Posts Tagged ‘cobra jet’

NATURE’S FURY: David McGinniss’ 428ci 1969 Mercury Cyclone

22 May

David McGinniss' 1969 Mercury Cyclone


Meet one of Ford’s rarer motorsport-influenced models, the NASCAR-homologation Mercury Cyclone
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David McGinniss' 1969 Mercury CycloneBy the mid-1960s the popularity of stock car racing was booming, leading to what many would call the sport’s golden age late in the decade with cars like the Ford Galaxies, Richard Petty’s Plymouth, Ford Torinos and Mercury Cyclones, much like the example featured here that belongs to David McGinniss. Indeed, NASCAR was largely dominated by Ford in the mid to late 1960s – a time when the race cars still had to be close derivatives of road-going models (homologated) like our dearly missed Touring Car series here in Australia up until the early 1990s.

Back then, racing was fierce, exciting and supremely dangerous. Vehicles one or lost not just on driver ability, but also on the inherent qualities of the vehicles themselves. OE manufacturers were still living by the ethos of ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ and as a result, designed and built their cars to go fast.

Introduced in 1968, this iteration of the Mercury Cyclone came in various trim styles, including no fewer than 10 different engine combinations in the two years of production, when steel and oil were both still cheap. However, David’s example is a rare beast. This is a legit Cyclone CJ: one of only 3261 built, which is a piddling little number considering the volumes in which Ford used to build cars.David McGinniss' 1969 Mercury Cyclone

‘CJ’ stands for Cobra Jet, referring to the great lump of iron wedged between the sturdy chassis rails of the Cyclone. Measuring 428 cubic inches, it’s no small engine and came with an advertised output of 335bhp back in the year of its release. Besides the 429ci Boss that the NASCAR versions of the Cyclone were running in competition, there was nothing bigger or more powerful in the Ford line up than this bruiser.

Earlier in the model’s history, a few different variations on the body style existed, like convertibles and non-fastback coupes that were all known as Cyclones. Interestingly, by 1969 this was no longer the case, with non-fastback shapes known as Montegos and Comets, with the fastbacks – the same as David’s here – called Cyclones.

David originally purchased the Cyclone way back in November 1989 in original condition. Indeed, as it sits today most of the vehicle is true to factory specification including the interior, wheels, brakes, diff’ and C6 auto’. It’s still a matching-numbers 428ci, however David did rebuild the engine around 15 years ago, keeping pretty close to the original parts list save for a Mondello steel crank, better bearings and rings as well as the 735cfm Holley on top.

“It’s been an amazing car,” David says. “15 years on and it still drives fantastically.”

David McGinniss' 1969 Mercury CycloneNot afraid to make proper use of such a rare Ford, David piloted the Cyclone through the twists and turns of the Targa Tasmania on a number of occasions in the mid to late 1990s. The car performed well in its class, earning a second place in its class in 1996 and 1998. Considering the car’s weight, the weight over the nose and the archaic brakes and the fact he could steer it through the course is even more impressive. Take that Eric Bana!

While David says that owning the car has been a wonderful experience, he does admit it hasn’t always been a total walk in the park. “Finding spare parts for it has probably been one of the hardest parts of the rebuild and keeping it going,” David says. “That, and trying to convince people it isn’t a Torino!”

Sadly the glory days of truly exciting homologation motorsport have passed (not discounting the excellent racing the smaller and privateer classes do), so it’s nice to know there are still beautiful mechanical reminders of those times around to remind us. With dedicated and capable owners like David McGinniss there to keep these cubically endowed beasts on the road, we’ll hopefully have them around to enjoy for many more years to come.

Who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see an end to the current NASCAR and V8 Supercar boredom and return to some touring car excitement again on day. Imagine what the manufacturers could come up with then!

Owner: David McGinniss
Vehicle: 1969 Mercury Cyclone
Paint: Dulux Barlot red
Styling: Factory
Engine: 428ci Cobra Jet
Engine Mods: Mondello steel crank, stock rods and pistons (10.5:1-comp’), Pro Seal file-back rings, Clevite bearings, 735cfm Holley carb’, alloy catch can
Power: 410fwhp (305kW), 440lb.ft, 13.49sec ET
Exhaust: Custom 4-into-1 headers (2in primaries), twin 2.5in mild steel exhaust, twin mufflers
Gearbox: C6 auto
Diff: 3.55:1 final drive, LSD
Suspension: Bilstein front and rear shocks, 19mm front sway bar, variable-ratio steering rack
Brakes: Factory
Wheels/Tyres: Factory
Interior: Factory
Tunes: Factory
Build Time: 5 years
Bucks: $38,000
Who’s Responsible: Coasteer Automotive, Brenton Chere for the paint