ago, I’d expect a profit of $20,000 to $30,000, despite five years of near-daily fair-weather use.
But the Collector isn’t as likely to want a Viper like mine. It’s not a Holy Grail model, and it’s got a higher odometer reading than some Collectors like. The type of Viper I have is the kind sought after by the second type of Viper shopper, who we’ll call the driver.
Where the Collector has unlimited funds to spend on the most exclusive experience possible, the Driver does not. They have space in their budget for but a single supercar experience, among which the Dodge Viper provides a strong, storied, and stigmatized one.
As long as people are willing to pay more, people will keep competing — collectors like these are continuing to buy the Viper, even as prices climb
James Hewitt, Hagerty Information Analyst
The driver may not have six figures to spend on an exclusive paint scheme or specialty racing model like the ACR — but they’ll often seek out a higher-mileage unit that’s been previously driven, not collected.
Some of the most collectable Vipers have seen a 100-per-cent price increase in the last year; others have been nearly daily driven and enjoyed, meaning less of a price increase.
So basically, this whole thing is caused by a great big snowball of Collectors, Drivers, and Dodge Vipers — and it works approximately like this: people get interested in the Viper because of its analogous supercar driving experience. Collectors take note and fight each other to own the most collectable Viper models, driving up the prices. The price increase creates further attention. The Drivers take notice and start to buy up the more affordable Vipers that the Collectors haven’t snatched up. As a result, prices climb across the board, but especially on the most attention-grabbing Viper models. Before long, everyone’s jonesing for a piece of that celebrated and storied V-10 brute from Detroit.
By the way, the priciest Vipers recently sold on BaT have doubled or tripled the prices commanded by the rest. Primarily, these are the latest-generation Viper ACR, whose introduction re-ignited massive interest in the aging Viper nameplate just before it was discontinued.
Can Corvette owners expect to see a similar surge in pricing? Hewitt doesn’t think so. “I don’t think we’d ever see this sort of overnight price increase with the Corvette” he says. “Desirability and limited supply are what create price increases — but Corvette supply isn’t limited, like the Dodge Viper was.”
What’s an owner like me to do? Sell for a profit, or hold on? If you’ve been asking by the snake as I have, it’s a more difficult question than you think. After reviewing hundreds of cars over a sixteen-year career, I still haven’t found anything I could replace my Viper with. I’ll probably always have one.
Hewitt says that’s typical of Viper owners, and I figure, it’s for the same reason this machine is getting so much attention these days: there was never anything just like it, and there probably never will be.