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1966 Mercury Cyclone GT

1966 Mercury Cyclone GT

Text by Joe Babiasz, photos by Brendan Moran

Ford's Mercury division has been synonymous with mid-price luxury transportation. But few know that the division that gave us the "Breezeway" retracting rear window also built one of America's first factory muscle cars. In 1958, Mercury released a dealer-installed Super Marauder tri-power option for its 430 cubic-inch big-block engine. Adding tri-power bumped up advertised horsepower to an incredible 400, and helped contribute to making Mercury a performance powerhouse. The option was short lived and by the early-1960s Mercury took a back seat to Ford, their lower priced cousin, in the manufacturing of tire-melting performance cars.

By 1966, Mercury was once again anxious to get back into the muscle car arena. Using the midsize Comet platform, engineers put their collective heads together to develop the Mercury Comet Cyclone and Cyclone GT. The standard Cyclone included all the visuals necessary to identify it as a muscle car, but powertrains were limited to a 289 cubic-inch small-block and a 265 or 275-horsepower, 390 cubic-inch engine, depending on the transmission ordered. A two-barrel carburetor topped the base Cyclone 390. While providing adequate performance, it simply wasn't enough to keep up with other factory muscle cars of the time. For enthusiasts who wanted neck-snapping performance, ordering a Cyclone GT was a necessity.

Under the Cyclone GT's hood rested Ford's 335-horsepower, 390 FE engine. This powerhouse included a Holley four-barrel carburetor mounted on a cast iron intake manifold. Its 10.5:1 compression ratio required premium fuel, and dual exhausts were standard equipment. An engine dress-up kit finished off the underhood niceties. All GTs were equipped with a 3.25:1 axle unless otherwise specified.

To improve ride quality and interior space for 1966, the wheelbase was increased two inches, to 116. Overall vehicle length was stretched to 203 inches, adding seven inches to the 1965 specifications. Body width was also increased to add additional shoulder room. Doors had curved glass and for the first time, air conditioning was a factory-installed option. A padded dash and seatbelts were standard. New options for 1966 were power windows and a two-way power seat. An improved heater and sound-deadening package provided additional comfort to passengers.

Outside, the Cyclone GT was nearly a mirror image of Ford's Fairlane with a slab-sided body, a front end with dual stacked headlamps, and a wide grille split horizontally by a body colored division bar. All GTs included a standard fiberglass hood with dual non-functional scoops. While it didn't add any horsepower, the hood certainly added to the visual effect of the GT being a performance vehicle. From the side, a special identification stripe ran across the lower body section. Simple horizontal taillamps rested in the rear tail panel.

All GT models included bucket seats, heavy-duty suspension, body striping, special wheels, and dual exhausts. Transmission availability was limited to a floor mounted standard three-speed manual, four-speed manual, or three-speed automatic.

The Comet Cyclone GT wasn't the hit the Mercury division had hoped for, selling only 15,970 during the model year. Perhaps it was the additional cost of buying a Mercury, or perhaps the stigma of believing a Mercury wasn't a real performance car. However, time has validated the Cyclone GT as a true performance car, and today it is a highly sought after muscle car for Ford and Mercury enthusiasts.

Special thanks to Melvin Benzaquen at Classic Restorations and car owner Geoff Malloy for allowing us to shoot this Cyclone GT.
Fuel For Thought
Mercury's premium midsize muscle car
Convertibles are rare with only 2,158 produced
390's oil capacity reduced by one quart, to four
All GT models included engine dress-up kit
Available with optional nine-inch television
  • Number built

    Published Sep 18th, 2017

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