Definition of a "Sleeper Car"

Definition of a "Sleeper Car"

So you may have heard the term “sleeper car” and this is not referring to a train car that you rest in.

This is the term for a car that looks simple or “factory” but is actually fast. Basically an incognito “hot rod”.

It might be a restored classic car intended to look plain but with a fast engine, lots of guys bring these cars to the drag strip (usually in “grudge racing” where it is not timed), or it may be a plain factory car that is a great performance car in disguise.

To go even further it can be a performance car (especially it’s an original factory car), that not a lot of people know about.

One interesting sleeper car is actually an SUV it’s the 2008 Saab 9-7x Aero. It’s basically a Chevrolet Trailblazer SS in Saab clothing. Yes it has the 6.2 liter V8 engine (LS2), that was in the Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac GTO and aforementioned Trailblazer SS.

It’s a limited production vehicle (as most “sleeper cars” are), but makes 390 horsepower and goes 0-60 MPH in under 6 seconds and runs the ¼ mile in the mid 12 seconds. In a mid-sized SUV body.

The GMC Envoy Denali I drive falls in little in this category as people think it’s just a plain SUV (with the 4.2 liter V6), but unless you know the “Denali” badge on the side means it has a 5.3 liter V8 engine in that makes 300 horsepower and its goes 0-60 in under 7 seconds. Seeing people’s surprise at the engines acceleration and the growl of the exhaust is why we love “sleeper cars”.

But the best sleeper car I know (is the car I’m chasing), the 1991 & 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T. It looks like a “plain Jane” sedan but under the hood is a 2.2 turbocharged engine with heads made by Lotus. It creates 225 horsepower and with a manual transmission (built by Getrag), it was the fastest American four door sedan in 1991 & 1992.

However it’s such a sleeper (and limited to 1208 cars built over two years), most people don’t know about the uniqueness of the car. And now that its 25 years old and should be a bonafide classic buts its value is not quite known.

In the past two weeks two of these cars were on online bidding sites. One had been previously for sale late last year, it was white with the “snowflake” wheels (like the one pictured), and in decent shape outside of a leaking power steering box and needs a paint job.

However the bids for it never exceeded $ 3,500 and the “buy it now” price was $ 5,200. I asked a close friend who owns one of these cars what the value was and he thought somewhere in the middle.

But I understand the lower bids, the car had peeling paint, and that’s not cheap, at least $ 1,500 from what I know. But this is a rare car, so it has extra value right?

The other car for sale was red (the car only came in red or white), but had over 200,000 miles but considering its 25 years old, not too bad right? It had some minor modifications that a purist might want to “undo”. A different trunk badge and extra gauges in the interior.

This car also did not sell, bids neared $ 2,000 but the reserve was not met and we don’t know what that was.

This is when being a sleeper can work against you because we don’t have a baseline price to work with. If you check the online pricing guides its low for these cars (under $ 3,000), because I don’t think they even know what the true value is.

As a “car guy” everything I know tells me these cars should be worth more but the market and buyers either don’t recognize it or the car is just the ultimate sleeper.

Think about this the next time what you think is a plain little car or truck next to you on the highway and then it “blows you away”, that my friend was a sleeper.
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