Bill Blackall’s 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT

Bill Blackall’s 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT

Story and photos by Cam Hutchins

The ’60s were the era of “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” but this clearly did not work for Mercury in 1968. That year certainly started off with a bang for the fans of Mercury, as their Cyclone GT was dubbed “the fastest car of that year.” According to many online sources including Wikipedia, the Cyclone GT had earned the title, because it set a world record speed of 189.22 mph (304.52 km/h) at Daytona. This is marketing gold, and sales of the newly named Mercury Cyclone doubled over the sales of the previous year’s Mercury Comet. 

But the facts are cruel. With the increased sales to just over 13,000 1968 Cyclones, it was still a fraction of Ford’s similar Torino GT that sold over 74,000 fastbacks and over 5,000 convertibles. No Cyclone convertible was offered in 1968, and the Cyclone Coupe sold abysmally at 1,368 units in 1968, according to 

But for a young Bill Blackall, fresh out of a stint in the Canadian Military as a linesman and now working for an up-and-coming electronics firm, Fridan business machines, the 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT was perfect. He was driving a Rambler Rebel and had his heart set on an AMX with a 390 and 4-speed. Before pulling the pin on the AMX, he went to see a buddy who was the sales manager at Totem Mercury Sales Ltd., the Lincoln-Mercury dealership on Marine Drive in Vancouver. He was shown the sales brochure for the Mercury Cyclone and was sold on the looks and that it had a backseat. The AMX had no back seat and the Cyclone not only had the 390, it would much better suit a young fella’ thinking of getting married.

The whole family deal seemed a long way off, but he liked the Cyclone enough to want one….but his buddy at Totem said none were available. Fate prevailed and on his way to a service call in Maple Ridge, he saw a Competition Orange Cyclone GT on the raised display at Metro Motors. He had a mobile Marine phone in his Rebel and called to say he was going to be late. He bought the Cyclone GT on the spot, or as “on the spot” as can be, with arranging a bank loan and trade-in of his Rebel. Blackall did call his buddy at Totem to have the car transferred, but Metro did not want to release the car. 

Two days later, he took possession of his 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT with the 390 V8 and three speed automatic transmission. This car was spartanly equipped with a remote driver

‘s side mirror, and pushbutton AM radio with the dual rear deck speakers. It had vinyl buckets and carpet, a pretty bare bones car, but like almost all cars like this of the era, Blackall had an 8-track player installed under the dash. The hood scoop with turn signal indicators was added by Blackall. In early 1969, his wedding photos show the car all decorated up, sans the hood scoop. Blackall was moonlighting at the gas station by the Blue Boy Hotel in South Vancouver and ordered the parts from Totem Sales and installed the scoop himself.

The car even came equipped with the two-barrel carb instead of the four-barrel, and with hubcaps. It was a Cyclone GT with the additional badging and stripes and upgrades t

o the suspension. Shortly after buying the car, he was sent to school by his employer to learn about their extensive line of products. The school was located just north of San Francisco in San Leandro. Many weekends, he would leave school Friday afternoon and drive till 3a.m. to get home to visit his girlfriend. Then repeat the process Sunday afternoon in reverse to be back in school in California by 8 am..


The girlfriend became his wife in 1969, and Blackall went into real estate and drove the Cyclone as his business car until he bought an LTD in 1973, and the Cyclone became his wife’s car. In 1980, he sold the Cyclone GT to a friend of Blackall’s younger brother, Chris Murray who lived in Steveston. Years later, with the failure of the transmission, the car was parked beside Murray’s house and started its long process of decay. Moving on from the Mercury, Blackall was going all out working in Real Estate and still had his ’46 Ford that he bought in Ottawa while in High School.

Dropping by to visit Murray in 1998, he decided he wanted the car back. He wrote a cheque for the $1,000 Murray had bought the car for in 1980 and said, if you cash the cheque, that car is mine again. Having it towed home, Blackall thought it would be a great project for his son Bryan and him to rebuild it. It was really too far gone to try to restore, but his son merrily went about dissembling it with little regard for carefully keeping all the parts. The project stalled for years until Blackall decided to finish the project, but a unibody car is not so easy to repair; many of the rusty parts are part of the structure that keeps the car strong and safe.

He wisely took the Cyclone to his friend Bill Grover, owner of W.S. Grover Auto Body in Richmond, who had painted his ’46 Ford for him. He asked him to restore the car for him, as the rust had ravished the car and it took lots of work to complete the restoration. Lots of the body panels were started with Torino panels and heavily modified to fit the Mercury.

All the mechanical parts were rebuilt and the engine got a new four-barrel Holley carb and manifold. The interior got a new headliner and carpets, but the door panels and seats were repaired. Some of the glass is still original but the windshield has been replaced. The wheels with hubcaps were upgraded to the optional wheels available in 1968 for owners that could afford them. The wheels were optional on the Montego and Cougars as well.

Many parts were sourced from Dearborn Classics and some mechanical parts were from Ford. The car was finished in June of 2013 and Blackall drives it on Veteran plates and uses it for promotional purposes for his Real Estate business. Collector plates are being considered for the future, but Blackall likes to be able to drive his car whenever he wants for advertising.

The car does not have air conditioning and Blackall regrets not adding it during the restoration. The car rides very well and the front disc brakes do a good job stopping the approximately 3,500 lb car. The 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT was available with engines ranging from 302 cu in V8s up to 428 cu. in. offered mid way through 1968. The horsepower range was from 210 bhp on the 302 all the way up to 390 bhp from the available 427. This car came with the 390 2-bbl with 265 bhp but with the 4-bbl it is rated at 325 bhp, only 10 horsepower off the 428 cu. in. with 335 bhp. Almost certainly the manufacturer was playing games downplaying horsepower numbers to foil the insurance companies.

The slow sales probably did a lot to see the demise of the Cyclone GT after just a few short years. Blackall drives his car as often as he can and it is his go-to car for long trips. This includes trips throughout the Pacific Northwest, Calgary, Edmonton, and numerous trips to the interior. For some reason he has no plans to pack up at noon and drive all night to California, but he has the perfect ride if ever he decides to!

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