Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Chris Cekosh will probably never get to meet the guy who stole his 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler many years ago.
But if he could, he’d probably want to shake the guy’s hand.
Actually, the car wasn’t stolen from Cekosh, a resident of Stevens Point, Wis. It was swiped from the first owner, who had put fewer than 30,000 miles on his big, bold, Competition Gold muscle machine before it went missing. The cops eventually recovered the car, but it wasn’t running when it came home.
And it didn’t run again for many years, which Cekosh figures is the main reason the Spoiler is still around. “When he finally got it back, the carburetor and air cleaner were missing, which actually turned out to be a great thing, because he parked it in the yard and never moved it. Everything else is original,” Cekosh noted. “I don’t know [how long it sat]. I didn’t find out … Had it not been stolen, somebody might have modified it or tubbed out the wheel wells. You never know.”
The car changed hands two more times before Cekosh became its fourth owner. He’s certain the second and third owners never had the car running.
“The guy told me, ‘Yeah, I had it running once, I went down to the end of the road with it,’ which I know is a bunch of bull because when I took the intake manifold off, there was a bunch of walnuts and junk in the carburetor and that engine was stuck tight,” he said. “There was water in the transmission from sometime in its history.
“I know he didn’t (have it running). No way.”
Cekosh, has gone to great lengths to get his rare Mercury looking and running good, however. He’s rebuilt the 429-cid Cobra Jet engine and automatic transmission, put in new checked houndstooth upholstery, replaced the battered hood and trunk lid, chased down a bunch of parts, and had the unibody car stripped and repainted. These days, he’s getting very close to having the car he dreamed about.
“I remember one time years ago, I must have been in my teens, and a guy says ‘Come over here and look at this dashboard.’ The tachometer and all the gauges are angled toward the driver. It’s just so unique. You never see that,” Cekosh recalled. “Well, I always kept it in the back of my mind that I’d like to have one, but I never thought I could afford something like this. They are going for big dollars now, and hard to find parts for. You can buy a car like this, but to find parts is unreal.”
Cekosh wasn’t actively looking for a Spoiler when he stumbled across the car on eBay four years ago. He already had a “Starsky & Hutch” 1975 Gran Torino, a 1974 Gran Torino Sport “that’s still my baby,” and several Ford trucks at home. When the eBay bidding failed to reach the reserve, though, he couldn’t resist contacting the seller, and before he knew it, the car was his.
A modest total of 1,631 of the redesigned Cyclone Spoilers were built by Mercury for 1970, and they certainly aren’t plentiful these days. Cekosh figures his Spoiler is probably among the most unique still on the road — it was one of only 246 Spoilers ordered with air conditioning, and one of only 60 that were Competition Gold with the checked interior. “The hidden headlights are also a rarity,” he said. “To find a car with all three, they are probably about 1 out of 15, would be my guess.”
The 1970 model year brought some big changes to the Mercury Cyclone lineup. After a two-season stint with a more radical fastback roofline, the Cyclone hardtops had trunk lines about halfway between the old notchback hardtop and a true fastback. There were three Cyclones for 1970: The base model that retailed for prices starting at $3,238, the Cyclone GT base priced at $3,226 and the Spoiler — the hi-po version of the GT — which listed for $3,759 and up.
The Spoiler model with the 429-cid/370-hp V-8 went 0-to-60 in 6.4 seconds and did the quarter in 14.5 seconds at 99 mph, making it a definite contender in the heavyweight division of factory muscle cars.
Though the same unitized chassis was used, the Cyclone wheelbase grew by 1 inch to 117 inches and the overall length of the car was extended by a hefty 6.7 inches. The latter alteration was due primarily to a protruding nose and fender design. Cyclones also got a gun sight-type design in the center of their grilles that was unlike anything else on the scene back in the day.
The base Cyclone came with the 429-cid/360-hp version of the Ford 385 Series big-block V-8. Standard equipment included a four-speed manual transmission with a floor-mounted Hurst shifter, a competition handling package, exposed headlamps, a silver- or black-finished lower back panel, loop carpeting, G70-14 fiberglass-belted tires and a bench seat. Options included the 370-hp CJ 429 engine, the 375-hp Super CJ 429 V-8 and — in extremely limited production numbers — the Boss 429.
The Cyclone GT came with a 351-cid/250-hp “Cleveland” V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor. The top-end Spoiler had the Ram-Air equipped 370-hp 429, which was an extra-cost option in its Ford Torino Cobra cousin. The 375-hp Super Cobra Jet was also available as an option. A Hurst four-speed with 3.50:1 Traction-Lok gears was part of the package. The Drag Pack option was optional. It used solid lifters and other go-faster stuff to stretch the horsepower output to 375. A Select-Shift automatic transmission was also optional.
The hidden headlamps that were standard on the GTs were optional on the Spoilers. Both cars bucked the trend for shaker hoods in favor of an integrated hood scoop. The Spoilers, fittingly enough, also came with a pair of sizeable spoilers — a protruding lip under the front bumper and a prominent wing on the deck lid.
Inside are four square instrument displays on the passenger side that are angled toward the driver. Faux wood accents dress things up and the center console adds to the upscale look with fancy chrome inlays and a chrome “T” shifter.
Cekosh discovered a quirk with his car when he had a shop tackle the paint and bodywork during the car’s restoration. “When it went down the line, they painted it the orange, but they miss-painted it,” he said. “It was actually Competition Orange, but then it was repainted Competition Gold, which is what it was supposed to be.
“The body guy told me about it. When he worked on it, you could see the primer, then the original orange paint, then the second coat of the correct orange over that.
“I had to do some investigating, and under the carpeting on the driver’s side is a build sheet, and I looked at it really good and it has Competition Gold on the build sheet, and the door tag, too. So it was supposed to be Competition Gold, and they made a mistake and had to go back and repaint it.”
Cekosh’s car also had the option hidden headlamps, automatic transmission, bucket seats and console, optional power steering, optional tinted glass and an AM radio. “It’s not a really big option list, but because it’s a Mercury, it has standard equipment for the stuff that would be optional on a Ford,” Cekosh said. “Ram Air on a 429 Cobra Jet was factory, and it came with Posi because it has the Cobra Jet motor.”
Cekosh admits he has faced more than few challenges getting his Spoiler back in fighting shape. And it hasn’t been a cheap proposition. “I just rub my neck and write another check,” he says with a pained laugh. The car’s restoration began with the engine and transmission and progressed from there. It eventually included a new interior, plenty of new trim pieces and other hard-to-find bits, and lots of networking with other Cyclone and Spoiler buffs around the country.
“We didn’t have to really bore the motor, but I figured we might as well start with a clean slate so we bored it .30 over,” Cekosh said. “The guy didn’t save my pistons, but I put forged flat-top pistons in there, with the original heads. It has a competition cam with a 224 [degree] duration on the intake and exhaust. A guy from Oklahoma recommended that. It just seems to work out really good.
“The car had had hail damage on the roof… Now you can’t tell because the guy did such a good job on it. He took the headliner out and pounded all the little dents out from the inside, and you’d never be able to tell.”
Cekosh has a different carburetor that he plans to have rebuilt. “I’ll have probably 1,500 bucks just in that by the time it’s done,” he said.
Cekosh’s only obvious concession to non-originality is the Shelby wheels under the car — 15 x 7’s on the front, 15 x 8’s on the back. “It would have had a regular steel wheel with five slots around it, 14 inches,” he said. “It would normally have a hubcap with a trim ring, but those are pretty hard to find. But I didn’t like those all that much, anyway. I like these better. I think it dresses it up.”
After four years of ownership and plenty of investment — both time and money — getting his big orange Spoiler ready to roll, Cekosh is having loads of fun with his Mercury at local car shows and short road trips. Wherever he goes, he’s pretty certain he won’t run into anybody else driving the same thing.
“Yeah, it’s just nice to have something nobody else has, you know?” he concluded. “You just don’t see these.”
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Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975
This revised 4th Edition is the most thorough post-WWII automobile reference ever assembled. This huge reference book includes complete model information for every American-made car manufactured from 1946-1975.