THE SYCLONE

Not long ago, my search for parts took me to EBay, where I found a transmission I was needing for a build. The seller was near my town and I jumped in the pickup and headed for his address. He lived in a country setting, not far off the beaten path down a long driveway. When I arrived, I found him hard at work in the modest shop behind his house.

To my delight, I found that he builds Buick Grand Nationals.  I loved those cars and so does he, because he makes a decent living servicing that niche.  Buick fans bring their cars from all over to get them back into pristine condition or modified.  We talked about the effectiveness of the turbocharged V6, the options, and the fact that they were so rare now.  Then he dropped this bomb: “If you like Turbo V6’s, maybe you know something about that.”  Cocking is thumb towards a dark corner of his shop, I saw the outline of what I thought was a Chevy S-10 pickup.  It was black against the unlit area of the garage, but I recognized the square, boxy look of a small 90’s mini-truck.  Then it dawned on me: It was the truck I’d only read about, but never seen.  syclone

Back in 1991, Car and Driver magazine did an article about this truck.  They compared it to the new Corvette and the Ferrari 348ts which was sold in America.  The editors were impressed.  They opined that it came-out way ahead of both.  The truck was the GMC Syclone.  And now, my host and I were walking toward one.

I was in awe. was an oddity in the years of low-performance, anti-smog machines produced in that era.  A couple of GM designers lamented the passing of the Grand National and wanted to produce something similar. Chevrolet passed, but GMC saw the potential and adopted the project.  They based it on the Sonoma pickup with the 4.3 liter V6.  They gave it all wheel drive, a four speed automatic, a racing suspension, aluminum alloy wheels, sport body panels, and the most important part: a turbocharger.  It came with cool racing seats by Recaro and only came in black.

Performance was the stuff of legends.  It was the first muscle car to break the 0-60 time of five seconds, and it was a truck.  Faster than the Corvette and it was a V6.  It ran mid 13’s in the quarter mile and it came twenty years after the end of the muscle car era.  With space to haul your parts, your luggage, or a keg of beer, it would blow-away almost anyone in a street race.

The hood was up and the turbo out of it.  “Is it for sale?” I asked hopefully.  “No sir.” Came the reply.  “The owner brought it in for me to rebuild the turbo and do some tweaking.  I’m sure he wouldn’t part with it.”  I looked around it, admiring the interior, the condition of the body, the bed, and the overall appearance.  I had to have this truck.  There were only 2995 produced in ’91 for sale in America and 113 in ’92 for export, mostly to Saudi Arabia.  That was it, so the Syclone was a rare find indeed.

After loading my transmission into my pickup and paying the man, I offered him my card.  “Will you pass this onto the owner and tell him to call me if he ever wants to sell?”  He replied that he would, but that I shouldn’t get my hopes up.  After all, he probably has a whole collection of cards from car guys and a rare collectable like that wouldn’t come cheap.

I’m still waiting by my phone.

Snova 66ixty six.  As a car builder, 66 is one of my favorite numbers.  I was on my back from a car deal gone wrong in the middle of New Mexico, outside of a small town off, you guessed it, Route 66.  The guy had grossly over represented a car for sale on the internet.  Then, he wanted a fortune for that rust-bucket.  I got turned around and lost my bearings down a side street.  Great, I thought.  I’m lost in the middle of nowhere with no signal for my GPS, after going on a wild-goose chase.  Needless to say, I was not in a great mood.

Then I saw it.  Back behind a sided house was a one-car garage with no door in front.  In an instant, I caught a glimpse of some familiar taillights.   It was as second gen. Chevy Nova.  I just had to knock on the door.  It was a silver-haired gent who answered.   He was wearing an old Rock N’ Roll T-shirt and jeans, He appeared youthful in some way, in spite of the reading glasses perched on his head.  I liked him immediately because he reminded me of, well, me!

“What can I do for ya Mister?”  I related that I was a little lost, but forgot all about that when I saw his old Chevy.  “Oh, that?  She’s a good old ride.  I haven’t driven her in years.  Engine overheated and locked-up.  I thought I could nova 66make it home, but it was too late.  I always meant to get her running again but with work and family, I never had the time.”

“Mind if I take a look?” I ask.  No car-guy can resist showing off a car he’s proud of.  So we hike back through knee-high grass to the garage while I have visions of a 327/350 horse and a four speed.  That was one of the fastest and most underrated cars of the muscle car era.  A real numbers matching model fetches big money from collectors if it’s done right.    We get closer and I find that it’s not a Super Sport like I had hoped, but it’s still a 66 Nova.

“She’s a 283 car with a power-glide” says my host.  Not fast, but reliable, if you don’t drive with a leaky radiator hose,” he said with a wry grin.  To my delight, it had bucket seats and a console with the shifter on the floor.  “it was ordered that way, kind of like an SS.  I’m the second owner and I really enjoyed driving her as a work car and weekend cruiser.  Too bad I don’t have the time to restore the old girl.  She’s just kind of wasting away here in this opened garage.”

“Well, do you think it’s time to let her go to someone who does have the time?”  My question seemed to take him by surprise.  Apparently he didn’t see the car trailer hooked to the back of my Silverado.  “Well, I couldn’t give her away.” He shook his head.  I knew that by the way he referred to the car as “She.”  So the negotiation began, and at the end of the day, I got her at a fair price and my newfound friend treated me to some barbeque and a beer down the road.  And I got directions out of town, which was what I was looking for in the first place.

To be continued…