The 1989 GMC Syclone concepts began on October 27, 1987 in the art studios of GMC Truck. Under the direction of Assistant Chief Designer Kim Neilsen, artist William Davis drew an idea of a conceptual truck from Kim’s imagination.
Based on the existing S15 platform, the concept sketch features mesh style rims, a body kit, and integrated fog lights. The finished sketch was then presented as an idea for a future production truck. Ultimately, it took two years before being approved by GMC. Finally, what started as an idea on paper started turn into reality in 1989.
For the concept build, GMC used a familiar power plant. The turbocharged 3.8L V6 found in the legendary 1987 Buick Grand National was set into the engine bay. For the drivetrain, an Astro Van AWD system would be used. GMC took the completed concept truck to unveil at the January ’89 Chicago Auto Show. Surprisingly, it generated favorable interest and left people wondering if a production version was coming.
CONCEPT TO REALITY
GMC Truck set out to impress. Keeping in-line to concept, the truck included a flush tonneau cover and built in wing for the bed. The body was sprayed in pearlescent white paint with hand painted striping. Monza tipped dual exhaust outlets were used for an aggressive look. The interior was trimmed out in red and black. The Syclone concept truck was GMC’s interpretation of a future high performance truck thus helping to kickstart the modern sport truck revolution.
Even as a concept, the truck boasts 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 made it into the final design of the 1991 GMC Syclone.
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.
BACK IN BLACK
With an announcement of nearing production, a second version of the 89 GMC Syclone concept was released and displayed at the SEMA and LA Auto Show. This time however, the truck was showcased in a monochromatic black paint job. Of course this would later become to be the production Syclone’s signature look and only available color.
The black concept truck revealed even more information that the GMC Syclone was nearing production. The promotional display description listed more features and performance items. In spite of the initial concept build having a 3.8L V6, a major change for production was made. The truck was to be powered by the 4.3L turbo V6. The truck kept the AWD drivetrain. The focus was to build the truck 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
- Two-tone black exterior (flat black lower/high gloss black upper)
- 16″ Sport aluminum wheels
- 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 GMC Syclone Press Release
GMC HIGH-PERFORMANCE SYCLONE CONCEPT TRUCK
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.