The Syclone That Came… And Went

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How many appealing vehicles can you name that were only sold for one year?Syclone 1

Even the Edsel lasted three.

Here’s one that came – and went – as fast as it went: the 1991 GMC Syclone.

Zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds .

And that was back in ’91 – when a new L98 (Tuned Port Injection) Corvette needed a languid-seeming 5.3 seconds to make the same run. Even the exotic ZR1 Corvette, with its DOHC V8, needed 4.4. seconds to do what the Syclone did in fewer.

Nothing American could touch the Syclone in a straight-up drag race – and few things foreign (including Ferraris) could match it, either. Car and Driver magazine famously road-tested one against a then-new $122,000 Ferraris 348ts.

The truck won.

Despite costing about $100k less than the Ferrari.

It wouldn’t be until 2002 that GM built something quicker than the Syclone. And that car – the ’02 Z06 Corvette – was just barely quicker (0-60 in 4.2 seconds).Syclone engine

So, how come this phenomenal performer was such a brief blip on the radar?

Well, for openers, it was a truck.

A small truck.

And – let’s be blunt – a cheap truck.

Well, the truck it was based on certainly was. And it’s hard to turn Motel6 into the Ritz – no matter how nicely you dress up the individual rooms.

The Syclone was, when all is said and done, a hopped-up GMC Jimmy. And the Jimmy was the GMC-badged version of the lowly Chevy S-10. Which was the successor to the even lowlier Chevy Luv.

The Syclone, then, was the truck-equivalent of a really quick Pinto.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But people – most people – will take (and pay for) the slower Corvette.Syclone ad

Early models of this utilitarian pick-up were powered (if you want to call it that) by sump pump fours that struggled to develop double-digit output (82 hp from 1.9 liters, rocked up to 94 hp from 2.5 liters by 1990). The top gun (pop gun?) Jimmy option was a 2.8 liter, 125 hp V6.

Suffice to say, it was an unlikely platform for a performance truck. And probably a really bad idea for a successful (sales-wise) performance truck.

Except in one respect.

It was light.

The ’91 S-10 that served as the donormobile for what became the Syclone had a curb weight of about 3,300 lbs. As it turns out, this is virtually the same curb weight as a 1991 L98 Corvette. And much lighter than a full-size truck such as a ’91 C/K 1500 – which weighed about 1,000 pounds more.

The first rule of going fast is to weigh less than the other guy.

So going with the Jimmy as the starting point for a serious sleeper – a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Saturday Night Special – was sheer brilliance, if the object of the exercise was to not just bitch-slap known performance cars like the Car & Driver Ferrari 348, but to do it to them before the saw it coming. The Syclone was like a Pinto with a Boss 429 crammed under its hood.

Who’d a thunk it?

Who’d a suspected it?Syclone gauge detail

C&D writer Pat Bedard described the deliciousness of leaving the six-figure Ferrari flat-footed when the light went green. Of glancing in the Syclone’s rearview as the Italian supercar (cough!) struggled to catch up to his breathed-on Jimmy:

“When the truck brakes come off, full boost is downloaded to all four wheels. They barely slip. Acceleration begins with such a jolt the driver feels his breakfast slosh rearward. In a blink, the Ferrari is looking at tailgate. And the tailgate is getting smaller. Half a car length, one, two-car lengths of daylight between them before the Ferrari tops out of first gear. The race has just begun and already looks like a massacre.”

An Iron Sheik-esque humbling, actually. A vehicular Camel Clutch – and so much worse.

For the victim.          

Being a truck had another advantage – if the object of the exercise is to whizz one by Uncle. Back in the ’90s, the Federal government’s fuel efficiency, safety and emissions requirements differed for passenger cars and what were then categorized as “light trucks,” the category into which the utilitarian little Jimmy fell.

Things that would cause problems – or never pass muster – if applied to a Corvette slid under the radar when applied to something like the Jimmy.

Also, the Jimmy was really cheap to make.

Nothing fancy about it, fundamentally. This was obvious once you sat behind the wheel and gazed upon the sheets of extruded plastic and shared-with-$10k-Jimmys knobs and switches. No fiberglass to mold, just bolt on some flares and splash it all with evil-looking shiny black paint.

The potential profit margin per truck was thus a lot more favorable, even for a specialty sub-model like the Syclone.

Assuming, of course, people recognized its magnificence.Syclone C&D cover

They did not, as it turned out.

But boy, the should have. This truck was one for the record books, leaving four-wheeled ripples across the cover of said book.

Technically, GM did not build the Syclone. They were built for GMC by a contractor – Production Automotive Services, based in Troy, Michigan. They had previously been tasked by Pontiac with making the 1989 20th Anniversary Trans-Am something special.

They succeeded.

The first – and only – six-cylinder Trans-Am created by PAS turned out to be the quickest and fastest Trans-Am ever. Quicker than the ’73-’74 SD-455 Trans-Am. Faster – by far – than any prior Trans-Am. These things ran high 12s in the quarter and topped out somewhere to the right of 150 MPH. Turbocharging and intercooling the six was the key to it all – and the same formula would be applied to what became the Syclone (and subsequently, its short-lived successor, the ’92-’93 GMC Typhoon).  

The heart of the package was a turbo’d version of Chevy’s 4.3 liter “small block” V6 (a departure from the Buick-sourced 3.8 liter V6 used in the 20th Anniversary TA).

This engine was based on the venerable line of 90 degree small block Chevy V8s dating back to the 1955 283 and subsequent 327 and 350 V8s, but with six rather than eight cylinders. The same basic engine had become optional in the Jimmy and S-10 but this one was very special.Sycone 3:4

It featured a heavy-duty cast iron bock with reinforced main caps, special (dished) pistons, high capacity fuel injectors, and a Garrett intercooler feeding chilled air to a Mitsubishi-sourced turbocharger stuffing the mix into the six at 14 psi under full boost. The end result – so said GMC – was 280 hp and 350 ft.-lbs. of torque.

This was at least 35 more hp (and 5 ft.-lbs. more torque) than the same-year Corvette’s L98 Tuned Port Injection 350 (5.7 liter) V8 delivered.

And that was only what was admitted to.

Road tests strongly indicated something fishy – in a good way. The “280 hp” Syclone delivered a juggernaut of acceleration that made the L98 (and even the ZR-1) Corvette seem dowdy in comparison. It was easily 1 full second speedier to 60 – and a 35 hp difference doesn’t explain that, Lucy.

Just as the ’89 Turbo Trans-Am was much stronger than its advertised 280 hp rating, so also the Syclone’s output was probably under-rated by at least 20 percent.Syclone monrony

Both of these ringers were making at least 350  honest hp, if you math it out. Keep in mind the Syclone’s not-so-hot aerodynamics (which limited its top speed; one of its few weaknesses as a performance ride) and the fact that while the AWD system helped to hook it up, it also increased the inertial load that had to be overcome. The four-speed automatic (no manual was available) did help the boosted six wick up quickly (a loose torque converter works the same as bringing up the revs and deftly side-stepping the clutch in a manual-equipped car and also multiplies the available  torque, which a turbo engine makes lots of) but one must also take into consideration the slippage losses through the converter – at least in this days, when automatics were much less efficient at transferring power than they are today, almost 30 years down the road.

The Corvette’s mass was easier to get moving – and its much superior aerodynamics ought to have enabled it to move faster.

But the fact was, it didn’t – at least, not until you reached triple digit speeds – at which point the Corvette (and the C&D Ferrari 348) finally began to pull away. The Syclone’s top speed was just under 130 MPH, whether drag limited (likely) or electronically (for liability reasons). A ZR-1 was just getting rolling at 130.Syclone v Ferrari

The Ferrari, too.

Still, there was something fabulous – and appalling, if you owned the Ferrari – about a hopped-up Jimmy that could walk away from you in a straight-up stoplight to stoplight street race.

And that may be just what killed it off.

It was too fast – and too cheap – to live.

Car people know that within GM corporate there has long been an unspoken but cruelly enforced  policy – a third rail of sorts – that engineers dare not transgress. It is that Corvette must always be the highest-performing vehicle GM sells.

Period.1991 GMC Syclone interior

A knacker’s fate awaits those who test this policy – examples including the fate of John DeLorean’s XP-833 Banshee prototype, which got pulled at the very last minute from the 1965 New York Auto Show when GM higher-ups caught wind of it. The two-seater gullwing coupe – which would have been sold through Pontiac – was too close for comfort to what eventually came out (via Chevrolet) as the ’68 Corvette.

Another deader was the previously mentioned ’89 Turbo Trans-Am. It was too quick – and much too fast – for its own good. It had embarrassed the ’89 Corvette – and that would not do.

Note that the turbo TA was only made once, too.

Very possibly, the ax fell on the Syclone’s neck for exactly the same reason. Bad enough that a Trans-Am dared to outperform the Corvette.

But a Jimmy?Syclone spec sheet

Weirdness entered into the bargain, too.

In 1991, all-wheel-drive was not only exotic, it was foreign. Audis, sure. But Chevys and GMCs?

A GMC truck?

What are you supposed to do with all-wheel-drive? It’s not for towing – but then, what good is a truck that can’t pull? Yes, yes, it hauls ass. But then why carry around that useless bed? GMC affixed a sticker that warned buyers not to put more than 500 pounds back there, else risk “damage to drivetrain and suspension.” This was the necessary compromise that attended dropping the thing’s ride height down several inches from the standard Jimmy’s – which pretty much eliminated the suspension travel that’s designed into most trucks.

So that they can carry stuff.

The Syclone could only carry two people.

It didn’t even have back seats.   

Today, of course, all-wheel-drive is as common as carburetors still were back in the early ’90s. But 25 years ago, it was new – and slightly strange. People who bought Audis grokked it.

People who bought GMCs and Chevys did not.

Another bit of tech the Syclone featured was four-wheel anti-lock brakes, the first production application of this now ubiquitous technology. But early ABS systems – like early AWD systems – had some operating characteristics that took some getting used to. Such as feedback – pulsation – that could be felt through the brake pedal as the system did the electronic equivalent of pumping the brakes.

Syclone rear view

Still, for those in the know – and those who got out their checkbooks in time – the Syclone was a ride not to be missed.

Not quite 3,000 of these unlikely contenders made it to daylight – and all of those remaining today are as collectible as China plates with the White Star loggia recovered from the ocean floor.

Syclone Trivia

*Despite having a truck-style solid-axle (non-independent) rear suspension, the Syclone was capable of achieving lateral skid pad numbers very close to those of the same-year Corvette. And despite having drum brakes out back, it took less distance to stop a Syclone than a same-year Ferrari 348.

* At least a handful of Syclones were exported to Saudi Arabia, land of leaded premium fuel. The catalytic converter (mandatory in the United States since 1975) was thrown in the woods and replaced with a “resonator.” The ECU was also reprogrammed for leaded high-test. Given the lowered backpressure – and higher octane fuel – these Syclones were probably the quickest and fastest of the lot.

* The all-wheel-drive system (made by Borg Warner) split torque in a fixed 35-65 ratio, with 35 percent routed to the front wheels and 65 percent to the rear. Unlike modern AWD systems, the Syclone’s AWD system could not modulate power delivery in varying ratios either front to rear or from individual wheel to wheel, as most modern AWD systems can.Marlboro Syclone

* In addition to the turbocharged V6 and AWD system, all Syclones were fitted with special 16×8 wheels and low-profile (50-series) Firestone Firehawk SVX tires, fast-ratio steering and a special gauge package (borrowed from the 1990 Pontiac Sunfire turbo). All 1991 Syclones were painted black – though other colors had been planned for the second-year production run that never happened. 

* The rarest of all Syclones are the ten modified by American Sunroof Corporation, with styling input from auto industry legend Larry Shinoda (who among other things helped design both the ’63 Stingray Corvette while at GM and then – when he jumped ship and worked for Ford – the 1970 Boss 302 Mustang). All ten trucks were repainted red and featured targa roofs, a matching red fiberglass tonneau cover for the bed, Recaro sport buckets, a high-end Sony system, Borla exhaust system and reprogrammed ECU.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book, Doomed.

Copyright 2015, Eric Peters  

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  1. I think you had a typo in your article. Checking Car and Driver it did 0-60 in 5.3 secs (Sept. 91). The quickest I have ever seen was 4.9 secs by GM. It still is quick as hell for its time period.

  2. Thanks eight,I’ll be on the lookout,seen the neatest 40 Ford pickup yesterday,it had a drivetrain out of a ranger or something,sound midwest sheetmetal,AC and everything the donor vehicle had,28 mpg and a pleasure to drive,plus usable,my definition of a streetrod.-Kevin

  3. One of my uncles traded in his GN for one of these. He passed away about 15 years ago, leaving it for his kids. It’s been sitting this whole time uncovered, underneath a tree. A little tear forms in my eye every time I see the beauty with it’s chipping off paint and covered in bird poop.

  4. Car and Driver knows how to hype a car that doesn’t deserve it. Real cars have to go around corners. I’m going to guess that the Syclone would be a mess trying to do that at the speeds it was capable of reaching.

    • FTFA: “*Despite having a truck-style solid-axle (non-independent) rear suspension, the Syclone was capable of achieving lateral skid pad numbers very close to those of the same-year Corvette.”

      Speaking of Corvettes, what color is yours? You sound a little butthurt by the article…

      • Good skidpad numbers don’t necessarily equate to good handling. Just means it has good grip on a smooth surface.

    • Hi Tom,

      The truth is not one out of 100 drivers out there has capabilities that match his car’s. And I’m talking about average cars.

      This discussion is therefore academic.

      I assure you that most drivers would run out of skill before a vehicle like the Syclone ran out of grip.

  5. When GM and Ford got competition from the world it was the beginning of the end.
    When the annual consumer survey on records of repair came out and both Ford and GM were rated last in most surveys for producing lemons that was the end long term of them competing with the world. Chrysler was headed down that road also.
    This truck’s main claim to bad fame is a very powerful light truck with a lemon transmission(judging by the 500/1 quarter ton) load. In other words it sounds like it is not engineered to be a truck at all.
    For those of us that remember good vehicles suddenly no longer available it was a sign of the times. GM does not and will not put out vehicles that last beyond the 3-year loan period. But GM did not realise that vehicles that became so expensive also were either rented or turned back in when the lease expires. That leaves them with the lemon to try to sell off.
    I am no authority on auto engineering. I have no desire to become a red flag for a highway patrol. And with a black vehicle you are almost invisible on the road. With a bright red hot truck your license is in jeopardy! The Highway Patrol will spot and tag you every time.
    Pontiac did its homework much to the disgust of the upper management. That is why it is no longer available. The reason this truck didn’t make it was marketing.
    If they had super insulation in the cab, if they put some sizzle in the interior, if they had put one out with a double cab for families, if they had aimed that truck at the good old boy network and made it available for customization it would have been the hottest vehicle on the lot.
    IF they had made a half ton load on the truck it might have made it.
    IF they had a double cab load and a cheap armor plating the military would have ate it up all over the world. By cheap I mean the same material as put in personal armor in the field.
    MY own choice would have been an optional trans and diesel engine specifically designed to easily switch fuel supplies from diesel, gasoline, kerosene, or natural gas and convenience to maintain. That and the word Ford, Chrysler, or GM are not available in the same sentence. Their entire concept of throwaway vehicles is not longer acceptable with world wide competition in a modern world. So like the dinosaur these companies will either change or go under.

    • Under the heading”what were they thinking?”or smoking.
      I side with DJohn,why in the heck did they can Pontaic?I still like the G series cars,If thats the correct business model-then why are GMC trucks still around?

      • Hi Kevin,

        Pontiac died in 1981 – the last year you could buy a Pontiac-designed V8. The division lingered on for awhile, re-selling Chevys with “Pontiac” badges. But there was no longer much reason to buy one over the Chevy – hence, the decision to nix the division itself in ’02.

        • I’m probaly wrong,but it still seemed to me that the Pontiac G series was a bit more performance oriented,the v6s had plenty of power and gave good service-Kevin

          • Oh, certainly – it performed well. But it was powered by the “generic” Chevy LS V8. A great engine, but not a Pontiac engine. You were buying a cosmetic shell, with the same basic running gear found in Chevys.

    • Hi djohn1,

      The Syclon’e transmission was a good transmission (most GM automatics are). The reason for the low load rating was the suspension, which had been modified (lowered) for high-performance handling. There was not much travel left and any significant loading probably would resulted in tire scrub and other problems.

      • Yup,I agree that GM has always made good automatics.The th200 in my Regal t-type turbo was great.2400-2500 stall on the stock converter,and would smoke the tires going into 2nd gear all day long,all bone stock.Compare that to the Ford AOD of the same time and it was night and day.The auto matic mustangs were 1 to 1.5 seconds slower in the quarter.The gm automatics were usually as fast ,if not faster than the manuals…….

        • Hi getcha!

          I am a big fan of the 2004R. It’s one of the few modern overdrive automatics that does not require a got-damned computer; it’s readily swappable into various older cars without an adapter plate, too. For example, it literally bolts right up to the classic “BOP” Buick Pontiac Oldsmobile V8 bellhousing. Pop one into your ’70s muscle car and enjoy the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too of 3:73 (or 4:11) rear gears and – because of the tranny’s deep overdrive – cruising all day on the highway at 70 MPH with the engine running about 2,000 RPM – just like a modern car!

  6. A good article,the 4.3 was descended from the 265,from which the 283 came(I think all 283s had forged steel cranks)I do not understand why the 3800 wasnt offered in this little truck,the 4.3 in my etimation was a suprisingly good engine,but lets face it,it was delibertly dumbed down for a good while.
    Now as for the current crop of engines GM offers in their trucks,its about time,I would have chopped the selection a long time ago and if I was doing it,I would offer two gas engines a 6.2 and a 5 litre,this marketing ploy by the manus bugs the crap out of me,because.I could never afford the premium engine(which in my case would probaly get as good fuel mileage and have 7 league boots(does stop me from buying certain manus wares though)
    On the subject of live axle vs IRS,very little difference was discovered on road courses by skilled drivers(alot more complexity and expense though)
    I dont think the insurance company lobby would stand for a vehicle like the Syclone now-Kevin

    • The torque peaked at a lower rpm with the 4.3 as opposed to the 3.8. Maybe thats why they chose it. The 3.8 has more ‘are under the curve’ and continues to make power about 1k rpm past where the 4.3 runs out of breath but they probably thought that the additional low end grunt was preferable to more overall power and better fuel econmy.

  7. Dear Eric,

    You wrote:

    “*Despite having a truck-style solid-axle (non-independent) rear suspension, the Syclone was capable of achieving lateral skid pad numbers very close to those of the same-year Corvette. And despite having drum brakes out back, it took less distance to stop a Syclone than a same-year Ferrari 348.”

    Holy mackerel.

    Mind totally blown.

  8. I bought an Audi TTRS last month and have modded to 480HP with a manual tranny. I easily eat my 2014 M6. Less than 1K in north America. An analog sports cars car and some of the last.

  9. I imagine your dad’s truck just did the one wheel peel and dug a hole for itself to sit in.
    We had fleets of 2wd S10s at one of the geotech companies I worked for. 2.5, 2.8, 4.3, 2.2, stick or automatic, you name it. They weren’t bad, but just ok. Certain of the 4.3s liked to eat up caps and rotors for some reason and the 2.5s seemed to have chronic EGR problems but that’s all that comes to mind for reliability issues and both were easy fixes. Like you said, stock drivetrain = meh but they are a good platform for an inexpensive hotrod (had under $4k in my first one).
    FWIW if I was looking for a 4×4 for offroad use an S series would be at or near the bottom of my list (though I have heard good things about the ZR2 package but no personal experience). My favorite 4wd was probably and old 78 F150 that we used for a support truck with our all-terrain drill rigs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another truck survive as much abuse as we heaped on that thing.

  10. The reason turbos always seem like they are fudging the HP numbers are because they tend to make big torque just off idle and hold it there towards the end of the powerband, as opposed to an N/A car that may make similar torque, but only for a very small portion of the powerband, and usually only after the motor is north of 5000rpm. Turbos are fun, but you have to care for them to make them last (synthetic oil every 5k miles, cooling times/turbo timers before just shutting them down, proper warm ups before running them up hard)

    • Thanks for that, DrOtto!

      I can’t say for sure they deliberately under-rated the turbo 4.3 in the Syclone, but (being a 33rd Degree Pontiac guy) I can so say with regard to the ’78-79 W72 (“T/A 6.6” decals on the shaker) Trans Am and Formula 400 V8s. These were supposedly making 220 hp.

      IIRC, NHRA factors them at 260 for bracket racing.

    • I’ve always thought peak hp number were worthless, it’s only a snapshot of the motors powerband. I’m much more interested in “area under the curve”.

  11. Even today, you question the longevity of modern turbo cars. Using 1991 technology to get such power must have stressed the hell out of those smallish engines. Probably not just fried turbochargers, but lots of blown head gaskets too, and worse.

    You correctly noted the diabolical handling and breaking of muscle cars from the 1960s and 70s. Even with awd, I bet that 1991 Syclone was pretty treacherous when at speed.

    So I suspect that another big reason Syclones only sold for was year was because they kept crashing and blowing up. 🙂

    • Mike, did you mean “braking” with muscle cars? They broke fairly commonly also.

      I briefly knew a guy with a Syclone. He drove it to work and had no problems. He said it handled really well and went like stink. Didn’t know him long so I never knew what became of him and the truck. He kept it spit shined and it looked good. He’d speak of doing things that indicated the handling was pretty decent.

      GM is an old hand with turbos, just go back to Corvair Spyders. Their Grand Nationals held up well if you didn’t stand on them all the time or try for uber HP. I worked with a guy who had one. He had no problems with it till he kept upping the ante and going for really quick quarter mile times. Drive line shock kills everything, just like that hated KW I drove today.

      Don’t know how the internals were made on those sixes but they must have been fairly stout to handle all that hp and torque. 14 lbs of boost seems very safe compared to everything I operate every day. Diesels with over a million miles expected lifetime have twice that or more. Wish they put a turbo boost gauge on dozers, backhoes, graders, etc. It would be interesting to see what it is.

    • I had a Typhoon. The engines were really too trick for the street and prone to pre-detonation. That’s what destroyed mine. It had insane acceleration from a standing stop. I still remember the look of terror on one woman’s face when she thought she had plenty of time to make a left turn and I flew past her form the other side of the intersection.

    • I don’t agree,I got an 87 Regal T-type in 2001 with 80k.I went to the track every week running 12.8-13.0 with just a few bolt on’s and drag radials.I never had a problem and it was even pretty good on gas…….

  12. Not sure where you get 12 sec 1/4 mile times for a stock ’89 turbo T/A. I knew a guy that had one and I never saw it run faster than 13.90s. Still faster than a stock ’89 vette.
    Still occasionally see some survivor Sy/Tys around but honestly can’t say I have ever seen one at the dragstrip that was stock. Always amused me to see an awd lifting the front tires though.
    IIRC the Olds Bravada and some of the Astro minivans shared the Sy/Tys awd setup, paving the way to make a clone of sorts (if one were so inclined).
    Always had a soft spot for the simplicity of the S10/S15 (I’ve owned two V8 swapped S10s), nice to have a toy that can still haul furniture or pull a small trailer if need be. They also tend to not get noticed by the police (provided you keep the exhaust note subdued).

    • DBB, never saw a TA with enough tire or Power to run that fast, not of that ilk. 12 second quarters are fairly shittin and gittin. I liked most things about an s-10 except for the drivetrain. That 2.8L was a real dog and the 4 banger was a dead one. Don’t know how they sold them for so long with all their issues.

      I saw a new crewcab Colorado last week with a passenger side rear bumper crunch, a good indication of who buys them.

      • I had a hard time telling the difference in power between the 2.5 I4 and 2.8 v6 motors in the S10s. Both were rolling asthma attacks. The 2.2 was a step up from either of those, as was the 4.3. They should have used 3800 series 2 rather than the 4.3 (The 3.8 is vastly superior to the 4.3 for power and economy IMO) but what the hell do I know?

          • I agree Eric. There are 3 Holdens in my driveway registered to 3 different owners living at same address. All have the 3.8 motor which is the best motor I have ever had. Easy to repair. My oldest son has a Ford, a 4.2 L straight 6, lots of trouble with it. And so impossible to repair compared to the 3.8.

          • The 3.8 is great. The 4.3 litre is also great. The 4.3 was a better truck engine because of torque. They were problem free–outside of starters–for well over 250 thousand miles. The closest I’ve seen to a Toyota 2.2 for durability.

            • ancap, that’s a good comparison and I’d have to agree with everything you said. Toyota had a six(I guess they still do)that’s a really long lived engine in their small trucks. A friend just ran his into the ground pulling a 16′ cattle trailer. Don’t know how many miles it had when he traded but it had over 200K when he bought it. It had those usual iron block/ aluminum head Texas heat failures like many engines have. My friends and I have toasted many Nissan and Toy pickups trying to work them.

              I recall in ’88 I think when the 4.3 came out in full size pickups. Many people got very good service from them. The car and truck mags raved about them having nearly the exact same HP as the 305 but torque levels “felt” much better and that’s what everyone who owned one said. They worked the pee out of those trucks and got great gas mileage. That engine is still available I think.

              I’m curious to see what the little Duramax does in the mid-size pickups. I haven’t seen one yet.

            • I had a customer that had the last of the 1st gen 5.7 Vortec in an ’02 3500 van chassis, that the 4.3 was based off of, they sold it, running, with 596,xxx on the clock, the deepest we had been into the engine was to fix the leaking intake at somewhere between 250-300k. It had 2 tranny rebuilds, 2 or 3 fuel pumps, 2 alternators, 2 or 3 starters. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when one of the exhaust manifolds up and cracked between cylinders 6 & 8, then the owner started to think, just maybe, it wouldn’t last forever.

              • We currently have an 01 3500 savanna with the 5.7 in it. 230k miles and climbing. Outside of the routine maintenace/wear items it has only needed a MAF sensor and a radiator. I would be tickled if it made it to 500k with no major issues.

                • DBB, in my experience the old TBI 350’s were the longest lived engines I ever saw including diesels. It’s hard to find one from ’89-95 that hasn’t been run into the ground with the bodies and interiors being worn completely out. If people had kept replacing the door pins and bushings and gaskets no telling how long one would do. Seems like nobody is willing to replace seats and such but places that did a lot of conversion pickups had stock seats running out their ears and replacement aftermarket seats were not expensive. One of the downsides of those pickups and this will cover every vehicle made from that time forward are the dash/gauge components and even those can be bought new. For most people, they simply tire of the same vehicle or there would still be a great many of those running. Just saw a ’95 Chevy ext. cab with a 350 and a 3″ lift 4X4 with a replaced engine and the people are asking 6K for it…..still in very good shape. I’m tempted.

                  • I’m having a hard time finding a doghouse that isn’t broken, been checking the junkyards periodically but no dice (yet). The boss keeps spilling his coffee on the dash due to a lack of cupholders…

                    • cupholders most important,remember the [email protected]$$ BMW commercial,were they bragged about the utimate driving machine not having cupholders?People didnt recieve that well,we use cars as an extension of our domociles and egos,if driving becomes too much of a chore,I’ll let someone else do it.
                      If I were to restore an old 48-55 Chevy or Jimmy,I would hope to have the temerity and good judgement to install cupholders
                      As an aside,were could I obtain a decent bench seat or a decent set of buckets for my 06 Dakota?

                    • DBB, get a SS cupholder for a boat. They swing every direction so you don’t have anything spill. Just a couple screws holds them on. I was just thinking of the ones I have in storage yesterday when driving that Peterbilt with no cupholders. I need to go look for them in my “boat storage, a 40 gallon trash can with a tight fitting top”.

                    • kevin, go to the custom (some are big chains) shops. They generally have a plethora of new factory seats they removed to put in custom ones. Not uncommon to find them with plastic still sealing them.

            • Agreed!

              The raised pinkie auto press often derides OHV/pushrod engines, but GM has done a damned good job with them. I have nothing against OHC layouts, mind. But for compactness, simplicity and general “it’ll run almost forever” goodness, give me old school OHV!

          • eric, for reasons I never quite understood, my parents bought a Le Sabre(smaller car) in ’81 I think. It was a 3.8 and they drove that car like crazy till ’92 when they bought a PA, something more in line with what I would have expected from them when they bought the smaller Buick. Both cars were very reliable, got good mileage, drove well and were comfy, the very thing most people in their fifties desire. I’d take that PA right now, torque steer and all.

        • DBB, I’d agree that I4 was a rolling asthma attack with the 2.8 being little better. My Nissan 2.4L 4 was about the same power as the 2.8 but a hell of a lot better engine.

          My dad once backed his S10 ever so slightly,, just the rear tires into the muddy garden just off his lawn. My mother calls so i drive there and hook a chain to my 3/4 T 4 WD 454. I ease out to the end of the chain just idling and looked back to see it following, tires out of the garden. My dad pulls up about that time and says that 4 WD sure makes a lot of difference and I agree. Then I told him I never used 4WD or even touched the gas pedal. I could tell he was sorta miffed. After he left, I told my mother “I drove all those small pickups on the market and specifically told him not to buy an S-10”.

          They really weren’t bad pickups in most ways, good transmissions for the most part, good cooling, good handling and a/c’s but the engines sucked. I once told him if he had to take a leak on a dirt road to do so behind that pickup. Piss in front of it and it would be stuck. That wasn’t the only time I had to pull that pickup out and once was in a cotton patch garden that was dry. It had 0 clearance and for some reason, just wouldn’t get traction. Of course those little car tires didn’t help. I knew some people who had 4 WD’s and mud grips and those pickups did pretty well, just didn’t last.

    • The TTA ran mid 13’s bone stock,afew mods (chip/exhaust/air filter) and it was easily in the 12’s.That motor made more power in the TTA than the GNX ,and quite a bit more than a regular GN/T-Type

      • Typical summer time density altitude at my track is 3000′, most of the passes I witnessed from that TTA were low 14s. I could see a mid 13 pass in some serious mineshaft air provided it got a good launch, but that wasn’t the norm.
        Once you start modding, all that goes out the window. Saw a (not sure the year) T-Type on all seasons with an open diff run 13.70s all day with the only mod supposedly being a chip. There was a bone stock 87 GN there the same day running 14.60s.


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