1968 Buick GS400
All of GM’s 1968 to 1972 A-body intermediates – the Chevelle, the Cutlass, the LeMans and the Skylark – turned out high-performance variants that are some of the most expensive, desirable muscle cars ever produced, with one exception. The 1968 GS400 – despite having a 340 hp, 400-cu.in. V-8 to start and the availability of vastly under-rated Stage 1 components – looked like an old man’s car with its sad face and its formal styling. The sleepiest GS400s were ordered with bench seats and poverty caps.
1991 to 1994 Nissan Sentra SE-R
The B13 Sentra introduced the world to the SR20DE engine in the sporty two-door SE-R. For a subcompact economy car, it was a lightning bolt, offering 140 hp at 6400 rpm, and accelerating to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. Four-wheel disc brakes were part of the package. It was on Car and Driver’s 10Best list every year it was produced, and still, nobody bought it. It seems like about 93 percent of Sentra SE-Rs in those years were sprayed white, adding to their appliance-like appeal.
2004 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT
What the Legacy always needed was a little spring in its step, and the 2.5 GT offered in 2004 finally delivered. With a WRX-derived 2.5-liter, turbocharged four pumping out 250 hp, the Legacy managed to perform as well as it looked. In darker colors, it was essentially invisible on the highway, yet provided a whole lot of fun and all-wheel drive for less than you’d spend on a similar-sized Audi. See also: the Subaru Forester XT 2.5, the only Forester anyone ever truly enjoyed driving.
1989-1990 Dodge Caravan Turbo
For two years, Dodge offered the Caravan with a turbocharged 2.5-liter Turbo II four and a five-speed stick. Cranked to a moderate boost of 12 psi, a largely stock Caravan turbo can hit the quarter mile deep into the 12s. Imagine the depression you’d kick off handing somebody’s ass to them in a wood-paneled, seven passenger loser cruiser.
1984 Ford LTD LX
This one requires a little work, but the initial investment is so low it makes it worth it. Fox-bodied LTDs were almost universally loathed when they arrived in 1983. The engine was the same high-output 5.0-liter V8 so prized in the Mustang from that year. The LX got a four-speed automatic, bigger sway bars, bigger coil springs and bigger brakes, along with a 3.27 rear axle and a Traction-Lok diff. The automatic was shifted via a floor selector with a console, and it was the only LTD ever to have a tach in the instrument cluster. It was the predecessor to cars like the Crown Victoria LX Sport and the Mercury Marauder, and was a high note in an otherwise depressing string of Fox-platform sedans.