Top Ten: Unlikely performance cars
1. Mercedes-benz G55 amg
We doubt there’s a faster AMG from 0-50kph than the G55 – while its rear-driver relatives sit there smearing their tyres all over the road, traction light blinking like a lighthouse with ADHD, the box-shaped wagon just digs in and gets hoovered into the horizon. But then you come to a corner
2. Little Red Express
In the mid 1970s emissions regs hurt the US performance car market so badly that the fastest car in 1978 was actually a truck. Being a pick-up, the Express was exempt from catalytic converters, meaning its 168kW small block pushed it to 96kph in under seven seconds. Corvette drivers’ chest rugs turned grey when one of these pulled alongside at the lights.
3. Fiat Uno turbo
What was essentially SA’s cheapest car gained iconic status with the addition of a Garret T2 turbocharger. The lightweight pocket rocket was a nuisance to all road users, fast enough to annoy much more expensive metal and small enough to squeeze in a gap fit only for a motorbike.
4. Nissan 1400 champ
When Nissan launched its tiny RWD pickup, performance was never a priority. Instead, it was tough and so friendly that many of us learned to drive in one. The humble half-tonner had no idea it would one day prove the ideal base vehicle for a rip-snorting 9sec quarter mile.
5. Toyota hiace
It has happened to the best of us. There you are waiting patiently at the lights in your pride and joy when you’re blind-sided, jump-started and outdragged to the next set of traffic lights by a taxi in the yellow lane that then stops directly in front of you to load another 31 passengers. Aah, Siyaya.
6. Mercedes-benz SEL 6.3
Was this the naughtiest performance car ever? Sensible S-class shell with 600 Pullman’s engine looked like a dictator’s limo, accelerated like a supercar and probably handled like an articulated bus. But you just would, wouldn’t you
7. Volvo T5
Subaru had already pulled off a similar shock by launching the mighty Legacy wagon a couple of years earlier when Volvo exploded its Lovejoy image with the T5. Feted by frustrated middle-aged men with families and loved by BTCC fans (as a wagon!), it went and sounded like an Audi Quattro. Or it did when you could get the furiously spinning front tyres to find some grip.
8. Nissan Skyline 3.0 SGLi