Who: Bruce Aherns
What: '69 Mercury Cyclone
Where: Maplewood, Minnesota
Engine: The Cobra Jet was a performance version of the 428 FE. With better-flowing cylinder heads and upgraded connecting rods, the Cobra Jets were rated by the factory at 335 hp. Bruce's CJ makes 508 hp at 5,900 rpm and 514 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm. It was built by MAS Performance in Ellsworth, Minnesota, where the guys bored the block 0.010 inch and upgraded to Super Cobra Jet-spec LeMans connecting rods and forged pistons yielding a 10.0:1 compression ratio. The reciprocating assembly was balanced before it was installed into the block. Bruce chose a Comp cam measuring 218/224 duration and 0.513/0.520 lift, a set of Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads, and a matching Performer RPM intake manifold. The long-block is topped off with a Holley 750-cfm carburetor that breathes through the factory Ram Air hood. We were a little surprised to see the factory exhaust manifolds, though. Bruce tells us that issue was the subject of much mental debate. "The headers for those cars are a two-piece design and are hard to fit, and they always leak, so I decided to keep the manifolds." He acknowledges there was a trade-off in power and admits he sometimes wishes he had installed headers instead, but overall, he doesn't really miss the hassles and leaks they would have created.
Transmission: The C6 in Bruce's car is not original but it is has a '69 date code. It was beefed up with extra clutches, a heavy-duty valvebody, and a 3,000-stall TCI Breakaway torque converter. "It shifts hard," Bruce says.
Rearend: The 9-inch is original, but Bruce upgraded it with a Detroit Locker differential, 3.50:1 gears, and 31-spline axles.
Suspension: The underpinnings of the car are mostly stock, but Bruce tells us the addition of aluminum cylinder heads and intake manifold forced him to install front springs that would have originally been under a 351-powered car. "My car weighs 240 pounds less than my brother's Cyclone with a totally stock engine. I put the drag pack springs in and the front end sat about 8 inches too high." We agree this Cyclone wouldn't lend itself well to the gasser look. While he was at it, Bruce replaced the stock bushings with urethane ones.
Brakes: Stock stuff here—front discs and rear drums.
Wheels/Tires: This is the timeless Cragar S/S and BFGoodrich combination. Up front are 215/70R15 tires on 15x8 wheels, while 275/60R15 tires on 15x10 wheels bring up the rear. We like that Bruce bucked the trend toward oversized wheels and rubber-band tires.
Interior: You can tell Bruce spent many hours rehabilitating the interior. The seats were re-covered by Threadbarren in Andover, Minnesota. Bruce and his brother replaced the headliner and Bruce rebuilt the door panels, stretching the stock vinyl over new cardboard backings that he made. He also replaced the yellowed and foggy gauge lenses with Lexan. While he was at it, he added some extra gauges to the unusually Spartan Mercury gauge cluster. Bruce is able to monitor engine functions with the Auto Meter tach and two-gauge pod, which Mercury thought its customers would only use for warning lights. Surprisingly, the carpet is original. "It was in really good shape. I just hosed it off." Awesome.
Paint/Body: After Bruce performed the quarter-panel surgery, he brought the car to Bob Van Canneyt at Central Auto Body in Minneapolis, who did the finish work and sprayed the car in its original Medium Lime Metallic.