Two factory-built GMC performance powerhouses from the early '90s with one spanking a six-figure Ferrari at the drag strip.
The year was 1991. Despite global events around the world, it was a simpler time for most people as the internet finally became available for commercial use, Bryan Adams and Color Me Badd had the hottest hits on the music scene, and movies such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Silence of the Lambs graced big screens everywhere. In the car world, the hottest vehicle in 1991 wasn't any Italian exotic car, German luxury model, or American limited-edition V8 powerhouse as one might suspect. That credit was given to GMC and its brand-new pickup truck - the Syclone.
This all-new pickup truck sporting the GMC logo wasn't a large pickup by any means. There wasn't large super swamper tires or large lift kit. In fact, it was a completely unsuspecting mini truck that shook the car world due to its insane performance. While many may picture mini trucks at the time slathered in multiple colors, the stealthy Syclone was cloaked in all black. The exterior came equipped with an aero kit done in good taste, not gaudy like many things thrown at us from the early '90s. The truck's exterior also rolled on 16-inch aluminum wheels from the factory.
So, a nice looking black mini pickup was the hottest vehicle of 1991? It sure was, but it what was under the hood that made enthusiasts giddy. Powering the Syclone was a turbocharged and intercooled 4.3-liter V6 engine that produced a stout 280-horsepower and 350 lb/ft of torque. Even better, the truck was all-wheel-drive with power sent down to some beefy rubber. Shifting power came from a 4-speed-automatic, the only transmission offered, just like its stealthy black paint. While that may not seem like a lot by today's standards, back in 1991 this was a huge deal.
To say that the pickup was quick was an understatement as it was the fastest accelerating production vehicle in America at the time. It could rocket from 0 to 60 miles per hour in only 5.3 seconds. What really cemented the Syclone as a performance powerhouse was when Car and Driver decided to pit the truck against the Ferrari 348ts, an insane supercar worth six figures. The Syclone was put on the quarter-mile drag strip and dominated the Ferrari with a run of 14.1 seconds. Although the supercar was chasing down the gap, GMC's pickup came out victorious.
Regarding production, only 2,995 examples were built and only for the 1991 model year. Carrying the torch through 1992 and 1993 would be the Typhoon, an SUV version of the truck that sat on a Jimmy model chassis. For several years, one could purchase a Syclone for less than $20,000 , but prices skyrocketed in early 2016 to $35,000 for one in mint condition. The Typhoon came in more colors than black and went for less money.
Advice For Anyone Looking To Purchase A Syclone Or Typhoon:
Here's some good advice from Tom Mandrow if there's anybody out there looking to buy one of these '90s performance vehicles. Mandrow is the owner of the shop Sportsmachines that specializes in both Syclone and Typhoon models.
With an engine with plenty of torque, the lifespan on the motor mounts may be short-lived, and that also can be blamed on the amount of heat coming from the turbo and downpipe making sagging and separation normal. One can fix this inexpensively and fast if one were to ad a torque strap to reduce movement. While a fix could be to purchase OE GM motor mounts, these aren't easy to come by, and they're pricey. As most know, aftermarket parts don't usually last long since they are not built as sturdy as the factory components. Solid motor mounts are also a great choice, just know that one will feel the additional vibration.
Another thing Tom mentions is that the truck is put through a lot thanks to its full-time all-wheel-drive-system, short wheelbase, the amount of torque, and its age now being 25 years, especially if the driver takes the truck to the track and uses boost launch. A snowball effect can happen if there is damage to one part and it isn't repaired which causes others to quickly fail. Make sure to properly upkeep with maintenance and the essential fluids.
Even more, a third party for GM built and installed the unique body cladding which is fragile and becomes weaker as time goes on. Just know that replacement parts for these trucks aren't easy to come by. Sure, pricey OE parts are available, but aftermarket fiberglass can also be found and used instead.
Plenty of modifications can be done to these trucks, and Tom lists his top three for these trucks. This could consist of turbo and wastegate upgrades, ECU tuning, and upgrading to a coil-over suspension. Switching to this suspension style will shave weight off the front but will also improve handling.
All in all, the GMC Syclone was a beast of a truck in 1991 and is still highly desired today along with its SUV kin, both capable of stopping enthusiasts in their tracks in the presence of one. Both the Syclone and Typhoon are both vehicles most of us would dream of parking in our garage for a fun track day or sunny weekend drive.
Source: Grass Motorsports