1989 GMC Syclone Concept Trucks 1989 GMC Syclone Concept Trucks
October 27, 1987. In the studios of GMC Truck under the direction of Kim Neilsen, Assistant Chief Designer William Davis draws out a sketch... 1989 GMC Syclone Concept Trucks

October 27, 1987. In the studios of GMC Truck under the direction of Kim Neilsen, Assistant Chief Designer William Davis draws out a sketch of a conceptual white S-15 as an idea to present for a show truck. It would be two years before approval, and in 1989, a sketch started to turn into reality. GMC quietly stuffed a turbocharged 3.8L V6 engine from the already legendary 1987 Buick Grand National into the engine bay of an all-wheel drive equipped GMC S-15.Β  GMC took the completed concept truck to the January ’89 Chicago Auto Show, where it generated favorable interest and left people wondering if a production version was coming.

1987 Syclone Concept Sketch

William Davis Concept Drawing – Oct 27, 1987

GMC set out to impress. Modifications included a flush tonneau cover and built in wing, a red and back interior trim, pearlescent white paint with hand painted striping, and Monza tipped dual exhaust outlets. The Syclone concept was GMC’s interpretation of a future high performance sport pickup up truck thus helping begin the sport truck revolution.

Even as a concept, the 1989 Syclone boasted features that you now see in the production Syclone. Items such as a center console, integral front bumper with built in fog lamps, and sport bucket seats with lumbar support where kept and made it into the final design of the 1991 GMC Syclone.

1989 Syclone Concept Truck

William David would go on to be promoted to Design Studio head for exterior compact trucks through 1989 and early into 1990. He is also credited to design the Firebird hood logo for Trans Ams, all show trucks and regular production square body S/Ts as well as new GMT-325 and 330s (all new rounded designs). He was also exterior chief for production version of Chevy SSR.

Design News, July 3, 1989

The Syclone, based on the S-15 compact pickup, offers higher performance via a turbocharged, intercooled 3.8l V6–an enhanced version of the Buick Grand National engine. With sequential port fuel injection, the engine generates 270 net hp and 370 ft-lbs of torque. GM spokesmen say the low-riding truck can accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 6 sec; its quarter-mile performance comes under 14 sec at about 103 mph.

AutoWeek, January 23, 1989

GMC’s Syclone should be the star of a movie called The Engine That Wouldn’t Die. The S-15-based pickup is powered by a 270 hp, 3.8-liter V6 version of Buick’s Grand National engine. Sitting on P245/50VR-16 Eagle GT tires, the truck will romp from 0-60 mph in under six seconds, and run the quarter-mile in 14 seconds at 103 mph. GMC has no firm production plans for the Syclone.

Chicago Auto Show, 1989 Syclone Concept

With an announcement of nearing production, another version of the 89 Syclone concept was released and displayed at the SEMA and LA Auto Show. Only this time, the truck was showcased in a monochromatic black paint job, which would later become to be the production Syclone’s signature look and only available color.

1989 Syclone Concept Black Truck – Press Release Photo

This concept version started to showcase even more information that the Syclone would be nearing production. The description for promotion listed more features and performance items that the truck would be built with. At this point, it was noted the truck was to be powered by a 4.3L turbo V6, have an AWD drivetrain, and it’s focus was to be built at a performance level that surpassed even top level platforms.

To further entice consumers, marketing promotion was written as the following:

The Syclone has built upon the exciting styling and performance of the original show truck and adapted it into a more production-oriented package. Vehicle specifications include:

    • Aggressive aero body applique package with front air dam and road lamps
    • Tw0-tone black exterior (flat black lower/high gloss black upper)
    • 16″ Sport aluminum wheels
    • 16″ High performance rated tires
    • Four-wheel anti-lock brakes
    • Analog instrument cluster with tachometer
    • Unique center console with floor shifter and storage compartment and boost gage
    • High performance bucket seats with headrest
    • 700 R4 4-speed automatic transmission with special calibration
    • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
    • Rear bed tonneau cover
    • Front and rear suspension enhancements for improved vehicle handling

All of these high sport features are coupled with a host of standard options that make the Syclone a truly well contented truck, including:

    • Power windows and door locks
    • Air conditioning
    • AM/FM cassette radio
    • Tilt steering wheel
    • Pulse wipers
    • Tinted Glass
    • Cruise control
    • Heavy duty battery

The powertrain and driveline make the Syclone a true world class performance vehicle.

The 4.3 Liter V6 turbo engine will put out 285 horsepower and 350 lb/ft of torque and will get this power to the ground with a full time all-wheel-drive system. 0-60 M.P.H times will be in the high 4-second range.

“We at GMC Truck see the Syclone as the state-of-the-art in high technology and high performance with an appeal aimed straight at the upscale performance segments of the market,” said Rick Lee, Director of Marketing for GMC Truck.

1989 Syclone Concept Black Truck

1989 GMC Syclone Press Release

February 1989


PONTIAC — With the Syclone concept vehicle, GMC Truck provides a look at the futuristic GMC performance trucks.

The Syclone, based on the S-15 compact pickup, is powered by a 3.8 Liter V6 turbocharged and intercooled engine, and enhanced version of the legendary Buick Grand National engine. The sequential port fuel injection engine is designed to generate 270 net horsepower and 370 foot-pounds of torque.

The pickup is equipped with specially-tuned Hydramatic 4-speed automatic with overdrive transmission, a 3:42:1 rear axle ratio with limited slip differential, and Goodyear Eagle GT P245/50VR 16-inch tires. The Syclone is designed to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than six seconds with an estimated quarter mile performance of less than 14 seconds at about 103 mph under controlled conditions.

Syclone’s low-riding profile is enhanced with a monochromatic Pearlescent White paint treatment and hand-painted graphics, lower body ground effects panels, integral front bumper and air dam with built in road lamps, and rear spoiler.It also features a tonneau cover that fits flush with the box rails, composite headlamps, and deep-tinted glass.

Inside, Syclone’s cab is built for driver and passenger comfort with articulated sport bucket seats with lumbar support and soft leather vinyl trim.

A full center console with floor mounted automatic shift controls and storage compartment and a leather-wrapped steering wheel complete the sporty, functional interior.

An overhead console with driver information system, including compass and outside temperature gage, complements a full analog instrument gauge package that includes tachometer and turbo boost gage.

Although there are no firm production plans for the Syclone, trucks with Syclone-type performance features are in the research and development states for GMC Truck designs of the future.

* Credentials
– Kim Neilsen, Former Program Manager GM (Creator of the Syclone) for accurate historical information.
– Pete Matesevac for providing the 1989 GMC Syclone Concept Press Release paperwork.
– Tim Houlihan, Former GMC Truck Product Planner for providing info & pictures of the 1989 Concept Truck.