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Chrysler has ordered 93 first-generation Dodge Vipers to be crushed, including what is believed to be the fourth Viper ever made. A Chrysler representative sent a letter to South Puget Sound Community College, which currently owns the Viper with VIN# 4, informing them that they must crush the car within two weeks.

Automakers regularly donate unsellable non-street legal vehicles to automotive-engineering programs at colleges and universities, reserving the right to order the vehicles destroyed for insurance purposes. That includes this lot of 93 pre-production Vipers.

The example wearing VIN #4 is unique in that it is a 1992 hardtop variant; Dodge did not actually market a production version until 1996. It lacks emissions equipment and some electronics, as well as a speed limiter. That makes it pretty rare; it has been estimated to be worth $250,000. South Puget Sound Community College is understandably upset about the prospect of losing it. They could not have reasonably recovered its market value, though, because they are prohibited from selling it.

And thousands of people on the Internet are even more upset about it than South Puget Sound Community College is — they don’t want to see it crushed, either. It’s to the point that they’ve started a petition.

This is nothing new; automakers regularly crush pre-production cars they can’t legally sell because it’s cheaper than storing them. This includes examples that have been worn out through endurance tests, as well as examples created for testing various systems in real life. The same goes for limited production cars; almost all of the GM EV1 prototypes were crushed when their lease periods ended.

While the crushing of EV1s sparked a PR battle that sought to paint the practice of crushing prototypes as something controversial, GM needed to do it to escape liability for possible accidents involving continued private use of the cars. (And GM did donate a few to museums and universities, where some EV1s survive.) In other cases, automakers have sold non-street legal pre-production cars on bills of sale, like four years ago during the paring down of GM’s corporate collection, though that’s rare.

Chrysler isn’t taking any chances, but we’d at least like to see the cars parted out or transferred to museums, where no one will contemplate hooning them.

Amidst calls to save the cars, Chrysler has issued this statement.