Home » We Found The Woman Who Won A Dodge Viper On The Price Is Right. What She Did With It Surprised Us

We Found The Woman Who Won A Dodge Viper On The Price Is Right. What She Did With It Surprised Us

Price Is Right Viper
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The Dodge Viper was always a scary thing. It launched in 1992 as a phallic fiberglass wrapper for a massive V10 engine and a six-speed transmission driving the rear wheels. There was no traction control, no airbags, and no ABS. Heck, there were no exterior door handles. A coffin on wheels with 400 horsepower.

The sheer intensity of the Viper made contemporary muscle cars look like ponies, with their creature comforts and titchy V8s. Over the years, the car earned itself a reputation as a bit of a widowmaker. Having all that power on tap with no restraints too often ends in tears. A search for Dodge Viper crashes will turn up a cavalcade of twisted metal, with lives tragically lost along the way.

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The Viper was a super-powerful car that could prove fatal for an unprepared driver. So, what better car could there be to offer up to the general public as the ultimate jackpot on The Price Is Right? And what would become of the unsuspecting player who went home with a Viper just waiting to strike? We spoke to one winner and got many answers, though more questions remain.

The First Viper Winner

A man named Peter entered the history books when he appeared on The Price is Right in 2002. It was the golden age of the show, with Bob Barker presiding over the festivities. As the show began in earnest, Peter had the closest bid on a laptop computer, which gained him entry to the first pricing game. He’d be playing Golden Road. Up for grabs was a chaise lounge and a Yamaha WaveRunner jet ski. Oh, and a Dodge Viper, valued at over $74,000.

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Peter was an enthusiastic player, wearing a shirt emblazoned with hand-written messages and pumping his fists in adulation. He guessed the correct price of the car—$74,570—and quite literally began jumping for joy. He was, according to my research, the first person to win a Viper on the show.

“You’ve done it! Congratulations! Drive carefully.” – Bob Barker

The win catapulted Peter up the charts of the biggest winners on The Price is Right. Fans keep exhaustive statistics on the show, going as far as noting where Bob Barker entered the show in any given episode (on Peter’s episode, he came in through the audience). The Viper made Peter the biggest single-prize winner in the show’s history, with his total haul coming in at $85,949 worth of prizes. At the time, that made him the third biggest winner ever in total on the show, behind Angela and Danielle who played on October 14, 1993 and January 13, 1992, respectively. Today, he’s the 52nd biggest winner, with inflation significantly boosting prize amounts over the years.

My brain itched with questions, and based on the YouTube comments, I wasn’t the only one. Most consist of people bickering about the vagaries of tax law in respect to game show prizes. One viewer swears that Barker gave away the game by holding the right number in position over the price tag. But my question was more personal—what happened to Peter and the Viper after the cameras stopped rolling?

Peter was clearly having a great time on the show.

Calling Peter up for a chat would answer all my questions, but alas, it wasn’t to be. All I had was his first name. The announcer in the intro calls out something along the lines of “Peter Mamama, come on down!” Endless searches for variants like Malama, Manama, and Meinama turned up nothing. Nor did the credits offer any hope.

Did Peter climb behind the wheel of the vicious, powerful first-gen Viper? What did he make of the powerful V10 engine? Perhaps he found a new addiction to gasoline and speed, wielding the Viper like the automotive equivalent of a berserker’s broadsword. Or perhaps, he’d found it all too much, and only used it gently on weekends. Or, perhaps the saddest answer, he’d never driven it at all, maybe due to those brutal gift taxes we’ve all heard so much about.

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We have only a tiny clue. One commenter claimed to have known Peter, and stated that he’d kept the car for a few years before he sold it. Another stated that their father worked with Peter, without providing any relevant information.

The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular 4 4 08 4 46 Screenshot
Even in the 2000s, the announcer called out “rack and pinion steering” as a feature on the car.

I reached out to both, to no avail. In any case, assuming both are telling the truth, we know that Peter owned the car for some time, and, at one point, had some kind of gainful employment. If you know Peter, or know of him, let him know we’d love to chat.

There’s Something About Marys

With Peter’s trail having gone cold, I dove back into the archives of data from The Price is Right. I teased out a couple more winners, both named Mary. One took home a yellow Viper, the other, red. Both won later second-generation models, which were modern compared to Peter’s barebones first-gen Viper. Even still, they were imposing machines, with 500 horsepower and still, no traction control.

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I watched and rewatched the episodes, looking for clues that could help put me in touch with someone. I dived deep into research and finally turned up a phone number. And just like that, I was talking to Mary, who won a Dodge Viper on September 28, 2006.

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Mary won the opening bidding on the game Gold Bars, giving her the opportunity to play Golden Road. She guessed the price of a dinnerware set, then a giant clock.

“Today, we have, at the end of the Golden Road, the most expensive prize ever offered on our daytime show,” crowed Bob Barker. A gorgeous yellow Viper awaited her. She guesses seven as the missing number in the price. Bob teases, stalls for time, then finally pulls the tag. She’s done it—she’s won the Viper. Mary claps and screams with the victory as Bob sends the viewers off to an ad break.

That was eighteen years ago; today, it’s a cool, cloudy afternoon as I speak to Mary about her brilliant win. “I’m pretty sure I just jumped up and down and screamed,” she laughs, speaking of her brilliant win on the show stage.

You might expect that Mary left the set in the yellow Viper seen on screen, but the reality is somewhat different. There are taxes to pay on the winnings [Ed Note: $30 grand according to a story I’ve found online. -DT], and the prizes often come later. Many contestants travel great distances to appear on the show, and it’s not practical for them to try and shoehorn everything into their cabin baggage.

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As for the Viper? “It was maybe 3 months,” says Mary. “You have to wait for the show to air. They can’t give you the car until the show has been aired on television.” She also didn’t get the exact car that was seen on screen. “They actually transport the car, they find the one nearest in value to the prize that you won,” she explains. “Mine was yellow on television, but actually they couldn’t find a yellow one in that same price value.” The show called to check that she was happy to accept a black one instead. Mary confirmed, and the Viper was then delivered to a local dealer for her to pick up.

The Price Is Right 9 28 06, Pt. 1 6 0 Screenshot
That’s the face of a woman that knows the price of a Viper.

From her first ride, the car made a big impression. “I know the first time I actually got in, you could just hear the car rumble underneath of you … you could feel the power as soon as you turned it over,” she says, with a measure of reverence. “My husband was super excited to be the owner of a Dodge Viper, and he drove it home from the dealership. We were both super thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to drive a Dodge Viper.” She and her husband took turns in the car, with friends and family lining up for rides as well.

By the mid-2000s, the Viper had been out for well over a decade. Even so, it was a major head turner wherever it went, according to Mary. “Everybody around you is looking at you,” she laughs. “You can see it all over their faces, that thrill and excitement.”

The Price Is Right 9 28 06, Pt. 1 6 55 Screenshot
Mary had to win; her shirt was a perfect color match for the car.

She and her husband intended to sell the car, and wanted to keep it as close to brand new as possible. They limited their use to a few fun drives and a date night at a fancy restaurant. “We purposely went down to a fancy area in our neck of the woods,” says Mary. “We used the valet service, and made sure they parked it right outside the restaurants so we could look at it while we were eating dinner.” They enjoyed the car, while preserving its value.

But the big question—did Mary and her husband ever really wring it out? Push the Viper hard? There’s a pause on the line. “Gosh, can I say that to you?” laughs Mary. She’s coy, but it’s clear she enjoyed the car for what it was. “Of course, I mean, it’s a Dodge Viper. I drove it slowly for a Dodge Viper, but fast for any other car,” she chuckles.

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The Price Is Right 9 28 06, Pt. 1 7 22 Screenshot
Winning the car made all the difference.

She avoided any scary, white-knuckle moments, though, choosing to drive the car with respect and within her own limits.  “I would never say that I would let myself get to that point,” says Mary. “I drove in a manner that I felt like I could handle. I knew if I went faster, which the car is capable of going, that I could lose control, and I just didn’t pass that point.”

“We owned it for probably about 6, maybe 8 months,” says Mary. She didn’t drive the car a whole lot during that time, not wanting to increase the mileage too much. “It was a pretty easy process to sell,” she explains. They found someone looking for a car in their exact configuration and offloaded it without issue. Ultimately, it was because the Viper had become key to something altogether more important in her life.

Something Even Better Than A Viper

At the time of Mary’s appearance on The Price Is Right, she and her husband were in the process of adoption. Any family that’s been through it will tell you the process is long and arduous, and often expensive.

“It’s kind of daunting, trying to adopt, so we were taking a break, on vacation,” Mary explains. In doing so, a wonderful opportunity presented itself. “Getting on The Price Is Right was like, my dream, to meet Bob Barker. It was his last season before he retired.”

Scoring the massive prize was just the magic icing on an already wonderful cake.

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Winning a Dodge Viper was never in the plan, but Chrysler’s Hail Mary sportscar from the 1990s would help her and her husband build a family. “We sold the car so that we could afford the adoption,” says Mary. Providence smiled, and Mary and her husband would go on to adopt a second child from the same mother, again helped by the proceeds from the car.

“We still wish we owned a Dodge Viper,” says Mary. “We wish we had been able and in a position to keep it.” But ultimately, she loves it more for the greater gift it gave her. “That’s really… if I retell the story, that’s the story for me,” she says. “I love the Dodge Viper, but I really love my babies.”  I pretty much teared up at that point.

I’m still hoping to reach out to Peter or the other Mary. I want to know what it was like stepping out of their daily driver and into Dodge’s unleashed V10 weapon. One suspects it either made them instant car fans or scared them half to death on partial throttle.

Today, the same kind of thing can still kind of happen. You could give someone a Tesla Model S Plaid, or a bonkers Ferrari or a C8 Corvette. Any one of those would offer devastatingly quick acceleration, all three sure to be quicker than a 2002 Dodge Viper.

And yet, the Dodge wouldn’t be far behind, and it did it all with a manual gearbox and with only your right foot keeping the tires stuck to the road — plus, with no airbags or ABS. You can still hurt yourself in a modern car, but you’re kind of wearing a parachute made out of computers compared to driving the all-analog Dodge of decades past.

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In any case, if your neighbor, town crier, or bailiff won a first-gen Viper, from The Price is Right or otherwise, have them drop me a line. I’d love to know what their experience was like—taxes, tire torture, and all.

Image credits: The Price is Right via YouTube screenshot

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Peter OToole
Peter OToole
5 months ago

Wonderful story. Thanks for your [D]o[d]gged pursuit.

Rotarycoach
Rotarycoach
5 months ago

Great story! I’d love to know if she really used the words “Dodge Viper” in every single quote that you have listed here. I think most people would default to “the viper…” or “the car…” but if she actually used the full name each time that makes it more endearing.

GirchyGirchy
GirchyGirchy
5 months ago
Reply to  Rotarycoach

Or, “the phallic fiberglass wrapper.” I sure hope that’s what they called it.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
5 months ago

See, that’s what people don’t get about cars and why people become enthusiasts.

Cars aren’t just machines that takes someone from A to B. Eventually they will bring joy in manners no one could ever imagine, opening doors that would not be possible otherwise.

They create memories that few other things can produce. For Mary, it wasn’t just a Viper, it was the passport to her dream.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
5 months ago

Oh hell no! Not that kind of click baity headlines here also? That is really low.

Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
5 months ago

Lewin, I’d love if you can find all the winners of Seats from the Aussie Price is Right!

Jeff Kirby
Jeff Kirby
5 months ago

They actually transport the car, they find the one nearest in valve to the prize that you won

*value

Notta Bawt
Notta Bawt
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Kirby

I dunno…it was a mid-2000s Dodge. I would not be surprised if the Viper came in a variety of unintended valve counts.

Robn
Robn
5 months ago

I got married in CA in 2002 and my extended family flew out for the occasion. One of the things we did to keep everyone busy was to take them all to a taping of TPIR. It was late October and 20 of us showed up with airbrushed t-shirts (bride, groom, best man, usher, etc.). After hours of waiting, and a round of interviews on the way in, the show began.

Immediately, my mom was called up for the first round of bidding. She won. Then she played her game. She won that too. And then she won her spin. OMG she is going to the showcase showdown. Unfortunately, she looked to me when the curtains rose to reveal a new 2002 Mustang, and I led her astray with a bid that was too high. (hey, I thought it was a GT.) But, she did take home a sweet collection of prizes, including 2 pairs of skis and snowboards, some new flatware, a vacuum with an integrated radio, and some sweet Hooker furniture consisting of a desk and a new couch.

Fast forward to a few months later. Dead of winter in Detroit. My dad gets a call out of the blue from a truck driver that says he has their couch. Hadn’t heard a thing about it since the taping back in October. Ahh the Price is Right couch has arrived. “Sure, I can leave work and meet you at home.” No dice. The trucker says he doesn’t deliver to residential and can only meet him at a place with an unloading dock. I’m not sure how many regular people have access to a loading dock at a moment’s notice, but he didn’t. Luckily, he did have a small Toyota Tacoma and the driver agreed to meet him in an industrial parking lot to drop it off. And drop it off he did. Left it right there. In the middle of February. In a snowstorm. In a K-Mart parking lot in Detroit. Thankfully my dad had a buddy come help him load it in the Taco and the rest is history. They still have that couch to this day. And I’m still married. I do wonder what happened to the other guy in the showcase showdown whose bid was so good that he won both showcases – Mustang included.

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  Robn

> some sweet Hooker

That’s where my browser put the line break!

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
5 months ago
Reply to  Robn

A vacuum with a radio? That’s an odd combination. Must have had a really good amp and speakers to hear it over the appliance.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
5 months ago

What a remarkable story. Wow. I feel like I just watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

And it’s not even Christmas.

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
5 months ago

I’m glad I never won a dodge viper.

I’d be dead.

Foooooor sure.

Serial Thriller
Serial Thriller
5 months ago
Reply to  Taxi maniac

But what a way to go!

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago

That’s a heartwarming tale! Glad for Mary that she was able to use her winnings in a positive way for her and the children she adopted!

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
5 months ago

The biggest winners from the ’80s will never be able to top winners from the ’90s and beyond on TPIR simply because they used to give away Pontiac T1000s and now they don’t hesitate to give away an Audi e-tron GT. I think the biggest prize is in the ’80s were around Christmas time they’d be giving away a Cadillac and not the Cimarron kind.

davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
5 months ago

What an awesome ending to the story. I did not see that coming.

My parents traded in a Viper to have me.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

Yeah a lot of prizes won don’t get given on the Price is Wrong. As it is a super win you pay 50% taxes or close depending on the state you live. Given the shitstorm of some prizes and take everything or nothing if I didn’t win cash yeah sorry I wasn’t interested in the ugly furniture for free 50% off retail ain’t changing that. But yeah win a Viper get a loan sell it and boom tens of thousands of dollars. I’ll take the money but not spending it on kids which cost even more.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I always thought they should exempt taxes on game show and sweepstakes winnings. Let people have a little joy, damn.
Worse than the Price is Right are some of the home makeover shows. People living in squalor get their house gutted and rebuilt. How are they going to afford the new property taxes? Utilities?

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
5 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Or the repairs from the crappy work?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

But taxes based on quality work.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I think Hollywood should pay the taxes. They are making money on it. But yeah you get that once in a lifetime score yes no taxes except cash windfalls.

Strangek
Strangek
5 months ago

Really cool article, great idea for a story! I’ve always wondered how that works. If I win a dinette set and a pair of Ski Doos, how do I get that crap home?

TheNewt
TheNewt
5 months ago

This is a great article. It’s great to read about quirky French cars and American rust buckets but it’s better when some real humanity is sprinkled in.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
5 months ago
Reply to  TheNewt

If it helps, I have quirky French cars and American rust buckets and, for all I know, I’m a real human.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

No, no, no – real humans live in Kansas, enjoy taco soup, and drive Toyota Siennas.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
5 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Let’s see: I’ve been to Kansas without dying and I’ve seen at least one Toyota Sienna, I think, but I had no idea taco soup was a thing. Maybe I’d enjoy it?

Close enough? Probably not close enough.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Taco Soup is the best soup. Ever.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
5 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Someone has never had cheeseburger soup and it shows …

JK. There is room in this world for every kind of unhealthy, delicious midwestern soup.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

We once picked up a hitchhiker in Kansas and dropped him on a farm in the eastern, flat part of Colorado. His mom invited me and the Brazilian girl I was travelling with for taco soup; we respectfully declined as we were trying to stay ahead of a snowstorm. I still wonder what could have been. Is it like tortilla soup?

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
5 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Sounds like my mom.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
5 months ago

It was interesting to learn about prize insurance. I never knew it existed. I was at a charity golf tournament and a local insurance agent had donated a new BRZ as a prize. Competitors could buy $5 tickets and if they got a hole in one on a specific hole, the won the car.

I spoke with one of the agents and he explained how it worked. They took out a $2000 (I think) prize policy, which counted as their tax deductible donation to the event. If no one won the car, it went back to the dealer. If someone won, it was theirs. The charity got to keep all the ticket money, which ended up actually being more than the initial $2000. What an interesting scheme.

It makes things much simpler that in Canada, lottery and gambling winnings are not taxed. Unless you are a US Citizen either visiting here or a resident. Then you have to declare it as foreign income. Wah wah…

Oh, and nobody won the car.

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