I have a weird fixation with General Motors products from the 1990s — widely considered an era when GM wasn’t on top of its game. In my opinion, however, there were a few bright exceptions. My Buick Park Avenue Ultra was one of them — a rare convergence of classic styling and modern conveniences, which created the perfect bargain luxury car. There was also the weird Pontiac Grand Prix ASC McLaren that I owned briefly — but despite being turbocharged and looking the part, it wasn’t all that fast. My latest purchase, though, the GMC Typhoon, is actually really, REALLY fast, and it’s hard to believe GM put this thing into existence.
So just how fast was the Typhoon? Well, in 1992, this SUV could outrun a Ferrari 348, BMW M3, and even General Motors’ own Corvette by a lot. The 0-to-60 mph time was somewhere around 5 seconds, which is an acceptable number for sport sedans today, and would still make it one of the quicker SUVs if lined up with many of the latest offerings. But this little Typhoon was the first, the original performance SUV — and while it was expensive new, it’s fairly cheap today considering what it is. I got a great deal on mine at just $9,500, especially considering the great condition, and the rare factory color. Only 135 of these left the factory in bright teal of the 2,500 built in 1992.
So it was certainly the cheapest teal Typhoon in the USA, since it was probably the only one for sale — but there are plenty of well-worn projects out there that can be purchased for less. Still, considering its rarity, and its place in history as the first performance tuned SUV, I’m shocked that nice examples of Typhoons can be had so cheaply.
Driving one for the first time was another shocking experience, since under the hood is the standard 4.3-liter V6 — except fitted with a Mitsubishi turbocharger and Garrett intercooler, which GM reported to put out 280 horsepower. This figure was probably underrated — but with turbocharged engines, it’s the torque that makes most of the magic happen anyway, and GM sourced an all-wheel drive (AWD) transfer case and wide tires to get all that torque to the ground.
With slight power braking, which allows the turbo to spool up, the Typhoon feels like it has launch control, and sends objects resting in the cup holders flying into the rear seat as it rapidly accelerates. It’s hilarious, and fun — but like most GM products of the era, it’s extremely comfortable as well. I love the cushy front bucket seats, and load leveling rear air suspension, which means long drives aren’t tiresome.
I bought this Typhoon in San Francisco to use for my vacation to Monterey Car Week, and other than breaking the climate control unit the moment I first touched it, the car performed flawlessly the entire trip. It was also the only Typhoon that I saw the entire week, at a place where I saw a pair of Ferrari F50s parked next to each other, as well as over a dozen modern Bugattis. During car week in Monterey, a Ferrari 488 or Porsche GT3 RS seem like a more common sight than a Toyota Camry, so it was fun to cruise around in something that nobody else had.
Since I broke the air conditioning, I wasn’t going to drive it 1,500 miles home in the middle of the summer — but I’ll miss my Typhoon every day until the shippers finally bring it home. I sold my Dodge Viper to make room for it, and I imagine I’ll drive this American muscle truck way more. Since I was too scared to drive the Viper more than a few hundred miles in the last year, that won’t be hard. Find a GMC Typhoon for sale