Restoring the Cyclone for a car-guy father

Restoring the Cyclone for a car-guy father

Turns out this 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler was one of only four built to this specification

“Cyclone Spoiler. Password for action in the 70’s.” 

That was the Mercury brochure slogan I was reading as a 13-year-old kid in the ‘90s. The cars in the in the ads were perfect. My car, was far from it visually, but in my mind, it was perfect. 

My dad bought the car in 1993 and gave it to me as a birthday present. We didn’t have much growing up, so I knew this was a big purchase. 

My dad and I have a love affair with muscle cars. I remember as a kid having up to 11 cars around the house at any given time. 

There was bodywork to repair

The 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler was a rare breed. We knew the common ones — Camaro, Mustang, GTO, etc. — but didn’t even know Mercury created a muscle car. But we knew the basics, big block FE engine, C6 and 9-inch rear. 

As I was growing up, I dreamed of one day paying back my dad for the sacrifices of raising us and getting us through college. Restoring the Cyclone would be the perfect way. 

As determination would have it, I got through engineering college, got a job, saved and started work on the restoration process. Our family friend, Bob Kleiner, who is also a Ford aficionado/guru, was the perfect person to lead the restoration. Bob’s brother Dave is one of the nation’s leading restorers of 1970s Buick Gran Sports and GSX’s. 

Assessing the Cyclone pre-restoration was like going back in time. The Competition Yellow Cyclone is outfitted with a 429 Cobra Jet engine with a C6 transmission. A 9-inch packed with 3.50 gears rounds out the rest of the drivetrain. 

Progress being made

The car must have been from a cold and rural location as we found pitted body panels at the rear of each wheel well. Adding to that thought it was ordered as non-A/C, with rear defrost. 

Other rarer options were factory window tint and rear speakers. With all these options check and verified with a Marti-report, the car was a 1 of 4 built to this specification. After learning this, the restoration plan got serious. It’s one thing restore a car that has supply of parts that you can go to any online site and purchase, but parts for the Cyclone were non-existent. Even on the Ford-equivalent Torino, all trim parts were different from the Cyclone. 

The approach was to do a factory-original restoration and fix/put back the parts the car already has. For as difficult of a life the car appeared to have, the car had 99 percent of the all the parts with it. Major components that are impossible to find are front end gun sight, air cleaner, and “429” emblem badges. All of which are Cyclone only, some of are also 1970 only. 

The FE big block was freshened with new pistons and valve train. A Cobra Jet equivalent from Comp Cams was used to assist reaching the factory-rated 370 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. 

Hot Arizona sun helped front-end restoration process

The front grille gunsight was the most interesting restoration project. At some point of the car’s life, it must have had a front-end collision. The gunsight was slightly buckled. This part was a 1970 only piece and finding one in decent shape was impossible. 

We took a spring compressor for suspension and placed it around the grille to hold a shape. We then took advantage of Arizona’s 110+ heat and put it back in the sun with slight adjustments to the compression throughout the day. The gunsight came back to form with this method. 

The body was pulled to avoid any filler and painted. The interior’s only replacement piece was the carpet. 

During the uninstallation of the rear seats, in order to replace the carpet, the original build sheet was found. 

The wheels selected were Magnum 500 style, which was not available as an option for Mercury, but was period correct. The center caps for the wheels are actually vinyl stickers of the car’s door panel medallion. At every car show, it fools onlookers as being factory. 

A roadworthy showpiece for father and son to enjoy

Plenty of power

As the car was finished, I spent 2-3 months, every weekend at 4:30 a.m. to take the car on a loop around Arizona highways to break in the engine and transmission. Like the restoration, driving the car is an adventure and scary at the same time. It is an indescribable feeling to be behind a lot of metal that shakes like an earthquake at every light. After driving the car a while, your shoulders are sore. That is the best part of the collector car hobby. It attacks all the senses. 

I have to be extremely attentive driving the car. The uniqueness of the car garners a lot of gawkers who stare while they are driving; several times they wandered into my lane.

She’s not a trailer queen. I drive it to every show we go to and she gathers a decent amount of attention. 

The memorable part of the car is being able to share the experience with my dad. He goes to every show with me and we continue to bond at these events. As a child, I only experienced the car while it was under a blue tarp. It’s great being able to have my dad enjoy the car for what it is, a car. It’s meant to be enjoyed every time.

— Leapy Taing, Arizona

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6 Comments

  • Dwight Mathews
    May 26, 2019, 8:08 AM

    Love the car and the story. I try to find other Cyclone owners living here in Az. I have a 64.5 Cyclone, It’s pretty rare like your’s and have yet to see any others at car shows since I have owned it, now over 15yrs. It’s all stock original, numbers matching. Anyway, wanted to know where is Az you are. I’m in Goodyear-CantaMia Retirement Resort. email: sweetridemusic@ gmail.com. Like to meet if close enough maybe sometime.???? Thanks Matt Mathews (Dwight)

    REPLY
    • Alan Currie@Dwight Mathews
      May 27, 2019, 7:06 PM

      Nice article. I had multiple Cougars with the 351C. One comment. The FE engine would have been a 428 Cobra Jet with its origins in the 1958 352. The 429 is from the next generation engine family.

      REPLY
  • Peter Peterson
    May 27, 2019, 6:23 PM

    Great story. Most of the time , I preferred the Mercury version to the Ford offering. Back in the day, I had a ’70 Boss 302 Cougar Eliminator. Not as rare as yours, but less than 500 copies made, as I remember. BTW, the 429 engine is part of the 385 family (don’t know why it’s called that). The FE family includes 332, 352, 390, 427, and 428.

    REPLY
    • Paul DiNatale@Peter Peterson
      May 28, 2019, 1:16 AM

      Peter Peterson you forgot the the great FE motor that had the 390 bore with the 428 stroke called the 410 marauder that came in the 66 ad 67 park lanes as standard equipment,with the 428 as a option. great motor. i had a 66 that rusted out and put it in a 64 marauder that had a 390 2V. Wow what a difference!

      REPLY
    • Mike Paull@Peter Peterson
      May 28, 2019, 11:57 AM

      Paul & Peter, In regards to the "FE" series engines, Lets not forget the 360 truck engine and the short lived but nasty 406 !

      REPLY
  • James McIntire
    May 28, 2019, 5:51 AM

    I love that gunsight grille! A friend of mine in high school had a 70 Cyclone, but with the 351W/auto option. This was mid-90’s so by that time the car was pretty well beat but it still had the gunsight grille and the NASCAR-style dash with gauge pods stretching half- way over to glove box! Even with the bench seat and the column-shifted automatic it was one of the coolest cars on the planet.

    REPLY