By on October 3, 2011

Since there are multiple TTAC Hacks on assignment here at the 24 Hours of LeMons, you’re getting into the mix from multiple angles. And, here in the Piston Slap corner of the world, the Cars are the Stars! But some whips simply have too much going on: feats of engineering superiority, a collection of creative/rare parts and a dump truck full of historical irony. That’s right, historical irony…with a touch of revenge!

Enter the Chevy Lumina Z34 powered Pontiac Fiero here at LeMons Houston. And a little Ford vs. Chevy history: from the viewpoint of Mr. Goodwrench and the average Joe.

If you were a Mr. Goodwrench back then: do please accept my heartfelt apology. Much like cramming 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, the Lumina Z34 was a hot mess to service: the double-overhead camshaft “wannabe Yamaha V6” conversion made servicing the spark plugs, timing belt, tensioners, etc. a nightmare. Buried in the frame of the less-than-Taurean Chevrolet Lumina, more skilled wrenches curse the name “Twin Dual Cam” compared to the Yamaha SHO motor. Moot point in this day and age, but I remember the chatter on car forums back in the late 1990s.


Let’s say you aren’t a Mr. Goodwrench:
the (1991) Z34 was a (cobbled up) competitor for the critically acclaimed 1989 Ford Taurus SHO. Much like the Lumina’s relative lack of success, the Z34 didn’t stand a chance against the SHO. Aside from less power, the SHO always rated higher because of the vehicle wrapped around the hot engine. Short of being an aspirational vehicle for Chevy Beretta owners or rabid fans of GM’s 60-degree V6 motor, the Lumina Z34 flopped.

So why on earth should you care about the mating of a Lumina Z34 and a Pontiac Fiero?

Continuing with the Ford vs. Chevy thing, the Yamaha SHO motor was originally intended for a Pontiac Fiero type of mid-engine sports car. Which was stillborn. Hence the need for the Taurus SHO to exist. So what’s a GM fan to do? Get the ultimate “Z34 revenge” by making your own Ford SHO-like mid-engine sports car!

And by that logic, you’d be a damn fool to NOT put a Z34 mill in a Pontiac Fiero!

The first thing that tips you off to this car’s “Screw You Ford” mantra are those wheels. Sure, the fronts are proper lacy affairs for the Pontiac Fiero. But what are those rear wheels? Is that really a Chevy Lumina back there?

Did Dearborn just get served? Peek a little closer, and there it is. Do yourself a solid and dig through the photo album, because you rarely see things quite this awesome.

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21 Comments on “Super Piston Slap: This LeMons Fiero Gets Revenge on FoMoCo...”


  • avatar
    DDayJ

    Ah yes, the LQ1 DOHC engine. Don’t forget the extremely hard to access alternator, or the oil pump seal that requires removal of the rear head to get to. Looks like the mounting of this engine in the Fiero helps that access issue! I still have one of these cars in Pontiac Grand Prix GTP form.

    • 0 avatar

      I was trying to find third party verification of those, but couldn’t given the time constraints. Thanks for mentioning them!

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Again, FWIW, these were also in Oldsmobile Cutlass International Editions back about 1990-1992 or so. I drove one as my personal transportation when I was working as a car saleslizard. At least until I convinced someone to buy it…

        I guess the reason why I miss it now was after I sold it, I got a Ford Tempo as my personal transportation.

        That sucked.

  • avatar

    Within GM this was known as an awful, awful engine that ended up with way too much cost and complexity, and too little power or fuel efficiency. The engineers couldn’t wait to euthanize it.

    I need to post a pic of a Fiero with a boosted six I could not identify. Perhaps someone here could?

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……..not many fans of this mill, but at least it dragged GM/Chev kicking and screaming into the 4-cam world that their marketers wanted to catch up with (the Lotus/Mercury Marine/Corvette ZR1 doesn’t count…..too many fingers in the pie!). Many others followed, but, here we are, 20-odd years later, and the pushrod V-8, suitably pressurized, and sharing no parts with the original smallblock, is still the go-to motor for winning GM performance vehicles.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Wasn’t the SHO V6 essentially an adaptation of the OHV Vulcan V6? The Twin Dual Cam was much the same from the 60deg OHV V6, but amazing how differently those turned out, one a masterpiece, the other a disaster.

    It wasn’t too long after this engine came out that the lowly cheap and reliable 3800 was making over 200hp.

    Timing chain…timing belt…which is better? Who cares, the Twin Dual Cam gives you both!!

    • 0 avatar

      Correct. So maybe Yamaha did a better job than GM, or maybe the Vulcan was a better blueprint.

      • 0 avatar
        autojim

        About the only things the SHO shared with the Vulcan was bank angle, bore centers, and (initially) displacement. No parts interchange between the Vulcan and the SHO V6.

        I was at Ford Engine Division during the gestation of the replacement 3.4L SHO V8 (which lives/lived on sort of in a larger displacement form — 4.4L IIRC — as an option in the Volvo XC90). Yes, most of the design work was done by Yamaha, but the Ford guys contributed far more than they’re given credit for.

        We tore down a Twin Dual Cam and the thing that amazed me was the sheer number of cam belt sprockets on it — something like 15 — running the cams from the jackshaft in the V where the OHV cam would have normally been.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    FWIW, I think the guys with the Buick V6 had the better idea. I’d like to see if a 3.9 pushrod V6 from a Malibu SS or G6 GXP would fit in better. The 3.9 was good for 240 HP from the factory. They seem to be solid, too. That should be plenty of grunt for an old Fiero.

    Although, I like the idea about a Quad 4 in a Fiero also. The early 90′s Berretta GTU’s and GTZ’s had the 200 or 190 HP (depending upon which year) Quad 4. A nice light package with a lot more ponies than the original 2.8 V6…

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …….ah, yes, the Quad 4, another much maligned motor, but, like you say, quite light and powerful. In various single and twin cam variants, it ended up in just about all the small and midsize GMs at one time or another. It was Oldsmobile’s baby originally and bowed with a lot of hype…..A J Foyt set a world closed-course speed record using an ultimate-tuned version. I actually used to like them, but, unfortunately I have personal memories of a catastrophic failure, i.e., it grenaded.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I have a 95 Q4 in a Sunfire. The previous owner spent a sh!tload of dollars to get the engine running right (no idiot lights on the dashboard), and it seems to have worked. I’ve had the car for five years now and only have had the coil pack puke on me. Well, and leaky valve (cam) cover gasketa. The rest of the motor has been fine.

        The 1995 2.3 was a transitional motor, in some regards better than the previous version, but worse than the succeeding version too. It got the balance shafts and the integral power steering pump, but they share the propensity to eat the crankshaft bearing closest to the #3 cylinder. I think about that eventuality when I wind the car 5000 RPM.

        Which I do often.

  • avatar
    ajla

    At least Yamaha didn’t let GM have all the ill-conceived factory engine fun and came up with the SHO V8.

    I wonder why GM came out with the 3.4L DOHC and didn’t just keep up with the 3.1L turbo.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Ahhh, this reminds me of the time that I was given a test-ride in a Lumina Z34 by a certified-crazy salesman back in the early 1990s. It was one of those uber-rare Z34s with a manual transmission as well. The salesman first drove right off the side of a perfectly good interstate onramp onto the steep, gravel slope (probably 50-60% grade sideways) to show me the capabilities of the car (why???? – it just scared the crap out of me and caused me to double-check that my seat belt was securely fastened).

    Later in the test drive, he took a S-curve freeway offramp at 65 mph and waited until about 125 feet to the stop sign before applying the brakes, giving my aorta that unneeded stretch I could never figure out how to accomplish before then (the car had antilock brakes obviously).

    But yeah, I would never have bought that car just due to the difficulty of working on the engine. The same issue applied to many other performance cars of that era including the Thunderbird Super Coupe, Nissan 300ZX Turbo, and so on. My 1988 Buick Electra T-Type was a relative joy to work on, in comparison.

    But I’m still amazed that I actually got to ride in a manual-tranny-equipped Lumina. Never seen another one since then.

    • 0 avatar
      ams1231

      I am the owner of the Fiero in the article and I thought I’d tell you that when we found the donor Lumina Z34 on craigslist, it had the 5-speed. Before we ripped the car apart (we dang near had to to get the dang engine out) I drove it around for a few seconds. It was entertaining and surprisingly quick. The car around it was falling apart however….

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …….”geozinger” knows his Quad 4′s. Seems to me they sort of withered out of production, unloved and under-appreciated, about the time the “Ecotech”(Ecotec?) appeared. Somebody out there owns “The Last Quad 4″.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @dvp: thanks, I’ve been around a few of them. The Quad 4 lived on until the early part of the 2000′s as the 2.4L version. There were a few other enhancements, but some annoying traits were never fixed. It was a remarkable unit, but never executed well.

      The (Family 1) Ecotec came on line mid-2000′s, and IMO is a much better motor. You can hot rod the Eco far better than the old Quad. Even the factory super- and turbo-charged the Eco to great effect. Probably the pinnacle of the turbo’ed Eco was the fitment to the US version of the Ariel Atom, where it was tuned to put out 300HP.

      One of the things I’m working on this week is salvaging my daughters wrecked 2004 Sunfire with Eco and 4 speed autobox. I really want to play with that car in the worst way…

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    there are about five 8-cylinder fieros on ebay right now. The cadillac 4.9L seems like a popular swap.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Well the 4.9 is more reliable than an average Northstar. I’d still love to get my hands on one of those rare last generation Eldorados that has the 4.9 instead of the Northstar.

  • avatar

    I believe the metaphor is ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag. But the point is still well taken….

  • avatar
    jimf42

    Just got an email from a friend at the Autobahn CC LeMons (starts Sat) …a photo of a Reliant Three Wheeler in tech…STRONG contender for the index of effluence…


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