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Top 10 Best Sleeper Cars of All Time

Updated on October 7, 2010

A sleeper car is a car with high performance but an exterior that looks unassuming. Basically, it's a car that looks slow until you race it and then all you're looking at is its taillights. Here's a list of the top sleeper cars of all time:

Buick Grand National
Buick Grand National

10. Buick Grand National

In the mid-1980s, Buick made turbocharged performance versions of their Regals and called them Grand Nationals. Most of them were produced with black paint jobs and black and gray interiors. There were even special performance editions made of the Grand National to boost speeds even more, such as the lightweight WE4 option and the GNX. The great thing about these cars is that they still look like a mid-1980s Buick and not a sports car. Buick was pressured into ending Grand National production by General Motors because they were outperforming the Corvettes that Chevrolet was making at the time, and they didn't want their companies top sports car to be outdone by a Buick, a car brand mostly associated with elderly drivers.

1971 Chevy Nova
1971 Chevy Nova

9. Chevy Nova

The Chevy Nova was a compact car made during the muscle car era of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Nova SS was the performance variant, and it was one of the smallest muscle cars ever built. Engine options on the Nova SS were V8's and produced 300 horsepower or more. The most powerful Nova was the Yenko Nova, which was a specially outfitted Nova with a 427 cubic inch engine.

Subaru Forester 2.5XT
Subaru Forester 2.5XT

8. Subaru Forester 2.5XT

The next time you think about racing a Subaru Forester, make sure it isn't the Forester 2.5XT, which is the performance version of the family-carrying grocery-getter with a turbocharged engine similar to that found in the Impreza WRX STi. These cars are quick, even though they might look boring. Proceed racing them with extreme caution.

AMC Hornet SC 360
AMC Hornet SC 360

7. AMC Hornet SC 360

Starting in 1971, AMC made a muscle car named the AMC Hornet SC 360. This car was powered by a 5.9 liter V8 engine making between 250 and 300 horsepower, depending on options. The only thing that gave this car away as a possible muscle car was the hood scoop. Otherwise you'd have no way of guessing that it could do a quarter mile in under 15 seconds and handled amazingly well thanks to its light weight.

Mercury Marauder
Mercury Marauder

6. Mercury Marauder

Lasting just two model years, the Mercury Marauder was a high performance variant of the Mercury Grand Marquis. This car was a muscle sedan, similar in concept to what Chevrolet tried to do in the mid-1990s with the Impala SS. The Marauder had a V8 with dual overhead cams making over 300 horsepower. These cars are most often found in all black, including the grille, which would have been chrome on the Grand Marquis. It might look like it belongs to a government official, but these cars are seriously fast.

1972 Plymouth Duster
1972 Plymouth Duster

5. Plymouth Duster

Dusters went on sale in 1970 and were related to the Plymouth Valiant. Some Dusters were just slow, compact economy cars. Others were built with a V8 engine as large as 5.6 liters. The Duster 340 was a serious muscle car despite its size, and will frustrate the hell out of people who soup up their Dodge Chargers with big hemi engines only to eat the dust of a these much cheaper Dusters.

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS
1996 Chevrolet Impala SS

4. Chevrolet Impala SS (7th generation)

The 7th generation of the Impala was produced from 1994 through 1996. These Impala SS's were muscle sedans designed for people who needed speed and lots of interior space and room in the trunk. These cars were related to the Chevrolet Caprice police package, but with an upgraded LT1 engine. Although the transmissions on the Impala SS were not robust enough to handle all the power from the engine, many owners have since swapped them out for something more performance-oriented.

Saab 9.5 Aero
Saab 9.5 Aero

3. Saab 9-5 Aero

Although it might not look too different from a standard Saab, the Saab 9-5 Aero introduced in 2000 is a sports car in the body of a European compact. Featuring a 230 horsepower turbocharged engine and sport tuned suspension, these cars are often used as police vehicles in Sweden. Private owners have also found ways to get a lot more horsepower out of the engines, so some of the 9-5 Aeros you find out on the street are a lot faster than the already fast factory models.

Ford Taurus SHO
Ford Taurus SHO

2. Ford Taurus SHO

The Ford Taurus SHO came about because Ford had a huge surplus of small but powerful Yamaha engines that they had ordered for a car that was canceled before they could start production. With all these engines sitting around, they figured why not drop them into their most popular passenger car, the Ford Taurus. The result was the Ford Taurus SHO, or Super High Output. These cars had well over 200 horsepower and plenty of torque and can outrun many of the sports cars from the same time period. The best part is that they look just like the Ford Taurus except for the "SHO" embossed on the rear bumper.

1. Shelby GLHS

The top sleeper car of all time is the Shelby GLHS. The best part about these cars is that they are based off the Dodge Omni, which were compact economy cars that seemed to be everywhere in the 1980s. The Omni was slow and ugly, but the Shelby GLHS added a turbocharged I4 engine and could do a 1/4 mile run in under 15 seconds. These cars could go faster than their speedometers could even indicate, reaching top speeds in the 140's.

Shelby GLHS
Shelby GLHS

What's your favorite sleeper car?

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    • profile image

      Espn 2 years ago

      Could you write about Phsciys so I can pass Science class?

    • profile image

      Zah 2 years ago

      Buick Grand National, blew away corvette and only had a 3.8 V6----yes a V6! They should have let those Buick guys out of the cage.

    • profile image

      boostedbastarf 3 years ago

      There was no 92 aero, there was a 92x which was the saabaru. The 93 sedan post 03 was just a impalibu (epsilon). The 95, especially the pre gm ones can handle around 500 hp on stock block.

    • profile image

      Lost in the woods 3 years ago

      1966 Pontiac Tempest 2 door hard top with the cooper paint job. Over head cam 6. 4 barrel carb, 4 speed hand shaker. Limited slip diff. 396 Novas didn't like me one bit At the line take her to 4500 and side step the clutch. She just squat and go.

    • strkngfang profile image

      strkngfang 3 years ago

      Great hub, especially for us car lovers. The Buick Grand National is still my favorite, talk about a wolf in sheep clothing.

    • profile image

      RADERKNOWSBEST 4 years ago

      98-04 regal gs/ pontiac gtp/Bonneville ssei

    • wetard profile image

      wetard 5 years ago from Illinois

      Great Hub! I noticed you mentioned the AMC SC360 Hornet, what about the 1968-1970 MX, and the 1969 Hurst S/C Rambler, and 1970 Machine?

      Sorry, but I am an AMC/ Rambler guy

    • profile image

      Irish Spectre 5 years ago

      ...glad to see the Merc. Marauder listed. I've got a black, bone stock '03 that packs a punch, claws the road, and sounds awesome to boot; to call it fun to drive is a big understatement.

      The mid '80's Ford LTD LX, w/ the 5.0 HO engine is another one, as is the Buick Roadmaster w/ the Corvette engine.

    • profile image

      rom 5 years ago

      mazda GTR also a sleeper car..carrying 210 bhp on the 1.8 liter engine, best hatch ever!!!

    • profile image

      Bullwhacker 6 years ago

      My grandmother had an Omni and that car would go like a japed ape after a banana..

      Five speed with a two barrel holly and allot of guy were just staring with their mouths open.

      I just bought a 1990 model and things are going to get interesting as I'm going to make this car a sleeper and see what's it going to do with the rice-boys in their toys. LoL...

    • Kurant82 profile image

      Brett Foster 6 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Very cool hub!

    • profile image

      grease monkey 6 years ago

      I knew about all these cars accept the Shelby GLHS. I definitely love the concept of a sleeper and am in the process of turning on old chevy pick-up into one. I know its not original but it's all I got for now. Cool site.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Another worthy mention would be Grandpa's 1995 Buick Riviera Supercharged. Looks like another unassuming boat. I still like coming back to this hub to view these cars. Thanks.

    • profile image

      FlyingYellowBrick 6 years ago

      I think the 95 Volvo T5R should have made this list. Most people know the Nova or the Hornet so no surprises but when a stock Volvo lays down a strip of rubber it's a surprise for most.

    • I am DB Cooper profile image
      Author

      I am DB Cooper 6 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

      I think the Lotus Omega would have to be modified to look less sporty to qualify as a sleeper. Remove the spoiler, add a less aggressive front bumper, and remove all Lotus badging and it might fool some people into thinking it's a regular old commuter car from the early 90's.

    • profile image

      tomfrombelgium 6 years ago

      i like us cars but the best sleeper is "lotus omega or lotus carlton" from 1991

      it's a family car that looks like opel omega but has a lotus engine (377 hp) . it's gettin rare these days.

      0-100 in 5.2 sec, top speed 290 km/h

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      The Merc Marauder of course!

    • profile image

      Darren 6 years ago

      SRT-6

    • kevinwang128 profile image

      kevinwang128 6 years ago

      Chevrolet Impala SS would be my pick XD

    • profile image

      Rocco 6 years ago

      Grand National, i remember mine. I killed it, being my first car. Not grandma's ordanary boat of a car. As for Pontiboy and Harris, Grand prix wasn't a sleeper to my eyes. They had that long hood-short deck shape made it look fast too. The monty didn't look fast when it came out, though, looked like a 2-door sedan. Why aint that there?

    • profile image

      Harris 6 years ago

      I agree with pontyboy, 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix. 390 horses in a friggen luxury car. Sweet. Grand National was nice too.

    • profile image

      Srsairbags 6 years ago

      Saab 9-2 aero = wrx impreza under skin

    • AskAshlie3433 profile image

      AskAshlie3433 6 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

      I really like the SHO. They are a lot of things you can do to that car. My cousin had one and it has some power. Truly under rated.

    • profile image

      Pontyboy 6 years ago

      What about the '69 Grand Prix, I hit 138 in mine!

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      I was think of a Volvo S70 T5 myself... I don't think the R version ever made it to the US. :)

    • profile image

      Lew 6 years ago

      How about a V8 Miata?

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      As a former owner of a 05 Subaru Legacy GT, slightly modified, these cars are a basket of fun I only similarly experienced with the Mach One I had, the only difference is I never met any car I felt safe traveling 70+ mph on loose dirt roads until my Scooby.

      It is questionable if you want to mention the 93 Mark VIII, it was pretty awesome out of the box for such a large coupe. Cool hub.

    • profile image

      Derrick 6 years ago

      I think everyone is forgetting the ULTIMATE sleeper car of all time. The 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T. Looks like grandmas everyday grocery getter...but it will put most cars to shame in the 1/4 mile. If you sleep...you've already lost!

    • I am DB Cooper profile image
      Author

      I am DB Cooper 7 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

      @WEEBEDNA: Absolutely could have included the Outback XT. Those cars are incredibly fast considering they don't have that kind of reputation. If I ever expand this list to 20 it'll surely be on there.

    • I am DB Cooper profile image
      Author

      I am DB Cooper 7 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

      @ AlBrit: Agreed, although I think there are a few cars that got the 429CJ that could be considered sleepers.

    • profile image

      WEEBEDNA 7 years ago

      Include the Outback XT. I can keep up with the newer Mustang GT's no problem.

    • profile image

      AlBrit 7 years ago

      I think you have forgotten some like the 1970s Ford ranchero GT with the 429 c.i. Cobra Jet Engine....

    • profile image

      random idiot 7 years ago

      my favourite car and also favourite sleeper will be the 1967 ford thungerbird 428.underrated and neglected, its cheap fast and looks mean but slow. still that's proved wrong when traffic loghts go green. it was in fact the sleeper of the year in dont remember when and where.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      I guess the Chevy SS and the GTO were expected to be rough and ready, huh? These other cars were "calmly appearing"! Great hub!

    • profile image

      Mic 7 years ago

      What about the 2004 through 2006 Pontiac GTO's? They were fast but looked pretty much like a typical sedan of the day . . .