By on November 8, 2013

Issac writes:

Sajeev,

My father and I are Pontiac Fiero people, as we have owned nine Fieros in the past ten years (my first car was a 1986 Fiero GT). We are quite mechanically familiar with them as we have done little to major work on all of them. My dad currently has a 1988 Fiero Formula that we did a complete restoration on about five years ago. That car is an absolute blast to drive as the stock engine was modified to make considerably more power. After spending last summer driving that car almost every day I knew that someday I wanted a Fiero like his.

Last fall I was in the market for a cheap college vehicle. After looking for a couple of months and not finding anything that I wanted I stumbled across a Craigslist gem. It was a 1988 (the last year they were made and the most desirable) coupe with 95,000 miles, two owner vehicle, very little rust on it and could be had for $500. The only catch was it had a blown 2.5L iron duke motor. What made this situation ideal was that my dad had a brand new 2.5L iron duke motor sitting at home in the corner of his shop that he was looking to get rid of. After forking over $500 and a long three-day weekend, we had the car back on the road and I was glad to be back in a Fiero.

Since then I have put 8,000 trouble free miles on the car and have really enjoyed. Thinking post college I would like to do a restoration on the car where I put a much larger and more powerful engine in it. However, recently I was approached by a coworker of my dad who is looking at buying a Fiero similar to mine. He offered me a very nice amount of money for my car and it has me thinking of selling it. My question to you is, do I keep the car and hope to someday do the modifications that I want, or do I sell it?

My dad said he will set me up with a vehicle if I do sell my car, but I do not know if it worth it to walk away from a hard to find car. Such a hard decision…

Sajeev answers:

This is a hard decision for a family of Fiero restorers?  Are you kidding me? 

YouTube Preview Image

Turn this up, son!  I’m sorry, I can’t hear the begging and pleading of your Dad’s friend over the glorious sound of LS4-FTW.

You are graduating from college, getting a good job and “investing” your hobby time with an F40 6 speed manual and an LS4 swap!  Unlike last week’s LS4-powered dreamboat Buick Skylark,  I’m not grasping at straws to get a kid thinking about hot-rodding an obscure classic GM product. You are in the perfect position for GM perfection!

  1. The 1988 Fiero is a stunning design.
  2. You and your Dad actually know and appreciate them at their best, and tolerate ‘em at their worst.
  3. LS4-FTW isn’t a bizarre joke like in a FWD platform, this is performance GOLD in a rear engine sports car!

Okay, perhaps you might want a 3.8L V6, a supercharged 3.8L, or a Northstar V8 instead, they might be far cheaper and easier to procure locally.  Or the Twin Dual Cam swap if you truly enjoy pain. Best of luck, we wish you well!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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46 Comments on “Piston Slap: Fiero and Joy or Cash Money?...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    I don’t see where Sajeev answered the question .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    We all have cars we regret getting rid of, mine was a absolutely beautiful ’69 Riviera. Get rid of this Fiero, a car you always wanted and you too will have the one car you can kick yourself for ever letting go

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    A Fiero with a supercharged 3800 is something I plan to own…eventually.

    So yeah, go 3800SC!

  • avatar

    The real question is when is the father and son going to open up a Fiero restoration shop and when can we start placing appointments?

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Keep the ’88! They aren’t making any more. If memory serves, there were only 15,000-18,000 built. Fiero volume was great for a year or so, iirc. Once the 2 seat market was saturated, they fell off dramatically. The reality that they didn’t live up to their spec’s or looks didn’t help.

    I owned an ’84 Fiero in 1987, briefly considered a Quad 4 swap, and then the Superduty 2.5L parts- they were available at the local Lansing warehouse, good for 250 HP. But I learned the hard lesson, “you can’t polish a turd”. The suspension was horrible: front from a Chevette, rear from the FRONT of an X-car. Being inside GM, I tracked down the Lead Engineer for the ’88 re-design to see what could be done to make the ’84 handle better. He said, “There is only one thing you can do. Trade it in on an ’88.” Too bad Fiero died when it was so much closer to right. That LS4 sure sounds nice!

  • avatar
    bunkie

    At this point, you have very little in the car. And, unless you have been offered crazy money, you will have forgotten what you spent it on a few years down the road or, worse, remember and resent it (like the refrigerator I purchased with some of the money from selling my RX-7).

    The only reason I can see for selling the car is if you have no place to keep it and/or no reasonable chance that you will get to the task of making it what you want.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    That video is a good example of why connected housing sucks.

    All it takes is one noisy idiot.

  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    I’ll go against the grain here:

    Sell it.

    Take the coin, and build the next one. You and your dad have the skills, the tools (likely including the specialized ones that make working on Fieros easier), and the spare parts to screw together another one any time you want to.

    You know how to make them nice with stock parts, and have the know-how to make one anything you want your next Fiero to be. With those skills, any Fiero is a blank canvas. If the car you have isn’t exactly the way you want it to be now, and you can sell the one you have for a pretty penny, you have additional cash to make exactly what you want out of the next one.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Yes, but can he FIND another “hard to find” ’88? As Doc Olds pointed out, they’re not making them anymore, and the ’88 model is the one he wants and already has.

      The one thing that concerns me is that Issac’s dad’s co-worker wants the car, and his dad will “set him up” with another car. That leads me to believe Issac needs to sit down with his dad for a talk. There may be more to the deal than Isaac realizes.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    3800 supercharged for the win! They are fast as all hell with one of those transplanted, and far easier and cheaper than a northstar .

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Another swap is the 1962ish Buick-Olds 215 CI all alum. V-8 which can be enlarged to 300 CI. This engine was later used in the Rover and also ran at the Indy 500.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      “Author: mfgreen40
      Comment:
      Another swap is the 1962ish Buick-Olds 215 CI all alum. V-8 which can be enlarged to 300 CI. This engine was later used in the Rover and also ran at the Indy 500.”

      These great engines litter all the self service junkyards and _NO_ONE_ wants them @ $250 each fan to flywheel .

      A sad thing IMO , I see them crushed for scrap monthly .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Another one of GM’s great mistakes was ditching the Buick-Olds 215 and selling the tooling to BL. It would have been more than fine in many compact and mid-sized GM vehicles through the 60′s and 70′s but like todays LS6 and 3800 would have still been around in a modern configuration.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I’ll go against the trend. The Fiero is has to be on the top 10 list of “Cars GM Almost Got Right” Looks good but neither fast or well handling. What was the purpose of this car? Sell it and get a Mustang or a Miata, lots of go fast parts for either. Apologies if I’ve given offense and 1 free round of name calling goes with that :)

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      In fairness to the Fiero:
      - As others have noted, the ’88 model is a different animal suspension-wise from its predecessors.
      - Equipped with the 2.8 V6, it was a quick car by the standards of its time. The list of contemporary cars that were faster is relatively short and gets even shorter when you exclude truly pricey stuff (928, 944 turbo, etc.).

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    You’re a Fiero fan, know how to work on them, and found the best one to have. Keep the ’88, dump the Iron Puke, and build the Corvette-killer Quad IV Turbo Fiero that GM didn’t have the balls to make.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      I’d use the Ecotec- lighter, lots more support in the aftermarket and still close to plug and play! On the other hand, an LS4 will come up somewhere!

      Pontiac wanted a Corvette killer two seater, but they had to pose Fiero as a commuter car to win Corporate approval. The low investment compromises were a shame. It had the ergonomics of an Italian exotic, and the performance of a Citation. With poorer handling!

      We almost got the Quad4 in it, provided a “level 2″ LD2 which Pontiac ran off against the V6, more of a “level 3″ powertrain. They were were close, but the better performing 180 HP LG0 HO Q4 would have made a good base engine with a 280 HP boosted Q4 uplevel!

      Internal politics! Chevrolet essentially swallowed up Pontiac in the 1984 reorg that created CPC. They wanted their own engine, not a BOC engine. In fact, Chevrolet proposed tooling Isuzu to build a DOHC 2.3L 4 cylinder for Beretta GTZ just so as not to use an “Oldsmobile” engine. They presented the proposal to the board and then President Bob Stempel, who was an Oldsmobile man. He told the Chevy guys in no uncertain terms that he NEVER wanted to hear of that proposal again! With a perfectly good DOHC built in Lansing, why invest a $million for a low volume application. This knowledge gave me special pride after the “blessing of the fleet”, an involved road test of the Beretta GTZ at the Wilmington plant to determine goodness for release to produce and sell. At the wrap up meeting, the BOC-Lansing Product Team got a standing ovation on the powertrain! Chevy still never really got behind it, though. Ecotec solved that problem.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Question DocOlds, given the 1984 reorg and the split of CPC and BOC, why did Pontiacs later get the “BOC” 3800 in Bonneville and Grand Prix as opposed to a “CPC” 60V6?

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          I originally wrote a multi paragraph response, trying to summarize a broad and detailed history, but can summarize that the reorg was not stagnant, and involved consolidation of all engine and transmission engineering and manufacturing into the global GM Powertrain Group. BOC executives rose to Chairman and President of GM, which altered the dynamics. Car divisions were consolidated together and then, with the Truck Group, became NA Vehicle Engineering, with two primary locations in NA: Vehicle engineering in Warren and Powertrain Engineering in Pontiac, Michigan, the north end of Woodward Avenue! “What a long strange trip its been.”

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Find a girl. Settle down. If you want, you can marry. Look at me. I am old… but I’m happy.

    Keep the car. Buy a house. Get roommates to pay your mortgage. Keep those savings coming in, cause in time they will go out.

    Cat Stevens / Steve Lang duet, Copyright 2013, All rights reserved…

    • 0 avatar
      AllThumbs

      I tried to set my son up with that deal this semester: I’ll buy the house, you keep the profit from having three or four of your buddies pay rent. They’re practically giving away houses where he goes to school, so he would have cleared about $400 a month after I paid the mortgage. He didn’t want to do this, and for a very legit reason: Didn’t want to be his buddies’ landlord. Not economically efficient, but perhaps smarter than my plan.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Whenever I hear “we owned 9 Fieros in 10 years” I’m tempted to say, “never happened.” But yeah, cheaper to keep her..

    Howerver, I do find it interesting that GMs last cars in a model line were better than the first. It seems to be the opposite with other makes.

    Sent from my Commodore 64…..

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I’ve always loved me some Fiero. The GT body style, as Sajeev says, is beautiful.

    Some swaps I have had in mind include of course the 3800 SC, and more recently the LNF 2.0L with stage 2 GM performance upgrade, with 5 speed and LSD.

    Mine would have to be a stick, so, that would be the biggest stumbling block for the big V6/V8 conversions.

  • avatar
    jeremyb

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my thought that these vehicles are not very desirable. My father recently acquired a pair of Fiero cars. The first car is an ’85 manual 4 iron duke with 85,000 miles and he paid $700. The next car is an ’86 V6 auto with 55,000 miles and it cost $2700. Both cars are fair-rough condition for the age.

    Dad feels that with some TLC these cars can be flipped for a profit. His idea of TLC for the ’85 is a repaint and a few other other repairs. I feel like he is just throwing his money away on these cars. Thoughts?

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Anything pre-’88 is unlikely to gain much value no matter what you do. :-(
      Price ‘em low, and let ‘em go!

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Of course, you’ll never flip an ’80s sports car/truck for profit, but that’s not the question. But converting a Fiero, MR2 or any sporty and lightweight RWD to LSx power would be a blast to build/own/drive. Consider $10K goes a long way with used parts and your hack skills. And how far would $10K go towards a boring A$$ new car?

  • avatar
    zenofchaos

    As a fellow Fiero Aficionado, I say keep it! One question though: does it have the WS6 suspension setup? If the one you have doesn’t have it, and you can find one, that might be just the slightest bit more desirable (but then, I’m pretty sure you already know that). Either way, I’m just glad someone is keeping these soldiers alive. I myself am trying to determine if my next vehicle will be another Fiero, or if I’m ready to pursue my dream of a late 80′s Trans-Am that I transplant a Pontiac 400 from a late 70′s Trans-Am (With Pontiac 350 heads, milled down, mild cam, and exhaust).

    I do miss me some mid-engine handling action though!

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    88 Fieros in good condition are very hard to find. What is he offering you for it?? That’s the main thing… is it enough to get another better one? If not then keep it.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    That V8 sounds good, but after hearing the awesomeness built in the LSA…

  • avatar
    cadarette

    This article brought a tear to my eye.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Now that sound is positively orgasmic! I think I need a towel…I’ve always kinda dug the 88 Fiero and wondered what dropping a real engine into it would do. Damn…that thing sounds angry at the world. For less than the price of a new Sonic, you could have yourself one heck of a machine. Mind starting to wander now…

  • avatar
    88formula

    So this is Isaacs father here. Yes, we have owned 9 or 10 Fiero’s but it’s been the last 12 years. His bad for getting the details wrong.

    So Isaac put his college ahead of the 88 coupe and used the sale proceeds for fall tuition. My advice was that even if clean 88′s are becoming more rare, it’s still only a car (albeit one that we put considerable time into already) As a consolation, I gave him my 88 Formula to drive – with the bonus of getting the title when he completes his BS in mechanical engineering. (I’m on to pickups and diesels at the moment). As far as uprating the motive power goes, the Formula has had the 2.8 massaged with a bore/stroke to 3.2, a little more cam, and various other sundries upgrades. Very fun to drive. My wife doesn’t really care to ride in it anymore due to the adolescent driving behavior it brings out in me.
    Thanks for all the interesting comments. They are a hoot!

  • avatar

    In college a GF had a Fiero. It was very pretty, but the suspension sucked, the engine was a thrash-0-motor, and it didn’t live up to the promise of the look. Yes, it wasn’t the last year with a six and getrag trans…..really sad. I know the story that they sold it as a “commuter car” and was stuck with the crappiest parts bin stuff at GM…It was almost as if corvette engineers moonlighted and wanted to make sure there was no competition from the Pontiac boys.

    None of which mattered…she was a tall blonde with a red sportscar, who didn’t often get over 75. Taught this car not a lot about the world of car sales to non geeks….everything I knew about my Callaway scirocco, GLH Turbo, or olde 400 Firebird, meaningless….

    Pretty crap sells…Camry Solara, anyone ?

    I saw an 88/v6 recently at a gas pump, with a HS girl driving. I wasn’t sure if it was a gift from a doting dad or a “right” car about to be killed by a million curb hits….


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