Car enthusiasts can quickly spot performance cars on the street. But looks can be deceiving. The car can be nothing but a bunch of bolt-on modifications on a slow sedan. Real performance comes from the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension.
Sometimes, sports car manufacturers choose to go a different route. They introduce cars as fast and powerful as performance models that are extremely restrained in their appearance. In fact, they’re almost stealth. Those cars have become famous as “sleepers,” or “sleeper cars.” They may even fall in with some of the 25 most obscure American cars you can still find today.
Here are the best sleeper models from the past 25 years. These cars still demand respect from the car community for their speed and power, as well as for their elegance. But it’s their understatement that makes them even more interesting. Read on to learn about the sleeper cars auto fans never saw coming.
25. Lotus Omega/Omega Carlton
This menacing sedan is virtually unknown in the U.S. Lotus introduced it in 1990 and discontinued it just two years later, in 1992. The Omega Lotus was Opel’s rear-wheel-drive luxury model.
Lotus tuned it, adding a turbocharger to the powerful stock six-cylinder engine. The 3.6-liter six delivered 377 HP, massive by the standards of the day. It had a 0-to-60 mph time of just 5.2 seconds. The top speed was a record-breaking 177 mph. Lotus installed a body kit, spoiler and special details in England.
The car came in just one color, a dark green hue called “Imperial Green.” Unfortunately, production numbers were low. Consumers considered Opel and Vauxhall to be economy car manufacturers.
The problem was that the Omega Lotus and Lotus Carlton were expensive cars costing close to a fully-optioned Jaguar XJ. Also, the recession of the early ’90s hit the market hard. In the end, Opel and Lotus made only 950 cars. They are valuable classics today, and their prices are slowly rising.