- Aral Tasher on Unsplash

Unpopular Carpinion: Sleepers are overrated

A car that looks slow, but is fast? How about a meal that looks disgusting but tastes nice? A face that looks ugly but kisses alright?

4w ago

We know the story. A ridiculously wealthy chap shuffles into a showroom, disguised as someone who’d only be there to steal something, and gets treated as such. And we rear for the tremendous, triumphant climax as he turns around and says “I’M A MILLIONAIRE BUT THAT’S FINE, I’LL TAKE MY BUSINESS ELSEWHERE”

I should mention I have a friend who tried this – and as he recounted the narrative, I gave him no gratification. I asked him why is it so reprehensible that, if he looks like he can’t be bothered, no one else is bothered with him? If dressing well is a form of good manners – as Tom Ford says it is – then dressing badly must be bad manners and why bad-mannered people would expect good manners in return is anyone’s guess.

It’s a slight tangent, but it also has relevance, in a metaphorical sort of way, to those people who claim victorious GOTCHA glee when people are surprised their trashy-looking Subaru with mismatched wheels beats a Lamborghini Huracan off the mark.

Yes, it was impressive. I don’t fault that. But your car still looks like crap and that’s why I’m surprised.

And fundamentally no, I don’t think your car looking like crap is a merit.

Lukasz Niescioruk on Unsplash

Lukasz Niescioruk on Unsplash

In fact, it’s a symptom of a wider petrolhead culture that I’ve always rebelled against. It’s this attitude that pure, true petrolheads are not supposed to care or be impressed by comfort, style, relevance, the hard work of professionally-employed teams of designers and engineers – in fact, we should be regarding all this as the devil’s work of a deeply-compromised establishment. True, mature, thinking petrolheadism is about what’s inside – it looks like being greasy, shedding a stock, harmless, built-for-purpose car of its compromises and making it faster, high-revving and fundamentally a bastard to drive, own, and sell. But oh, so worth it, when you triumphantly humiliate that real estate agent in his Audi R8 off the lights.


No, you didn’t. You saw what you deep down, in a self-righteous but deeply insecure hoping, was his shocked face. But I guarantee he was not thinking, “Oh, gosh, I’ve bought this mid-engined supercar built by engineers at Audi and with 3 years of warranty but what I should have done is bought a non-WRX Impreza wagon off Craigslist and shoehorned an STI engine from a donor car in it. Damn”

Of course, I’m not saying that modders who want to mod and build their overpowered, unreliable wagon shouldn’t. I’m saying it’s not some higher, holier tier of petrolheadism. There’s no special merit in being deceptively good, rather than just openly good. There’s no special cleverness in being boring and ugly and trashy to look at, but actually quite handy underneath. As if it’s shallow for petrolheads to celebrate a pretty, striking design. Or that admiring the Bugatti Chiron’s visual impressiveness, which is brought to us, by the way, by some serious design and engineering genius, is a childish thrill and that the real metal is in a manure-coloured Dacia Sandero with an LS swap.

It might go faster than we would dare to hope. But it’s still a manure-coloured Dacia Sandero. Poo.


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Comments (159)

  • How dare you once again defame the Sandero

      29 days ago
    • This is just the start of a campaign that will appear incidental, but which will ensure that whenever trash is being talked, Dacia is somehow there.

        29 days ago
    • Dacia= trash, yes?

        29 days ago
  • I think they’re somewhat cool, because it’s neat to see how far people can tune a car without changing its appearance. But as you said, sleepers are getting way too much love and attention these days. Overrated? Sure. Bad cars? No.

      29 days ago
  • I think many people drive a sleeper for the wrong reason... To impress someone else. What they should drive it for instead, is for their own (driving) pleasure.

    Swapping the engine? That can be a fun project to do in your garage (or driveway, for that matter). You can enjoy working on your car and driving your car, and because it doesn't look like much people aren't going to envy you.

    Car thieves will probably leave you alone as well. Nobody is going to key your car because you drive something nicer than them, yet you get all the fun driving it and building it.

    Lastly, a sleeper doesn't have to look like shit. It can be a well-maintained and nicely washed car with a decent set of wheels. It just doesn't scream its potential from the rooftops, like a regular performance car does.

      29 days ago
    • Yeah they can exist, of course, but what I resent is the tall poppy arrogance of sleeper worship; the concept that somehow it's cooler to like a sleeper over a purpose built supercar that actually looks as good as it goes.

        29 days ago
    • Fair enough... I just don't think they're aimed at the same audience though. People who would be in the market for a sleeper are probably rarely in the market for a supercar and vice versa.

        29 days ago
  • So...............you have chosen Death?!

      29 days ago
  • I can see your point and I respect your opinion, but . . come on! Imagine a Dacia Sandero beating a Porsche off the lights! Ok, that's impossible even to imagine, but that's the point of the sleeper - to screw with the rich guys, driving expensive cars. Being smashed by an Audi Estate is hilarious and will always be 😎

      29 days ago