SEMA 2016: Derale Blows The Crowd Away With A 1966 Cyclone GT Build


We’ve talked about cookie-cutter cars before, and sometimes at SEMA you’ll see more than you care too. Don’t get us wrong, we still love custom builds and even clean restorations, but sometimes you just want to see something different, something that nobody else brought to the table.

Well, that’s exactly what Derale Performance did this year at SEMA: they brought different, and they owned it this year. Derale President Tom Longo told us, “It’s different. We wanted to build a car that nobody else was building, so we picked the 1966 Mercury Cyclone GT as our build.”


Top: It was a long way to go, but the team at Derale Performance set their sights on SEMA, and made it!
Bottom: For a car that kept most all the body lines, the fabrication work was still quite extensive.

That’s right, it’s a Mercury, not a Ford Mustang, not a Chevy Camaro, and thankfully not something we’ve seen enough of. But instead of building the Cyclone to represent what Mercury represented 50 years ago, Derale decided to represent the love of motorsports and build a car that is far more than a show car.

While this car was built for the biggest car show in Vegas, it’s more of a performer and built to run around a track – which Longo swears he’s going to do one day (and we’ve begged and pleaded to be invited). It’s a throwback to the days when race cars looked like they were supposed to, not just like every other car on the track with only stickers to identify the make.

You never realize how much work is done when you see the finished product. These shots show us a little bit of the behind the scenes effort that went into the build.

This Cyclone GT is a real car, a beast, and even thought it’s all show, it’s definitely all go, too. Bottom line, this car was done just right. No oversized wheels with rubber band tires, no wild, custom body work that changes the lines of the car, it’s just awesome the way it sits and is old school all the way, with some modern upgrades to make it safer and more driveable.

This Cyclone GT, first of all, is the ultimate canvas for Derale Performance to show off some of its coolest products, and in a way that simply spells coolness. After all, Derale has been in the cool~ing business for over 60 years, so what better way is there to show how they do their thing?


The business office. No frills, no fancy stitching, no soft materials. All business.

But instead of sending the car off to a builder and getting to see it the first time when it was done, the team at Derale did much of the work themselves. The team includes: Tom Longo, Erik Chaputa, Ted Cordts, Jeff Courts, and Brandon Algorri.

Starting with the powertrain, the 351 Windsor has been bored and stroked thanks to Scat Crankshafts stroker crank and rotating assembly, bringing the cubes on the Cyclone to 427. Keeping the stroker running cool is a Derale dual electric fan powerpack, utilizing Derales’s PWM fan controller.


The 351 Windsor was stroked out to 427 cubes, and is running a modern Holley EFI system. The headers were custom built, and they turned out awesome.

Filtering the air this monster breathes is K&N, feeding the air to a Holley EFI throttle body. The Weiand Stealth intake sits between a pair of Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads, and custom-made headers evacuate the spent gases through the custom exhaust with Magnaflow mufflers. MSD helps keep the sparks and ARP bolts help keep everything together. A few Derale fluid reservoirs helped keep things contained and looking great at the same time.

Backing up the stroked Windsor is a Richmond 5-speed transmission feeding a Currie-built For 9-inch rearend hung with a TCI Engineering 3-link rear suspension. Up front, you’ll find rack-and-pinion steering and TCI A-arms, and Ridetch coilover shocks handle the damping all around. Wilwood is relied upon to get the car back under control when the go stick is abused.


TCI Engineering, Wilwood, and Ridetech are found at all four corners.

Derale also mounted a set of coolers for the differential and the transmission, and all of this was displayed in the trunk area, where you’ll find the fuel filler, a la NASCAR style. But that trunk isn’t for coolers and beach chairs, because this isn’t a car you’re going to cruise to the beach in (but we think that would be pretty wild).

Inside, amidst the structure of the custom 8-point roll cage, you’ll find just the necessities and not many luxuries. The dashboard and console are custom built, and instead of fancy trim work, you’ll find aluminum panels on the doors, and a no-frills business office full of switches and gauges.


Details, details, details. It's what it's all about. Those buckets aren't there for long trips, just to get you around the track.

You won’t find a radio or amplifiers; we doubt you could hear the sound anyway with that 427 up front make most of the noise. But let’s not get too carried away, it’s not completely void of modern amenities. They did put a pair of cup holders in front of the console. People have to drink fluids, right?


The car as displayed at SEMA 2016. We loved it, and can't wait to get a ride shotgun in it. You can bet we'll bring you more photos and details once it's out on the track. Enjoy the gallery below!

Enjoy the Derale Performance 1966 Cyclone GT for all it is: a bad-to-the-bone Mercury that is our favorite from the show because even in its simplicity, its complicated. Not because it’s modified, but because we still don’t know what limb we’re willing to give up to insure we get shotgun when Longo takes it out for it’s maiden run at the track.

Photo gallery


About the author

Michael Harding

Michael is a Power Automedia contributor and automotive enthusiast who doesn’t discriminate. Although Mopar is in his blood, he loves any car that looks great and drives even faster.
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