Before America got caught up in the SUV craze that dominated the 1990s, our country had a brief love affair with small performance pickups. Spearheaded by the Shelby Dodge Dakota, GM followed shortly thereafter with the launch of a pair of turbocharged trucks, the GMC Syclone and GMC Typhoon. This was right around the time Jay Leno was starting to make it big, and it should come as no surprise that the comedic car buff bought a brand new GMC Syclone right off the dealer lot.
The one-year, limited-edition GMC Syclone is the subject of this week’s episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, where the funnyman explains his reasoning for buying the sport truck. Plain and simple, it was faster than a Ferrari (at least according to Car & Driver). In fact, the GMC Syclone was the single fastest-accelerating production car you could buy in 1991. Mind-blowing, right? How could that even be possible?
The secret is the turbocharged 4.3-liter Vortec V6 engine under the hood, which Jay explains has some big differences from the turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 found in the Buick Grand National a few years earlier. This included a liquid-to-air intercooler on the Syclone, as well as four-wheel drive, allowing the plucky “Jimmy” to grip the road hard, leading to intense, hard, and fast launches.
0 to 60 mph was estimated to be in the low 4-second range, which may not seem crazy fast today…but remember, we’re talking about a truck built some 25 years ago. Yeah, 1991 is a quarter-century behind us. Power was rated at 280 ponies, though it was more likely closer to 330 when all is said and done. Less than 3,000 GMC Syclones were built, and you can tell that it’s one of Leno’s favorites from the grin he gets when he gooses the gas.
It’s a weird slice of performance car history, and we’re glad GM had the balls to build it when they did.