Nobody ever suspects the Chevrolet Beretta, and that's the beauty of it. It's the most versatile tuning platform ever created for those who want the ultimate bang for the buck performance. It's the car you never knew you wanted!

Let's kick it off with a flashback. This car roamed the earth from 1988-1996, I'm sure many of you remember seeing these cars back in yer high school days. Hell, you probably owned one and it was the worst car of your life!

Hop on craigslist and you can easily snag one of these in the ranges of $300-900 for a car with running issues or rust. $900-1800 in decent to good shape. Look at paying $1900-2500 for a meticulous example.

These cars came in a slew of flavors. Here's a down and dirty car spotters guide:

Beretta GTU:

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They only made these cars in 1988-89. It's part of GM's race on Sunday sell on Monday mantra. They only came in 3 colors (white/red/black) and only had a 2.8L V-6 (120hp/160tq) with a 5-speed stick or 3 spd auto. They have the tighter suspension of the GT, but only adds the flashy ground effects package to the table.

Because racecar?

Beretta INDY 1990 only:

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Insto-facto, the Beretta was the pace car for the 1990 Indy 500 and this commemorates that. It only came in teal or yellow and has a stroked out 3.1L V-6 good for 135hp/180 tq with either the 5spd or auto configuration. It's a rare one with oly 4500 ever being produced for the public, and with that, only 1500 in yellow.

Because racecar??

Beretta GTZ:

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Made from 1990-1993, it was quick car and also the most unreliable of the bunch. Could be had with a high output I4 (180hp/160tq) with a 5 spd manual only or a lesser V6 block/auto in 1993 as optional. Also had the best handling package of THEM ALL!

Beretta GT:

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Produced 1988-1993, specs are the same as GT/Indy minus the ground effects kit.

Beretta Z26:

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Made from 1994-96. It's a tricky one as the 1994s could be had with the high output I4 and 5 speed combo while the 95/96 only came with the newer 3100 V-6 and new 4 speed auto.

Beretta Base:

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Made all years, nothing special about this one. It had a basic run-of-the-mill suspension that sucked soooo much. You like understeer, plow, and bodyroll? It's got you covered bro. It came with either an auto/ 5spd pushrod 4 banger (120hp/130 tq) or the 2.8/3.1/3100 V-6 depending on the year.

The cool things about these cars is that they were galvanized which is a big reason why they're still alive today. Look for rocker rust rot and the rear spring perches as these are the trouble areas.

That's all cool and whatever, but these cars are slow! What's a brother to do to make some go-go for cheap?

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Tuning

Cram some replacement displacement! GM with its engine whoring has made it so easy to swap in a bigger motor for the DIYer. So you buy the car for $1000 bucks. Throw in another $500 at a decent motor from a different GM car, add a weekend with some beer and done. These are all Beretta engine bay shots for the record:

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Turn that stock 3.1 (135hp/180 tq)/3100(155hp/185tq) into a 3400 (170-185hp/190-210 tq) from the likes of a Malibu, Alero, Grand Am, Aztek, Impala, and a bazillion other doners. Bam, instant power jump.

More power you say? Let's cram a GM LX9 3500 block in there (196-201hp/213-221tq):

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Equal to that would be a 1990 Mclaren Pontiac Grand Prix turbo 3.1 conveniently fitted into a Beretta (205hp/220tq):

Wait, You want even more power?! Let's cram in an L67 Series II Supercharged 3800 in that bay (240hp/280tq). It's a tight squeeze and you would need to add some reinforcement bars to the chassis to handle that twist, but it can be done!

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Match that to a car that only weighs between 2700-2900 lbs, with a short 103.4" wheelbase and you're looking at a pocket rocket on the thrift.

Want some better braking? Sure you do.

You can junkyard salvage some brake parts from a GM n-body/f-body, add some Corvette dual piston calipers and presto!

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Brakes are now da big brakes.

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Don't like the stock rear drums? not a problem. Snag the disc setup from a junkyard Neon/Daytona and you're golden with a hint of machine work to make the square peg fit on the round hole:

Or just splurge on Wilwood 4 pistons if you no longer want to be a "bargain-hunter" :

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There is nothing more to teach you, at least you learned something new today and maybe will give that passing Beretta a second glance. Imagine the possibilities for pennies on the dollar!

Photos were courtesy of Beretta.net and their respective owners