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First Dodge Viper Ever Built Sells for Big Bucks

It was sold alongside a 1986 LeBaron convertible—and both were owned by Lee Iacocca.

First-generation Dodge Vipers have been on our short list for budget performance cars for years now. With solid examples of the early Viper RT/10 roadster typically selling in the $30,000 bracket, we'd argue there are few more potent or eye-catching cars for the money. So what to make of a 1992 Dodge Viper bringing $285,500 at Bonhams' Scottsdale auction? Let's just say this is no ordinary Viper; it's only previous owner was the late Lee Iacocca and the car was also the first production Viper built, with number 001 on the VIN tag.

When the Viper was introduced with a bang for the 1992 model year, it was a critical car for parent company Chrysler. At the helm of the brand was Iacocca, already legendary as the father of the Ford Mustang, among other triumphs. Iacocca, realizing a savvy business and marketing opportunity when he saw one, also brought none other than Carroll Shelby on board to help develop and promote the car. Under the neo-Cobra bodywork sat an 8.0-liter V-10 engine co-developed with Lamborghini, which Chrysler owned at the time. With 400 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque blasting out of the side-exit exhaust system, the Viper was just about the hottest car going that year, and it was clearly an instant classic. Iacocca retired from Chrysler at the end of 1992.

Four generations of Viper followed with steady performance improvements before the model's retirement in 2017, but the original model is still the most fondly remembered by many Viper enthusiasts. Values have dipped significantly as more modern Viper models flood the used-car market, and while you can find lesser examples for closer to $20,000, spending 50 percent more puts a buyer in the position of picking from the very best cars available.

Of course, the high bidder at Bonhams paid a significant premium to take home Iacocca's Viper #001—nearly 10 times what an excellent 1992 Viper would fetch a little further down the assembly line. We're still waiting for verification, but we believe this to be a new world record for a first-generation Viper RT/10 at auction. As a modern classic from the 1990s, we believe the future holds more appreciation potential as those who grew up lusting after Vipers in their youth come into greater spending power.

Two other Iacocca-owned cars went to new owners at the Bonhams sale, a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country convertible that sold for $19,040 and a 2009 Ford Mustang Iacocca 45th Anniversary Edition that brought $49,280, both of which are featured in the gallery below. Iacocca passed away at the age of 94 in July 2019.