Sunday, February 6, 2011

1984-1988 Pontiac Fiero [Part 1]

1984 Fiero showroom poster

        In the mid 1980's the North American market was absent of any domestic small sports cars. The Fiat X1/9 had an interesting niche market all to itself as Porsche/VW had stopped production of their somewhat affordable mid engined "914" in 1976. The oil crisis of the late 1970's set the wheels in motion at GM. They wanted a car that could be marketed as an exciting yet economical sports car. This would mark the first mass produced "mid engine" American car. An all fiberglass body was a goal for production. The fiero essentially became the test bed for what would become GM's new division "Saturn" and their full line of fiberglass cars.

  In 1984 The Official Pace Car for the Indy 500 was a 4cyl. Fiero!
[ohioindy from Pennocks Fiero Forum]
       This release of the Pontiac Fiero came to light in September 1983. The "Iron duke" 2.5 4cyl OHV engine chosen to power the Fiero was chosen because of its fuel mileage. Along with great fuel economy servicing the cars was simple and cheap, due to the number of components shared with other common GM vehicles. The rear sub-frame which included the entire drive-train as well as suspension and brakes was a slightly modified version of the front clip from a J-Body GM(Pontiac Sunbird/Chevrolet Cavalier). The three models available in 84' were as follows; the base model "2M4"; the optioned "SE" and a limited production "Indy Pace Car Replica" model. The drive-trains available for all models consisted of the 92hp/135ft.lb four banger fitted to either a 3speed slush box or a somewhat satisfying Muncie 4 speed manual. Fiero owners were happy with the way the car felt to drive. It wasn't a speed demon, which kept insurance rates down, but it handled great. This handling is attributed to the Fiero's weight of just under 2500lbs. For the time its sub-11 seconds zero to sixty acceleration was decent and with 35mpg available on the highway the Fiero was impressive. Initial acclaim for its nimble composure and handling was a welcome sight. It seemed like the little car was living up to what it had promised. Over 135,000 Fiero's were sold in it's debut year.

84' Fieros all had 92hp 2.5L OHV 4cyl.
New for 85' 140hp 2.8L OHV V6

         The car was receiving some criticism as it was being heralded as a "secretaries car". The fact was the Fiero appealed to women quite well and a considerable chunk of its new owners were women. The idea of a bigger engine was considered to be a remedy and was already in the works. In 1985 Fiero SE models and the all new GT models were available with a 140hp/160ft.lb 2.8L OHV V6. This added some weight to the rear of the car but answered the call of the people who expected more from a mid engine sports car. Sales dipped lower in 1985 after reports of engine fires surfaced in the media. The cause of the engine fires was due to a mechanical failure when oil levels were low in the 4cyl. The bad media badly hurt the car's reputation and it would never fully recover. The positive news for this model year remained. The introduction of a true performance version in the GT was garnering respect amongst gear heads. The body panels were improved over 2M4 models and likened the car to the "official pace car" models. This would be the last year the GT was available in what would later be referred to as the "notchback" Fieros. The 4cylinder Fieros received a new 5-speed (Isuzu variant) transmission.

1988 "Fastback" Fiero GT
       In 1986 the Fiero was now available in 2 completely different body styles. The GT introduced the "fastback" Fiero to the world. Its was a remodel of the rear of the car and a true update to the overall look. The new tail-lights were accompanied with new "C-pillar sails". The new C-pillars did without artificial black Plexiglas rear side windows. Instead they were purely for aesthetics as they extended farther from the rear of the cabin for the illusion of a bigger car with more space and aerodynamics. Drive-trains remained the same with the exception of a 5-speeds becoming available mid year for the V6(Getrag variant). The Fiero was entering its 3rd year of production and news of the vehicles reliability issues were surfacing. With the previous bad media, the Fiero's days were numbered and sales would never again reach as high as they once were.

        Some Fiero aficionados today consider the Fiero's last year in production to be the car it should have been from day one if it was to be destined for success. It's a good argument because vast improvements were made in 1988. The suspension was re-designed along with the steering knuckles. The stance of the car also improved accordingly, helping its aesthetics. The option code for the improved suspension, might be recognized by fans of Pontiac's most successful sports car: the Trans Am. By checking "WS6" in the order form buyers received the best handling car the General had ever made with the exception of the new C4 Corvette. As a treat for minimalists Pontiac also offered the 1988 Fiero GT's performance features in a "notchback" body in the Fiero Formula.

        By this time the 1980's were winding down and the trend of the 1990's was expected to be larger SUVs and a resurgence of Trucks alike. Gas prices had loosened their choke hold on society and small cars would take a back seat to any larger models in development. In it's final year of production the greatest Fiero model year ever, a total of less than 27,000 units were sold.

To be continued...

11 comments:

  1. Props to "ohioindy" from Pennocks Fiero Forum for recognizing his car in my blog posting. To be fair I found it on google in the first place. A beautiful car pic sure gets around.

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  2. Just a couple of small corrections -

    The Izusu 5 speed became available on the 85 4 cyl.

    The 88 front and rear suspensions were completely redesigned from the earlier years.

    olejoedad

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  3. Thanks olejoedad. I sourced many places for this info including stuff I learned from conversations at the local Fiero meets.

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  4. I follow your blog for a long time and must tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers. Keep it up.

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  5. Glad you liked the pic. Ohioindy

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  7. The 80's sports car may not be the fastest compared to today's but this was the legacy I have lived with. These were some of my favorite.

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