1991 GMC Syclone

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Welcome to the latest edition of Muscle Car Showcase. Here, we check out vehicles that have become legendary, notorious, and maybe even loathed in the muscle car world. We also take a look at the rare, forgotten, and just plain overlooked muscle from all eras. There are no rules or limitations on what we will cover.

This edition of the Muscle Car Showcase highlights the 1991 GMC Syclone. The Syclone stormed (no pun intended) onto the market in limited numbers for the 1991 model year. The Syclone was GMC’s first foray into the muscle truck craze that became popular again in the early 1990’s. In its day, it was the fastest production truck available on the market. Not only did it give its sibling, the Chevrolet Silverado 454 SS, some stiff competition, it also gave automakers from the other side of the pond a run for their money.

1991 GMC Syclone Front and Side #2All Syclones started out as regular cab Sonomas. They were then sent to Production Automotive Services in Troy, Michigan for conversion into Syclones. All Syclones were painted black with matte black trim on the bumpers, rocker panels, bed, and wheel wells. Red Syclone badging was also applied to the doors and tailgate. 16-inch aluminum wheels with 245/50 blackwall Firestone Firehawk tires keep the Syclone glued to the road. To keep your weekend getaway and road trip supplies from getting wet in the rain, a tonneau cover keeps the bed dry and clean.

The suspension was also modified by the addition of independent torsion bars and a stabilizer bar up front and a solid axle with semi-elliptic 2-stage leaf springs kept the rear in check. Bilstein gas shock absorbers on each corner helped smooth the ride. The ride height was also lowered 2 inches which, in effect, gave the Syclone a paltry 500 pound payload capacity. To most, this is probably trivial since this truck was built to haul ass, not gardening supplies from Home Depot.

All Syclones came with black cloth bucket seats with red piping and “Syclone” stitched on the headrests. A leather wrapped steering wheel, AM/FM with cassette player, and center console round out the niceties awaiting the driver inside. Oddly enough, the gauge cluster used on the Syclone was borrowed from the Pontiac Sunfire Turbo that was discontinued the previous year.

Pop open the hood and you’ll discover a turbocharged 4.3-liter V6 Vortec engine. Equipped with a Mitsubishi TD06 turbo and Garrett liquid-cooled intercooler, this engine pumps out 280 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. All this power gets to the pavement via a 4-speed automatic transmission through a Borg Warner all-wheel drive transfer case.  Torque is split with 65 percent going to the limited-slip rear differential and 35 percent sent to the front axle. To help bring all this power to a standstill, the Syclone was one of the first trucks to be equipped with anti-lock brakes.

The Syclone can sprint from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and run the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 93 MPH. These numbers are quite an eye opener considering this is 1991. So, how does all this power and speed measure up against the competition? At the time, the only other high performance truck was the Chevrolet Silverado 454 SS. In 1993, the last year of production for the 454 SS, it had 255 horsepower and a whopping 405 lb-ft of torque. Car and Driver tested the 454 SS for their June 1993 issue. It made its way from 0-60 in 7.2 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 84 MPH. Compared to the Syclone, it was significantly slower. The old adage “there’s no replacement for displacement” clearly does not apply here.

Now things really start to heat up. In its September 1991 issue, Car and Driver magazine pitted the Syclone against the Ferrari 348TB in an all-out confrontation that is still legendary. From 0-60, the Syclone beat the Ferrari by more than half a second. In the quarter mile shootout, all the Ferrari could see was the Syclone’s taillights. The Syclone again beat the Ferrari by half a second. Oh yeah, just so you know, the Italian word for beatdown is sconfitta.

Even with limited production, GMC actively promoted the truck. A 30-second television commercial was produced touting the Syclone’s horsepower and high performance features. GMC also created a full-color brochure complete with features and specs for the Syclone.

For those of us that can’t afford the real thing, Revell currently produces a 1/25 scale model of the Syclone. The model comes unpainted and has 132 pieces. Also, Lindberg produced a 1/20 scale model of the Syclone. A review of their site did not reveal the model is still in production. About a decade ago, Johnny Lightning created many iterations of the Syclone. These have since been discontinued but can be found in varying conditions on eBay.

Sadly, GMC pulled the plug on the Syclone for the U.S. after the 1991 model year. Only 2,995 of these high performance pickups were produced. A search on AutoTrader.com reveals only a few for sale nationally. Prices currently range from around $9,000 for one in fair condition up to $22,000 for a low mileage, one owner truck. Good luck in your search if you are looking to get one for yourself.

Did you know…

The sticker price for a Syclone was around $26,000. This is significantly higher than the nearly $19,000 MSRP of the Silverado SS.

Three Indy Syclones were used to pace the 1992 Indianapolis 500. One was converted into the PPG Syclone Pace Truck even though it was not the official pace truck.

Marlboro cigarettes converted 10 Syclones into Marlboro Syclones. These were given away in a special promotion.

Contrary to popular belief, the V6 turbocharged engine in the Syclone is not the same used by the Buick Grand National.

Eddie Van Halen, Jay Leno, and Randy Travis are a few celebrities that have owned Syclones.

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