299515 1991 GMC Syclone low res
299515 1991 GMC Syclone low res

1991 GMC Syclone: This Jet Black Hurricane Still Gets People Excited Over 30 Years Later

Every once in a while, you meet people who are masters at thinking stuff up. The team from GMPartsOnline.net is like this, having come way out of left field with one of the most interesting comparisons we have ever seen: a 1991 GMC Syclone versus a 2017 Chevy Camaro SS 1LE.

“We were talking about our favorite vehicles one day at work when someone mentioned the Syclone,” recalled Angel Vigil, Director of GMPartsOnline.net. “Then we had an argument about whether or not the Syclone was faster than a Camaro.”

1991 GMC Syclone vs. 2017 Chevy Camaro

It doesn’t seem like much of a debate from the onset, but looks are deceiving. The 2017 Camaro, despite having more modern technology than the Syclone and advanced aerodynamics, only hits 60 mph two-tenths of a second quicker. This led Vigil and his team to wonder: if the Syclone had the advantage of GM’s newer powertrains, would it be able to beat something like the Camaro?

“The truck was obviously very fast, but the turbo 4.3-liter is an exceptional engine,” Vigil said. “You can’t find it in any other GM vehicle other than the Typhoon.”

The Typhoon, like the Syclone, was a short-lived performance version of the GMC Jimmy. The Typhoon ruled the streets from 1991 to 1993, whereas the Syclone saw only one year and one color: 1991 and black.

“The 1991 GMC Syclone was very expensive, and it was a hard purchase to justify if you didn’t love the idea of owning a hot rod pickup,” Vigil explained. “I always wanted one when I first heard about them, but like most people, I suppose I wasn’t in a position to buy one new.”

When the Syclone’s original MSRP is adjusted for inflation in 2023, it jumps to over $58,000 compared to the 2017 Camaro SS 1LE, which had a starting MSRP of about $44,500 at the time (about $56,000 in 2023 when adjusted for inflation).

1991 GMC Syclone. Photo: RK Motors Charlotte.
To this day, the 1991 GMC Syclone is one of the quickest production trucks ever built. Photo: RK Motors Charlotte.

Golden Opportunities

Interestingly enough, the Syclone was actually born a Buick when, after the Grand National was halted, engineers from the program stuffed the car’s 3.8-liter plant into a Chevy S-10. Billed as the Grand National Pickup, it was presented to GM brass and Chevy management, but they were hardly enthusiastic.

After putting the brakes on the Grand National car, GM had other plans for Buick. A performance-oriented truck was not in the cards. But GMC was another story. They took the Grand National Pickup idea, and out came the Syclone, although GMC passed on the Buick 3.8-liter engine for cost reasons.

299589 1991 GMC Syclone low res
Photo: RK Motors Charlotte.

Power & Performance

Under the hood, GMC’s 4.3-liter turbo V6 created 280 horsepower and 355 lb-ft. of torque. To put that into context, the 1991 Corvette L98 engine produced 250 horsepower and 350 lb-ft. of torque. Rumors swirled that the Syclone’s motor was tuned down to not infringe on the Corvette ZR-1 LT5 engine, which produced 375 horsepower and 370 lb-ft. of torque.

The all-wheel drive system that propelled the Syclone was ahead of its time too. With an advanced viscous-coupled center differential and limited-slip rear differential, power could be split 35/65 front to rear for maximum traction. GMC’s hurricane truck rode on 16×8-inch aluminum wheels with 245/50R16 Firestone Firehawk tires.

“The truck was also very light,” Vigil added. “That’s always something performance enthusiasts appreciate.”

The GMC Syclone tipped the scales at 3,525 lbs., nearly 250 lbs. lighter than the 2017 Camaro SS 1LE with the track package. The 2017 Camaro makes up the difference with more grunt – its optional 6.2-liter V8 at the time cranked out 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft. of torque. “The heritage is probably the thing I love the most about the Camaro, but the car has real race credibility too,” Vigil said.

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Sneaking Suspicions & Rare Birds

It’s hard to say what would have become of the GMC Syclone had it survived, but Vigil has an idea.

“If GM wanted to take the Colorado or Canyon and offer the twin-turbo 3.6-liter used in the Cadillac CTS, that would be a 420 horsepower engine that would probably fit in the engine bay,” he said. “That truck would run with a newer Camaro SS too, I suspect, only it would weigh 500 lbs. more than the Camaro SS.”

The GMC Syclone was produced only sparingly before being sent to pasture. “There were only about 3,000 of them made,” Vigil said. “They’re still highly collectible.” The Camaro celebrated 50 years in 2017 but has since been discontinued

The chart below from GMPartsOnline.net compares the 1991 GMC Syclone and 2017 Chevy Camaro SS 1LE. Although it has already been sold, RK Motors in Charlotte, North Carolina, has some stunning photos of a 1991 GMC Syclone, including pictures of the truck’s window sticker and owner’s manual. Enjoy!

Carl Anthony is the Managing Editor of Automoblog and the host of AutoVision News Radio and AutoSens Insights. As a respected automotive industry thought leader, Carl has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows, including Wrench Nation, Cars Yeah, The Car Doctor, and Brains Byte Back, in addition to appearing as a regular contributor on MotorMouth Radio on WHPC 90.3 FM. His work can also be seen and heard 24/7 on the Automoblog YouTube channel.