At $18,100, Could This Lemon-Law 1993 Dodge Viper be a Totally Sweet Deal?

Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

 State lemon laws give buyers of seemingly un-repairable vehicles legal recourse to get out of them. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Viper is just such a lemon law car, but is it priced low enough to make lemonade?

I have to say that the response to Friday’s 2013 Tesla Model S 85 proved surprisingly… well, electric. It was the highest vote-getting car in NPOCP history, and as such, brought to light evidence indicating that few of us had previously ever given the used Tesla market all that much thought.


It’s pretty obvious that the introduction of the less expensive and more modern Model 3 has impacted the used Model S market by driving down values. At $29,900, Friday’s car seemed well within the realm of reason for many, and that drove its ultimate 62 percent Nice Price win.

Now if we could just find something that’s the inverse of that electric Tesla—an ode to gasoline consumption if you will—as counterpoint. That would be the perfect antiphon, or bookend. As luck would have it, we have just the car.

This 1993 Dodge Viper is everything Friday’s Tesla is not, with perhaps the notable exception of acceleration, where the Tesla is only about a second off the Viper’s zero to sixty time.


The original Dodge Viper was in fact, a car that offered few compromises in fulfilling its errand of delivering great gobs of power, organ-shifting g-forces, plus equally excessive heat, and noise. Brutal, sparsely equipped, and singularly difficult to tame, the Viper was unique in both purpose and in execution.

Unfortunately, even though the Viper was a relatively simple a car, eschewing accoutrements like airbags, roll-up windows, or even standard A/C, things still could go wrong.


In California, when things go wrong too many times on a new car, the State requires the manufacturer to replace or repurchase the vehicle after a number of unsuccessful attempts at repair have been made. The law covers cars throughout the duration of the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty period which means the longer the warranty, the longer you have to sour on an unreliable car.

It’s noted in the ad that this Viper was originally one of those California Lemon Law buy-backs.


Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. There’s that Samcarc guy on YouTube who seemingly only purchases buy-backs and salvage title cars—usually only based on auction photos alone—and he’s still alive. He also doesn’t seem to have filed multiple bankruptcies due to his predilection for tainted title cars and trucks.


Sam claims that you can get killer deals by buying cars this way, and I love watching his videos since even though he does seem to get a deal every now and then, a lot of times he just gets screwed. That’s with the salvage purchases it must be noted, he seems to do alright with the buy-backs.

It should also be noted that both Samcrac and this Viper live in Florida, which is about as far from California both geographically and regulatorily as you can get.


This Viper is claimed by its seller to carry a substantial discount owed to that history. It’s now over 25 years old, so whatever issue forced the buy-back and re-titled sale in the first place is now probably nothing more than a bitter memory.


The car presents in decent shape. The black paint looks to be in perfectly serviceable condition, while wear items like the headlamp covers and bumper caps show no obvious signs of clouding or rock chips.

The polished factory alloys shine up well too, although no mention is made regarding the condition of the rubber that wraps around them. Those can be extremely expensive.


The interior is grey, and yes they did look this cheap straight out of the factory. Regardless, the leather seems intact and all those cheap plastic bits that cover everything else all look to be in place. There’s no A/C on the car so plan on sweating to this oldie.

The heat won’t be the only thing that makes you sweat either. If you’ve never driven a first-gen Viper, I highly recommend easing into the experience. The car has 400 horsepower and a brutal 450 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which kicks in at a lowly 3,500 rpm.


There are no nannies here to help you keep that power corralled, nor ABS to get you out of trouble should you dip a toe too deep at an inopportune apex or when backing out of the garage. Forewarned is forearmed.


The engine bay where this Viper’s massive V10 lives looks a little grungy. It’s as though the current owner only extends his cleaning ritual to elements that don’t require a latch to access. An aftermarket intake (K&N) and exhaust (Borla) have been added to the mad mix in there.

On the plus side, the car comes with the soft top and side curtains, and while it doesn’t take a troop of boy scouts to assemble them, making the car weathertight can still be a time consuming task. There’s 70,000 miles on the clock and the title is clear other than the aforementioned buy-back.


As I noted, the ad claims that title issue is the reason for the $18,100 asking, and possibly for posting the car on Facebook Marketplace, the Walmart open-box bin of used car classifieds. Perhaps knowing his audience, he’s asking $400 more over on Craigslist.


You don’t often see Vipers that are drivable, or even not on fire, at under twenty grand. That makes this one a bit of a conundrum. Does that sordid history back in California continue to keep this Viper from being all that it could be? Or, is that something that’s long in the past and only now serves to make the car more affordable?

You decide!


Facebook Marketplace out of Tampa FL, or go here if the ad disappears.

Thanks to Brock Miller for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.