The original Dodge Viper revealed in 1992 was a beast of a machine — an attempt by then-Chrysler exec Bob Lutz to revive the spirit of the Shelby Cobra and give Chrysler a world-class sports car. Powered by a massive V-10 with 400 hp, the early Viper's brute force overwhelmed many drivers.
Today, the power that made the Viper a legend appears to be at the heart of an order from Chrysler to dozens of trade schools, demanding the immediate destruction of some 93 early Vipers, including a preproduction model that could likely fetch a couple hundred thousand dollars at auction.
According to The Olympian, the staff of South Puget Sound Community College was told by a Chrysler official that their Viper had to be crushed within two weeks. It's common for automakers to donate cars to automotive shop classes, and in many cases the vehicles in such donations aren't saleable — meaning the company technically still owns the cars. School officials say Chrysler told them two of the 93 early Vipers given to schools had been involved in accidents by joyriding students, creating a major liability for Chrysler.
Of those 93, the Viper at SPSCC stands out. It was the fourth Viper ever built, with a prototype hard top years before Dodge offered a production version. With no emissions controls, and no speed limiter, the V-10 can make 600 hp, and school instructors say it could be worth $250,000 to a museum or private Viper fan.
“It’s like the day Kennedy was shot,” Norm Chapman, automotive technology professor at SPSCC, told The Olympian. “No one will forget where they were when they heard the news.”
There's several precedents for Chrysler's order, the most memorable being General Motors' decision to destroy all of its original EV1 electric vehicles after a safety recall it decided not to repair; the few that remain in universities and museums have been permanently disabled. The Vipers at SPSCC and other schools were useful more for promotion than education, but trashing a piece of automotive history seems like a different kind of educational tool: Punishing everyone for the mistakes of a few.
UPDATE: Chrysler told Yahoo Autos this afternoon that while it did not have any records of crashes involving Vipers donated to trade schools, the cars involved did not have historical significance. It also said it regularly expected vehicles donated to schools to be destroyed once they had lost their educational value, which the cars in question had given their age. The full statement:
"Approximately 10 years ago, Chrysler Group donated a number of Dodge Viper vehicles to various trade schools for educational purposes. As part of the donation process, it is standard procedure — and stipulated in our agreements — that whenever vehicles are donated to institutions for education purposes that they are to be destroyed when they are no longer needed for their intended educational purposes.
With advancements in automotive technology over the past decade, it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students. Chrysler Group fully understands and appreciates the historical significance of the Viper and is very active in preserving many of its legendary models and designs for historic purposes however, none of these vehicles fit into this category.
Chrysler Group has no record of any legal proceedings involving Dodge Viper vehicles donated to educational institutions being involved in accidents and product liability lawsuits."