Paul Katsus is an electric utility professional who works as service consultant for a large Texas utility company. Paul Katsus is not a car collector but has studied and documented sports cars and muscle cars his entire life. When one thinks of muscle cars from the late sixties and seventies, Mercury is usually not on their radar, but Mercury did contribute some interesting muscle cars to the era. In 1969, Mercury had a one year production run of the Cyclone CJ. This was a mid-sized muscle car meant to compete with the Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge. This mid-sized package included the 428 Cobra Jet engine which came standard with dual exhausts, a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission and a 3.50:1 rear-axle ratio, along with a Competition Handling Package. The Cyclone offered performance axle ratios of up to 4.30:1 which helped to make the car an alternative to some of the fastest muscle cars of the day.
Car magazines of the period reported ¼ mile times of less than 14 seconds with speeds over 100 MPH with the 428-cu.-in. V-8. The Cyclone CJ was one of the first Mercury’s to have the performance muscle to really take the competition to the street and compete head to head with the benchmark Hemi models from Chrysler. Mercury sold just 2,175 CJs in the 1969 model year. In 1969 you could equip a non-CJ Cyclone with the same go-fast parts as the Cyclone CJ, including the 428 Cobra Jet engines that the model drew its name from.
Although Ford officially rated the CJ at 335hp and 440-lbs.feet of torque, this number was generally accepted as underrated for insurance purposes. The Cobra Jet engine featured a 10.6:1 compression ratio and a 735-CFM Holley four-barrel carburetor. Beginning in February of 1969, Mercury began offering the Super Cobra Jet engine option as part of the Drag-Pak, which included either a 3.91 or 4.30 rear axle. Super Cobra Jet engines were rated at the same 335hp as the CJ but, just as the Cobra Jet that number was seriously under rated. Many experts at the time put the more accurate horsepower around the 400 mark. The SCJ came with an uprated engines oil cooler and stronger crankshaft and connecting rods. Instead of two bolt mains standard on the Cobra Jet the SCJ came with four-bolt mains. Engine VIN codes will not tell you if a car had a CJ or SCJ engine, but they will tell you if the car was equipped with ram air or not. Ram air-equipped cars got an R in the VIN, while regular CJ 428s had a Q code. The Super Cobra Jet option was rare with just 358 1969 Cyclone CJs equipped with the 428 Super Cobra Jet engine. In another indication of the underrating of horsepower at the time, the performance-enhancing ram-air induction option did not any gain on the factory's horsepower rating. The ram air option came with cast-aluminum rocker covers (non-ram air models came with chrome rocker covers), as well as a hood scoop that forced air into a modified air cleaner with a gasket around the air cleaner.
Paul Katsus would like to remind readers that the Mercury Cyclone was a true muscle car, especially with the Super Cobra Jet engine and drag pack. A car that not may not be well known but never the less was a worthy competitor to anything Chrysler or General Motors could throw at it.