Wanted: A Small Sleeper Car

In the process of researching cars, I came across the ‘sleeper car‘.  Based on the term ‘sleeper-agent’, the sleeper car is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing – a car that looks like nothing special, yet offers power (and handling) comparable to avowed ‘performance’ models.

It’s an appealing idea.  There are numerous practical reasons for not wanting a car that attracts attention (insurance, cops, even thieves I suppose) but most compelling reason to me is taste.  Most ‘performance’ cars are ugly, showy things that are only too happy to proclaim themselves as hot stuff.  Aggressive styling and appalling colors are all very well if your goal is to get noticed, but it also suggests immaturity and an underlying lack of confidence.

Unfortunately, most automakers seem to be moving in the opposite direction.  Convinced (perhaps correctly) that they can earn extra profits with ‘special edition’ marques, they prefer to take those normal vehicles, redo the styling, add in a stronger engine, and add 20-30% to the sticker price.  While the economics are probably sound, the designs rarely lean in the direction of understated.  So much for slipping under the radar.

I suppose the obvious alternative is to modify one yourself.  Start with a suitably low-key body, and then add the necessary engine and transmission.  The R&B singer Franky Ocean seems to have the right idea, taking an older BMW E30 sedan – and replacing the engine with something a bit more state of the art.  Of course, most of us don’t quite have that sort of budget, so we’ll just have to watch, and envy.

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