GMC Syclone/GMC Typhoon
Dropping a hot engine into an everyday vehicle is a time-honored method of creating a hero car. The original Pontiac GTO is one such example, as is virtually every other 1960s muscle car. We've seen this practice continue today; for example, turbocharged rally-inspired engines have transformed humble Mitsubishi and Subaru compact cars into performance legends.
But of all the possible foundations for a world-beating performance car, where would the compact Chevy S-10 pickup rank? Certainly the cringing little S-10, the replacement for the unloved Luv, was a useful little truck, but it doesn't strike me as a vehicle with a great deal of untapped performance potential. I mean, really--what's a more unlikely base for a world-class performer? An Isuzu I-Mark? Perhaps a Chrysler Town & Country minivan? An Amphicar?
Amazingly, General Motors--yes, stodgy, bureaucratic, conservative early 1990s General Motors--turned that S-10 and its small-SUV sibling into the GMC Syclone and Typhoon, two of the quickest cars GM has ever made. The Syclone could do the 0-60 sprint in the high 4-second range, and the slightly heavier SUV Typhoon did it in the low 5-second range--making them as fast or faster than GM heavyweights like the 1960s muscle cars, the contemporary Corvette, and even the legendary ZR-1. Quicker than the Ferrari 348 or Testarossa, as quick as the Lamborghini Countach; the Syclone/Typhoon were trucks that could accelerate with the finest exotic hardware available.
Keep in mind this was well before high-performance crossovers, SVT Lightning Ford trucks, Hemi Ram trucks, SS Trailblazers, or turbocharged Porsche Cayennes. Trucks were still primarily used for utility, not comfortable or rapid passenger transit. As a high-performance pickup/SUV one-two punch, the Syclone/Typhoon might just be the most out-of-nowhere unexpected performance stars of their time. Only the Studebaker Lark Wagonaire R3 brought the same type of unlikely butt-kicking chutzpah to the table. Envision Don Knotts morphed into a Terminator, and you get the idea.
So, no--what you see here isn't just an old Chevy S-10 with a tacky body kit. What you see is an old Chevy S-10 with a tacky body kit, asphalt-gripping all-wheel drive, and a turbocharged V-6 pumping out 280 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. That horsepower rating, by the way, was widely considered to be incredibly conservative.
That V-6 was a turbocharged and intercooled iteration of the 4.3-liter Vortec truck V-6, itself a torquey 3/4-scale version of the legendary small-block V-8. While similar in concept and execution to the 3.8-liter turbos used in the Buick Regal Turbo, Grand National, and GNX, the Syclone/Typhoon's turbo six was fundamentally a different engine. Most importantly, match that torque with a turbo and the traction of all-wheel-drive, and you have a stop-light demon. Just watch the video below; the Typhoon launches like a Saturn V rocket. And remember the Typhoon is the slower of the two GMCs.
While the Syclone's lighter weight gave it the performance edge, the Typhoon's enclosed SUV body made it somewhat more practical. Both trucks offered most of a normal truck's utility--with the acceleration of an exotic, remember--but don't try to use all that power for towing. GM went out of its way to discourage using either truck for towing or heavy hauling and recommended cargo limits of 900 and 500 pounds for the Typhoon and Syclone, respectively.
Both the Syclone and Typhoon retailed for less than $30,000--a bargain for the unbeatable combination of nausea-inducing acceleration, utility, and price. Evidently Seattle sports legends Shawn Kemp and Ken Griffey Jr. agreed--both were among the ranks of Typhoon owners.
My fantasy has always been to buy a Syclone, remove the body kit, swap the wheels and front grille with those from a bone stock 1984 S-10, paint the truck a haphazard and inconsistent shade of beige, and bungee down a few bales of hay in the cargo box. Then, and only then, would I go out on ego-deflation patrol to eviscerate some Porsches and Ferraris. Hasta la vista, baby.
Of course, I'd keep a sinister black stock Typhoon in the garage as well.
The two Syclone photos above feature Syclone No. 0614--aside from the hood bulge, it's pretty stock. The stock Typhoon is No. 0300; all photos came from Syclone/Typhoon fan site Sportmachines.com. SyTy.org is also a fantastic resource for Syclone/Typhoon owners or wannabees like me.