History of the GMC Typhoon

History of the GMC Typhoon (1991-1993)


The GMC Typhoon was produced by Production Automotive Services (1989-1994) in Troy, Michigan. PAS also produced the 1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am and the 1992 GMC Sonoma GT. Production was highly limited, only lasting from 1992 to 1993 in commercial release, as in 1991, only 6 pre-production models were made. Aside from this minuscule amount, only 4697 Typhoons were built by GMC: 2497 in the year 1992, 2200 in 1993.

History of the GMC Typhoon

The GMC Typhoon was a front-engine, 2-door, mid-sized SUV that was based on the GMC Jimmy. Produced by GMC from 1991 to 1993, it was a high-performance SUV with a modified version of the Vortec engine found in a standard Jimmy. In tests done, the Typhoon was shown to be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds; a quarter-mile distance in 14.1 seconds at 95 mph.

As the 1980s ended and the 1990s started, consumer focus had shifted away from simple practicality. Manufacturers noted this trend, and had attempted to pander by releases such as the 1989 Shelby Dodge Dakota, and the 1990 Chevy 454 SS; both of which did not perform particularly well.

It would be unwise to talk about the GMC Typhoon without mentioning its counterpart, the GMC Syclone. In 1991, Lewis B. Campbell was assigned as General Manager of GMC Truck Division, replacing John Rock who became General Manager of Oldsmobile Division. Buick engineers had made an early prototype consisting of the Grand National’s 3.8-liter V6 engine in the Chevy S10 engine bay, and pitched it to both Buick, and Chevy. Though they were rejected by both, GMC eventually picked up the idea, and through this, a high-performance new compact pickup was conceived. Dubbed the Syclone, it was a limited production version of GMC’s Sonoma. They had made a variety of changes, including having boasted a 4.3 liter V6 over the 3.8 found in the existing Sonoma. In 1991, it was the fastest vehicle GMC had to offer, and could compete with coeval Ferraris and Porsches.

Unfortunately, public reception was tepid at best, likely due to the perception of the vehicle, its price tag, and its inability to perform standard pickup truck duties.

In 1992, Roy S. Roberts was named general manager. Unfazed, GMC’s engineers focused their attention on their Jimmy sports utility vehicle, which shared its frame with the Sonoma. The Syclone’s mechanicals were transplanted nearly 1-1 into the SUV, and the final product was named the Typhoon.

Weighing in at 3,822 pounds, the Typhoon was heavier than the Syclone, which weighed in at 3,599 pounds. This weight difference meant that the Syclone was a little quicker than the Typhoon, though the Typhoon could sit 4 people in comparison. The Typhoon boasted an engine utilizing the Mitsubishi TD06-17C/8 cm2 turbocharger, a Garrett Water/Air intercooler, revised intake manifolds, fuel system, exhaust manifolds, and a 2-inch twin-bore throttle body from the 5.7 L GM Small-Block engine. Similar to contemporary Mercedes-Benzes, the Typhoon featured a self-leveling rear suspension — it would inflate air bladders to offset rear-end sag whenever the SUV was loaded with substantial cargo. The Typhoon distributes power to all four wheels with a 4L60 4-speed automatic transmission and used a BorgWarner 4472 transfer case to split torque with a 35% forward, 65% rear wheel configuration. Other notable changes include the upgraded brakes and limited-slip rear differential.

The performance of the Typhoon was extraordinary. A sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes 5.3 seconds; a quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 95 mph; just a tiny bit slower than an Acura NSX. The top speed was also limited at 124 mph, due to government restrictions. The GMC Typhoon’s performance shines best when accelerating from 30 mph to 50 mph; the top-gear acceleration times of which were among the fastest ever recorded for the time — a measly 2.9 seconds.

The Typhoon stood out from the Syclone in terms of color configurations as well. While black/black remained the most common, the Typhoon paint colors included Forest Green Metallic, Radar Blue, Raspberry Metallic, Frost While, Royal Blue Metallic, Aspen Blue, Bright Teal, Apple Red, and Garnet Red.

Reception of the Typhoon

Before the Typhoon’s conception, there was a long-standing notion that sports cars were required to be cars. The Ferraris, Porsches, and other sports car manufacturers all had the same mystifying air around both their speed and their design. The GMC Typhoon combined the “sports” aspect into its design, for a revolutionary high horsepower SUV. Some notable owners of the Typhoon included Clint Eastwood, JFK Junior, and Bob Seger.

The Typhoon’s arrival was a massive shock to the automotive world — its base price even more so. Advertising was bold, mirroring the Syclone’s advertising, which compared the Syclone to a Porsche 911. Quoting verbatim from the GMC’s advertising, “If you have settled ideas of luxury, safety and performance, a Typhoon will blow them away.” Starting at $29,970, it was considered an incredibly high amount, considering that while adjusted for inflation, it is an approximate of $57,333. Reception to the Typhoon was similar to the Syclone; lasting from 1992 to 1993 before its cancellation. The termination of production is often attributed to not just its price, but also that the company in charge of modifying the S10s went out of business. Potential consumers often veered towards cheaper and sportier options such as the likes of Mustangs and Camaros over the sleeper build of the Typhoon as well. Furthermore, to any potential buyers looking for practicality, the Typhoon was unable to be utilized for off-road use. The reduced height of the vehicle did not allow it to clear obstacles found often in off-road environments. Due to this, the off-road operation could cause potential damage to the chassis and drivetrain.

The Typhoon's Legacy

What made the GMC Typhoon so remarkably interesting was that it predated the rise in popularity of the SUV. Nowadays, the idea behind a high-performance luxury SUV seems perfectly acceptable, normal even. In 1991, back when the first Typhoon was made, however, the idea was preposterous. The idea behind even a heavily modified truck was considered novel — trucks and the like were primarily only used for farm work and other practicalities.

While the Typhoon was short-lived, it brought forth an all-new view into the potential of the consumer truck industry. Production pickups steered their focus from utility and off-road capability to road-only enthusiasts. It shed a light on the fact that the fervency surrounding trucks and their enthusiasts stems from more than just about practicality; the appeal of going fast and looking cool was more than enough.

The Typhoon in current times has had somewhat of a cult following, with price forecasts of upwards trends. Ardent fans stand by their performance, and with their limited production, they are few and far between. Nowadays, fans of the vehicle affectionately refer to themselves as part of the SyTy crowd, with “Sy” being short for Syclone, and “Ty” being short of Typhoon. Browsing through the Sy/Ty forums, the passion behind the Typhoon is still apparent; its collectability is higher than ever.

GMC Typhoon Fast Facts

  • The most popular color for the Typhoon was Black/Black, with the numbers totaling 2,270 of the 4,697 Typhoons built by GMC. 1,262 of them were sold in 1992, 1,008 were sold in 1993. The percentage of total Typhoons ever sold that were in Black/Black can then be derived to be about 48.3%.
  • In second-hand markets, Syclones and Typhoons have gone for above 120k in good condition. Even Syclones and Typhoons in horrible conditions have went for at least 10-20k.
  • Some of the advertised Typhoon's unique features were a remote keyless entry, electronic level control, 16-inch aluminum wheels with speed-rated tires and recalibrated shock absorbers, and modified suspension.
  • The interiors of the Typhoon were considered an upgrade over the Syclone, featuring leather front and rear seats.
  • The affectionately named SyTys have meetings and various meetups in events such as the Carlisle, SyTy Homecoming, and SyTy Nationals.
  • The rarest color combination of a GMC Typhoon is a tie between the Radar Blue/Radar Blue and the Raspberry Metallic/Raspberry Metallic. There were only a total of two ever made respectively. This is a percentage of about 0.04% of total sales each.
  • Many give credit to the Typhoon for later "Performance SUVs" such as the Jeep Trackhawk.

More GMC History: Syclone (1991)