RE: Dodge Viper (SRI/SRII): PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Dodge Viper (SRI/SRII): PH Used Buying Guide

Saturday 5th January

Dodge Viper (SRI/SRII): PH Used Buying Guide

Looking for some brutal V10 action? The admirable but agricultural Viper could be just the ticket



Owning an older high-performance car can be a mixed blessing. It might offer the raw, aggressive experience you desire but, on the flip side, the fear of scattering its rods and pistons all over the road can blunt your enjoyment of it.

Cars such as the earlier iterations of the Dodge Viper, however, offer up a blend of charisma, involvement and brute force without that looming threat of catastrophic failure. Consequently, a Viper can make for an interesting - albeit somewhat agricultural - alternative to other high-end performance cars.

The Viper RT/10 Roadster began rolling off the production line in late 1991, in SR I specification, and offered up an unquestionably evocative cocktail. For starters, it was powered by a naturally aspirated all-aluminium 8.0-litre V10; this monstrous powerplant produced 400hp and 450lb ft in early cars, all of which was channelled to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential.


Although the engine wasn't the most tuneful thing around, there was no arguing with the performance available - as the 1,488kg Viper could sprint from 0-60mph in around 4.5 seconds. The Dodge also benefitted from a stiff chassis, independent double-wishbone suspension all round, substantial 13-inch disc brakes and assisted rack-and-pinion steering with just 2.4 turns from lock to lock.

There was no traction control, or even ABS, so everything was down to the driver. A facelifted version called the SR II followed in 1996, which featured numerous revisions including more power, a removable hardtop and a single central exhaust. A coupe, called the GTS, was also made available - and Dodge would continue to upgrade the car as it aged. In 2002, though, the SR generation of Viper would be retired and superseded by the heavily redesigned ZB I.

A usable RT/10 starts at around £30,000 these days and even later cars sometimes don't command much more. Despite their durability and comparatively simple design, however, there's much to look out for if you're considering buying a Viper. Read on to find out what you need to bear in mind if you're considering one of these fabled American sports cars.

Inspired? Buy a Dodge Viper here



Bodywork and interior

The Viper's exterior panels are moulded out of reinforced composites - they're fibreglass, for all intents and purposes. Many are no longer available and even used panels can be extremely expensive, meaning relatively light accident damage tends to result in a Viper being written off. Many detail or assembly parts, however, are often available off the shelf from companies such as Viper Parts of America.

The clamshell bonnet can often drop out of alignment resulting in unpleasant gaps, particularly around the lights. It can be adjusted but it is a painstaking and involved process that involves trying various shims and tweaks. It's rarely perfect, regardless of how much time you pour into it.

It's absolutely critical, regardless of the apparent condition of the example in question, to get both a UK and US history check. Anything that's happened in the US won't show up on a UK report so, even if a car appears clean, it could have been damaged in the US and later repaired.

The interior can suffer from wear in the usual places but one of the key things to check is the centre armrest. If the panel under your elbow appears creased then that means its support structure has cracked; fixing this entails pulling the centre console and reinforcing it with fibreglass sheet and resin.

Don't forget to check, if you're looking at a roadster, that it comes with its canvas roof and pop-out door windows; replacements are available but you'll pay, for example, around £400 for a new clip-in window panel. Hardtops were available later too, if you fancy something a little more permanent. There are also several aftermarket offerings.


Engine and transmission

The Viper is a relatively straightforward car and easy to look after, which is one of its main advantages. Its all-aluminium V10 is a durable engine, for example, and there are only a few things to look out for - aside from obvious issues and evidence of regular servicing using high-quality fluids and parts.

Firstly, you need to check the crankshaft damper for any signs of vibration or try and ascertain if the car's ever thrown its auxiliary belt. The bolt that clamps the balancer assembly to the engine can slacken off, causing the hub to spin on the crank or wobble around. The solution is to apply a locking compound and simply tighten it up to the specified 250lb ft. An upgrade kit is available to pin the hub to the crank, if desired, to avoid the problem repeating itself.

Secondly, some Vipers can suffer from head gasket-related issues.  The original gaskets were made from a material that degraded excessively over time - ultimately resulting in leaks, overheating and cross-contamination of the oil and coolant. The original gaskets are a brown composite material, while the later revised gaskets are a black multi-layer steel affair; from underneath, you should be able to see the edges of the gasket and identify if they've been changed or not. Check the sides of the block for signs of staining, caused by leaks, in any case.

Replacing the gaskets isn't an overwhelmingly difficult job but, if you want a specialist to do it, budget around 10 hours' labour. A set of MLS gaskets will only cost you around £250, but you will need to factor in the cost of fresh intake and exhaust manifold gaskets, as well as other consumables that you may wish to replace while you have the top end apart.


Do watch out for excessive oil consumption, as some early cars can suffer from piston ring-related problems that resulted in some receiving replacement engines. You might also encounter some minor problems, such as an erratic idle caused by a partially blocked idle control valve, but these tend to be easily resolved.

The Viper-specific Borg-Warner T56 transmission and the limited-slip differential rarely suffer from major issues. Just keep an eye out for any obvious problems, such as excessive noise, a slipping clutch or fluid leaks.

Some parts can be costly but they're often available for less if you source them from the Dodge donor vehicle they were originally obtained from. It's worth trawling through parts numbers and alternative sources, as a result, in order to avoid paying an unnecessary premium.

Tuning options are rife for the big V10, ranging from drop-in filter upgrades and big-bore throttle bodies through to off-the-shelf supercharger kits. The complete Paxton NOVI-2000 supercharger kit, for example, is repcrank. You will, however, pay around £13,000 for such a kit if you import it into the UK.


Suspension and steering

The Viper features double-wishbone suspension, with unequal length control arms, all round. You'll find coilovers at each corner and the Viper also benefits from front and rear anti-roll bars. Problems are rare so simply inspect the car for any age-related issues such as leaking dampers.

In any case, complete bush sets are available and comparatively inexpensive. Even replacement coilovers won't break the bank; a new set of Aldan American coilovers will cost around £1,450 landed in the UK.

One common issue with the steering system is the failure of the power steering pump's mounting bracket. This cast bracket can break, causing the pulley to throw the belt and all assistance to disappear. Upgraded billet versions are available for around £100. Similarly, the factory power steering pulley can also fail. Again, billet replacements are available.

Regardless, consider investing in a four-wheel laser alignment session - in order to ensure the Viper's driving as it should - if there's no evidence of it being done in recent history.


Wheels, tyres and brakes

There's a sting in the Viper's tail - and we're not talking about the 450+ lb ft sledgehammering its way through the limited-slip differential; the rear tyres are steamroller-like 335/35 ZR17s which cost in excess of £450 a corner.

The front tyres are more common 275/40 ZR17s but buying sets that match the large rear tyres will prove similarly expensive; Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s in the required dimensions, for example, cost around £400. Consequently, keep an eye out for a Viper that's on worn or aged tyres and bear the cost of replacement in mind.

Braking components for the Dodge are readily available and not overly expensive; parts are available in the UK but, even if imported from the US, a set of front discs and pads will cost you less than £400 - including shipping and customs charges.

Given the Viper's performance, and its engine's ability to support far higher outputs, you may well feel inclined to upgrade the brakes at some point. Fortunately, complete bolt-on kits are available to upgrade the original front four-piston calipers and 13-inch discs. Manufacturer Stop Tech, for example, offers a six-piston caliper kit that includes larger 14-inch discs; delivered, it'll set you back around £3,000. Do check with any manufacturer that the kit in question will fit under your stock or aftermarket wheels, though.


SPECIFICATION - DODGE VIPER SR I

Engine: 7,990cc V10
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 400@4,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 450@3,600rpm
MPG: 17mpg
CO2: N/A
Price new: £55,000
Price now: Upwards of £30,000



 

Author
Discussion

infomotive

Original Poster:

9 posts

57 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
The Viper (and a few other American muscle cars of this era), appears on paper to represent great value for money in the current market.
I could be tempted.

1781cc

229 posts

33 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
infomotive said:
The Viper (and a few other American muscle cars of this era), appears on paper to represent great value for money in the current market.
I could be tempted.
Horrible thing to drive, really cumbersome and dim witted on the steering, not as fast as you’d think considering the numbers and it’s all a bit of a let down. Plus, if you are tall, fitting into an rt/10 is a roof off experience only, it’s wrong hand drive and that transmission tunnel intrudes so much into the cabin that it feels really cramped and small.

I had such hopes before driving one as it was a hero car for me, such a letdown... GTS in blue with white stripes still looks the nuts though

AndySheff

5,801 posts

146 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Owned my GTS for 9 years. Didn't have a single problem during that time. Don't understand how the poster above can say it's such a bad drive. The level of grip available is fantastic. You just have to be quick to correct when things get a bit squirly, cos at that point you're going bloody fast. Had some tremendous fun on track with mine.
I upgraded my brakes. Kept the original calipers which seemed well up to the job, but changed the discs for dimpled and grooved, some better pads and steel braided hoses. Gave it a much better feel. The lack of ABS wasn't ever a problem for me. I can only remember slightly locking the wheels once, braking from silly speed at the end of a long straight and leaving it a little late. The SRII BTW still has a dual exhaust, it just joins together at the rear axle. I put Belanger headers on mine together with race cats and a Corsa catback. Sounded brilliant. And the race cats helped cool down the sills. The exhaust runs throught the sill on each side under the doors. Which created the only complaint I could aim at the car - it could get bloody hot in the cabin, but the race cats helped keep things a little cooler.

Z06George

2,496 posts

128 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
1781cc said:
Horrible thing to drive, really cumbersome and dim witted on the steering, not as fast as you’d think considering the numbers and it’s all a bit of a let down. Plus, if you are tall, fitting into an rt/10 is a roof off experience only, it’s wrong hand drive and that transmission tunnel intrudes so much into the cabin that it feels really cramped and small.

I had such hopes before driving one as it was a hero car for me, such a letdown... GTS in blue with white stripes still looks the nuts though
How tall are you? I'm 6ft2 and was fine in an RT/10, the only thing I found were the pedals seemed slightly off but that was soon forgotten when I was actually driving.

big_rob_sydney

2,239 posts

133 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
For me, I'd be looking at whatever alternatives £30k can buy. And the answer is, a lot. The performance benchmarks are easily hit by a lot of other cars in standard format, never mind modified. Any forced induction car can be made to hit them incredibly easily.

The only thing that appeals to me about this is the noise, and even that, I'd have to worry about upsetting my neighbours, and attracting the attention of the boys in blue, along with potentially having it stolen.

Big pass on this, and would prefer something a bit more discreet.
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j_s14a

814 posts

117 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Seems wrong that there isn't a picture of the iconic viper colour in this article somewhere.








urquattroGus

992 posts

129 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
I've window shopped these a lot of times over the past few years.

Like many it was a poster car for me during my teens.

What put me off was the crappy interior, lack of any usable roof etc and the is "it a completely blunt instrument factor"

I wish I had the balls to buy one but in the end amongst other cars I've had since I currently have a Griff 500 which gives me relatively usable thrills.

I have owned just one American car so far, a 7.2L 1966 Plymouth, that wasn't exactly sensible but somehow the viper at least in original format just looked like it might not be so usable in the UK.

Cue Viper driver to set me straight smile

Shnozz

20,317 posts

210 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Z06George said:
1781cc said:
Horrible thing to drive, really cumbersome and dim witted on the steering, not as fast as you’d think considering the numbers and it’s all a bit of a let down. Plus, if you are tall, fitting into an rt/10 is a roof off experience only, it’s wrong hand drive and that transmission tunnel intrudes so much into the cabin that it feels really cramped and small.

I had such hopes before driving one as it was a hero car for me, such a letdown... GTS in blue with white stripes still looks the nuts though
How tall are you? I'm 6ft2 and was fine in an RT/10, the only thing I found were the pedals seemed slightly off but that was soon forgotten when I was actually driving.
Be interested to hear your thoughts on the Z06 versus the viper? I’m considering both but the availability of the Vette is meaning a lot more on offer.

SidewaysSi

5,173 posts

173 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
big_rob_sydney said:
For me, I'd be looking at whatever alternatives £30k can buy. And the answer is, a lot. The performance benchmarks are easily hit by a lot of other cars in standard format, never mind modified. Any forced induction car can be made to hit them incredibly easily.

The only thing that appeals to me about this is the noise, and even that, I'd have to worry about upsetting my neighbours, and attracting the attention of the boys in blue, along with potentially having it stolen.

Big pass on this, and would prefer something a bit more discreet.
Couldn't agree more. Why buy this when you can get a Golf R for less? Faster, more economical and seats 5.

And less chance of having it stolen too.

urquattroGus

992 posts

129 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
big_rob_sydney said:
For me, I'd be looking at whatever alternatives £30k can buy. And the answer is, a lot. The performance benchmarks are easily hit by a lot of other cars in standard format, never mind modified. Any forced induction car can be made to hit them incredibly easily.

The only thing that appeals to me about this is the noise, and even that, I'd have to worry about upsetting my neighbours, and attracting the attention of the boys in blue, along with potentially having it stolen.

Big pass on this, and would prefer something a bit more discreet.
Couldn't agree more. Why buy this when you can get a Golf R for less? Faster, more economical and seats 5.

And less chance of having it stolen too.
roflrofl Pistonheads forum summed up in two quotes!!!!!!

Shnozz

20,317 posts

210 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
urquattroGus said:
roflrofl Pistonheads forum summed up in two quotes!!!!!!
I think you might need a parrot for sideways si’s post..

Mike1990

633 posts

70 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Hmm a Blue GTS with White OTT Stripes is still a dream car for me, ever since the Gran Turismo days.

leglessAlex

2,974 posts

80 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
This was the only literal poster car for me, I had a poster of a red convertible one in my room when I must have been about 7/8 years old. I look at it now through rose coloured glasses, I'll always want one no matter how good or bad they actually are.

Plug Life

978 posts

30 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Rednecks' dream car...

SidewaysSi

5,173 posts

173 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Shnozz said:
urquattroGus said:
roflrofl Pistonheads forum summed up in two quotes!!!!!!
I think you might need a parrot for sideways si’s post..
Indeed. Need a feathered friend I think.. smile

996TT02

2,856 posts

79 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
Shnozz said:
urquattroGus said:
roflrofl Pistonheads forum summed up in two quotes!!!!!!
I think you might need a parrot for sideways si’s post..
Haha, was there ever any doubt!

psychoR1

945 posts

126 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all


Driftlimits have one of these - I was quite impressed when I went in it...

GranCab

1,397 posts

85 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
If you do buy one - don't try and match the posted 0-60 time on any road narrower than the runway at Heathrow Airport ... wink

https://youtu.be/eA6dYKViGhE

j_s14a

814 posts

117 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
Couldn't agree more. Why buy this when you can get a Golf R for less? Faster, more economical and seats 5.

And less chance of having it stolen too.
But then you'd own a Golf R, the most boring performance car on the planet.

urquattroGus

992 posts

129 months

Saturday 5th January
quotequote all
j_s14a said:
But then you'd own a Golf R, the most boring performance car on the planet.
Yeh but you can have it ‘mapped mate, and just cos Golf R mate etc. Just think of the sound those 4 parpy zorsts will make with over 400 brake.