1991 General Motors Syclone (GMC)

Who doesn’t remember the 1991 General Motors Syclone, badged GMC? In my case, it was certainly one of the cars (trucks?) that defined my childhood! Back in 1991, you simply could not get a meaner, faster vehicle, and the fact that it was based on a humble pickup truck – and not the biggest ones, either – added to the mystique. The September 1991 issue of Car and Driver, featuring a head-to-head competition between a Syclone and a Ferrari 348TB, in which the Ferrari got a walloping, by the way, is one of the greatest automotive articles ever written. I still have it somewhere.

The fact is that the Syclone was a little unsophisticated, but it packed one heck of a punch.  Based on the small S-10 pickups, the Syclone had a lowered and stiffened suspension, all-around ABS-enhanced disc brakes, but besides the engine, the mechanical modifications didn’t go much further than that. It was clad with an aggressive body kit, flaring fenders and fatter tires to complete the image.

1991 General Motors (GMC) Syclone
1991 General Motors (GMC) Syclone

The engine is where the fun’s at. The Syclone was fitted with a 4.3-liter pushrod V6, with an intercooler and turbocharger, bringing power up to “280 horsepower”, and torque to a jaw-dropping 350 lb/ft of torque. I use quotes around the horsepower because there was an ongoing rumor that the power output of the Syclone was severely under-reported, for the usual reasons. Numbers ranging anywhere from 300 to 400 horsepower were reported, but don’t quote on this, I’m just peddling hearsay now … Regardless, performance was extraordinary. Not the top speed of 130 miles per hour, which is pretty fast but not exceptional, but rather the 4.3 seconds for the 0-60, and the 1.3 seconds to 30 mph! These are incredible numbers, even today, and back in 1991, they were extremely rare. The Syclone can thank, in great part, its four-wheel drive system for this kind of grip.

The 1991 GMC Syclone did not sell as well as expected; maybe it was the strangeness of it all, or perhaps the level of performance. Perhaps the price, too, which was a little too expensive – but still incredibly cheap, based on the performance. It was, after all, $96,000 cheaper than a Ferrari 348TB, back in 1991! Only about 3,000 Syclones were ever built.

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