"Grow up and get an 8-cylinder." This phrase has been uttered on more than one occasion and it left an indelible impression on Vinny Di Prima. But clearly, the 44-year-old owner of 1991 Syclone #1373 isn't inclined to do what he is told. "I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I wanted to be the fastest out there, and I said it can be done." But that is certainly easier said than done. "I had a lot of problems over the years. I tried different combinations, different engine builders, nobody could get it to live." But eventually the Massapequa, New York, native got it right through perseverance and a stubborn belief in the 90-degree V-6.
The process of becoming the swiftest Syclone to grace the 1320 began in 1999. Vinny purchased Syclone #1373 from the legendary Jerry McCoy of McCoy Motorsports, who had already converted it to rear wheel drive and was one of the first to run 9s. But now it had been stripped to a bare shell, and Vinny would be starting from scratch. About the only thing that would remain from its previous incarnation was the roll cage. The frame itself was taken apart from the body, and modified extensively. Using components from Competition Engineering, Hell Bent Race Cars beefed up the frame and added ladder bars to the rear suspension. Using ladder bars to transfer weight to a Moser 12-bolt with Mickey Thompson 315/60/15 drag radials bolted up to the 35-spline axles, Vinny would have no issues with traction—eliminating any fancy electronics.
By all means, do not get the impression that this Syclone is low-tech, but perhaps just a little more straightforward and simple than you might think. Starting with the powerplant, a Chevrolet Performance Bowtie V-6 block is kept at the stock 4.3-liters using a forged rotating assembly from Diamond Racing, Carrillo, and a little-known company—Crank Specialty. The same tried and true Brodix 23-degree heads that have powered the fastest Syclones to date find themselves atop this 9.5:1 engine as well, except these are nearly straight out of the box. Extreme Race Engine cleaned up the ports a little and matched them to a GM intake manifold, Wilson elbow, and 105mm throttle body. Vinny drilled, tapped, and welded the intake to house six massive (160 lb/hr) injectors that are fed 52 psi of C16 by a Weldon pump.
The wet-sump motor was finished off with an LSM solid roller cam with custom specs that are surprisingly mild and seemingly suitable for a street driven vehicle. "A bigger cam would mean more cylinder pressure." No O-rings are needed, Vinny said he's never blown a head gasket, but Inconel valves and Beryllium valve seats were a must. The ample seat pressure caused issue with stainless steel valves, which was one of several hard lessons learned during the build. Another was the uneven cylinder temperature in the V-6 block. "Even from the factory they had this issue. The #6 cylinder gets hot." Excessive cylinder wall scuffing was the telltale sign that the clearances needed to be opened up on this cylinder. After discovering this secret, Extreme Race Engine was able to put together a durable motor that would live.
Aside from the engine build, Vinny did most of the work himself on the Syclone including fitting the motor into the chassis with a TCI Powerglide, Turbo Action Cheetah shifter, and Pat's 3200-stall converter. He also wired up the FAST XFI engine management and set up the ignition system using an MSD Digital 7 Plus, billet distributor, high-output coil, 8mm wires, and #10 plugs. A set of Strange drag brakes and Centerline wheels put the Syclone back on the pavement and ready to ship over to Kooks Custom Headers for the hot-side piping. Kooks built a beautiful set of headers out of 17⁄8-inch stainless steel tubing, which neck down to 2.5-inches before merging at a Precision 88mm turbo mounted in the bed. A 5-inch downpipe vents the turbine and a TiAL 60mm wastegate protects it from overspinning. Charged air has a short commute to the PT2000 air-to-water intercooler mounted by its side, before routing back up to the engine bay with 4-inch tubing where a TiAL blow-off valve is the last defense before 32 psi of boost is smashed into the little V-6.
Philadelphia tuner Harry Anderson keeps the V-6 in check, who is no stranger to fast Syclones having tuned Ed Hess' low 9-second twin-turbo AWD truck among many others. Using the XFI computer, Harry dials in the big squirters to an estimated 1,400 horsepower on boost alone. Though Vinny has previously used a small shot of nitrous to help spool the turbo off the line during competition, he now relies solely on the transbrake to unleash the 88's wrath on the 315mm drag radials. Thankfully Harry also has an AMS-1000 boost controller to tame the big hairdryer, which can be a task at times even at sticky northeast tracks like Atco Raceway where we caught up with Vinny.
There really is nothing that launches quite like an 8-second turbo V-6. The lower revving V-6's exhaust note is drowned out by the turbo and wastegate doing their thing. The second Vinny lets off the transbrake, weight transfers to the rear, the tires grip, and the Syclone is out like a shot. Thankfully the suspension setup is so spot-on that from there it just cruises "like you are going down the highway" until he hits the stripe. "My love for racing has been sparked by converting this truck over with no regrets. I've always had a passion for racing ever since I was a kid. It's been a great hobby. I take it very serious, I've worked day and some late nights to make this truck high in standards and expectations from the interior to the exterior." As the result, the professional powerdercoater has been told that he is a perfectionist. "I really enjoy working on it almost as much as I love racing it!"
Car: 1991 GMC Syclone
Owner: Vinny Di Prima
Block: Chevy Bowtie V-6, 262cid
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Heads: Brodix 23-degree aluminum V-6, 2.08 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves
Cam: LSM custom solid roller
Pushrods: Trend 3/8-inch
Rocker arms: Jesel, 1.7-ratio
Pistons: Diamond, forged
Rings: Total Seal
Crankshaft: Crank Specialty, forged
Rods: Carrillo, forged
Throttle body: Wilson 105mm
Fuel injectors: 160 lb/hr
Fuel pump: Weldon
Ignition: MSD Digital 7 Plus, coil, and distributor
Engine management: FAST XFI, tuned by Harry Anderson
Turbo: Precision 88mm
Intercooler: Precision PT2000 air-to-water
Wastegate: TiAL 60mm
Exhaust system: Kooks 1 7/8-inch turbo headers, 2.5-inch hot-side, 5-inch downpipe
Transmission: Powerglide, built by TCI
Torque converter: Pat's 9-inch, 3200-stall
Driveshaft: 3-inch chromoly
Front suspension: QA1 coilovers, stock control arms, removed sway bar
Rear suspension: QA1 coilovers, Competition Engineering ladder bar
Rear end: Moser 12-bolt, 3.55 gear, 35-spline axles, spool
Brakes: Strange Engineering front and rear
Wheels: Centerline 15x4 front, 15x12 rear
Front tires: Phoenix 26x4
Rear tires: Mickey Thompson 315/60/15 drag radial
Fuel: VP Racing C16
Race weight: 3,260 lbs.
Best ET/mph: 8.45/166
Best 60-ft. time: 1.21
Current mileage: 73,557