2000 Dodge Viper GTS. Click image to enlarge
Photos and Story by Justin Pritchard
My dad knows everything about the first-generation Dodge Viper GTS Coupe – mainly because as a kid, I never shut up about it.
That’s because it launched when I was fourteen: an aspiring car nerd in my tender, formative years. At first glance on Motor Trend, I adopted this V10-powered sledgehammer as my favorite thing on four wheels, and then never really stopped spouting specs and numbers and quotes from reviews I’d read to dad while he was trying to take a nap on the sofa or eat supper.
“That’s nice, Justin.”
Dad could never tire of hearing about the steamroller sized rear tires, right? Or how Motor Trend said this Viper was the fastest car through their handling slalom? Or, my favourite fact: that my beloved Viper would use its man-torque to smash the lederhosen off of dad’s beloved dream car, the Porsche 911 Turbo, in a drag race? And, of course, dad couldn’t get sick of hearing about the eight-litre V10 for the fourth time since mom put the lasagna on the supper table, could he?
I loved this car in an obsessive way that only a 14-year-old car nerd could. While walking my daily paper route, I’d contemplate which colour combo I’d decide upon with the Viper salesman, and how cool my grade 8 buddies would think it was when I showed up with it at school. I bought, probably, every magazine I ever saw with a Dodge Viper on it for years. When I knew nobody was nearby, I’d imitate the burble from the V10 as best I could remember from hearing it on TV.
In my teenaged mind, I was slamming gears, opening up the throttle and burning rubber in my Viper GTS while trudging through foot-deep February snow delivering door-to-door flyers in Lively, Ontario.
Fast-forward some years, and ‘adult’ me decided it was time for a toy. My friends, most unburdened with offspring, were all buying snow-machines, quads, boats and jet-skis. They all requested I purchase one of the above to join them for motorized shenanigans on the trails, in the bush, or on the water.
But Justin Pritchard’s driveway and wallet only have room for one toy. And that toy has four wheels, two stripes, and a butt-clenching pushrod V10 engineered by cavemen. It’s a toy of the manliest sort – ideal for anyone who’s ever eaten a steak with their bare hands, aerated their lawn with a machine gun, or contemplated a good breakfast scotch.
I started the search for a 1999 or later Viper GTS on autoTRADER.ca and eventually filtered out the sketchy models, the ones with distasteful modifications, and the ones priced just shy of ridiculousness by sellers phishing for bites. Though this body style launched for 1997, a 1999 or later unit would have revised rocker panels not as likely to rust, as well as a bigger, stickier wheel and tire combination.
A few days of research revealed that my $40,000 tax-in budget (plus proceeds from the sale of my 1993 Toyota MR2) left me to find a higher-mileage Viper GTS that was daily driven. Some 2000 Vipers are garaged 362 days of the year and have 10,000 kilometres on them. I couldn’t afford one of those.
Then, it appeared. Black with silver stripes, 90,000 kilometres on the dial, clean as a whistle and priced at $37,995. Location? Nova Scotia, at a place called Carson Exports. For all intents and purposes, a two-day drive from Sudbury, where I live. Damn.
I called up the dealer anyways, since calling is more serious than emailing, and buying your childhood dream car is a serious thing. Within two hours, sales manager Ken Eastman had sent me a boatload of photos, detailed information, the Carfax, and even offered to do a Skype session for a virtual walkaround.
I didn’t search Carson Exports out for any reason other than their possession of the Viper I wanted. I’m glad it wound up there.