1980s Backlash: A Fiero That Can Run A Road Course And RallyCross Without A V8 Swap

1980s Backlash: A Fiero That Can Run A Road Course And RallyCross Without A V8 Swap

The Pontiac Fiero was the end result of designer Hulki Aldikacti’s dream being railroaded by early 1980s General Motors budget restrictions and general ineptness. Aldikacti had envisioned a Ferrari-like mid-engined sports car, and had managed to get GM approval by selling as an economical sporty two seater a’la the Ford EXP and Mercury LN7 twins. He got most of his wishes with the body design, but his lofty goals of a powerful V6 and a proper suspension went through the usual GM story: too expensive, raid the parts bins and come out with something just a step or two under “subpar”. How bad could it be? The 2.5L “Iron Duke” had to have a revised oil pan so the engine wouldn’t bottom out, which reduced engine capacity so much that the engine was perpetually a quart low. Engine failures were a very common event. Then there were the issues with engine fires that were traced to the connecting rods of 1984-only engines, coolant lines would be crushed during servicing, and the 1984-1987 models used the suspension out of the Chevrolet Chevette. By 1988 the issues had been ironed out and at that point, GM axed the whole deal.

Was the car bad in stock form? Find me a 1980s car that wasn’t; I’ll wait. But with a tweak here and some upgrading there, a Fiero can rock. An engine swap can do wonders, and while Northstars, LS4 5.3s and L67 V6s are common, even a standard V6 in place of the Iron Duke can do wonders. And it doesn’t have to be a high-buck deal, either. Take Steve Snyder’s 1988 Fiero: below are two videos of the same car, his car. It was bought for $250, is powered by a 3.4L V6 from a 1993 Lumina, is covered in camouflage that won’t hide anything anywhere, and works. Whether it is ripping around a road course or throwing dirt at a rally cross, it’s the same: a fairly light, modestly powerful go-kart with license plates that is fun to throw around.

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13 thoughts on “1980s Backlash: A Fiero That Can Run A Road Course And RallyCross Without A V8 Swap

  1. Nick D.

    Love me some Fieros. A real pity that GM did their usual “perfect it and then kill it” stunt. GM concepts pointed to the ’89 getting a convertible option as well as replacing the 3100 with the 3400 Twin Cam, which would have made it a real terror. Still, despite all the problems, the Fiero was a moneymaker for Pontiac and sold pretty well.

    1. ColoradoKid

      Well … they never did ‘ perfect ‘ it . But they sure as hell did kill it off half way to getting there 😉

      Hmmmn … just like everything else GM does . Including … and especially with Cadillac . Get it almost right . Bail rather than evolve . Then wonder why in the hell it is no one’s buying their crap anymore and they’re still existing on freaking Government subsidies [ as was just revealed by the NYTimes WSJ Reuters and NPR ]

      1. ColoradoKid

        PPSS ; FYI … though the Fiero sold ‘ fairly ‘ well it was a money loser from the get go … mainly because GM didn’t keep it around long enough for it to make a profit and all the problems with the early ones that put a serious damper on the later ones sales .

  2. BeaverMartin

    I also have a soft spot for the Fiero. I’ve always wanted to see a “what if” design exercise showing if Pontiac had made the first Fiero in the 60s (probably Corvair based) and continued to make them now. Maybe I’ll draw it up.

    1. ColoradoKid

      I’ll draw you a word picture . Though I’ll be keeping the Corvair and the Fiero separate ..

      Had GM gotten around the Nadarisms and evolved the Corvair … keeping the basic architecture intact …. Chevy would be going head to head with the 911 to this day … as was shown by what John Fitch created with his one off Corvair based sports car

      Had GM evolved .. rather than killed off the Fiero mid birth … Chevy’d be banging on Audi TT , Mazda Miata and possibly even MINI sales [ along with a lot of other cars worldwide not available here ] … with them then having a platform ready made to go head to head with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren

      Ahhhh ….. Would of – Could of – Should of . The primary mantra of GM and in fact all the US automakers for the last .. well … at least since the 60’s

  3. ColoradoKid

    The ubiquitous Fiero

    Yet another fine example of a US automaker getting it …. almost right .. just needing some further developments and refinement to get it all straight and be potentially brilliant … and then promptly dumping the entire project … along with the millions it took to get it as far as it had come .. over the proverbial cliff

    And yet …. folks still wonder why it is the General has been demoted to Buck Private … and the Big Three whittled down to the Three Barely Matters Mouseketeers

    This … is a fine example … why !

    1. 61 Impala

      PPSS ; FYI … GM did ‘ perfect ‘ it .

      The reason you never heard about it….. the Corvette group did.

      I work at the GM Tech Center, one of my co-workers (now retired) worked at Pontiac at the time and claims they had a Fiero running circles around the Vette. Which in hindsight probably didn’t take much.

  4. Aircooled

    I heard from a knowledgeable source that there were quad 4 (190hp) powered versions of the ’88 car being tested at the proving grounds when GM pulled the plug.

    1. Nick D.

      I know there were 3400 Twin Cam versions being tested, never heard about a Quad 4 variant but it would make sense. A friend of mine nearly bought an ’88 with a nitrous’d Quad 4 in it, but it sold before he could go look at it.


    I love these things… too bad the wife doesn’t.

    I’d like to take the dare to be different to a whole new level and put a Saab 2.3t in one or an SHO Yamaha V6.

    Still the car looks like it’s living a life far better than a half assed kit car “Ferrari” ever could be.

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