• GMC Syclone - The 90s’ Performance Truck That We Need Today!

This pickup truck was quicker than the then 911 Turbo and the Corvette ZR-1

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Pickup trucks were always bareboned and were meant to be used as work vehicles. We saw a lot of performance, off-road trucks now, but there weren’t a lot of such options back in the day. Many automakers gave this a shot and no matter how good they were, they never made it big. One of the most prominent performance trucks from back in the day is the GMC Syclone.

The Syclone hit the automotive scene in 1991 and took everyone by surprise. Not a lot of people could fathom a truck that could take on, or probably even take down some of the most beloved supercars from that era. With performance specs that are impressive even three decades later, the GMC Syclone is the truck that the world needs today.

0-60 mph in 4.3 Seconds

GMC Syclone - The 90s' Performance Truck That We Need Today!
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If we’re talking about a performance vehicle, it would a cardinal sin not to start by talking about how quick it is. The GMC Syclone could sprint to 60 mph from rest in just 4.3 seconds! Quarter-mile was rated at 13.4 seconds, which was super quick for a truck in the 1990s. GMC made bold claims like “fastest accelerating vehicle", and "fastest production pickup truck", and managed to back it up to an extent. The top speed was 124 mph, which isn’t too bad either.

To put things into perspective, the Porsche 911 Turbo took 4.4 seconds to hit the same mark back then, and the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 took 4.9 seconds. Search for videos on YouTube and you’ll find the Syclone keeping up with the Porsches and the Ferraris without breaking a sweat. That says something about this beast incarnate.

It Featured a Turbocharged V-6

Quit Wasting Time And Learn The Real Story Behind the GMC Syclone
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The GMC Syclone was powered by a 4.3-liter, turbocharged V-6 engine that made 280 horses at 4,400 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm.

The turbocharger was a Mitsubishi TD06-17C unit. The same engine in the non-turbo form with a lower power output was seen under the hood of the GMC Sonoma, the truck the Syclone is based on. It featured a Borg-Warner all-wheel-drive transfer case that sent 65-percent of torque to the rear wheels and 35-percent to the front. Power was sent to the wheels via a four-speed automatic gearbox. 4.3 seconds to 60 mph with these specs? The GMC Syclone really was something.

Fun fact, the Syclone almost got the Buick Grand National pickup truck’s engine. The latter faded away into oblivion back in 1987, but the engine was carried over to the Chevrolet S-10, which is the GMC Sonoma’s twin. We wonder how that would’ve turned out in the Syclone. By the way, the Syclone also has a twin called the Typhoon.

GMC Syclone specifications
Engine turbocharged and intercooled 4.3-liter V-6
Horsepower 280 HP @ 4,400 RPM
Torque 350 LB-FT @ 3,600 RPM
0 to 60 mph 4.3 seconds
Transmission 4L60 four-speed automatic
Drivetrain BorgWarner all-wheel-drive
Quarter mile 14.1 seconds

Can’t Take It Off-Roading

GMC Syclone - The 90s' Performance Truck That We Need Today!
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“Wait, what? You can’t take this pickup truck off the roads? What non-sense! Isn’t that a pickup truck’s purpose in life?” This is probably the general predicament of folks who get to know that the GMC Syclone can’t be used for off-roading. This was exclusively a street truck. Trucks were so synonymous with handling abuse that GMC had to paste a warning notice of the Syclone’s cab that read - "This vehicle is not intended for off-road use. The reduced height of this vehicle will not allow it to clear obstacles commonly encountered in an off-road environment. Off-road operation could result in serious damage to chassis and drivetrain." Oy vey.

Less Than 3,000 Examples Built

Quit Wasting Time And Learn The Real Story Behind the GMC Syclone
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Performance trucks were unheard of back then, at least when it came to owning one. They were pretty much ornamental and fun to see in action, but not a lot of folks wanted to own one. The Syclone was in production for only two years between 1991 and 1993, and GMC built only 2,998 models. Of these, three were non-existent models, so effectively, 2,995 models were built. 113 copies were exported to Saudi Arabia and the rest were sold in the U.S. of A.

It Couldn’t Tow Or Haul Much Either

It looks like a truck but can’t do truck things – I sound like a critic, but it’s true. The Syclone couldn’t be taken off the roads and it could barely tow and haul, too. It had a towing capacity of just 2,000 pounds. I mean, even a Tesla Model Y can tow more than it! The six-foot cargo bed was pretty much useless, too, since it came with an embarrassing payload capacity of 500 pounds. At this point, it more seems like a supercar in a truck’s body.

A Little Red In The Black

The truck was available only in a black exterior shade, but there were 10 examples painted in red. These were called Marlboro Syclones transformed by the American Sunroof Company. They also came with stuff like Recaro leather seats, a Momo steering wheel, a Targa-style removable roof panel, and Boyd Coddington wheels.

The Syclone Made A Comeback Recently

2019 GMC Syclone by SVE
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Chevy’s long-time aftermarket partner, Specialty Vehicle Engineering, or SVE as we know it, managed to get the license from GMC to resurrect the Syclone moniker. The company has made two iterations of the truck, one that came out in 2019 and the other in 2020. Based on the Canyon both the times, the truck recorded 0-60 mph times of 4.5 seconds, still unmatched to the original Syclone.

Other Notable Features

Quit Wasting Time And Learn The Real Story Behind the GMC Syclone
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The Syclone came with a lot of other interesting stuff as well. Apart from those fun facts, here are the basic specs and features:

  • The first factory compact hot-rod pickup
  • Produced in collaboration with Production Automotive Services
  • First four-wheel anti-lock braking system on a pickup truck, with discs up front and drums at the rear
  • Sport-calibrated suspension that lowered height by two inches
  • 16-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in Firestone Firehawk tires measuring 245/50
  • Lexxus TruxCover tonneau cover for the bed
  • Creature comforts like air-conditioning, stereo, and even cruise control!
Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
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