Going to look for our first Viper (Gen 3) this weekend. Need some advice.

VPRHunter

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Hello All. I apologize in advance if I posted to the wrong place. I've read the rules and I think I'm good but feel free to correct me.

We've been researching Gen 3 Vipers for a while now and we are going to take look at one this weekend and also have a PPI done at a local Dodge dealer that has a Viper certified mechanic on staff. I've done PPIs on every car I've purchased and I'm usually right there underneath the lift checking things out myself. I'm not going to be rebuilding engines anytime soon but I know enough to replace starters, water pumps, pulleys, exhaust, etc. Here is a link to the vehicle I am looking at.


I've also attached the Carfax for those interested in taking a peek. The amount of owners gives me pause and it seems that a decent amount of miles were put on by dealerships in between owners as well. That said, I'm hoping to flesh out any issues with the PPI but I wanted to run it by the club to see what you all suggest. Opinions on valuation are also welcome. When I look at comps I would imagine this car to be in the 40-44k buy range? Perhaps I'm all wet though. Still learning and researching but I wanted to reach out to those in the know. Thank you!
 

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GTSnake

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You might want to post this in the SRT section. You will have many more experts that are more familiar with your vehicle than the GenII section.
 

MoparMap

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Nice choice (I've got a silver 04 as well, lol). As for the miles, I'm not sure I'd worry about it that much. I've never thought Carfax tells the best story on miles between owners. It's never clear to me exactly when a car was purchased since the time it spends at a dealer is lumped in together with the new owner, and different DMVs don't always record stuff all that accurately. It wouldn't surprise me though if a dealership owner drove it around while it was for sale, almost like a promotional car. It's pretty low miles in general as well. Figure it's almost 20 years old at this point, and with not even 40,000 miles that's less than 2000 miles a year on average. Looks like the first owners put some decent mileage on it and it's just bounced around since then. Also not sure I follow the whole "8 different owners" thing. Seems like it could just be the car bouncing around dealers, though I'm not sure if that's tracked the same way or not since I don't think a dealer sale requires new registration. Either way I'd just give it a good look over like you plan to do anyway. By the pictures it seems to be in pretty good shape. They are built strong and robust, so mileage doesn't tend to bother them as much as just neglect. Fresh fluids all around and maybe some fresh tires depending on what's on it now and you'd probably be good to go for many years of enjoyment.

As for price, that's hard to say. That car is actually very similar to what mine was like when I bought it. Mine had a little over 40,000 miles and was advertised a little under $40k. Granted, prices have been going up, and that one actually looks a little nicer than what mine looked like when I bought it with just general wear and tear on the interior (though hard to say without seeing it up close). The gen 3 market hasn't really seen that much of a climb though, so 40-45 seems like a reasonable number in my eyes. It mostly just comes down to how bad you want it and what you're willing to pay. I don't think gen 2s are worth 6 figures myself, but there are people out there that will pay that. $40k is a nice price for what you are getting in terms of performance and rarity though.
 

Steve-Indy

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As usual, MoparMap has clearly articulated some of the worries (or lack thereof) surrounding reported the multi-owner issue. Admittedly, I personally prefer a one or two owner car to one that has been in multiple hands...especially if the potential for said car being a "demo" at a dealership or owned by "flippers".

As with all such cars of similar age, in my opinion, the potential owner MUST be part of the inspection team...especially in areas of safety issues such as the suspension, brakes, and driveline. Next areas of concern for me would be engine, HVAC, window function...amongst other items. Of course, I am always one to harp on the 2004 crank damper bolt issue that plagued these cars early on...especially the ones retightened without proper assessment of any potential damage done before the issue was discovered.

IF this Viper passes YOUR inspection and meets your expectations and budget, that would be great. Personally, I think the low 40's would be the most that one should pay given all of the potential unknowns.

Finally, I really enjoy driving our 03 with its huge low-end torque combined with old-style, cable-driven, instantaneous throttle response. Just take care not to spin it in the lower gears as it is quite easy to do !!

Best of luck in your quest !!
 

redtanrt10

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Looks like a nice Viper. Yeah lots of owners but some had it for a year or less. Not everyone like these as a regular driver and a few of the owners may have just bought it for a summer fun toy.

Look more at cosmetics and see if they have any service records. Miles really aren't that high, let's hop it had been serviced regularly. Take a look at the tires, if the set is old you'll need to replace and budget $1,500.00 Tread may look of but old aged tires and a ton of torque don't mix.

As for pricing, look at ebay, facebook and auto trader to see what similar '03-'05's are listed for. '03's have some quirks (unique items) that make them slightly less valuable than the '04's-'05's.

Good luck and respect the torque!! Mike
 
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VPRHunter

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Thank you all for your wisdom! I have added several things to my checklist and I will let you know how it went. You've confirmed a lot of my thoughts and given some sage advise. In the past we have had a BMW E39 M5 and BMW E36 M3. We don't buy performance cars to look at. My wife and I both enjoy driving manual transmissions and analog style vehicles. This will obviously be the most power with the least safety cushions though (Respect the torque right, Mike? :) ). This is a teenage dream car for us and I think this year with appr. this amount of miles gives us the best [email protected] for the buck an smiles per mile as long as it checks out and the price is right. Have a great weekend. To be continued...
 
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Steve-Indy

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One final note, VPRHunter:

If during your inspection you have a specific question, feel free to call me and MAYBE I can be of some assistance. While I am not a mechanic, I do have a bit of Viper knowledge. 317 402 9013

Again...Best of luck !!
 
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VPRHunter

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Sorry for the long delay everyone. Been a busy weekend! Here is a link to some images we took and a short drive video as well as the cold start video.


Not being a Viper expert, the car appears to be in phenomenal shape for it's age and mileage. You will see some outside debris that was in the trunk part of the convertible top and some general dust but nothing that appears too crazy. On the left valve cover some of the paint is just starting to pull away from where the paint meets the raised lettering. Something that I would expect though with the age. I have never heard a gen 3 in person but to me it sounds like someone has done some exhaust work. I'm sure one of you could tell me more about that.

In the photos, you can see the brake calipers. The "Viper" is on them but there is no color in the lettering. I was thinking that perhaps they were repainted but as you look around them it looks like original paint to me. Thoughts?

One thing I noticed was that the travel for the gas pedal is very long. I was it ready for that. I like it in a lot of ways because it makes the driving the car easier to manage as you really need to get your foot in it to extract all the power. Is that normal or something I should investigate further?

Brakes worked well, no strange noises or creaks in the suspension. Tire (Michelin Pilot Super Sports) wear appears to be even, tread is not great but they're not slicks yet. That said, the tires are from 2015 & 2016 so those will need to be replaced. They did hook up very well though. I never broke them loose but I was also trying not to. I am after all test driving someone else's car.

The paint has a few blemishes but there are many areas that you can look over a couple square feet of and not see a single micro scratch. Someone definitely babied the washes on it. I took photos of the blemishes I could find. There are a couple dabs of pine sap on the front bumper too.

It was a tight fit (as expected) but once my wife and I settled into the seats we really liked the tucked in feeling. You aren't going anywhere unless you get ejected in a roll over! It really does feel like you're in a cockpit.

We liked it enough to where I think we are going to schedule a PPI this week and make sure all is well with everything we can't see.

Sorry, Steve-Indy! I didn't check the forum again until this morning.

What do you think? Any questions from the gallery?
 

redtanrt10

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Looks nice and clean!! Viper logo on the caliper is very faded, hoping that's a front caliper. They do fade over time and can be re-sprayed, but getting the logo painted would be tricky. Valve covers look fine, first they bubble then flake off paint, yours are at the "bubble stage" and not really that bad.

Vipers from G2 forward have adjustable peddles, (throttle/brake/clutch) switch is in the area under the steering wheel. maybe be adjusted all the way long, check and see. 6 and 7 year old tires aren't that bad but plan on replacing them in the next year.

Three more tips for you (I already said respect the torque). 1. go easy on the throttle when turning, especially off a light or stop sign, or you will loop the car! 2. Your video shows you running hard through the gears, always make sure you are really in 3rd, plenty of vipers in the wrecking yard with a power shift from 2nd to 1st!! 3. If/when the rear comes loose, stay in the throttle and don't lift.

Good luck, looks like a nice Viper!! Mike
 
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VPRHunter

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Likewise Steve! Thank you very much for your in depth insight. I will let you know how it goes at inspection and provide an update on the seemingly low power situation.

redtanrt10 - So I did adjust the pedals to where they needed to be so that I felt like I was in a good driving position. I thought it was odd when I was driving though that I was not as terrified of the power as I thought I should be. I've never been a racer of any kind but I did push my M5 to max almost daily. That car only had 394 HP and 370 lb. ft. of torque though and it weighed 5,000 lbs. I would think the Viper would have been more difficult to manage but it didn't seem that way. I had to literally push the pedal down deep to get a ripping response from the engine. It did when I dug down, but not at 1,600 rpm like Steve was saying on the phone today. Steve was saying that at 1,600 in 2nd I should be breaking those back wheels loose and I never felt like that was about to happen. If you look in the video, you can see the tach as I accelerate.
 

MoparMap

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I think the Viper gets a bad reputation for being "uncontrollable" or like an on/off switch, when in reality I think it's really not that bad. It's capable of a lot of low end torque compared to more modern cars, especially smaller displacement ones, but it's all controlled via the throttle. The important thing to remember is that even if an engine can make 800+ hp, it can make every number between 0 and that 800 as well based on how much throttle you want to give it. The Viper, especially the gen 3, is a pretty nice linear power curve car. It's not a V-Tech or huge turbo setup that makes no power for a few thousand rpm, then suddenly skyrockets when the cams or turbos finally kick in. Drive it like a normal car and it drives like a normal car, as dumb as that might sound. Tires are also a lot better than they were a few decades ago when the car was new. The OEM run flats were never reviewed all that greatly from what I understand, but the Pilot Super Sports have been really well regarded by almost anyone who has ever driven them. I know it's the only tire I've ever had on my car since I bought it. The only other tire I've ever driven on a gen 3 was a Nitto Invo, which seemed fairly similar, but I didn't drive it in all conditions since I was only in the car a few times. I've never found my car to be unpredictable, even on the race track, though that was also one reason I wanted to daily drive it, so that I'd be really familiar with it.

As for the calipers, as others have said, that's pretty common for the font to fade. Normally I think it's more of a heat and age thing. Mine are still more visible than that though, and I've got 130,000 miles and maybe 7 track weekends on them. Wonder if maybe they were just washed an awful lot or something and maybe worn down over time. My valve covers are similar and starting to lift the paint around the lettering pretty bad at this point, so I'd say it's just a typical age thing. One thing you might look for on the engine would be the oil cooler lines and the line out of the power steering pump. The oil cooler lines like to start leaking at the crimps between the hose and the fittings over time and the power steering line is a quick connect style that can start leaking and in some cases even **** out of the top of the pump. They are pretty well known issues though, and a lot of people address them early. Looks like maybe the oil cooler lines are still stock (hard to tell on pictures), but couldn't see anything on the power steering one. Fairly cheap fixes though, I think maybe $200-300 each for a new set of lines with AN style fittings. I think it looks like aftermarket exhaust as well. I don't believe the stock system had the rolled tips on them, so it's likely they have been changed out. It sounds a little deeper and louder to me on the test drive than I recall the one stock gen 3 I've driven. Kind of reminds me of my Borlas, which I really liked.
 

Steve-Indy

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For clarification, my warning for a new Viper driver revolved around caution when accelerating hard in first gear, as well as remaining cautious on the 1st to 2nd gear shift...noting that indeed at 1600 rpm there is already over 400 ft-lbs of torque at the rear wheels. A couple of my Regional members have indeed spun out leaving their own driveways. I do not consider these cars uncontrollable, though respect is always in order.

My discussion with the original poster has raised the question of performance in my mind. I do not recall hearing anyone complain about Gen III having an abnormally long travel to the gas pedal just to get the power delivered...let alone being unimpressed with said power. In fact, I have had many folks who have considerable seat time in their Gen III complain about the lack of low end torque and throttle response when switching to a Gen IV. Assuming the observation to be accurate as presented, to me, this hints of a car with a power problem...anywhere from a low compression situation to a fuel delivery issue...maybe even a throttle cable issue...along with multiple other areas to be checked.

I believe this will be better sorted by the Viper Tech performing the PPI...including a test drive. There are lots of unknowns with the Viper being discussed.

Here is a useful link from VCA post...taken from another forum as I could not get VCA link to work:

https://**************/forums/threads/28137-torque-curves
 
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redtanrt10

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I think the Viper gets a bad reputation for being "uncontrollable" or like an on/off switch, when in reality I think it's really not that bad. It's capable of a lot of low end torque compared to more modern cars, especially smaller displacement ones, but it's all controlled via the throttle.

Years ago I read a quote from one of the editors from Road & Track magazine that I firmly believe.

"If you ask a Viper owner if they've ever looped their car and they answer no, then their either lying or have never driven their viper that hard."
 

MoparMap

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Years ago I read a quote from one of the editors from Road & Track magazine that I firmly believe.

"If you ask a Viper owner if they've ever looped their car and they answer no, then their either lying or have never driven their viper that hard."

Lol, I have looped my car, just never on the street. Really, even on the track I don't find it that "random" to control. I generally have to do something stupid or push it too far, it's not like one small mistake instantly means a 360, and I'm one of the fastest gen 3s on the track I run. I think tires are also way better than they used to be. The stock runflats are pretty widely regarded as not a great tire, even brand new.
 
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VPRHunter

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Thank you again for all of your advice. It came in very handy when inspecting and purchasing our first viper this weekend. You have all been fantastic. Special thanks to Dr. Fess for all the phone calls, texts and Viper leads!

Now...how do I find rear tires for this thing. No one seems to have anything in stock that's worth buying. I suppose I can search the forums for that though.

Cheers!
 
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VPRHunter

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Ordered my tires yesterday!

Now, it has original plugs and wires. Looks like OEM plugs are RC12ECC. What is the consensus on a wire set? Seems to be a fair amount of opinions out there but not much recent from what I can tell.
 

BYAIC

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Ordered my tires yesterday!

Now, it has original plugs and wires. Looks like OEM plugs are RC12ECC. What is the consensus on a wire set? Seems to be a fair amount of opinions out there but not much recent from what I can tell.
RSI Racing manufacturers and sells a very nice set of wires that I’m running on my car. I don’t think you will find anything better than theirs. The bad thing is that you’ll need to pull the manifold to replace your wires. The plugs are a pain too, you’ll need swivel adapters for the rear plugs; take your time.

They also have the improved power steering and oil lines, if yours are original you’ll want them - eventually. Check their website.
 
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VPRHunter

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RSI Racing manufacturers and sells a very nice set of wires that I’m running on my car. I don’t think you will find anything better than theirs. The bad thing is that you’ll need to pull the manifold to replace your wires. The plugs are a pain too, you’ll need swivel adapters for the rear plugs; take your time.

They also have the improved power steering and oil lines, if yours are original you’ll want them - eventually. Check their website.
Thank you for for the info. Power steering and oil lines have been replaced with braided variants.
 
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VPRHunter

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With plugs and wires that old, do you think there would be a noticeable difference after a refresh? I would think so. My old Jeep Cherokee always ran better after a new set of plugs & wires. Just curious about the affects on a Viper with 19 years old hardware.

Also, while the intake is off, is there anything else that can/should be addressed?
 
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BYAIC

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With plugs and wires that old, do you think there would be a noticeable difference after a refresh? I would think so. My old Jeep Cherokee always ran better after a new set of plugs & wires. Just curious about the affects on a Viper with 19 years old hardware.
Well I replaced my wires because I had a backfire that eventually threw a CEL that alerted me that I had a spark related issue. But old wires on any performance car are always suspect, definitely replace them if you can.

With my old set in hand the mechanic gently pulled on one and it pulled / broke in to two pieces. They had dried out and weakened over time.
 

BYAIC

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With plugs and wires that old, do you think there would be a noticeable difference after a refresh? I would think so. My old Jeep Cherokee always ran better after a new set of plugs & wires. Just curious about the affects on a Viper with 19 years old hardware.

Also, while the intake is off, is there anything else that can/should be addressed?
No, leave the other things alone, they are very robust.
 

MoparMap

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I bought of set of wires from AB and qualitywires.com if I remember correctly. Really nice set with full length covers that are well made, but I think you have to run larger diameter wire holders to route them compared to the stock ones. With low mileage I don't think I'd be super worried as I don't think they would really tend to degrade that much with just time. Plugs I don't see going bad just sitting around, though I could see wires maybe drying out over time since they are flexible pieces. Either way, they are copper plugs, so they aren't designed for super high miles and they are cheap enough to replace, so can't hurt I suppose. I don't think you'd see a huge benefit to replacing everything if you aren't experiencing any problems to start with. Typically ignition issues would present themselves either at idle as a miss or at high rpm breaking up. I don't think you would see degraded performance as much as actual issues.
 

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