A friend of Jalopnik who works at a tuning company in Germany always wanted to own a Viper and now he's done it. Here's his stellar tale or bringing some American V10 muscle to Europe.
I always wanted a Viper here in Germany! But it always was too expensive! But now as I've grown older and the cars aged as well things have changed, at least a bit. But let me start at the beginning…
Here in Germany you don't see a Viper too often on the streets, next to nothing. And I wasn't a child having posters of the snake on my walls. How I fell in love with the Dodge brute then? Pretty easy: Before becoming Head of PR of ABT Sportsline, the world's largest tuning company of cars from Audi and VW, sold in more than 60 countries worldwide (yes, also in the US since January 2014!) I was a motor journalist for more than a decade, traveling to the US more than 25 times for business and private reasons. I started my business life at a german print magazine about American cars – and within these years I was able to drive all (yes, luckily all!) generations, each one at least a few days, mostly up to something between 10 and 14 days for testing. And I loved the snakes! All of them! There are favorite generations for me, like the third Gen between MY 2003 and 2006, the SRT10. But I am also a fan of the pure, unfiltered raw power of very first ones that were built until 1995. And now back to the present age again…
Market prices for the early Vipers are going up so in January this year I thought "It's now or never". I went to my german laptop and dived into the classifieds of the american World Wide Web. If it was Auto Trader, Hemmings, Cars for Sale, Cars.com – I now know them all! I was limited a bit to find a car in Oklahoma (no, there are no Vipers for sale, never!) and Arizona, where a friend and his family who left Germany a few years ago now found their new home. Gregor Brockhaus is a car mechanic master craftsman and exports a lot of classics to Germany and the rest of Europe, checking out all the cars he buys for his customers in person to only sell "good cars". And he found my Viper: It's a green 1995 RT/10 that was offered for sale by a huge car dealership in Arizona. It was well checked all of its life, accident free… the only thing to mention was a speedometer that showed 80.000 miles. But this wasn't a problem for me at all, the 8.0 Liter/488 ci V10 (400 HP and 465 lb-ft of torque) is a tough block, a lot of miles are not a problem at all for the large aluminum engine. Luckily the golden double stripe on the curvy body was just an adhesive foil and could easily been removed, same for the wood kit on the dash (a wood kit in a Viper? You have to like that!). Oh, and: The car was the result of a divorce, taken away from the previous owner by his wife. Before his ex-wife got the car the previous owner seemed to have taken away the center caps of the wheels, the side windows and the soft top. So it was a lot of work finding these parts for a reasonable price, because unfortunately they are pretty rare today, especially the soft top. It was a fight! But finally I made it!
I bought it – and from this moment on I couldn't sleep anymore well at night, dreaming of the green hell to arrive in Germany soon. Gregor and his company Speedkills, LLC. took care of everything that followed: He test drove the Viper for me, gave me a first and good impression, finally bought it and picked it up at the dealership on a trailer. Then he stored the car, bought some more spare parts for me (for the Viper, my 1949 Studebaker and the 1972 Riviera of my girlfriend) and put them in the trunk of the RT/10. A few days later the Viper was moved from Phoenix to Long Beach in California, where it was put in a large, double car container and put on a ship to Bremerhaven, Germany. Some more weeks without sleep followed – and then the day of arrival came. While it was not too expensive to bring the car from Arizona to Long Beach and then to Bremerhaven (1.650 Dollar in total) it indeed is expensive if you think of all the taxes the german authorities want from you. Let's give you an idea: If you buy a car in the US for 25.000 Dollars and pay the above mentioned transport costs you do have a bit more than 8.000 Dollars (yes, eight-thousand!) in taxes on your car. That's Germany! But in the end it's still cheaper to buy a Viper in the country of birth of the glorious automotive icon!
Unfortunately the transportation company in Long Beach or Bremerhaven, don't know exactly, left one of the windows open – so when I picked it up in Germany the whole interior of the car was filled with water like an Californian swimming pool. After about three weeks in my garage and a lot of tries to dry the car it finally is dry now. After picking it up I instantly drove the RT/10 straight across Germany – about 550 Miles on one day. There wasn't any problem despite of me and my girlfriend Janina's wet bottom.
Arriving in my hometown near Munich a few days later, with the help of a friend I changed nearly all the fluids of the Viper, renewed the clutch and the release bearing and some smaller parts. I also deleted the wood kit from the interior (What a lot of work, you won't believe it!) and installed a carbon fiber kit on the dash because it was so full of scratches (some can still be seen but that is fine for me as for the fact that it is an 18 year old car). I also put new floor mats in it and made another decision: Because of the fact that there were a lot of stone chips on the front of the snake I decided for a car wrapping. In about a week of work two pros wrapped the RT/10 in a nice and classic combo of blue metallic with white stripes. An unbelievable nice color scheme, I think. Luckily the previous owner had already installed nice Brembo brakes and a Bilstein suspension – so no work here. And now it is ready to be driven and enjoyed… I do have a lot of twisty mountain curves here near the alps. You know what that means. ;-)
Last not least my dream car is here, it is parked beside my 1949 Studebaker Champion Starlight Coupe which I shipped from the US to Germany in 2004, a 1969 Mercury Monterey Hardtop Coupé which I bought in Oklahoma a few years ago, my girlfriend's 1972 Riviera and some other cars. Like with the Stude I am planning to never sell the snake. Maybe just buying a Viper GTS in a few years as an addition if there is some money left. God bless the American car culture, friends!
This is how I found it at a dealership in Arizona. A wood kit? In a Viper? Really?
Arriving at Bremerhaven Port to pick up the RT/10
Nice street name at the port!
In one of the containers the snake is waiting to be driven home by me
First fuel stop: Always disappointing to see how much more expensive our gasoline is compared to the US
First step when arriving home: Changing all the fluids, rebuilding the clutch, renewing some sensors
The last 300 Vipers built in 1995 with a side exhaust received a hidden stamp in the engine bay, from MY 1996 on they were delivered with a rear exhaust
Still in the US my friend Greg deleted the golden double stripe. It was a hell of work
A professional car wrapping was done; I went for a classic mix of blue metallic with white stripes
Bad mix of green and blue! ;-)
There still is some work to do on the snake, but my dream became reality!
The 8-Liter-V10 sounds brutal, looks gorgeous!