At some point while driving, everyone dreams of having just a little more power. Maybe a few more horsepower would help the minivan get around that semi-truck or some low-end torque might blast that rude driver out of the water. Maybe a turbocharger would help with some fun in the mountains or a supercharger could make the morning commute just a little more fun.
But so many cars on the market that actually have the kinds of horsepower everyone dreams about just look downright silly. All those pieces of plastic cladding, the massive spoilers, enormous chrome rims—they all just come across as showy, rather than performance-oriented.
Hence the rising popularity among tuners and modders of building sleepers, which look like any old car but can perform with the best exotic sports cars out there. Not every build comes out quite right, however; in the sleeper world, plenty of cars totally lose their sleepiness. Keep scrolling for 16 sleepers that were totally ruined by over-the-top additions.
Volvo is another car company that most drivers on the road don't realize creates some wicked sleepers. But the Swedish manufacturer doesn't just focus on safety, they've also got some pretty gnarly turbocharged inline-five engines that they like to pair with six-speeds and all-wheel drive. In reality though, adding all those little extra bits takes away from the image.
Some tuners love to soup up minivans and turn them into the ultimate sleepers. There are even a few pretty well-done Honda Odysseys out there that can burn rubber with legit supercars. But building a sleeper and then slamming it down low over fancy wheels, plus having the intercooler visible instead of a grille, just ruins the sleeper vibe.
Subaru bros just can't seem to get their act straight. First, they love their cars because they're utilitarian and simple. Next, they bolt on all kinds of absurd mods that render their Subarus anything but utilitarian and simple. Plus, it's common enough for Subaru owners to beef up their cars and absolutely ruin their sleeper status with enormous snails and huge—in this case, seriously huge—intercoolers.
Kia's cars are on the up-and-up because they offer simple styling at low prices with a lengthy warranty—not to mention the impressive Stinger GT. And that warranty inspires tuners to believe that their Kias are capable of handling power upgrades, even if adding gold wheels, a roof rack, a surfboard and window stickers ruins everything else.
There's nothing like a vintage pickup truck to conjure up images of Americana from an era when things were simple and hard work paid off. Not so for this ruined pickup truck, though. The "Sleepy Abbey" windshield sticker is the most absurd bit, since this truck will never catch anyone by surprise ever again.
Souping up a vintage off-roader so that it can burn out off the line sounds like a great plan, until one little jiggle of the steering wheel at speed leads to a tip-over. But at least the face on every other driver would be worth it, right? Not in the case of this Toyota Land Cruiser, which is really the opposite of sleepy now that it's got huge chrome wheels and a hilarious supercharger bolted on.
A first-gen Lexus IS300 is a great platform for building a serious sleeper. These cars are everywhere, and no one looks twice when they go by—even though they could be had from the factory with a silky-smooth inline-six, a stick shift, and a factory limited-slip rear differential. This IS300 has been tuned in a big way, boasting more power than a Bugatti, but the sleeper element is gone thanks to those wheels and the green brake calipers.
This car just raises all sorts of questions. Is it a boring commuter sedan from the late-1970s or early-80s? Yes. But then, what are those front wheels, where are the rear wheels and why on Earth would someone mount that enormous engine in the engine bay? There simply aren't words to describe how far this has come from the sleeper mentality.
The fad of creating drag-strip racers out of unlikely, often beat-up, candidates could be cool. The only problem is that in racing, weight is a massive factor, so these larger vehicles are really all about looks rather than true focus on success. But if the car is all about looking sleepy, why have a massive blower poking up above the hood?
The faded, multi-colored paint job on this classic pickup would be just about perfect for a sleeper build. No sleeper build, however, skips the hood in favor of a massive intake system. Furthermore, no sleeper build is slammed low over wheels that are a complete and total mismatch for the rest of the aesthetic.
Building a drag-racer out of a Toyota Previa makes absolutely zero sense unless it's going to be a full-on sleeper. But this Previa has lost everything that might contribute to its sleepiness. The rear bumper no longer hides all that rubber out back, while wheelie bars protrude out the rear, as well.
Yet again, here is another Subaru that could have been a perfect sleeper but that was, instead, ruined. The Forester seems like a simple mom-mobile, one that's perfect for picking up the kids from school. But with just about everything a WRX has to offer in a less obvious shell, the Forester could be a great sleeper—just not with gold wheels and riding low with that enormous exhaust.
This Subaru Legacy GT is the perfect example of how bros ruin their cars. The 2005 model year was the only year the Legacy GT could be had in station wagon form with a stick shift, making it one of the best sleepers out there thanks to all the parts it shares with the WRX STI. But then, this guy took his sleeper and slammed it, tinted everything, added a lip spoiler, and stanced the wheels. Brilliant!
Creating a sleeper out of a panel van typically involves swapping in a beefy Subaru flat-four, along with its turbocharger, below the cabin. The result can even turn out kind of fun, in a retro-sleeper kind of way. But doing all that work and then dropping the van so low that even a few kids can't ride in the back without the rear end dragging is just silly.
Okay, so a Miata might not be a true sleeper to the average gearhead, but most drivers on the road don't realize those little Japanese cars can be a ton of fun. Most Miata owners mod their cars so that the exterior isn't changed all too much—after all, just a bit more power and maybe a little wider rubber and these are serious performance vehicles. But an enormous wing like this is just unnecessary.
Sure, Mercedes-Benz builds luxury cars that typically offer a solid amount of performance, as well, even if they were an early brand to abandon stick shifts in the US. But the AMG lineup still manages to retain sleepy vibes, since not many people expect a luxury sedan to feature a massive, Biturbo V8 under the hood. All the carbon fiber and the blacked-out wheels ruin any hope for this Benz to stay asleep, though.
Sources: Speedhunters, Wikipedia, and Jalopnik