GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1969 Mercury Cyclone Film Shoot
This week we recall less wintry weather in the heartland of America as we join Cy Schmidt for a late afternoon cruise along the backroads of Ohio in his 1969 Mercury Cyclone CJ. The last two letters designate the V8 under hood as a special one, and at this moment we can’t think of many verbal twosomes possessing as many promises of giddy smoking-tire fun as the words “Cobra Jet”—and the base car, a Cyclone, was named after a fence-ripping, cow-tossing fit of natural aggression to begin with.
The Competition Orange Mercury is definitely up for laying down rubber and lifting its snout in a fit of straight-line American acceleration, but it doesn’t have to be violent for Cy to enjoy its other, more civil charms.
Turn the key and the low-rev high-bass idle evokes images of cigarette boats sending plumes of water shimmering into the air above lakes, V8s having playful arguments at and between stoplights with candy-colored pony cars lining parking lots of hamburger stands and the smell of tire smoke mingling with the ones coming from the fry cook’s work in the hot summer kitchen. It’s all a bit quaint and idyllic isn’t it? But that’s kind of the point to driving something like this; it has plenty of mechanical use, but another function of this big Mercury is to, as Cy puts it, “take you out of today and put you back a few years.”
It’s just about fact that we can’t fully grasp our past from our place in the fleeting present—a present that’s moving ever further from the facts of what was really happening way back whenever—and this typically means we think of our yesteryears as either overly rosy or bleak. If those are the major options then, why not indulge in the former? If we can find the objects that tap into our best memories of the past, it seems like we’d want to cherish them the most of all. Cy certainly seems to take this approach with his Cyclone, as it reminds him of a time when cars had a bit more to them than they do now. I’m sure we can all agree with him here. For his specific past though, he thinks back on the days spent with his grandfather simply sitting down together to watch the cars drive past. Most of the traffic was domestic, and he soon got the knack of naming the brands based on their sounds and grill shapes—Buick, Mercury, Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, all the American staples. He remembers the Cyclone as being sort of an intermediate market muscle car, a little larger than the Mustangs and Camaros of the era and leaning a bit closer toward the luxury side, but not as heavy and unwieldy as something like a Galaxie. It wasn’t an utter drag strip dominator, but the Cyclone lived up to its name all the same, with this one packing a 428 Cobra Jet motor under the black-striped ram air scoop, good for roughly 400 push-rod horsepower.
Though he drives a bright orange and rather loud car, Cy is one of those people with a sense of modesty and frankness that is far from any kind of affectation, and his is the refreshing type of character to come across in the sphere of vintage car enthusiasts who can often appear to value their cars purely in relation to others’ rather than to their enjoyment of them. For instance, he says that if he’d ordered it new it’d probably have a four-speed where the automatic gear shift is, but he finds pleasure in the simplicity of what he’s got rather than harping on what he doesn’t. He thinks old cars should be driven and that it’s a shame to sock them away, but he isn’t advocating for beating them up in the quarter-mile or at autocross events either.
So many people share the sentiment that their favorite garage occupants have an ability to separate them from the rest of the world, and though it can start to feel a bit stale to state the somewhat obvious, we love the way Cy puts it: “…if something’s bugging you, it just kinda blows out the window.” The car hasn’t lost this ability in all the 18 years its been under his care, and seeing as it was the first vintage car he bought, and the first one he took down and restored, it probably won’t being going anywhere else.
If money and time weren’t an issue he’d tear it all down again and do a concours-level restoration, but the problem is that Cy likes driving it too much to put in the effort to bring the Mercury to a level where driving it feels like an exercise of nerves rather than fun. He has the right attitude and a righteous car, that about sums it up, and that’s what it means to Drive Tastefully®.