“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked in his play Romeo and Juliet. The answer depends on whether or not you work in automotive marketing. For the suits that named the Cyclone back in 1963, the car’s title was at more an example of their gall than anything else. Over time, though, this Comet by another name proved its worth as a solid performer.
The Cyclone was released in 1964 as a sportier model of the more urbane Mercury Comet. With a spoked steering wheel and bucket seats, it had the look of a muscle car but not the “umph.” That first year it had a 289 ci engine under the hood that turned out a not-so-impressive 210 horses.
In 1965, Mercury added a four-barrel carb version. The modification actually lowered horsepower slightly. In 1966, however, the Cyclone got a 390 ci engine that turned out a respectable 265 hp. It was the beginning of a trend. In 1968 the GT version of the Cyclone was named fastest car of the year. It earned this title by setting a world speed record at Daytona of 189.22 mph. That same year, a 390 ci 325 hp engine was made available. At last, the car whose name means “fierce wind” was beginning to live up to its moniker.
1969 saw Mercury introduce a Cobra Jet version. This model had a Ram Air setup, a Holley four-barrel carb, and a 428 ci 335 hp engine. In 1970, builders dropped the Cobra Jet designation but continued power upgrades. That year saw two new engine options. Both were 429 ci and were rated at 370 and 375 hp respectively. In 1970, Mercury also released the Spoiler version with front and rear spoilers, racing stripes, and a competition package.
1971 saw the twilight of the Cyclone logo, with the model renamed the Montego Cyclone. Sales were abysmal and the brand was dropped entirely in 1972. By the end of its run, however, the Cyclone proved it could live up to its fearsome name, giving it a place in muscle car history.