Market Spotlight

2020 was the year of the Viper

by James Hewitt
22 December 2020 2 min read
1992 Dodge Viper
This early-production Viper sold on Bring a Trailer in December for $115,000. It was just one of several Vipers that brought a eye-popping price in 2020. Photo by Bring a Trailer

The year 2020 will go down in history for many inauspicious reasons, but we can report an additional, more positive association: 2020 has been the year of the Dodge Viper.

Three first-gen Dodge Viper sales in the last three months have successively set new records for the model. The latest, an early-build Viper with just 950-miles, sold on Bring a Trailer earlier this month for $115,000. That’s 52 percent more than the current Hagerty Price Guide #1 value.  What we can see on the private market through Hagerty’s insurance data tells a similar story—this year, we’re seeing more insurance quotes for Vipers valued between $75,000 and $100,000. Something is clearly brewing in the Viper market.

Dodge’s supercar slayer has long been the subject of “why aren’t they worth more?” and “when will they be collectible?” conversations. The car has all the basic ingredients: fast, great looking, relatively low production. It also has certain intangibles, such as a spiritual connection the ultra-collectible Shelby Cobra (Carroll Shelby was an advisor during its development). Yet values for the Viper have remained stuck in used-car territory. Sold new in 1992 for about $55,000 (about $100K in today’s dollars), first-year Vipers tended to range from less than $25k for a fixer-upper to $75k for a concours-ready example. Until 2020, that is.

Some mainstream outlets took notice in January when Lee Iacocca’s Viper—the first ever produced—brought $285,500 at Bonhams’ Scottsdale sale. Impressive indeed, but what was more notable for the Viper market was the fact that even excluding this extraordinary example, Vipers sold at Scottsdale brought 40 percent above results we’d expect based on Hagerty Price Guide values.

Lee Iacocca's Viper
Lee Iacocca’s Viper, the first ever produced, sold at Scottsdale in January 2020 for $285,500. (Photo courtesy Bonhams)

The pandemic threw a wet blanket on in-person sales not too long after Arizona Auction Week, but Viper values only got hotter. In October, a never-titled 1992 Viper still on MSO and showing 72 miles sold for $80,101 on eBay. This was a record for an unmodified first-gen Viper (excluding Iacocca’s car), and it set off alarm bells in the Viper world. In November, 2020, BJ Motors listed an 83-mile car on eBay for $94,995. We don’t know the final price of this car, but according to our sources it was very close to the asking price and, thus, a new Viper record. And then the December sale, which crested the magic six-figure mark.

We like to think we saw this coming: Last year we included the second-gen Viper on our Bull Market list, citing rising interest from Gen–X and millennial buyers and the attrition you’d expect for a V-10-powered sports car (we estimate less than a third of the 285 Vipers produced for 1992 are still on the road). What we couldn’t have predicted was the pandemic and the resulting shift toward online sales for classic cars, which has given a boost to the sort of modern classics younger, internet-savvy collectors prefer. Online platforms also inherently favor relatively new, low-miles cars, which present fewer potential issues for the person buying through a computer screen. To wit: The recent headline sales have all been for cars with fewer than 1000 miles. The Bring a Trailer car had the additional appeal of being just the 54th Viper ever built.

Numbers, condition, and documentation count for a lot when it comes to classic car prices, but even the garden-variety Vipers seem to be inching upward: The stray sub $20k Viper we used to see in our insurance quotes disappeared in 2020. So, if you’ve long dreamed of owning a Viper, don’t wait too long. This underrated snake is finally getting its due.

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