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Off the Shelf: February 16, 2018

Hot Wheels' Dodge Viper RT/10

Welcome to “Off the Shelf.” This is a new Scale Auto Magazine online column where I’ll be penning about any cool and unique die-cast cars I find that you can easily buy too. The goal of my column? To attempt to make you laugh while teaching you the history of the actual 1:1 car, said die-cast in my hand, is modeled after.

The other night I stopped at my local corner convenience store to pick up a bottle of NyQuil, in a desperate act to terminate an on-going cold. Walking towards the checkout line, I strolled past the toy aisle to peek at any Hot Wheels they had on the shelf. A yellow with black stripes, Dodge Viper, masked behind a clear plastic bubble caught my attention and I immediately grabbed it.

I've been an avid fan of all-things die-cast, ever since I was a young child. I credit the hundreds of Matchbox, Micro Machines and Hot Wheels that paraded around the floor at my parents’ house for getting me into cars. True story, my mom and dad used to reward me with these little metal cars whenever I’d do an A+ job on my “potty training.” Fast forward 27 years later and I’m still buying them. For whatever reason, I can rattle-off performance numbers, blips about racing history, and explain how a turbocharger works (with exciting sound effects and all!)... yet I still need a calculator to do the simplest of math problems, find myself frequently Googling How to wash this or that” in the laundry machine, and get more excited buying a $1 toy car instead of a gallon of milk. Adult priorities, right? Right. Anyways, on to the story behind this Viper from Hot Wheels.

To put it blatantly, the Viper was literally designed to be a raw, turn-key devil. When it debuted in the early 90s, it changed the game for performance cars. At launch there weren’t real windows, just clear pieces of flimsy plastic that clipped-in above the doors or zipped-up if you opted for the fabric ones. Stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control- were all missing. And it had ten cylinders! Count ‘em. What I loved about the Viper was that it allowed anyone to go to their nearest Dodge dealership, stroll past rows of Neons and Grand Caravan minivans, and proudly march right-up to an eager salesman saying “I want to buy a race car today.” And boom, after some paperwork, a handshake and a stern “Don't kill yourself exiting the lot” warning, you’re given the keys to a rear-wheel-drive monster you can now park in your garage back home. That’s fantastic.

America’s snake was sold on-and-off from 1992 until just this past year, when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulled the plug on it. Let’s talk about the first generation Viper (which Hot Wheels has done an awesome job die-casting here) built between 1992 and 1995. When it hatched, the Viper’s behemoth, all-aluminum V10 engine made 400 horsepower and had Lambo blood flowing through it because during the dawn of the Viper, Chrysler actually owned Lamborghini. Lift the front-hinged hood and there were red valve colors stamped with “Viper.” You could only buy it with three-pedals and six-gears, and thanks to 8.0-liters and 465 lbs-feet of torque, the first Vipers clocked 0-60mph times in just 4.5 seconds. Lightning fast numbers were coming out of America as the 1990s began.

The Viper was a looker too. It was wide, with massive tires, an aggressive “ready-to-bite” stance and it sat dreamily low. It had cooling vents stamped into the hood, allowing its loud Detroit heart to beat. Open one of the doors, and you’ll see a warning sticker slapped on its wide sill, cautioning occupants of the exposed side exhaust pipes, which exited right at ankle level. How incredible is that?

The interior was Spartan and originally only available in a mix of industrial grey hues. White-faced gauges sat in front above the climate controls. A 180mph speedometer sat next to a 7,000 tachometer. There weren’t airbags and for a while, no exterior door handles or air conditioning. I’d honestly be okay with all of that, because the Viper’s harmonious soundtrack of its V10 roaring everywhere once you stripped-off that black canvas targa top. Even the back window piece snapped off, for a true American roadster feel.

As the years and generations went on, the Viper grew up a bit. It gained power, a lot more power, and became a tad more tame and civilized. But we’ll talk about that whenever I happily buy a die-cast of a newer Viper, hopefully soon!

I’ve driven many sports cars but never a Viper, and I so look forward to the day I do. Why such infatuation? Because I know it’ll scare me. It’ll challenge me and make me a white-knuckled behind the wheel, and that I love. Until that time, I'll keep playing around with this Viper RT/10 on my desk here at work while making race car noises.

Go hit the stores and scoop-up this snake for your die-cast collection. There’s also a rad, white with blue stripes Viper available from Hot Wheels too.

Hot Wheels “Then and Now” Series
Dodge Viper RT/10
No. DVB06 


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