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Old 10-21-2019, 08:29 AM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default C/D Opinion, Remember the Fiero GM’s First Mid Engine

Remember the Fiero

GM’s first mid-engine car shares at least one thing with the new C8 Corvette. Okay, only one thing.


Quote:
“Back then we were so bereft of good domestic cars it seemed like a ray of hope,” my C/D compatriot Rich Ceppos recalls. “So everyone hoped it would be something else. But it was crap.”

On the occasion of GM’s introduction of its second mid-engine car, the new 2020 C8 Corvette, let’s take a few solemn moments to remember the first one. That would be the 1984 Pontiac Fiero; a car that in its day was as eagerly anticipated as the C8. Maybe even more so. And Rich Ceppos, who wrote of our first contact with the long-awaited C8, was also there to write up the first Fiero way back when.

“The handling kind of sucked,” Ceppos continues. “The ‘Iron Duke’ four-cylinder engine was underpowered and very shaky. And the cable shifter felt like it was connected to the standard four-speed manual transmission with spaghetti. Spaghetti that was nicely al dente, but spaghetti all the same.”

“But I remember I was really kind to it in that first test. We all wanted it to be better than what it was.” There’s nothing wrong with his memory.

“Everywhere we went,” Ceppos wrote in the December 1983 Fiero test, “folks would overtorque their vertebrae to catch a glimpse of our blazing-red test car as we whisked by. We’d leave it in a suburban shopping-mall parking lot for five minutes and there’d be people pressing their noses against the side glass. This is the kind of attention normally lavished on Ferraris, so it’s clear that Pontiac’s new mid-engined, plastic-skinned two-seater stirs the public into bouts of heavy breathing.” Based almost on its promise alone, the Fiero made C/D’s 1984 10 Best list.

The 2.5-liter Iron Duke only poked out 92 horsepower, but the Fiero weighed in at just 2580 pounds. So, in the context of 1983, the car’s 11.3-second zero-to-60-mph time is almost this close to lively. But the 17.8-second quarter mile time at 74 mph—ick—was boat anchor slow. The public, however, wasn’t really looking for blazing performance. What it wanted was good looks in a package that offered some efficiency.

Pontiac anticipated selling somewhere near 30,000 Fieros that first model year. Instead it shipped 136,840 out to eager buyers. That’s an astonishing number. Corvette sales peaked at 53,807 in the 1979 model year. As far as my research takes me, the 1984 Fiero holds the single-year record for the most sales of any two-seat sports car ever sold in the United States.

Then all the compromises made in developing the Fiero began shining through. According to a 1988 post-mortem in the Los Angeles Timesafter the Fiero’s cancellation, the car was developed on a strict $300 million budget. “We weren’t able to get the extra $40 to $60 million we needed to finish it off exquisitely,” recalled Karl Krapek, who had been the manager of car assembly operations as the Fiero was being developed.

At a fundamental level that meant the Fiero was stuck with a front suspension salvaged from the awful Chevrolet Chevette, and the rear suspension was pretty much the strut front of the lousy X cars moved aft. Power steering wasn’t available, which made parking the car a challenge for some drivers. And, of course, there was the garbage Iron Duke. Then some Fieros melted down after engine fires. That’s not good.

Yes, the Fiero got better. Particularly after a V-6 engine option was added as part of a new GT model for 1985 and a five-speed gearbox became part of the package. The damage was done though, and sales slid every year. Despite significant upgrades to the chassis, Pontiac only sold 26,401 Fieros in 1988, the car’s last year on the market.

“It became a very nice car,” says Ceppos in retrospect. “An amazing evolution. But it was too little, too late.” And competition was only getting tougher. In a comparison test against the Toyota MR2 and Honda CRX for the April 1988 issue, the Fiero finished third.

Surely almost everyone who worked on the Fiero has retired from General Motors. Pontiac is gone and GM has died and been resurrected since the Fiero’s time. “I’m sure the word ‘Fiero’ was never uttered in any room where the C8 was being developed,” Ceppos says.

That in mind, the C8 is like the Fiero in one very important way: Even people who don’t know anything about cars, love it and want. The C8 and Fiero are both obtainable exotics; cars that have the style and presence of something Italian and expensive, but that are American and affordable. “They are everyman’s exotic cars,” says Ceppos, “and 99 percent of us can realistically aspire to owning one someday. That’s still something special.”
https://www.caranddriver.com/feature...ber-the-fiero/
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Old 10-21-2019, 12:49 PM   #2
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a $40k C8 corvette with the V6 from the Camaro? Think about it, GM.
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Old 10-21-2019, 01:55 PM   #3
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It's a shame because the 88 was not a bad car at all.
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Old 10-21-2019, 03:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhoward1 View Post
It's a shame because the 88 was not a bad car at all.
I agree the 88 model was a massive inprovment but the car's reputation was so soiled by then that everyone moved on. They were not reliable at all as I had two buddies that had one and they were always in the shop for something and what more can be said about the iron duke engine which some consider the GM's worst ever engine.
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Old 10-21-2019, 04:23 PM   #5
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At least the frame is good for Ferrari kit cars
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Old 10-21-2019, 08:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heavyD View Post
I agree the 88 model was a massive inprovment but the car's reputation was so soiled by then that everyone moved on. They were not reliable at all as I had two buddies that had one and they were always in the shop for something and what more can be said about the iron duke engine which some consider the GM's worst ever engine.
88 was a nice set up. I always thought the 3.4 LQ1 that was later used in the Lumina Z24 was developed for the Fiero, but it was too quick would have taken the top spot from the Corvette. 220 HP would have been a cool set up for the kate 80s.
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Old 10-22-2019, 07:23 AM   #7
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The L67 basically bolts in. Imagine if they had dropped that in

The turbo 3800 does too
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Old 10-22-2019, 10:45 AM   #8
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IN 1984 every single thing that rolled out of GM plants was steaming pile of ****. The fiero was no exception
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Old 10-22-2019, 12:47 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
IN 1984 every single thing that rolled out of GM plants was steaming pile of ****. The fiero was no exception
I don't think our younger posters could ever imagine just how poorly built domestic vehicles were in the 80's. I would argue that it was the all time worst decade in regards automobile quality.
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Old 10-22-2019, 01:06 PM   #10
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I tend to agree,but we should probably move the worst decade as 75-85. The end of the 80's early 90's saw some life.
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Old 10-22-2019, 07:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heavyD View Post
I don't think our younger posters could ever imagine just how poorly built domestic vehicles were in the 80's. I would argue that it was the all time worst decade in regards automobile quality.


GM computerized carbs of the 80s...
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Old 10-22-2019, 07:56 PM   #12
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The Fiero was hard to work on. I have story’s about it.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:12 AM   #13
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The Fiero was no worse (or better) than the other American cars of the era. It wasn’t until the last 8 years or so I would have even considered an American car of any make. Now most of them are pretty respectable and some are great.

As soon as Toyota released the MR2, there was no hope for the Fiero. Reliable, more Hp (supercharged or turbo versions) better handling and for the time better looking.
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