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Thread: Pontiac Fiero

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Pontiac Fiero



    John Z. DeLorean, the eccentric but indisputably brilliant father of the 1964 GTO, also had a vision for a sexy, low-slung Pontiac two-seater. He even had a prototype built -- the XP-833 Banshee. GM management, however, considered the proposed Pontiac coupe/roadster a heretical threat to the primacy of the Chevy Corvette -- and the Banshee was discretely shelved (along with DeLorean himself a few years later).

    But the spirit of the Banshee concept would linger within the halls of Pontiac into the '70s -- dormant, but far from exorcized. And by the early '80s, it would be reincarnated in the form of al altogether new mid-engined, space-framed and polymer bodied two-seater called Fiero.

    Like the Banshee, the original design concept (credited to Hulki Aldikacti) was fairly radical -- a no-compromises sports car for enthusiast drivers; an American Porsche or Lotus. Unfortunately, other than the car's mid-engine layout, exterior styling and unusual dent-resistant composite body panels, much of Aldikacti's vision for the car never saw production. To save money, GM insisted on the use of pre-existing chassis and drivetrain components -- including a Chevette-based front suspension and a nothing-special 2.5 liter, four-cylinder engine rated at just over 90 horsepower.

    What eventually saw the light of day in 1984 was still quite a looker, however -- and the Fiero 2M4 was lauded by Car and Driver magazine as one of that year's Ten Best new cars. It was also very popular with buyers -- who were willing to overlook its weaknesses because of its attractive styling, fun personality and low price.

    Some 136,840 cars were sold the first year out -- far exceeding GM's estimates and confirming Aldikacti's belief in the car.

    A modified '84 Fiero even beat out the also-new Chevy Corvette for pace car duty at the Indianapolis 500 that year. Production versions of the Fiero pace car were offered for sale with the same "aero" snub nose treatment and bodywork -- but sans the specially-built "super duty" 200-plus horsepower engines used in the real pace cars. Only 2,000 '84 Indy 500 pace car replicas were manufactured -- all of them in special white paint with powder-coated "aero" wheels, silver leather and red two-tone interiors, quad exhaust tips and stereo speakers built into the headrests of the seats. The throttle body-injected 2.5 liter "Iron Duke" four was stock, but got dressed up with red spark plug wires and silver/black air cleaner and rocker cover.

    The pace car package was not cheap, adding almost $5,000 to the base price of a 2M4 Fiero. This boosted it from around $9,500 to nearly $15,000 (in 1984 dollars; this is the equivalent of about $30,000 today).

    For the second-year follow-up, Pontiac addressed the power problem by offering a new V-6 option in the SE and GT. This engine developed 140-hp, a significant uptick over the base 2.5 liter engine. The Fiero was gradually transforming into the sort of car envisioned by Aldikacti. Ironically, despite these improvements, sales fell through the floor to just 76,371 units -- an alarming turn, insofar as GM upper management was concerned. Apparently, problems with those first-year Fieros -- including an embarrassing engine fire/failure debacle attributed to defective connecting rods in the 2.5 liter engine -- had soured many buyers on the car. Word had also gotten out about the Fiero's less-than-sexy Chevette-sourced chassis bits -- and that also helped turn off the spigot of enthusiasm.

    Still, the Fiero had managed a surprisingly decent start -- especially in view of the way it was hobbled by the nickel and dime crowd in charge of General Motors at the time. And there were people within Pontiac who (like DeLorean, years earlier) were true believers, committed to the car's success.

    Knowledgeable insiders claim Pontiac wanted to introduce a turbocharged V-6 with a 5-speed tranny (in place of the 4-speed then being used), along with a totally revised suspension unique to the Fiero that would have made it a legitimate sports car -- not just a sporty commuter car. These changes also might have turned the Fiero (like the Banshee) into a real threat to the Corvette -- which probably explains why they never got approved. With sales dropping so precipitously, it was even harder to make the case for upgrading the car.

    Still, some things did manage to get through the pipeline -- including a new fastback bodystyle for '86 and a Getrag-sourced 5-speed gearbox to go with the 2.8 liter V-6. These changes seemed to salve the sales slide of the previous year, with a noticeable tick upward to 83,974 cars sold.

    But '86 would prove to be the high water mark for the Fiero. The mostly carryover '87 models (which received some minor tweaks, including distributorless ignition and a new cylinder head for the base 4-cylinder engine that resulted in a slight increase in output to 98-hp) never came close to matching the sales performance of the previous year.

    A mere 46,581 found homes -- and it was clear the Fiero was in serious trouble.

    A desperate Hail Mary pass was attempted for 1988 -- the final (and arguably, best) year for the Fiero. At last, the car got a credible sports car all-independent suspension system very similar to designs then in use by Lotus (which GM had just acquired the rights to). A new Formula model was offered -- and much-improved vented four-wheel-disc brakes were incorporated.

    1988 GTs were, at last, living up to the promise of 1984. Straight line performance was very good (15 second quarter miles times were possible) and handling was excellent.

    Had this car been introduced four years earlier, the Fiero almost certainly would be alive today. As it happened, it was too little, too late (a common problem with General Motors; other examples include the second-generation 1965-'69 Corvair and the Cadillac Allante in the early '90s).

    Despite the major improvements, the market had turned against the "proud one" (as the Fiero was also known). Sales ebbed again, down to 39,571 -- of which about half were V-6 GTs or Formulas.

    Although there were plans in the works for a second generation Fiero -- possibly with a new DOHC engine -- things never got further along than a styling buck/advanced prototype which was never shown to the public until many years after the Fiero's cancellation. It's too bad potential buyers never saw it -- because the prospect of a DOHC or turbo V-6 Fiero with more than 200-hp (and even a possible V-8 option) might very well have jump-started enough enthusiasm for the car to keep the fires lit. But the bean counters within GM didn't care -- while Chevy probably cared very much about the possibility of an in-house competitor that might have been faster and better handling -- as well as less expensive -- than the Corvette. Much like the XP-833 three decades earlier.

    Perhaps saddest of all is that just after GM decided the Fiero had no future, Mazda brought out the Miata -- a fun little roadster that was everything the Fiero might have been -- and almost was. That's the tragic element underlying the story of this car.

    Had GM done it right and invested a bit more faith (and funds) the Fiero could have evolved into one of the world's greatest sports cars. It had all the right ingredients -- from its mid-engined layout to its American Ferrari styling.

    But it was pushed into an early grave by short-sighted management who never really gave the car a chance.

    END

  2. #2
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Just posted this article on the main site:



    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...5&Itemid=10814

  3. #3
    mrblanche
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    And the Toyota MR4 (known as "Fiero San" around our house) was very similar. And, of course, a better car. But still discontinued.

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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    mrblanche,

    In what respect was the original MR2 a better car? The first version 1985 - 1990 was a cheap imatation (with the exception of the supercharged '88 - '89 MR2 which was much better car than the base car), and in my opinion was not as good as the Fiero. I knew a lot of people who owned them, and they disappeared off the road, yet still see a lot of '84 - '88 Fieros. In 1990 Toyota got it right when they did a restyle on the MR2 along with functionally making it a much better car. For 1990 it finally had the power and handling expected of a two seater sports car. The optional turbo 2.0 I4 (200 horsepower) was a really good performer.

  5. #5
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    mrblanche,

    In what respect was the original MR2 a better car? The first version 1985 - 1990 was a cheap imatation (with the exception of the supercharged '88 - '89 MR2 which was much better car than the base car), and in my opinion was not as good as the Fiero. I knew a lot of people who owned them, and they disappeared off the road, yet still see a lot of '84 - '88 Fieros. In 1990 Toyota got it right when they did a restyle on the MR2 along with functionally making it a much better car. For 1990 it finally had the power and handling expected of a two seater sports car. The optional turbo 2.0 I4 (200 horsepower) was a really good performer.
    Imitation? How was the MR2 an "imitation"? From the dates of introduction it's clear that the MR2 had been in development long before the Fiero was introduced.

    How was it better? Hmm, let's see. Better handling, better engine, better reliability, better comfort...

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    mrblanche,

    In what respect was the original MR2 a better car? The first version 1985 - 1990 was a cheap imatation (with the exception of the supercharged '88 - '89 MR2 which was much better car than the base car), and in my opinion was not as good as the Fiero. I knew a lot of people who owned them, and they disappeared off the road, yet still see a lot of '84 - '88 Fieros. In 1990 Toyota got it right when they did a restyle on the MR2 along with functionally making it a much better car. For 1990 it finally had the power and handling expected of a two seater sports car. The optional turbo 2.0 I4 (200 horsepower) was a really good performer.
    I agree with you, Pete - having drivenboth cars.

    Yes, the MR2 was more capable in the handling department and (compared with the early Fieros) was more of a "true sports car" than a sporty commuter, as the Fiero was.

    That said, the Fiero was a better looking car; it had an especially neat interior layout. And the V-6 GT was in every respect a very solid sporty car that was as good as anything else available at the time for about the same money.

    I have always had a Fiero on my "hope to own one day" list.

  7. #7
    mrblanche
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Fieros are at an age that you can buy good ones used, cheap. As more and more of them are used up and junked, the good examples will get more expensive again, I suspect.

  8. #8
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    misterdecibel,

    Have you ever driven a V6 Fiero?

    Toyota released the MR2 because Pontiac released the Fiero. Soon after Fiero production was announced, Toyota started to develop the MR2.

    In the handling area the Fiero out handled the first generation MR2. Fieros with special handling packages each year consistly hit between .83 - .86g on the skidpad, the1st generation MR2 could not beat these numbers. The 1st generation MR2 also could not beat the V6 Fiero's acceleration numbers. I'll pull some figures over the next few days and post them.

    Also as a side note I nailed (speed-shifted) a 14.9 1/4 mile @ 91 mph time in 1991 beating a '88 supercharged MR2 (145 horsepower) which was the darling of the motoring press and the fastest 1st generation MR2. And the race was not even close. My Fiero was an '86 4-speed manual 2.8 liter V6 Fiero SE. The truth is that many stock V6 Fiero's dynoed between 150 and 160 (flywheel) horsepower (Pontiac underrated the 1985 - 1987 V6 Fiero at 140 horsepower and the 1988 V6 Fiero at 135 horsepower). My father at the time had a '85 Pontiac 6000 LE with the 130 horsepower MPI 2.8 liter V6, the same MPI 2.8 V6 motor in the Fiero felt as if it had at 20 - 30 more horsepower. The Fiero had a free-flow exhaust with 4 exhaust pipes and had a few performance tweeks from the factory.

    Also adding to what I said I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of 1st generation MR2s (1985-1989), there is no way they handled better or accelerated faster than the V6 Fieros. When the turbo (200 horsepower) MR2 came out in 1990, then and only then was the MR2 faster than the V6 Fiero. Those were fast cars and they could beat my V6 Fiero. However the 1989 Fiero was slated to get the 200 horsepower HO Quad 4 which would have made the Fiero even faster than the the V6 Fiero. It's a pity that HO Quad 4 Fiero never was allowed to be produced.

    As another side note the Fiero was profitable ever year it was produced, in 1988 when sales dropped the Fiero was still profitable and still sold in much higher numbers the 1988 MR2.

    And as for comfort I agree with Eric, the interior of the Fiero was more comfortable than the MR2. I am 6'3" tall and I had plenty of room in a Fiero, in fact there was plenty of space between the top of my head and the roof at least 5", I can't say the same thing about the MR2.


    mrblanche/eric,

    Actually getting your hands on an '88 GT or Formula Fiero in mint condition will cost between $10,000 to $15,000 now. So the prices are going up.

    Here's a very low mileage 1988 Fiero Formula for sale for $13,999:

    http://www.autoextra.com/vehicledeta...e-13999/tp-DLR

    Here's a 1988 GT for sale for $11,495:

    http://www.autoextra.com/vehicledeta...e-11495/tp-DLR

    As remember the '88 GT and Formula had Lotus tuned suspensions...





  9. #9
    mrblanche
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Your best bet is to find someone selling a Fiero who doesn't know what they have, the classic "old Pontiac in the garage" story.

    The designer of the Fiero was reportedly quite tall and a heavy smoker.

  10. #10
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    I have not driven the V6. But I thought the 2M4 was a POS with nothing to offer a motoring enthusiast.

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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    mrblanche,

    Good point, that's the best place to buy one.


    misterdecibel,

    I agree the 2M4 (2.5 Ironduke I4) Fiero at 92 and 98 horsepower was too darn slow. If I ever get another Fiero it will definitely be a V6 powered one, they were so much better.


  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    mrblanche,

    Good point, that's the best place to buy one.


    misterdecibel,

    I agree the 2M4 (2.5 Ironduke I4) Fiero at 92 and 98 horsepower was too darn slow. If I ever get another Fiero it will definitely be a V6 powered one, they were so much better.

    I'd consider a four-cylinder Pace Car; they were very neat looking to my eye - and since the car would be a part-time/fun/collectible and not a car I'd use to run fast, I'd be ok with the little duke.....

  13. #13
    mrblanche
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    If you didn't keep the car original, you COULD hop up the 4 cylinder to the power of the V6, pretty easily.

  14. #14
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    Re: Pontiac Fiero

    Eric,

    The pase car is a different story, since it is a very low volume collectable car - that is probably the only 4 cylinder Fiero I would buy. Actually the pace car Fiero made more than the advertised 92 horsepower. The quad pipe free flow exhaust probably put the horsepower up to 105 - 110. It was a very free-flow system. The Indy Fiero could run 0-60 mph in the mid to high 9 second range, which is not bad at all. And back in 1984 that was fairly quick.

    mrblanche,

    Good point, you can always modify the iron duke, however on the pace car I would keep it stock, it will be more collectable that way in the future.

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