Nissan Altima. Photo by Laurance Yap
Click image to enlarge

by Paul Williams

The recent article on Q-ships brought some excellent suggestions from our readers. Q-ships, you remember, are ordinary-looking cars with big performance.

A popular suggestion was the Ford Taurus SHO. These were introduced in 1989 with a Yamaha V6 motor and a 5-speed transmission. The 220 h.p. SHO was pretty-much stock from the outside, but under the hood it was a work of art. Reader Dominic Peterson points out that the early cars were based on the Generation 1 Taurus sedan, but the Generation 2 cars from 1992 were a little flashier. They had 16′ wheels and a discrete spoiler on the trunk lid.

Later SHOs came with the revised and controversial ovoid body shape and a V8 engine. They were more cruisers than Q-ships. Car of choice? According to Mr. Peterson, a Generation 2 car with manual transmission, 16′ wheels and full jam. As the bodies on these cars fall apart, surely new homes will be found for the sweet Yamaha V-6. I know one was put in a Triumph TR-7 convertible.

Another popular suggestion is the late-model Nissan Altima SE with the 3.5-litre engine and 5-speed gearbox. Rick Green says he blows off Mustang GTs with his stock 2002 Altima SE. Dave Wilton also bought the Altima, although his is an automatic GXE. He loves the power and handling of the car, and suggests the 6-speed manual will give some extra performance in what appears to be, ‘A garden-variety family vehicle.’

2002 VW GTi 1.8T
2002 VW GTi 1.8T. Click image to enlarge

‘May I suggest the 1.8T Volkswagen Golf/Jetta?’ asks Rick Leung. ‘In pure, stock form,’ he continues, ‘the late models come with 180 h.p. and loads and loads of low-end and mid-range torque.’ He points out that chipped 1.8Ts can achieve 220 h.p. and 250 lb/ft of torque. Do the same in the equivalent-engined New Beetle, says Mr. Leung, ‘And if that’s not a modern day Q-ship, I don’t know what else would qualify!’

Reader Barry Cheng loves the Mercedes Benz C36 AMG. ‘It’s my all-time favourite,’ he says. In his opinion, ‘It was the last genuine AMG-built Mercedes.’ Even with 276 h.p., 284 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60mph time of 5.9 seconds, ‘All of these AMG C-class Mercedes retain their subtle styling,’ says Mr. Cheng.

Holden Commodore SS
Holden Commodore SS, Click image to enlarge

Rob Kozbial is a Canadian student living ‘down under’ in Australia. He recommends the Holden Commodore and Calais range as modern Q-ships. Unlike North American manufacturers, suggests Mr. Kozbial, the GM/Holden division is not shy about putting real muscle in ordinary-looking cars. The Commodore/Calais cars can be ordered with a 5.7-litre, Gen III V8 pumping out 300 h.p. That’s the same engine, Mr. Kozbial reminds us, that powers the Camaro. However, the ultimate Holden Q-ships, says Mr. Kozbial, are the HSV versions. ‘They run 350 h.p. and 410 h.p. engines. The cars look very clean, European-like, and very un-GM,’ he adds.

Back in North America, Norman Cote asks if we thought about the 1999-2000 Civic SiR. He bought a black one with two options: the carpets and the keyless entry/alarm system. ‘That was it,’ he says. ‘No spoiler, no aftermarket wheels, no fancy sound system, no suspension/engine/exhaust changes.’ Mr. Cote points out that the car looks very much like the ordinary Coupe, ‘But push it over 5000 r.p.m. and it comes alive, and when you pass 6000 r.p.m., it’s ridiculously enjoyable!’

Badr Al-Rais has the Audi S8 on his list. He says it’s usually forgotten when considering Q-ships, but this luxury sedan will definitely haul. Ever rented the movie Ronin? Audi S8. Car of choice.

2002 Chrysler Intrepid R/T
2002 Chrysler Intrepid R/T, Click image to enlarge

Reader Steve Brezina likes the 1990s Dodge Spirit R/T. Its 2.2-litre turbo pumps out 224 h.p. ‘It looks just like a car your grandmother would drive,’ says Mr. Brezina.

Sticking with MOPAR, ‘How about a 2002 Chrysler Intrepid R/T? asks another reader. ‘It doesn’t look different than an Intrepid ES and appears to be a mundane family sedan, but 244 h.p./252 lb.-ft of torque is very respectable for a large family sedan.’

Some readers suggested home-built, or ideal, Q-ships. Christopher Goczan of Toronto says the Honda B-series engine (Civic, Integra) is the basis for many a swap. ‘In ultimate form,’ says Mr. Goczan, ‘People have taken the larger displacement bottom end out of a 2.0-litre CR-V, and strapped on the high-revving VTEC top end from and Integra Type-R, then stuffed the whole contraption under the hood of an innocent-looking Civic hatchback.’

Chris Chase wants to swap a 2.0-litre Hyundai Tiburon engine into his Accent. He expects that 50% more horsepower in his Accent will make it quite a sleeper.

Click to visit Kugel Komponents
Dave Reimer of Victoria, BC, has an idea for the perfect Q-ship: a BMW M3 wagon. ‘They already have a 3-series wagon,’ explains Mr. Reimer. ‘An M3 wagon would blow the doors off the competition,’ including, he feels, the upcoming Audi S4 Avant. Yes, that would be interesting!

Finally, Ryan Rasmus of Calgary asks, ‘How about a 302 h.p., V8, rear-drive Ford Focus? ‘Nuff said. Kugel Komponents makes just such a kit for your humble Focus. And if that’s not a Q-ship, I don’t know what is.

Thanks for all your suggestions!

Connect with