Today marks Part I of two for the Fiero, as there’s quite a bit of information to cover on this important Rare Ride. It’s not even the first time Rare Rides has touched on Fiero; that honor goes to the ’86 Zimmer Quicksilver. The Quicksilver was a different (expensive) take on the Fiero. It wore a lengthened body on the outside, and had a luxurious hand-crafted living room inside. But today’s subject is notable for a few different reasons, namely that it’s survived 32 years in stock condition.
The Fiero was a new kind of car for General Motors, as its engineers wanted to build a compact vehicle which would reinvigorate the Pontiac brand. It was the first mid-engine car in mass production from a U.S. manufacturer, and the first two-seat Pontiac since 1938. The goal with the Fiero was to appeal to customers who couldn’t spring for the full-fat V8 Corvette. Knowing execs were hesitant to approve a car that was even on the same plane as the Corvette, the Fiero team sold it to management by calling it an efficient commuter car.
After approval, they continued to develop Fiero as a sports car with a V6. It received a bespoke platform, the P-body, and utilized newly developed technology for its plastic body panels. Fiero was the only mass production vehicle to use the P platform, but General Motors held onto it for later use in the very limited production all-electric EV1. During development of the exciting new sports car, its lead designer was saddened to learn The General would not, in fact, spring for the development cost of an all-new aluminum block V6 as intended. There was a fuel crisis ongoing, and GM restricted the budget on the already expensive project. Besides, who needed a V6 when the 2.5-liter Iron Duke from the Celebrity was already available, and fit the application? The Fiero went on sale in 1984, and despite plenty of parts bin sharing it ended up a financial loser for GM. Each time they made a Fiero, Pontiac lost $2,000.
For the first two and a half years, the Fiero was only available as a notchback coupe. All versions carried the Iron Duke until 1985, at which point the fuel crisis was over, and consumers demanded more power in their coupes. GM conceded, and added a 2.8-liter V6 to the SE trim and the GT. Transmissions over the Fiero’s production included four- and five-speed manuals, and a three-speed automatic.
The first model year of Fiero was a rough one, and by 1987 there were more than 20 of them catching on fire each month. The burn rate was about one for every 508 cars produced that year. The cause was defective connecting rods in the engine, which would throw oil onto the hot exhaust and cause a slight fire. GM found about 40 percent of the rods produced at its Saginaw plant had defects. The company did recall all 244,000 four-cylinder Fieros, but not until January of 1990. Bit of a delay there on a very visible problem.
But the future of Fiero was not to be dampened by
fire big issues. Stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll cover the second half of the Fiero’s run. It’s when the engineers got their say with Fiero instead of the accountants.