Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Syclone and Typhoon- GMC's Pocket Rockets

The story begins with the Buick Grand National. The folks in Flint had gotten pretty darned good at the concept of turbocharged power trains, but with the end of the H Body platform, there was no longer a RWD platform to stuff one into. But they continued to play with turbo V6s, including coming up with a Turbo Trans Am for Pontiac, and experimenting with Turbo V6's for both front and rear wheel drive Reatta prototypes. 

It was Buick who dropped a Turbo 3.8 litre V6 into a Chevy S-10 and produced a "Grand National" pickup. When their proposal to produce it was denied, they offered it to Chevy who said no, and finally to GMC who liked the idea. They started with their compact Sonoma and made many changes, choosing the 4.3 litre Vortec V6 as the base engine with a Mitsubishi Turbocharger and liquid cooled intercooler, and added AWD from the Safari minivan, the Corvette's transmission and throttle body, and 4 wheel ABS. 

The production contract was turned over to Performance Automotive Services and the result was the 1991 GMC Syclone, a $25,000 powerhouse that developed 280 HP and would accelerate from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and run quarter miles in 14.1 at 93 mph in Car and Driver tests. 

As awesome as it was, however, the high price kept it from being a big seller. 2,995 units were produced for customers in 1991, all in black, before the project was cancelled just before the 1992 model was to be launched. 

The GMC engineers weren't quite tired of the idea just yet, however. They switched the base vehicle from the Sonoma pickup to the two door Jimmy and voila, the GMC Typhoon was born. It used the same basic drivetrain of the Syclone but now seated four people. Unlike the Syclone, the Typhoon was offered in a range of colors although black was the most popular. The price was higher at $29,970 but all in all production was remarkably good- 2,497 for 1992 and an additional 2,200 for 1993- or 4,697 units in all. The Motoring Press loved them and they were favorably compared to the Ferrari 348ts and Corvette in performance. 

The Typhoon had given GMC a well deserved performance image but the limited sales numbers did not justify the expense of redesigning for the 1994 Jimmy restyle, so the Typhoon was discontinued. It is highly valued by collectors today and was even immortalized in a Revell Model Kit. The last one produced was retained by GM. As seen below, it was auctioned, still brand new, at the Barrett- Jackson auction in 2009, It sold for $52,800 to a lucky buyer. 

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