The 1991 GMC Syclone Ute Pickup Was built for speed not For Work

How useful is a pickup truck that can only just carry 500 lbs in its bed and tow 2000 lbs? Not very, unless your needs for a pickup truck isn’t hauling stuff, but winning drag races. In which case, GMC had the truck for you in 1991.

Today, GMC is seen to be a more luxurious alternative to Chevy trucks, but in the early 1990s, GM wanted it to be a sporty companion to the bowtie brand. That led it to concptualise & create the Syclone, an S-15 pickup with a 280-hp turbocharged V6 capable of keeping pace with most sports cars of the day. Controversially including the big-dog Corvette.

But everything that made the Syclone so fast—a bespoke all-wheel drive system, low ride height, low-profile tires—compromised it as a pickup truck somewhat. In addition to its hauling deficiencies, the Syclone wasn’t that great off road. So much so that GMC actively discouraged owners from taking it off the pavement with a warning label on the sun visor of each vehicle.

As MotorWeek notes in this 1991 review, the Syclone was for “urban cowboys” who wanted something that looked awesome and went like hell, but didn’t actually need a work truck. It fulfilled that brief beautifully, becoming a cult favorite in the process.

But despite how much it was beloved, performance pickup trucks in the mould of the Syclone never quite really caught on. The Syclone and its SUV brother, the Typhoon, were only built for one generation, and GMC hasn’t built anything truly fast since. And with only 3000 or so built, the Syclone is now officially a classic.

The Syclone was kind of terrible by pickup-truck standards, but great in other ways nevertheless.

Henry Sapiecha

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