Fast SUVs are commonplace in 2021, but it wasn’t always that way. For decades, we’ve cherished our sports coupes, lead-sled fast sedans, and glorious hot hatches. Well, the proliferation of Jeep Trackhawks and Lamborghini Uruses tells us that people want to sit up high and haul ass at the same time now. I’ll never stop mourning the death of the sporty car, but fast SUVs are cool too. Especially the early ones that came out before sporty sport utilities were a thing.

Before the Jeep Cherokee SRT-8s or Porsche Cayenne Turbos, GM had a car-slaying fast truck and SUV that can always use more love: The GMC Syclone pickup and Typhoon SUV.

Like my previous post about the overlooked (and super cool) Saab 9-7x Aero, the Syclone and Typhoon are standard GM trucks but with a little more, um, pizzazz. GM took its S-10 chassis and put a hotted-up turbocharged version of the 4.3-liter V6 engine. That was fed through a permanent, rear-biased AWD system via a heavy-duty four-speed automatic. The pickup was named “Syclone” (and only produced for the 1991 model year) but the two-door Jimmys (with similar sports adornment) was called Typhoon. Donut Media’s got a great little video about these two supertrucks here.

The Syclone was so fast and charming, that it even charmed a famously anti-American car motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson.

Doug DeMuro got his hands on a Typhoon back in 2016 which actually looked almost exactly like the one we spotted at Radwood NorCal (the vehicle that inspired me to write this post). Back then he was convinced it was a future classic.

And speaking of, I was able to catch up with Nick, the owner of the white GMC SUV, that posted up next to the Car Bibles camp at the show. He shared some more details with me about the car over Twitter messages.

The GMC Typhoon Was a Novelty in the ’90s but Really It Was Just Ahead of Its Time
Image: Kevin Williams

“I got this Typhoon more out of happenstance than anything else. I knew these were interesting cars, but they have never been a dream car or a target for me. A family friend was selling a cabin in Nevada where the Typhoon was being stored and only driven when he would come ski in Tahoe. The guy who I got it from was an older guy that lives on the east coast and no longer needed it or had anywhere to store it with the cabin being sold. I knew it was sitting there, so when I heard they were selling the cabin and the car needed to go, I was quick to offer to take it. The seller was the original owner, so it still has its window sticker, manuals and booklets, and a ton of paperwork on maintenance from over the years. Because it had been sitting for so long, it only has 74,000 original miles.” he explained via a Twitter DM.

He told me the truck has been mostly good, but at the end of the day, it’s still a 1990s era General Motors product, so quality and age niggles persist. He says the engine “doesn’t make great noises” when pushed hard, so he takes it easy most of the time. The air conditioning system has a leak, and the brake and ABS warning lights are constantly on.

“All that said, Radwood was the longest trip I’ve taken it on since driving it home to Sacramento from Nevada, and it didn’t throw any surprises my way. It handles better than most cars I’ve driven, it’s faster than the only other turbocharged car I have owned (2004 WRX), and I absolutely love that it looks like (and basically is) a kitted out GMC Jimmy.” he continued.

Nick plans on fixing up his Typhoon, sorting out the mechanical problems and body issues. But even in its current state, he’s got a pretty fast, cool, rad ride. 

Maybe GM should put the new 2.7-liter turbo in the Trailblazer, lower it, and go GTI hunting.