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Unassuming Speed Machines...

By raccars Published

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....Or Q-cars, as they are known. These are cars with massive amounts of performance hidden under rather normal, unassuming bodies, the kind that take boy racers completely by surprise burning away from the lights. There's a fairly large Q-car pool to fish in out there but these are some true classics.

Alfa Romeo 75 3.0 V6

Built from 1985-1992, this is the last rear wheel drive saloon to come from Alfa until their planned new range arrives in the next few years. The 75 didn't look particularly dull but neither would it attract the immediate attention of joy riders. However, 192bhp in the 75 Cloverleaf sent it from 0-60mph in a whisker over seven seconds and kept it going until almost 140mph. They're all pretty perky but those 3.0 litre V6 versions are the ones to go for. Its angular looks exhibit a great deal of retro charm now so, if you can find a decent one, you'll have a lovely modern classic that makes an ideal daily driver.

Citroen XM V6 24v

German executive saloons ruled in the Nineties, with French versions of the same automatically disadvantaged by their nationality. This meant the rather good XM slipped under many buyers' radars, despite a number of appealing characteristics - it's big and, in 24 valve form, extremely speedy, thanks to 200bhp. It could reach 60mph in 7.5 seconds and had a top speed of 142mph, which was pretty impressive for this class of car at that time.

Lancia Thema 8.32

The front wheel drive Thema was full of Italian attitude throughout its line up, but the 8.32 had a Ferrari 308's 3.0 litre V8 under the bonnet, resulting in a beefy 215bhp to play with. 60mph arrived in 6.8 seconds and 140mph was painless, but you'll find very few around, thanks to a £43,000 list price and construction as left hand drive only - great if rarity value appeals and you're happy to scrutinise the small ads looking for one.

Lotus Carlton

It's a legend among auto fans but in the early Nineties, passers by could have been forgiven for assuming that the executive saloon at the lights was an ordinary Carlton. However, thanks to Lotus tuning, this 377bhp, 3.6 litre twin turbocharged beast could leave pretty much anything else trailing in its wake. 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds and a 177mph top speed? There was nothing else like it at the time. The production run stopped at 950 units, partly due to a hefty £48,000 list price.

See also the Peugeot 405 Mi16, the Rover 75 V8 and the Subaru Legacy Turbo.

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