Today’s post is in honour of the car that started so many 1:18 collections, the humble Bburago Dodge Viper RT/10 and its GTS coupe descendent. Released among a wave of other new offerings from the Italian model-maker in the early 90s, a goodly number of pubescent lads awoke on Christmas or Birthday morning and found one of these lovingly gift-wrapped.
It’s also a great complement to Chrysler that the Dodge Viper should have tripped so many imaginations. A great many young car enthusiasts, previously immune to the charms of 1:18 models, found the bright red roadster irresistible. The model sold by the shipload, and an infinite number languish on eBay, seemingly unsellable at any worthwhile price. But just because it’s not really collectable in the currently accepted sense of the word, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having.
Image size: Click ’em up to big ’em up.
My collecting was already in full swing by the time the Viper was released. I had been gifted two identical E-Types on Christmas, and my reception of them had been so positive that a Bburago (or similar) model became the default present that I would receive at subsequent celebrations. I was genuinely excited, though, when the Dodge hit the shelves, and my Grandparents were totally down with my collecting needs – it was agreed that I would recieve the Dodge Viper for Christmas and the Bugatti EB110 for my birthday.
This new wave of Bburago releases also ushered in levels of detail unprecedented over previous offerings from the brand. Previously, a lot of models had shared components where possible. The vintage models all shared the same spoked plastichrome wheels, while the same was true of the Jaguar E-type and the spoked-wheel versions of the Mercedes 300SL. The Ferrari Testarossa and GTO both used the same gaudily chromed five-spoke wheels, too. By the early 90s, though, things were changing.
There’s little arguement possible that Bburago did a fine job of capturing the essence of the Viper, and later the fastback coupe version. The proportions were beautifully observed, particularly the very subtle double-curvature on the surface of the bonnet.
The details were up to scratch, too. Though the absolute resolution of things like the headlights and exhausts aren’t a patch on today’s offerings, those iconic three-spoke wheels are there in all their glory, and don’t have to share the limelight with a beautifully rendered set of brakes – there aren’t any.
Great strides had been made in under-bonnet detail, too. By comparison many previous Bburago engines looked like enlarged versions of the plastichrome plates you’d find under the opening bonnets of certain 1:60 scale Matchbox and Corgi cars. The Viper engine had separate mouldings for the intake manifolds, the cylinder block and exhausts and the air-cleaner, while the valve covers were embossed with the Viper script and snakes-head motif.
Inside was more of a mixed bag. The overall form was virtually spot on. The panelling on the insides of the doors had been faithfully reproduced, in plastics that not only matched and aligned with the dashboard, but which didn’t feel wholly divorced from the 1:1 itself- a car which had rather more pressing priorities than top-notch interior trim.
The one big letdown was the fine detail. The gauges and the switchgear on the centre console were awful, and possibly a retrograde step over previous Bburag releases. To have dials represented by stickers, in itself, isn’t the end of the world. But when those stickers show cartoonized approximations of real life, something is wrong.
The layout is right, including the HVAC system, but the execution sucked and is by far the weakest aspect of the model.
The same criticisms apply to the GTS, which I don’t think is quite cast as well as the RT/10, either. But it’s the latter that’s the true classic, both as a model and as an actual car.
Astoundingly, the first gen Viper RT/10 was never taken on by Auto Art or any of the higher-end makers, which means that Bburago is about as good as Viper 1:18s will get. It makes a great basis for anybody who wants to up the ante a bit and add their own detail, with photoetch kits available for brakes and more besides.
It seems eBay sellers can barely give ’em away, so remember, if you haven’t got a Dodge Viper in your 1:18 collection, you haven’t got a 1:18 collection.
(All images copyright 2016 Chris Haining / Hooniverse)