As the 1968-1969 Mercury Cyclone GT came along, the Mercury boys, once again following the lead of Ford, turned their sinking Cyclone into a Torino clone. Sure enough, sales just about doubled. Unfortunately, the 1967 total had sunk so low that even twice that figure wasn't likely to induce euphoria.
Most of the attention went to the rakish, long-profiled fastback 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT with its vast rear quarter reaching back in a straight line from the roof. Bodyside striping stretched from headlight to tail, kicking up at the quarter window to accent the illusion of endless length on the GT edition. Another stripe flowed between GT wheel openings, helping to spotlight its graceful contours.
Though less dramatic, the formal-roof notchback hardtop -- also offered in base and Cyclone trim -- displayed a pleasing shape. Evidently, however, it was not pleasing enough, as it would fade away after 1968.
Both versions gave the impression of added size, but wheelbases were unchanged at 116 inches. The notchback's increase wasn't entirely illusory; it measured three inches longer than the fastback. Either 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT model started at $2,936, nearly a hundred bucks less than a 1967 GT hardtop.
Beneath the hood of both base and GT Cyclones sat a 302-cid V-8, delivering 210 horsepower and driving a three-speed manual gearbox. Checking the option list brought a more potent 302 (230 bhp), or a Marauder 390 carrying four-barrel carburetion and 10.5:1 compression -- along with a muscular 325 bhp. Settling for a 390 with two-barrel and 9.5:1 compression meant only 265 horses. Any of those mills could be ordered with Select-Shift Merc-O-Matic or a four-speed manual box.
Topping the list was a 427-cid V-8, detuned to a still-sizable 390 horsepower. Also available in the Cougar GT-E, the 427 came only with Merc-O-Matic and included heavy-duty cooling. By the time the model year got rolling, Mercury announced deletion of the 427 as a Cyclone option. No problem. Availability of the Cobra Jet 428 with its 335-bhp purring away was almost as good.
1968 Mercury Cyclone GT bucket seats were upholstered in Comfort-Weave vinyl, able to "breathe." Higher-rate springs and shocks, and large-diameter stabilizer, were part of the performance/handling GT package. Turbine-style wheel covers further augmented the image of ready-to-roll muscle. So did the down-to-basics black-out grille perched behind a trio of simple horizontal bars.
A few dollars more bought a tachometer to check out the action. More yet: an AM radio with Stereo-Sonic tape, or a Whisper-Aire conditioner. Styled steel wheels could be ordered for $96, but wire wheel covers quickly left the option list.
Learn about how Mercury dropped the GT in 1969 and see how the new CJ performed on the next page.
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1969 Mercury Cyclone GT
Among other changes to the 1969 Mercury Cyclone GT, the GT was demoted from an official Cyclone model to a mere appearance option group, while the dramatic fastback came in base and CJ trim.
Closely related to Ford's performance-packed Cobra, the CJ measured two inches longer. CJs wore a black-out version of the revised Cyclone grille, with protruding center segment and a slim silvertone center bar.
But the real goodies lay behind that grille: a standard 428-cid V-8, its 335 horses eager to blast a CJ off the mark with the greatest of ease. Ordering Ram-Air induction for $138.60 added a hood scoop to gulp in the fresh, cold air demanded by the four-barrel carburetor, plus a set of hood lock pins. A four-speed was standard; Select-Shift optional. Both a tachometer and bucket seats cost extra.
Did performance match the CJ's assertive stance? Definitely! Car and Driver needed only 5.5 seconds to hit 60 mph, and just 13.9 seconds to slam through the quarter-mile. Even in 1969, that was traveling.
This is not to say, however, that its predecessor was any slouch. A year earlier, Motor Trend took just 6.1 seconds to dash to 60 with its automatic-equipped Cyclone, also running the quarter in 13.9 seconds.
Cyclones performed well not only at the drag strips, but around NASCAR ovals as well: notably the 1968 Daytona 500, won by Cale Yarborough at an average 143.25 mph. No matter how hard Mercury tried, though, customers weren't exactly beating down the doors for a chance at a Cyclone. Production would rise in 1970, but sink to an even drearier mark in 1971, the final season for these quick but overlooked remnants of American muscle.
Rarest of all is the Cyclone Spoiler II, which must be mentioned before leaving the Cyclone series in the dust. Only 519 were built, for NASCAR homologation, wearing flat front ends like the Talladegas that did similar duty for Ford.
Read detailed specifications for the 1968 and 1969 Mercury Cyclone GT on the next page.
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1968-1969 Mercury Cyclone GT Specifications
The restyled 1968-1969 Mercury Cyclone GTs carried over with few changes, though the GT became an option package in 1969, replaced by the CJ as Cyclone's performance model.
Engines: all ohv V-8; 1968 GT: 302 cid (4.00 x 3.00), 210/230 bhp; 390 cid (4.05 x 3.78), 265/325 bhp; 427 cid (4.23 x 3.78), 390 bhp; 428 cid (4.13 x 3.98), 335 bhp 1969 Cyclone: 302 cid, 220 bhp; 351 cid (4.00 x 3.50), 250/290 bhp; 390 cid, 320 bhp; 428 cid, 335 bhp 1969 CJ: 428 cid, 335 bhp
Transmissions: 3-speed manual; 4-speed manual and 3-speed Select-Shift Merc-O-Matic optional
Suspension front: upper A-arms, strut-stabilized lower arms, coil springs, anti-sway bar
Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front/rear drums (front discs optional)
Wheelbase (in.): 116.0
Weight (lbs.): 3,273-3,634
Top speed (mph): GT (V8-302): 112; CJ 428: 116
0-60 mph (sec): CJ 428: 5.5-6.1