photos by: the author
Crafting an LSX-swapped GMC Syclone into the Most Flattering Form of Blasphemy
Hated. Merriam-Webster defines “hate” as an intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury; an extreme dislike or antipathy. These emotions might be felt when something doesn’t go with the normal order of things. Such as when someone like Ray Lichtenberg of Super Street Performance, takes something of value, like a rare GMC, and proceeds to redo the entire driveline and suspension, while subtly changing the styling of the vehicle.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask? If you remember reading in a 1991 issue of Car and Driver, how a Syclone was quicker than a Ferrari 348ts in a quarter-mile drag race, and loved the thought of showing GMC taillights to a Ferrari, you might see nothing wrong with this. Especially considering Ferraris are much quicker now, than they were then. Inversely, if you’re someone who doesn’t like the thought of taking a vehicle of limited production and heavily modifying it, you might think everything is wrong with it. As with anything which steps beyond the ordinary, there will always be those that disapprove. This lead Ray to naming his creation: HATED.
Starting with Syclone #1760 (of 2994) as the basis, Ray went to work pulling the original turbo V6 and replacing it with a heavily-modified, Magnuson-blown LSX454. Stuffed full of the forged LSX454 goodies from Chevrolet Performance as the foundation, the top end includes a custom-ground, blower camshaft and CNC-ported Brodix BR7 cylinder heads.
This combination, on 17-lbs. of boost and burning Ignite E-98, is good for 917 all-wheel horsepower, and 1182 all-wheel torque! Just in case that’s not enough power, two stages of nitrous are lurking ready to ambush any unsuspecting opponents. Nitrous Express provided both stages, with the first stage being a 150hp shot at the throttle body to help cool incoming air. The second stage is a direct port system which provides an additional 400hp kick.
Controlling this combination is a Holley Dominator ECU, and a Davis traction control unit. This Syclone’s new-found muscle, is definitely enough to get the jump on an unsuspecting Ferrari owner.
The exhaust system is kept simple yet purposeful. Gasses from the spent E-98 are routed through custom 2-inch stainless steel headers, connecting to a 3.5-inch diameter X-pipe, which flows into dual 3.5-inch Borla XR1 mufflers. Those dump near the rear axle.
Power produced by the engine is transferred through a Sonnax purpose built protoype 4L75-E transmission, built in house by Super Street Performance, to a Saab 9-7x Aero transfer case. From there power is split to the front and rear of the truck. Power going to the front is sent to the iron front differential, which came standard on ZR2-optioned S10s, Sonomas, and Blazers, then to the front wheels through custom half shafts.
The power being sent to the rear is transferred from the transfer case through a 4-inch steel driveshaft, to a 12-bolt Moser axle with 3:42 gears and a Detroit Truetrac differential. Michelin Pilot Super Sports for the street and Nitto NT05R’s for the track, are used for the final leg of the power journey. The front tires measure 285/18 while the rears measure 345/19, which are mounted on black Corvette Z06 Spyder wheels.
With such a stout driveline in place, a capable suspension and braking system was needed. Ray turned to Sportmachines which supplied tubular control arms paired with AFCO adjustable coil-over shocks. This helped plant the front tires to the pavement, while retaining the factory Syclone front sway bar. The rear suspension is sorted by Cal Trak mono-leaf springs and traction bars, which is suspended by AFCO shocks, with sway kept in check by a custom 1-7/8” sway bar. Bringing things to a halt are 15-inch drilled and slotted Baer 6R brakes at all four corners.
Syclone exteriors were already menacing from the factory, with their fender flares and ground effects, but what really set the trucks off was their jet black paint. Keeping with the idea of improving on the factory offering, Ray sprayed the truck in 3 stages of PPG Black Diamond Tricoat. Each stage consisted of 3-4 coats, and everything was sprayed including the plastic cladding. The plastic pieces were treated to a matte clear finish.
This brings back the factory matte plastic look only with a little shine to it. A functional 2-inch cowl hood, and vents on the front quarter panels, were added to help vent unwanted heat from the engine bay. If these vents look familiar, it’s because they’re from one of the 547 Buick GNXs. These combined with the cowl hood, give the Syclone a custom touch as well as a more aggressive profile.
Moving to the inside reveals a Kenwood head unit controlling two Kicker CompR 10-inch subwoofers, powered by a 1200-watt amplifier. Keeping watch over the truck’s vitals is a Holley EFI Digital Dash, while the rest of the cockpit remains largely standard-issue Syclone. These components provide an upgrade over what comes originally, and complements the interior well.
Initially seeing HATED in person, the depth and clearness of the paint stand out prominently. Everyone knows black paint suffers no fools, Ray’s Syclone keeps a wet shine to it at all times. The entire exterior works together to give it an even more menacing look than the factory profile. The cowl hood and fender vents give it a touch of custom, while the Z06 Spyder wheels work with the suspension to give it the perfect stance.
Once the engine is started it is immediately evident there is big power under the hood. You feel it in your chest every time a cylinder fires! Then there is the blower wine, at idle it stands out more than some supercharged vehicles do at full throttle. Going for a ride reveals a more of what was felt before, the booming engine. Not much throttle is needed to break all four tires loose on the street. Even then, you are planted back in the seat as the entire truck feels like it rises up on its toes and shoots forward. At the track, it easily runs single digit passes. Too much throttle will have all four tires smoking off the line, not the quickest pass, however still cool to see. Hearing the tires squeal as they fight for traction down the strip is awesome too.
A list of upgrades doesn’t matter much if they don’t work well together. As of this writing Ray has ran a best quarter mile time of 9.86 at 138mph while posting a 1.62 60-foot time. Not to be considered one dimensional, Ray competed in the 2015 OPTIMA Ultimate Streetcar Invitational as well. It’s safe to say the truck’s upgrades complement each other nicely.
Which brings us to the overall goal of the build. Ray wanted to build a “Syclone 2.0,” a truck that could show taillights to contemporary Ferraris just as the original did in ’91. Ray accomplished this goal, while encountering circumstances that allowed for a clever nickname for his truck. A build of this caliber combined with the base vehicle being limited production has a polarizing effect on all that encounter it. One side is immediately a fan, the other side ensures HATED lives up to its name.
Ray would like to thank his sponsors who helped bring his vision to fruition: Magnuson, Baer, Nitrous Express, Sportmachines, Holley EFI, Moser Engineering, Sonnax, Kicker, Royal Purple, Brodix, AFCO, Nitto, OPTIMA Batteries, and GrimmSpeed.
- CAR: 1991 GMC Syclone
- OWNER: Ray Lichtenberg
- ENGINE BLOCK: Chevrolet Performance; LSX 454
- CRANKSHAFT: Chevrolet Performance; LSX 454
- PISTONS: Chevrolet Performance; LSX 454
- CONNECTING RODS: Chevrolet Performance; LSX 454
- CAMSHAFT: Unamed custom grind; hydraulic, 220/244 duration, .649/680 lift, 110 LSA
- CYLINDER HEADS: Brodix; BR7
- COMPRESSION RATIO: 11.0:1
- INDUCTION: TPIS 102mm throttle body, K&N air filter, ZR1 MAF
- POWER ADDER: Magnuson TVS 2300
- BOOST: 17-psi.
- NITROUS: Nitrous Express; 2-stage wet kit
- IGNITION: Custom MSD wires, NGK BR8 plugs
- EXHAUST: Custom 2-inch long-tube headers, 3-1/2 diameter exhaust tubing, Borla XR-1 3-1/2 inch mufflers
- FUEL DELIVERY: Walbro 340 in-tank pumps (x2), 1000cc injectors, Trick Flow regulator, 58-psi.
- OILING: Custom pan, stock stock LS pump
- TUNING: Holley Dominator; tuned by owner
- TRANSMISSION: Sonnax; 4L65E (purpose-built, prototype)
- CONVERTER: Sonnax; 2600-stall (prototype)
- SHIFTER: Stock
- DRIVESHAFT: 4-inch steel
- REAREND: Moser Engineering; 12-bolt, 3.42 gears, Detroit TrueTrac differential
- SUSPENSION: Sportmachines tubular control arms, AFCO adjustable coil-over shocks (front, conventional shocks ion the rear), factory sway bar (front), custom 1-7/8” sway bar (rear), Cal Trak mono-leaf springs and traction bars (rear)
- BRAKES: Baer 6R
- WHEELS: C6 Z06 “Spyder”
- TIRES: Michelin Pilot Sports(street) Nitto NT05 (track)
- HP/TQ.: 917/1182
- 1/4-Mile E.T.: 9.86 at 138mph
At just 5-years old, it was an ’85 IROC-Z Camaro that ignited the fuel that sparked the life-long passion of GM hardware for Michael. Being a huge fan of late-model muscle in general, the LS-powered 4th-generation Firebirds truly capture Michael’s heart.