Tag: Classic & Sports Car

GMC Syclone vs Typhoon: cooking up a storm – Simon Hucknall @Classic & Sports Car

GMC Syclone vs Typhoon: cooking up a storm – Simon Hucknall @Classic & Sports Car


‘Think of it as a Porsche 911 that really “hauls”,’ reads GMC’s 1991 advert for this discreet-looking pick-up.Glitzy wheels and a subtly lower ride-height aside, it could have been the truck that ma or pa used to collect groceries from Fresh Pickens, just off Route 66.But the Porsche-shaming data running below would have shattered that quaint image faster than a moonshiner’s quarter-mile time.

GMC created a potent SUV pair that was ahead of its time with the Syclone (right) and Typhoon

The truck, called Syclone, could hit 60mph from rest in a claimed 4.6 secs (a 911 Carrera 4 took 5.2 secs), yet with nine times more cargo room than the Stuttgart car.And if anyone doubted the hype, they only had to read the September ’91 issue of Car and Driver, in which the $25,970 Syclone took to the drag strip next to a $122,180 Ferrari 348ts and beat it over the quarter-mile: 14.5 secs for the 348 to the Syclone’s 14.1 secs.Hell, it even outbraked the Ferrari from 70mph.

Mercury owned the ‘Cyclone’ name

Mesmerising though these figures were, on the face of it there was no sound reason to produce what was then termed ‘the world’s fastest truck’, along with its later SUV-bodied sibling, the Typhoon.But in the late 1980s, General Motors’ GMC (General Motors Company) brand was at the premium end of America’s truck market, at a time when the sector had just started to transition towards more leisure-orientated vehicles.The Syclone’s supercar-slaying acceleration made it a genuine pioneer, not only pre-dating other performance flatbeds, such as Ford’s F-150 Lightning and Dodge’s mighty Ram SRT-10, but also, arguably, the wider performance SUV market as we know it today.

Yet it was Buick, not GMC, that first inspired the Syclone.After retiring its Grand National performance model in 1987, the brand dropped one of its outgoing turbocharged 3.8-litre V6s into a Chevrolet S-10 pick-up.Hunkered down on lowered suspension and wearing wide, very un-truck-like alloys, it was touted to GM management and to Chevrolet as a range-topping ‘halo’ truck.

Fabric-trimmed bucket seats give the Syclone’s interior a purposeful look

The concept was initially rejected, but when GMC got wind of the project it immediately saw the potential, although not with the Grand National engine.Instead, GMC chose to retain the existing 4.3-litre Vortec V6 in its S-15 – the marque’s S-10 sibling – and uprate the unit to liberate even more giant-killing performance.All the same, when GM first presented the Syclone (Mercury owned the ‘Cyclone’ name, hence the spelling), along with a four-door GMC Jimmy-based vehicle called the Kalahari, under the ‘concept trucks’ banner at 1989’s Detroit show, the company had ‘no firm production plans’ for either, according to Autoweek.

The Syclone’s Mitsubishi-sourced turbocharger delivers up to 14psi of boost

At the time, the Syclone still used Buick’s blown 3.8 lump, whereas the Kalahari – later to become the Typhoon – had GM’s 4.3 V6.But by the time the pair reappeared at the New York International Automobile Show seven months later, the company line had changed to ‘not scheduled for production yet’ (Design News), hinting that both would become a reality.And that was reinforced when GMC took a modified S-15 to Bonneville and broke the Category E production speed record, with a 194.77mph flying mile.Suddenly, GMC had Ferrari and Porsche in its sights.

Sitting low on a set of 16in alloy rims, the Syclone certainly looks the part

You couldn’t fault its commitment to the performance cause.The problem was that developing such a niche offering in-house would have cost GM dear: $200million was mooted, along with a seven-year gestation before the Syclone reached showrooms.Fortunately, GMC product marketing man Kim Nielsen, who had driven the project from the start, had a trick up his sleeve.By outsourcing the engineering and manufacturing of everything that transformed a cooking S-15 into a Syclone, costs were brought down massively and the programme became viable.

‘The Syclone’s soundtrack is loud and proud’

Two companies – ASC McLaren and Production Automotive Services (PAS) – pitched for the work, but while ASC retained the stock S-15’s rear-drive transmission, PAS integrated the Chevrolet Astro Van’s four-wheel-drive system, complete with viscous centre differential.Given that both companies were proposing 280bhp and 350lb ft outputs, and the Syclone’s rear axle was carrying a mere 37% of the overall weight, rear-drive would only have achieved the biggest smokescreen ever.PAS won the contract, and at a sniff over $14million.

The firm, based in nearby Troy, Michigan, and collaborating with Nielsen, worked flat-out for the next 18 months to make sure the Syclone fulfilled the concept’s remit.To increase the Vortec engine’s outputs by 115bhp and 115lb ft, PAS added a Mitsubishi TD06-17C turbocharger running up to 14psi of boost, allied to a Garrett water-to-air intercooler.Lower-compression pistons were fitted, along with bespoke intake and exhaust manifolds.Larger throttle bodies were sourced from the Corvette parts bin, and a multi-point fuel-injection system was installed.

Both models share the 280bhp V6 powertrain and feature all-wheel drive

The Astro Van’s Borg-Warner transfer case delivered 65% of drive to the LSD-equipped rear axle and 35% to the front, so the potent turbocharged V6 could deploy all of its grunt without smoking most of it away.Underneath, the Syclone’s body-on-frame chassis was still suspended in traditional pick-up fashion: an independent front end with torsion bars, and a live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, but sitting lower than the standard S-15.Anti-lock braking (the Syclone was the first of its kind to carry the technology) was the only nod to chassis sophistication.But who cared about that on the drag strip?

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Ford Mustang Boss 302 vs Mach 1: two-trick ponies – Simon Hucknall @Classic & Sports Car


Like watching an episode of Countryfile with incidental music by Motörhead, wrestling this 1970 Boss Mustang along sinuous roads against a bucolic English backdrop rankles a little.

It’s no fault of the car, a more perfect example of which would be hard to find.

The Mustang Boss 302 (left) and Mach 1 represent a golden era for Ford’s famous pony car

It’s more that the Boss 302’s headbanging soundtrack conjures memories of epic car movies – BullittGone in 60 Seconds (the ’74 original, of course) – or even Jim Morrison’s part-homage to his beloved GT500, HWY: An American Pastoral.

And none of those, as I recall, were set in North Yorkshire.

Then you start to acclimatise to this heavy-metal American.

A race car for the road, the Boss’ 302cu in V8 met the requirements for the Trans-Am road-racing series

Sure, there’s no vertiginous urban landscape to get it airborne, or a vast, arid vista to admire from its vinyl Hi-Back bucket seat as you spool through The Doors’ songbook in your head.

But its unruly appeal fast becomes infectious: just muscle the Hurst shifter into first, watch the Shaker bonnet-scoop snap to one side as you stab the throttle and then giggle inanely as the Boss unleashes a torrent of V8 mayhem down the road.

It’s no sophisticate, but my god is it engrossing

The Ford Mustang Boss 302’s V8 engine makes 290bhp and 290lb ft, and thrives on revs

For the observant among you, this Mustang – a 1969-built, 1970-model-year Boss 302 – matches neither McQueen’s 1968 390 GT nor ‘Toby’ Halicki’s 1974 Mach 1, which were produced before and after this 1969-’70-series car.

But to me they all speak of that magical era, shortly before Detroit’s V8s were finally neutered by regulation.

Talking of Mach 1s, we also have one joining the Boss today, equipped with a Cleveland 351cu in V8 and automatic transmission: the same series and basic design as the 302 but, as we’ll find out, a demonstrably different car to drive.

One the road, it’s clear that the Boss 302 was designed with racing in mind

Much of that contrast came from the Boss being a race-bred homologation special, versus the Mach 1 having a more user-friendly road set-up.

Following the initial furore around the original launch of the Mustang in 1964, Ford had started to lose ground to General Motors after it introduced the Chevrolet Camaro in 1967.

Worse still, the Camaro Z/28 was beating the Mustang on track – an important marketing arena for both companies – including taking victory in the high-profile Trans-American Championship in 1968

Optional Sports Slats and a matt-black spoiler are clues this is no ordinary Mustang

So, coinciding with the introduction of the new 1969 Mustang, Ford offered up its own entrant for the Trans-Am road-racing series: the Boss 302.

Designed to meet Sports Car Club of America regulations that dictated an engine displacement of under 305cu in, like the Z/28, the Boss 302 needed to spawn a road version to comply.

What emerged from Ford’s Metuchen, New Jersey factory in 1969 was in effect a race car for the road.

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Reliving an epic 12000-mile adventure in a Ford Model A – Alastair Clements @Classic&SportsCar


It was 1962. My wife Jan and I had recently graduated in our respective vocations, her as a kindergarten teacher and me in architecture.

When we met, Jan had a ticket booked on a liner bound for the UK, but those plans were put on ice and it was marriage for us instead.

Before we got together I had done a fair bit of travelling, including a six-month stint in Japan, so seeing the world was high on the agenda rather than settling down, as a few of our friends were already doing.

Back in the 1960s, after graduating with some sort of degree or in a trade, youngsters in Australia (and many in Europe) seemed to gain the urge for adventure.

We were no exception, and began drawing up plans fairly soon after our wedding, but air travel proved prohibitively expensive. There were bus trips available to various parts of central Asia and India, and it was pretty basic travelling.

All on board would help to pitch tents and cook, yet it seemed a great way to see the world without having to look after your own vehicle.

But, having decided to go to Europe, we elected to drive and we chose a 1928 Model A Ford to do it in – after all, nearly five million buyers between 1927 and ’31 can’t have been wrong about these rugged workhorses.

We were living and working in Melbourne at the time, and after talking to other adventurous types it soon became clear this sort of journey was possible. Not easy, perhaps, but possible.

That was enough: the challenge was there and we were young, healthy and eager.

Decision made, although our parents were not so sure

On the Nullarbor early in the trip, on the way to Perth

Mutual friend (and fellow architect) John Dalton, was keen to return to the UK so joined us for the trip, packing his own one-man tent.

After a basic restoration of the Ford, our running around in Victoria prior to departure did little to indicate what lay ahead for the car.

We left Melbourne in late November 1962, with my brother and family accompanying us until our lunch stop. Jan’s sister, Sue, and a couple of friends were also present early in the morning to bid us farewell.

They were probably all wondering if they’d ever see us again.

Turkey’s Highway No 1 was under construction when the Hunters passed by in their Ford Model A

In Adelaide we met Jan’s elderly grandparents and two aunts, who all raised eyebrows at our chosen mode of transport, and on leaving the South Australian capital we happened upon a roadside weighbridge for grain trucks.

We drove on to the platform and were surprised to find that we weighed in at 39cwt, or 1950kg. Empty, the Model A tipped the scales at 21cwt (1067kg), so inevitably, as well as overheating, we had a few tyre problems.

We started with the best 450x21in rubber we could rustle up, but it let us down.

We bought four new tyres in Perth, and those then took us through to London, but compared with the vehicles of the many other fellow travellers we subsequently met, the Ford turned out to be relatively trouble-free.

We were really lucky to have decided upon the sturdy and simple 3.3-litre, four-cylinder Model A.

Even the ubiquitous Volkswagen Kombis and Land-Rovers were not immune to problems, generally with springs or clutches, and often because they were heavily overloaded.

We even spotted a Sunbeam-Talbot and a Morris 1100 – the latter was the first I had ever seen, and it wasn’t handling the conditions well

Some travellers had converted small buses into caravans, with youths and families going to Australia, and all too often they suffered from mechanical issues.

Citroën 2CVs seemed to put up with the tough conditions well, though, and later in Germany, shortly after waving to a 1928 Bentley that was broken down on the autobahn, one tore past us as we sat at a steady 40mph.

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Meet the rare Reo that proves originality isn’t always best – Paul Regan @Classic&SportsCar


It’s 1973, and Al Parkes has decided it’s time.

For too long his father’s old Reo Flying Cloud has served as little but a brooding hunk of metal beside the family’s suburban home in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He has petrol, spark plugs and enthusiasm – but it hasn’t run since before he was old enough to remember.

It is only in the details that you realise this Reo isn’t in its standard spec

At this time Parkes is in his early 20s and life already has many ingredients of the American Dream.

He has ditched university for a career with McDonald’s, feet on the first rungs of a corporate ladder but heart set on owning one of the hot rod-era V8s that regularly shake the drive-through window.

His father, Don, is an engineer and there’s barely any distance between apple and tree when it comes to things mechanical.

The Reo’s straight-six coughs on its first taste of gasoline in more than two decades.

The last time it moved without the help of a tow was in the moments before Don was forced off the road into a ditch in ’53.

The front bumper was buckled and the wing bent – and with a growing family, a replacement vehicle with more seats was an easier prospect than repair.

And so the Reo sat, disturbed from its slumber only when the Parkes family moved home.

Like a stray dog it followed from garage to barn to driveway, including the one upon which it now sits rocking rhythmically to the tune of its tired starter motor.

Another cough. A longer splutter. Then it fires – filling the neighbourhood with thick white smoke, and Parkes’ head with dreams of a full restoration.

It was the beginning of a journey with the Flying Cloud that would go on to last most of a lifetime.

This Reo has been part of the Parkes family for longer than its owner – 71 years and counting – so he has lived a full spectrum of experiences with the coupe, from unexpected child’s toy to retirement plaything.

“My first memory of the car is in the family barn when I was about five years old,” he smiles. “We used to run up the fenders and leap off into bales of hay, hoping to avoid bruising from those great big chrome headlamps.”

At that time the ‘Old Brown Reo’, as it came to be known, was probably only about 20 years old, but such was the pace of car design in those days it already felt like a relic.

Living so close to Detroit, the streets were always full of the latest models and even though Parkes’ father was rarely in the market for new metal, he would frequently chop and change from used car lots.

Somehow the Reo lingered, in stasis between jalopy and classic.

“The first time we saw any value in it was in the early ’60s, when a guy walked past the house and offered my dad $1000 for it,” Parkes recalls. “I never thought to ask him why he said no; he worked six days a week and any time left was given to his hobby, flying planes.”

The smallblock Chevy V8 nestles snugly under the bonnet

The car’s value – sentimental, at least – was creeping up.

Don had owned the Reo for only a few years before the accident, having traded down from a 1948 Buick with onerous finance repayments.

It had been well kept in the hands of a local doctor and perhaps he felt it too good to scrap, or that someone else would reap the benefit after an easy repair.

Either way, there was never an active decision to keep it, but equally no desire to let it go. Instead it waited for familiarity to mature into nostalgia, and for that moment in 1973 when Parkes would crank it over

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Haunting images of cars caught in the California wildfires – Classic & Sports Car


These images say it all, can’t imagine what this situation is like to live through. I realise the cars are the least of everyone’s worries but the photos do bring home the level of destruction.

See the rest of the images here

The images are © Scott Maddern/ArtOutOfAshes.org

You can support the victims of the Wildfires here at https://www.artoutofashes.org/