Turning slow or fast into incredibly fast.
Whether it's a mechanic and a couple of buddies in the home garage or a specialist tuning company building someone's dream car, people have been taking everyday drivers and turning them into supercars since the term was coined. Sometimes the cost mounts up to the equivalent of something exotic, but these are for people that don't care about the badge.
Whether it's a sleeper created to surprise people, a loud and crazy statement, or something designed purely for the driver to enjoy pushing around the road or track, there's something special about an everyday driver that's been brewed to take on the supercars. These are some of our favorites, and all are road legal.
Somehow, Kern racing managed to fit an 8.3-liter Viper SRT-10 V10 under the hood of BMW's little roadster. It even managed to sit the monstrosity of an engine behind the front axle to keep the car balanced. The roll cage isn't just for protection, it was a necessity for strengthening the chassis. It's not just a track car either, the ballistic level Z4 is perfectly road legal.
Carmaxx Classics is based in Hirtenberg, Austria specializing in repairing and restoring classic Porsche and Volkswagen cars. As the title suggests, the 1973 Beetle rides on a Boxster chassis and powertrain, specifically from a 2000 Porsche Boxster S. It weighs just 2,420 lbs and power comes from a 3.2-liter M96 flat-six making 266 horsepower through a six-speed manual transaxle. Fitting Porsche engines into old Beetles isn't a new thing, but making it mid-engined and running on modern suspension is quite unusual, and guaranteed to give some new cars a shock when it glues itself to their tail on a twisty road.
If you think a Porsche-powered Beetle is old hat, even if it's mid-engined, then a Porsche-powered MkI Golf should do it for you. The Porsche 928 engine in question is a 4.5-liter V8 and is used along with the chassis and rest of the drivetrain. The Golf's, or Rabbit's if you prefer, body is widened by 9 inches and had to be custom made. The illusion of the Golf being wider than that is down to the lowered roofline, which then meant the car needed a $3,500 custom windscreen. The engine makes 240 horsepower, but it's the torque that makes the car a brute.
The first proper sleeper on this list is a 2014 Honda Civic Si. The only clue of what's lurking under the hood is a couple of stickers and aftermarket taillights. It could easily be your neighbor's kid's car, except your neighbors Civic isn't making 450 horsepower at the wheels. We can only imagine the level of torque steer the 370 lb-ft of twist creates. To get there though, the internals have been beefed up to deal with the turbo pushing 16 pounds of boost into it.
It took Ross Bradley 10 years to build a car he aptly named the Widow Maker. Under the hood is a 1977 350ci small block Chevy V8 engine that he bored out to 5.8-liters and rebuilt with fully forged internals and aluminum heads. Then, for good measure, he bolted on a pair of Holset HX35 turbos. The result is 800 horsepower pushed through the back of the E30 BMW 320i. To handle getting that power to the road, the rear suspension is a custom-built cantilever system. To help prevent it actually leaving a widow behind, the E30 BMW also has Wilwood 6-piston calipers on the front and 4-piston calipers on the rear that grip onto massive discs.
Those that have been enjoying the reality show and driving competition Hyperdrive on Netflix will recognize this one. Mick Wilkes may have gotten lost around the track, but his little old British 1978 Vauxhall Bedford van is a thing of awe. The inline-4 engine was built by Wilkes hands to make an astonishing 800 horsepower, and it weighs exactly nothing. Hyperdrive wasn't his first visit to America, he won the Hot Rod Spirit of Drag Week award in 2012 after bringing the tiny van to America to compete, despite having zero parts available for his vehicle in the US.
There was a time when much over 600 horsepower made a car something only a lunatic would drive on the street. This R32 GT-R seems to get by just fine with its 920 horsepower. It even retains its air conditioning. It also consistently passes the bi-yearly Japanese tests that keep it road legal. The engine has been rebuilt from the ground up and topped off with a massive HKS T51R turbo.
Going back to the UK, this Mk1 Escort Cosworth is quite a legend. It's a no-expense-spared build that makes 422 horsepower at the flywheel. The Mk1 Escort has a Cosworth engine from a much later Sierra dropped in the front, and the modifications go on from there, including a Quaife straight cut dog transmission controlling the power going to the Sierra Cosworth 4-wheel-drive system. It was last seen up for sale, and complete with an MOT certificate to show it's roadworthyness.
Optima Batteries website claims: "Brandon Ranvek's 2006 Mitsubishi Evo RS is one of the world's best all-around street cars and a regular contender for the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car title." That first bit is a bold claim, but there's a lot of info to support it. Under the hood sits a stroked 2.3-liter engine complete with a Garrett GTX3576R turbocharger. Boost comes on late at 4,100 rpm but when it does it'll generate 620 horsepower at the wheels. As for the chassis, that's all race car despite having a license plate on the back. We can't imagine it would be much fun to daily drive to work though.