Question of the Week: What’s your favorite sleeper performance car?


A sleeper car is one you wouldn’t expect to leave a snarling exotic car in its wake at the stoplight or dragstrip. Following Teddy Roosevelt’s mantra of speaking softly but carrying a big stick, they keep their impressive horsepower hidden until it’s called upon.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/03/30/qotw-whats-your-favorite-sleeper-car


I think the 2009 Pontiac G8 Firehawk is an amazing sleeper. Only hardcore enthusiasts even know what they are. From the outside it looks like a typical Pontiac sedan. Under the hood, there is a 500+ HP supercharged V8 tuned by SLP performance (available through your Pontiac dealer in 2009) and big Brembo brakes. Yeah, there were less than 30 ever made, but this is a car you can take the entire family along while you search for prey to embarrass.


Pretty much what’s in the picture. Full disclosure: I’m biased because I have one. In particular the 2015-2017 Chevy SS (aka GM of Australia’s Holden Commodore SSV) with the 6-speed manual tranny. Not the monster that the Firehawk was (which was based on the Commodore also), but certainly more available.

A naturally aspirated 6.2L V-8 mated to a 6-speed manual can be found in Corvettes and Camaros, sure, but to shove that 415hp/torque beast into an Australian-engineered RWD sedan with 19" performance rubber, Brembo brakes and configurable magneto suspension, and you have something that’s a totally unique configuration in the modern era. In fact, it is now extinct. There are maybe 3-4,000 of the manual versions floating around out there from its short production run. I feel very lucky to have gotten one when I did.


NIce call, Greg! I’m a big Pontiac fan and I still had forgotten about those.


Always thought GMC Cyclone and Typhoon were cool sleepers of their day. Still pretty quick 30+ years later.


I think the Grand National and T-types fall into the sleeper category. They are pretty subtle but can certainly get out of their own way.


Maybe at the time. I think by this point the Grand National is well documented to beat people off the line.


@Nick - True, it is pretty hard to maintain sleeper status for 30+ years!


My 1990 Taurus SHO was one of my sleepers. 99.9% of people had no clue, because it looked like a Taurus. A pain to maintain with valve adjustments every 60,000 miles. The rear bank was a bear to get to. Did a ton of performance modifications. It handled amazingly well on the track. 3 series BMW’s were toast for about 6 years. I put 330,000 miles on that car (2 engines), and was still not afraid of it. Yamaha set that motor up so that the power band hit from 3,500 to 8,000 RPM. At 270,000 miles I took it out to Texas Motor Speedway, put it on the road course which included the oval, and ran it on 110 octane gas (that was the only way it would stay cool) for 2 hours between 3,500 and 8,000 RPM. Downside was brakes. Later models had better brakes and I upgraded, but they were still shredded at the end of that run. I managed to drive it home, put it up on jack stands, and order brake parts.

I have had 2 4-door CTS Vs, They are sleepers too but their aerodynamics give them away to more people. I still have number 2, a 2010 with 556 hp/552 tq, with 178,000 miles and am still not afraid to nail it.

Unbelievable motors in all three.


@boyd - Awesome that you ran the SHO so hard! I can’t say I have ever heard of anyone putting one of those through the paces like that. With that many miles I bet that car has some stories.


Ultimate “Sleeper” Volvo V70R…
Tame station wagon looks…but all-wheel drive with up to 300ho on tap.


I don’t know about leaving a snarling exotic in it’s wake, but I’m sold on the Saturn Sky Redline. It looks like a cute little convertible with 260hp from the factory. After a few modifications, it’s over 330hp and weighs less than 3000lbs. It’s my first 4 cylinder Turbo and it’s more fun to drive than the four Mustangs I’ve had before it. And it handles better than the 95 Viper I used to have with only 70 less HP! SMH, never thought I’d utter these words.


You can’t forget the 6.1L and 6.4L SRTs, specifically the Chrysler 300s. I had a 2008 300 SRT which was 425HP from the factory and I have a 2012 300 SRT that has 485HP from the factory. Reminds me of the big luxury performance cars of old.


I loved the dodge Omni glh and the glhs Shelby variety. They were pretty quick for their day with some minor mods. Super sleeper.


Mercedes S55 AMG. Looks like a grandpa car, goes like hell


Hands down - the Subaru Impreza WRX 5 door - you can pick the year. They all handle like a go cart. I have the 2014 and would not trade it for gold - well maybe gold - but it would take a bunch.


Mitsubishi Starion / Conquest 1986-1989 - my pick for favorite sleeper. I owned one in 1986 and I now have another 1986 Starion ESI-R. 2.6L 4 w/Turbo…with only 44K miles. Near mint. All original. Like a rocket!!


Back in the mid 70’s, I owned a 1970 Pontiac Laurentian 2 door. As many of you read the name and think, “Oh ya, that’s the Canadian equivalent of the American built Pontiac Catalina”: Canadian built full size Pontiac cars from 1958-1970, all got Chevy drive lines (long story). So this Laurentian came with a LS5, 390HP 454CI, with 500 foot pounds of torque. As you all know, 1970 is the first year for the 454 block. This car had 2:73 rear end and weighed 4200lbs. It would launch off the line hard and push you back in the seat till you took your foot off the pedal and it had an “unlimited” top end. I could bury the needle, at 4700rpm and you could still fell it pulling hard. I think it was the “pukey Lime Green metallic paint” and that big Edsel like nose that gave it the “family car” look. That was if you didn’t notice the B F Goodrich TA’s (white letters in) mounted on all 4 corners.
If you consider the 70 Laurentian as a “plain Jane sleeper” as I did back then, I now own her better looking sister, a 1970 Pontiac 2+2. It also has a 454 but it is LS4. I’d trade my 2+2 for that puke green Laurentian in a heart beat. LOL ! ! !


1971 as 454 el camino , lol my project that i bought


I have always liked the 1980’s performance Fords. This is why I drive a SVO Mustang, but I would gladly own a 1985 Ford LTD LX. This is simply a four door Mustang with a 5.0 L. With a few performance tweaks, this car would be showing
you its exhaust pipes.