You don’t see them much anymore. Less than five thousand were made in the early nineties and time has taken its toll on many. Usually you take notice when one is beside you at a stoplight. You think it’s just another SUV, but then you spot the monochromatic paint and an aggressive stance you don’t see on SUVs. When the light turns green, the turbocharged V6 winds up producing copious amounts of torque, which the all-wheel drive system converts into instant acceleration, leaving you in the dust. You’ve just met the GMC Typhoon, a muscle car masquerading as an SUV.
GMC Typhoon – The First High-Performance Luxury SUV
The GMC Typhoon was a mid-size, two-door SUV that was, according to Car and Driver, “…a brutally fast, hormone-injected version of a normally pedestrian SUV.” To visually differentiate the Typhoons from standard GMC SUVs and perhaps to give other drivers warnings about what they were seeing, all Typhoons wore a GM body kit with lower body cladding incorporating fender flares, a front spoiler with fog lights, and a rear roll pan. It was one of the few instances where added-on body cladding actually improved a vehicle’s looks. A slammed suspension gave the Typhoon a “hunkered-down” stance unlike any other SUV. The visual cues were enough to give notice to other stoplight racers that if they were looking for trouble, they had found it.
GMC’s market focus has always been on upscale trucks and SUVs that get the job done while coddling drivers and passengers with all the comforts of home. The Typhoon carried on with GMC’s rich family heritage. Standard equipment included deeply sculptured leather bucket seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power door locks, power windows, air conditioning, and, of course, cup holders. Also included for 1990s audiophiles was an AM/FM cassette sound system with an optional CD changer. The instrument gauge cluster came from a Pontiac Sunbird GT and gave the driver full instrumentation. Although black was by far the most popular color, Typhoons could be had in an array of 1990s colors, such as Bright Teal, Frost White, Forest Green Metallic, and Apple Red. You could get your Typhoon either with a monochromatic color finish, or with the body cladding in a contrasting gray color.
Typhoon Powertrain and Performance
The Typhoon shared the overall dimensions of the standard GMC Jimmy, but under the Typhoon hood lurked a 4.3-liter V6 wearing a Mitsubishi TD06-17C turbocharger producing 14 psi of boost and a Garrett water/air intercooler. Add electronic multi-port fuel injection with Corvette fuel injectors and a new manifold, and the cast-iron V6 pumped out 280 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and produced 350 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm, making the Typhoon a GMC Jimmy on steroids.
Transferring all of that power and torque to four Firestone Firehawk SVX P245/50VR16 tires was a four-speed automatic transmission connected to a full-time, four-wheel drive system with a Borg Warner center differential and a viscous coupling apportioning the torque 35%/65% front/rear. The suspension was lowered and stiffened so that the Typhoon sat nearly three inches lower than the standard four-wheel drive Jimmy.
The Typhoon’s performance could not be matched by any other SUV in the early 1990s. Zero to 60 mph took 5.3 seconds; 0 to 100 mph was accomplished in 16.2 seconds; and the quarter mile was covered in 14.1 seconds with a terminal velocity of 95 mph. Top speed was electronically limited to 124 mph. That kind of get-up-and-go is pretty potent for a boxy SUV having a 100.5-inch wheelbase with a passenger volume of 91 cubic feet and weighing 3,822 pounds. And Typhoon performance wasn’t just about standing start acceleration. Car and Driver, in a March 1992 road test, said, “The Typhoon’s top-gear acceleration times are among the quickest we have ever-recorded for any vehicle–a blast from 30 mph to 50 mph, for instance, takes a mere 2.9 seconds.” The front disc/rear drum brakes could bring the rampaging Typhoon to a halt from 70 mph in 185 feet and the improved suspension generated 0.79 g on a 300-foot diameter skidpad. The Typhoon could do it all.
Typhoon Shares Rich GMC Truck Heritage
The Typhoon can trace its ancestry back to one of the earliest commercial trucks ever manufactured. In 1902, the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company sold its first truck to the American Garment Cleaning Company, which is believed to be the first gas-powered commercial vehicle in Detroit. Led by brothers Max and Morris Grabowski, Rapid continued on a steady path of truck advancement and sales, and was incorporated in 1904. In 1909, a Rapid truck made headlines by being the first commercial vehicle to climb to the top of Pikes Peak.
Rapid, along with fellow truck-maker Reliance Motor Company, became part of what was then the General Motors Company in 1909 and were merged into the General Motors Truck Company, a GM subsidiary, in 1911. The brand name “GMC Truck” was first used on models introduced at the 1912 New York Auto Show.
In the ensuing years, GMC Truck made just about every kind of commercial vehicle there was: light-duty trucks (1937-present), medium-duty trucks (1939-2009), heavy-duty trucks (1959-1988), buses (1940-1989), vans, motorhomes, firetrucks, ambulances, and military vehicles (1941-1945). The GMC Truck Company officially became known as “GMC” in 1996. Today, GMC-brand trucks, vans and SUVs are similar to their Chevrolet siblings, but the GMC line has more upscale features and styling. Rapid Motor Vehicle Company’s motto was “We deliver the goods”, a motto that still describes the vehicles built by GMC today.
The SUV Family Tree
The first modern SUV is generally considered to be the Jeep Cherokee XJ of 1984. Four-wheel drive passenger vehicles similar to today’s SUVs, then known as “Carryalls”, were offered by several manufacturers beginning with the Willys Jeep Station Wagon in 1949. International Harvester entered the market with its Travelall in 1956, followed by the Chevy Suburban and the Dodge Power Wagon Town Wagon in 1957. Regardless of what they were called, they were rugged four-wheel drive vehicles that could carry just about anything.
Today, SUVs are the world’s largest automotive segment and accounted for 47.7% of U.S. sales in 2019. A variety of sizes of SUVs are available to fulfill any prospective buyer’s needs and may be had with a seemingly endless list of comfort and convenience options. The latest iteration for hard-core SUV fans, perhaps influenced by the Typhoon, are high-performance SUVs. Equipped with today’s technology, the modern high-performance SUVs make our Typhoon show its age. In the January 24, 2020 edition, U.S. News ranked today’s five fastest high-performance SUVs, based on 0 – 60 mph times as:
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, 0 – 60 in 3.5 seconds; 707 hp; price – $86,900
- Lamborghini Urus, 0 – 60 in 3.6 seconds; 641 hp; price – $205,000
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, 0 – 60 in 3.6 seconds; 505 hp; price – $80,445
- Porsche Cayenne Turbo, 0 – 60 in 3.7 seconds; 541 hp; price – $126,500
- Bentley Bentayga Speed, 0 – 60 in 3.8 seconds; 626 hp; price – $240,400
A comparison of the costs of the latest high-performance SUVS with the original base price of a 1992 Typhoon ($29,530) adjusted for today’s inflation ($55,029) proves that old auto racing adage: “Speed costs money – how fast do you want to go?”
Collectible Typhoon Values
Values of 1992 and 1993 Typhoons haven’t skyrocketed through the roof, but they have remained fairly steady for the past couple of years. This could be an opportunity to add a unique vehicle to your collection without maxing out all of your credit cards. The GMC Typhoon was the first and, for a very long time, the only legitimate high-performance SUV. Only 4,697 were made in the Typhoon’s two-year production life, making them rare finds. It also means that it may be difficult to find one in well-cared-for condition.
Our friends at Hagerty estimate the average value of a 1993 Typhoon to be $17,900. Estimates range from $41,000 for a Typhoon in number one concours condition to $9,600 for one in number four fair condition. The values are current as of September 2020. The value of a Typhoon in great condition is still a performance bargain compared to the six-figure cost and subsequent depreciation of new high-performance SUVs.
The Typhoon is a vintage SUV that’s eminently practical, unexpectedly fast, and will grab everyone’s attention at your next cars and coffee. What more could you ask of a collectible vehicle?
Car & Driver: https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a32501063/tested-1992-gmc-typhoon/
Road & Track: https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/buying-maintenance/a24115934/1993-gmc-typhoon-for-sale/
International SyTy Registry: https://internationalsytyregistry.com/2017/11/05/istrwelcome/
Cardinale GMC: https://www.cardinalegmc.com/blog/history-of-gmc/
GMC History: https://plants.gm.com/media/me/en/gmc/news.detail.html/content/Pages/news/me/en/0000/GMC/00_00_History.html
Bruce Troxell Bio
“There’s no shortage today of enthusiast automotive writers and bloggers. Bruce Troxell, however, is unique. He writes with an understanding of what truly makes cars and car people tick. Bruce is a storyteller, not just a writer. Once you start reading his lead, you can’t stop.” Martyn Schorr – Editor, CarGuyChronicles.com
Bruce Troxell is a professional freelance writer who has been contributing articles on automotive and aviation topics to a variety of websites and print publications since 2009. Following careers as an engineer with a major automobile manufacturer and as a lawyer in private practice, Bruce discovered the joys of writing and has never looked back. He brings a unique perspective and an engaging conversational style to all his writings.
Bruce is a creative automotive storyteller always looking for the stories of the people behind the automobiles. His expertise in storytelling has been recognized by the Automotive Heritage Foundation in their annual journalism competition. In 2020, his story The Day Corvette Became a World Class Sports Car was awarded a Silver medal in the Best Heritage Motorsports Story category. In 2018, his blog Cars We Love came home with a Bronze Medal in the Best Blog or Column category.
An avid sports car fan since he saw his first professional race at Watkins Glen, New York, Bruce’s car interests have blossomed to include vintage cars, hot rods, and custom cars. He has participated in numerous vintage car rallies and is a concours veteran.
Born and raised in New Jersey, he and his wife Cindy now live in bucolic central Virginia with Max, a prescient stray cat who wandered into their lives several years ago and decided to stay.