Road car buying guide: Dodge Viper RT/10

While trying to reinvent the Cobra, Dodge created its own super-snake

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Early cars were rather raw, but the GTS hard top was a big improvement

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In many ways, the Dodge Viper was a gamble. It was way ahead of its time on the styling front, sacrificing comfort and usability for pure performance, and it took a brave soul to get the best from one without putting it through a hedge.

It’s fair to say that the first-generation Viper earned itself a reputation for being rather dangerous. Vipers were tricky to drive for the inexperienced, and many early cars were crashed in some way or another. It sounds like a marketing catastrophe, but it only made the Viper more revered: you had to be a real driver to handle one. Nothing turned heads like a Viper, with its machine-gun V10 and striking lines that drew inspiration from another super snake – the Shelby Cobra.

The Viper and the Cobra are intrinsically linked, and you can see the resemblance: side-mounted exhausts, gorgeous curves and swept-up tail, evoking the Daytona Coupé. The link was Carroll Shelby. Back in the late 1980s, Dodge had managed to shake off much of its sporting image. Remember the iconic 1960s Charger? It was now fatter, and distinctly more European. And that was the sporting choice, alongside hum-drum Colts and Conquests.