The first series-production 1993 Dodge Viper RT/10 finished in black went to Chrysler design ace Tom Gale. The second landed in the garage of Jay Leno, who regardless of the Viper’s color couldn’t be happier about making that purchase in 1992. In the car’s first full year of production, the New Mack Assembly plant only built 285 Vipers.
Having wowed the crowd at the 1989 Detroit Motor Show, company president and vice chairman Bob Lutz felt obligated to turn the Viper into reality, after which the 85-member-strong “Team Viper” worked to speed up the complex development process. With a composite body over a tubular frame, the Viper was light despite its 8.0-liter all-alloy V10, which sent 400 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque through a BorgWarner T56 six-speed manual gearbox. With no driver aids, proper roof, side windows or even door handles in sight, the first Vipers were also lacking gas struts and air-conditioning, yet came with the most expensive front clamshell America had ever seen.
Leno’s pride and joy, the now 27-year-old representation of a modern-day Shelby Cobra is perhaps the most impressive halo car Chrysler has ever made. As you’d expect, the ’93 Viper RT/10 in Leno’s garage is also a very well-maintained example with less than 10,000 miles on the clock, and it features discreet upgrades such as a 3.77-ratio rear end for improved acceleration and better intakes and exhausts courtesy of John Hennessey.
The RT/10’s factory accessories package includes a tonneau cover that still looks hilarious, but practicality would be damned when a car offers this much performance at such an affordable price. Chrysler’s two-valve-per-cylinder V10 is a statue of reliability, and the rest of the car remains just as easy to maintain to this day. Granted, the plastics of the interior may deteriorate even if you never used what has to be the industry’s most useless ashtray, yet the Viper Club is always there to help with tips and parts.
Jay Leno suggests that if you can find a nice early Viper for the right sum, it might just be a good idea to grab, since not that many were made and the presence, sound and speed of the RT/10 easily makes it a modern classic that will only get more expensive. Soon turning 30, the first Viper just couldn’t look more desirable.