In the First World War, the British Royal Navy came up with a plan to counter the threat of German submarines, which were decimating shipping in the Atlantic. Vulnerable merchant ships were fitted with deck guns covered by false cargo containers made of balsa wood, in order to lure U-Boats into making a surface attack.

When the sub surfaced, the crew would move the cargo and open fire, usually before the sub had a chance to react. These vessels became known as “Q-Ships,” named for their home port of Queenstown, Ireland.

Over the years the terms “Q-Ship” or “Sleeper” have been used to describe cars that aren’t as innocent as they appear, either. Take Dru Diesner’s 1972 Chevy Nova, for example: it wears faded and oxidized green paint, and has amassed its share of dents and dings over its 40-year lifespan.

Its steel wheels wear period-correct dog-dish hubcaps, and are shod with whitewall tires that appear to have come from the discount pile of a used-tire store. A casual glance inside reveals peeling paint on the dash, and seats wrapped in Mexican blanket covers. If you were a car thief, this particular Nova would be at the very bottom of your hit list.

Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that all is not as it first appears. Those meaty rear tires were never standard issue on a 1972 Nova, and the carefully-hidden rollcage wasn’t a factory-installed item, either. Traction bars weren’t on the factory build sheet,  which would lead the most observant to suspect the engine may have a few improvements, too.

Indeed it does, since under the faded hood sits a twin-supercharged LS2 V-8, good for some 1,160 horsepower at the rear wheels. That’s enough to power the car to nine-second quarter miles, a feat that few street-legal cars can manage. Look even closer inside and you’ll see a release handle for a parachute, necessary at the kind of drag strip velocities Diesner’s Nova can achieve.

We don’t condone street racing in any form, but Diesner’s car should serve as a warning to others. Before you throw down against another ride, you might want to make sure the cargo on its deck is real, and not just made of balsa wood.