Beauty is not all about a car’s outward appearance; beauty is within the heart —or engine — and for many car nuts, the bigger the heart, the better. This is where the odd and boxy becomes noteworthy, and where four doors are the new fad. Here are five prime examples of why you shouldn’t judge a car by its shell.
- 1957 Rambler Rebel: The Rebel was an intermediate four-door car that was home to the Ambassador 327-cid. V-8 engine, and with 255 horsepower, it was literally the fastest car sold in America aside from one — the fuel injected Corvette, which will not make this list due to its too-cool looks. The Rambler Rebels were designed to be low-key and low-cost, but buyers were able to order as much performance as they could afford to buy, without forgetting the cost of insurance and feeding the beast copious amounts of super-premium leaded gasoline. The Rambler Rebel later took on a name that we can all recognize — the AMC Rebel — in 1968.
- 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 Deluxe Four Door: Regardless of the make and model, when an enthusiast spots a four-door at a car show, the term “muscle car” doesn’t always come to mind, but this is one car that can pack some punch with an optional 325-horsepower, 327-cid Turbo-Fire V-8. Back in the day, it would have been the perfect car for the husband who needed to seek out a family hauler but didn’t want to give up on having some fun with a four-speed manual transmission. Even better yet, a wagon was an option for the expanding family, so the only thing to worry about would be the day that the kids asked the dreaded question, “May I borrow the car?”
- 1985 Volvo 760 Turbo Wagon: It came from a maker who was known for focusing on solid, safe automobiles for the family, but in 1985, Volvo gave the family wagon a twist by adding a turbocharged and intercooled variant of the inline-four engine, which produced up to 182 horsepower. This beefy wagon had the equivalent cargo capacity to a minivan, but even despite a late start, it was sure to inconspicuously get the kids to basketball practice or doctors’ appointments in a timely manner by reaching 60 mph within 8 seconds. In this boxy number, authorities would rarely give you a second glance.
- 1989-1999 Ford Taurus SHO: Some owners of this car will attest to its looks being less than desirable, but then again, that’s the whole point. The SHO is a true sleeper with run-of-the-mill looks, but with power that can blow your socks — or tires — clean off when you least expect it. The first and second generations were home to a 220-horsepower Yamaha-built V-6 engine, while the third generation really hauled with a 235-horsepower V-8 engine. The SHO’s name explains it all: Super High Output, and this was not a misnomer. The car outperformed several premium-priced performance sedans in its time, and in turn gave proud owners more bang for their buck.
- 2006 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Spec B: At first glance, it looks like another typical modern sedan. It’s like a mature, sophisticated version of the Subaru WRX STI, and the grownups who find them are considered lucky; only 500 of them were made for 2006. The Spec B has all the creature comforts of a daily driver — including limited edition brick-red leather seats, a navigation system, sunroof and 18” wheels — but hidden in the engine bay is a 250-horsepower, turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter flat-four with an aluminum block and heads. The unassuming titanium grey sedan has no exterior badges to give it away — only a marker placed below the five-speed shift knob makes admirers second-guess the car’s true identity. And with 250 lb.-ft. torque, you’ll be out of sight before they can say “Spec B.”