Just what in the hell is a sleeper? It’s the unassuming grocery-getter that can blow the doors off your V8 midlife-crisis-on-wheels. It’s also the type of car I asked my readers to find last week, and from the suggestions, I’ve selected the ten best vehicles that can discretely burn rubber without burning a hole in your bank account. Ready yourselves.
10. 1980 Chevy Monza
If you’ve never heard of the Chevy Monza, don’t fret—it’s one of the most under-represented models on the used car market today, but as any American car made in late ‘70s, it was build with a certain amount of muscle car DNA, even if its exterior now shows quite poorly. I’ll let Kaiser Khan explain:
Here’s what looks to be a purpose built sleeper- trash on the outside, heavy investment under the hood. So ratty, so roddy. At $4,500, you’d have enough money for better tires.
9. 1990 Mercury Cougar XR7
Let’s face it: this Mercury Cougar was the Fox Body car you never wanted because it wasn’t featured in any up-and-coming ‘90s rap videos, and was an option made available to you as a hand-me-down from your politically incorrect grandpa. (Correction: It’s not a Fox body like we originally said.)
However, hindsight is 20/20, as the model takes to mods extremely well, it’s cheap as dirt to run and repair, and will surprise anyone with a modern anything if they try to overtake you on the highway. It’s a luxury ‘Stang and that is no bad thing.
8. 2006 Subaru Legacy GT
This Subaru Legacy is what happens when the STi grows up and gets a real job. I’ll let TheUkrainian1 explain:
mid 2000’s Subaru Legacy GT. I prefer the wagon flavor (mainly because I have one). They can be found for under 5K, and a good amount of STI parts can be used on them so the aftermarket is quite large. Tons of room, AWD, a turbo, heated leather seats, etc.
7. 2003 Lexus GS430
This Lexus GS430 embodies the phrase “highway monster” perfectly. It features a baby-butt-smooth 4.3 V8 that’s designed to do nothing but eat large stretches of highway, interstate and every side road in between.
Unlike an American-made V8 of the era, it makes a good chunk of its power in the upper registers of its RPM range, which makes it a perfect candidate for those top speed track pulls. For less than $5000, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that performs like this GS. The fact that it’s a fully loaded luxury car is gravy.
6. 2003 Jaguar XJR
This Jaguar XJR, when running, would be the most un-fuck-withable car in the Walmart parking lot. While a few things (electronics, transmission) keep it from being something I’d consider reliable, if you can get her running and keep her drivetrain from grenading, there’s no better example of modern British luxury with old British flair for the price.
5. 1994 Buick Roadmaster
This Buick Roadmaster might be a sleeper and the most car by net weight you can buy for the money, not to mention it’s an awesome stuff-hauler. I’ll let Sethism explain:
1996 Buick Roadmaster LT1 with towing package. The towing package on these cars net a transmission cooler, bigger sway bars, a lower gear ration, and a limited slip diff. At $3,000 BIN, you’ve got 2 grand in mods to throw at the already potent LT1.
Plus, you can haul all of your shit and tow 6,000 pounds.
4. 1992 Volvo 240
This Volvo 240 is a car that no one will assume is anything but glacial in its acceleration. All the more reason to upgrade it with fancy go fast bits, like a Corvette drivetrain. Volvette, anyone?!
3. 2002 Saab 9-3
This Saab 9-3 is a car that isn’t necessarily a sleeper in stock form, but when you crank the boost and add some interesting goodies as far as turbos, injectors, and a good tune, this car can give anything with an AMG or M badge a run for its money in a straight line.
Just don’t get caught unaware with torque steer, it’s a hell of a thing.
2. 1999 BMW 540i
This BMW 540i looks just like a base model, two-decade-old 5 series, but it packs a punch more resembling a fire-breathing muscle car than anything else. I’ll let Ricardo Landgrave explain:
With a short shifter, new diff, M60 manifold and performance tyres, it should give many cars a run for their money.
It’s also a BMW, so people will assume it’s broken down. Best sleeper ever.
With those non M Tech bumpers, pre LCI look and normal wheels, nobody expects a V8, just remove the badge.
Expect high maintenance costs. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1. 2005 Buick Park Avenue
This Buick Park Avenue has an engine that’s basically a GM-derived V8 with two cylinders lopped off and the addition of a potent supercharger. No one expects this chassis to perform, and getting one to serious power levels doesn’t require much in the way of modification. It’s the perfect sleeper. Here’s Back in the USSR to explain:
Can’t get any sleepier than this in grandpa’s Buick. Comes with bench seat, column shifter and a supercharged V6 that will smoke modern sports cars with some minor mods.