By on July 31, 2014

f6

The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its poor sales, one of the 10 greatest automotive financial disasters of all time. Other lists, however, rate the little two-seater as one of the best sports cars of the 1980s, call it one of the ten unexpectedly best cars for tall people and even rank it as one of the best choices for future collectability. Oddly enough, the Pontiac Fiero also appeared on my own personal list of potential purchases a few months ago and, despite the fact that I ended up choosing one of its contemporaries, when I recently found a wonderful, low-mileage example at KC Classic Autos in near-by Kansas city, I knew I must see it.

The history of the Pontiac Fiero is an open book. Originally conceived as a two seat, mid-engine sports car with an advanced, all-new suspension and a powerful V6 engine, the Fiero was castrated prior to its birth by GM’s bean counters who worried that the proposed car might end up stealing sales numbers from the Corvette. As a result, the new car was toned down. The powerful V6 was replaced with GM’s 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, a slow-revving long-stroke iron block engine intended for economy cars, and the advanced suspension was dropped in favor of a parts bin approach that used existing bits and pieces from the Citation and Chevette. The result was rather lackluster and the media received it with mixed reactions. Motor Trend gave the Fiero a decent review in 1984 but other magazines felt that, as an aggressively styled mid-engine car, it needed to have more performance. Whatever the case, the public loved what they saw and bought almost 187,000 units in 1984.

For 1985 Pontiac addressed the critics’ need for more power by adding an optional 140 HP V6 to the line-up but sales dropped to around 74,000. In 1986, the – in my opinion – much better looking fastback Fiero GT was added beginning mid-year and sales climbed to almost 84,000 units. 1987 brought general improvements and more power to the four cylinder model but sales were definitely trending downward and only 45,851 cars left the showroom that year. In 1988, Pontiac introduced a more sophisticated suspension, based on the original design the bean counters had initially kept out of the car, and this model year is said to be the most desirable among collectors. But alas, only 26,402 were sold before Pontiac discontinued the model and today they are a might thin on the ground. All totaled, 370,168 Fieros of all types were sold over the course of five years.

Fiero 2

Like so many GM products before it, the Fiero is one of those cars that was killed just about the time its full potential was being realized. Initially the cars suffered from quality issues and design problems. The 1984 model year also experienced a number of well publicized fires and despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, only 148 reports were made to the NHTSA detailing just six injuries, the Fiero, much like the Ford Pinto, has an enduring reputation for combustability. The truth is that within a couple years of the Fiero’s introduction, the car was well sorted and the 1986 model I was able to ride in is a great example of just how far the design had come.

I appeared unannounced at KC Classic Autos late in the afternoon and, after paying my $1 entrance fee to the “museum” and introducing myself, was given the run of the place. I have had the opportunity to visit a few classic car dealers over the years and this one stacks up rather well with a clean facility and plenty of interesting cars on hand that I could get up close and personal with. After spending far too much time looking at a stunning 1969 Nova SS and several other classic American muscle cars, I finally decided to ask if I could get a ride in the 1986 Fiero they had parked close to the front door. I had two reasons for choosing this particular car, first I hope to be invited back to ride in and report on more of the classic machines that were further back in the showroom and second, because I wanted to compare my little Shelby to the much better preserved Pontiac.

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I’ve already spent some time talking about my Dodge in other articles but it’s important to do so again so I can do a little comparing and contrasting. At 31 years old, the Shelby is a well presented little car that recently had a great deal of work done to it. Despite its lumpy idle and its slightly rich smelling exhaust, it runs like a top and moves out just fine when I get on the gas. Thanks to the work that has been done, on the outside it looks almost new, but the inside is another story and the car’s threadbare interior shows almost every one of its three decades plus one year of existence.

I’ll write more on it in detail in an upcoming article, but suffice to say that my little Dodge really is an old car. It buzzes, it rattles and it has strange smells, but at a time when this Pontiac was sitting safe and secure in a temperature controlled garage, the Shelby was out living its life, running errands, hauling kids and generally being enjoyed by its owner. Every scar, every tear and every rattle inside the car has a story that goes with it and although as a second owner I can never really know what happened, I can respect the fact that this car was a valued member of someone else’s family for many years. It has, I think, a real sense of having been used, enjoyed and loved.

At 28 years old, the 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT I saw yesterday is still very much a new car. With right around 20,500 miles on the clock, it still looks new inside. The carpets are unworn and the seats are still firm and flawless. The internal plastics have been unaffected by the sun and the gauge faces were are still as bright and clear as the day the car came off the line. The two-seater started instantly at the first turn of a key and burbled happily as it rolled out of the show room. It was simply stunning in the light of the afternoon sun.

Like I would do with any new car I am reviewing, I spent a lot of time circling the Fiero and looking for flaws. Although it’s used, I had no complaints about anything I saw. Panel gaps were good, the interior pieces fit together well. Of course the switchgear is clearly 1980s GM but it still looked modern and good in the car. Overall, I found it to be a pleasant, clean little Pontiac and I was eager for a chance to ride in it.

fiero 3

Why this car would appear on a list of vehicles that should be avoided by tall people is a mystery to me. In the mid ‘80s, I am sure this low slung, high belted design would have felt like sitting in an old fashioned bath tub, but compared to modern muscle cars I found the Fiero roomy, easy to see out of and I had no problems getting my sizeable corn-fed All American ass into and out of the passenger seat. Although my driver, KC Classic’s president, Kim Eldred, took it a little easy on the first leg of our drive I thought the car picked up and ran along the city streets without problems. Unlike my Shelby, there were zero rattles or strange smells and it is simply so clean that my mind cannot comprehend the fact that this is an “old” car.

As we made our turn-around on an empty back street, Kim jumped on the gas and I got a chance to see just a little of what the V6 could do. Hampered by an automatic transmission, initial acceleration was sluggish in first gear but second gear, however, was downright surprising. As it made the shift, I felt myself pushed back into the seat with enough force to put a lasting smile on my face and, although the car was not blindingly fast, it was pleasantly snappy. Overall, it was a good ride.

In the weeks since my Shelby arrived I have had to take a good long look in the mirror. I remember the 1980s with some fondness, and in my mind’s eye the colors remain neon bright, the tunes fun and happy and the cars as solid, modern machines. The idea that they, like the man who looks back at me from across the bathroom sink, have gone soft over the years and are not capable of the things that they once did so easily makes me wonder if they ever could. Were the ‘80s, I ask myself, really the way I remember them or were they simply an illusion of youth? This Pontiac, so well preserved, has put those doubts to rest. The 1980s really were good times and I know now without a doubt that the cars, even one with such a mixed reputation as the Pontiac Fiero, really were capable of the things I remember.

If my purchase of the Shelby Charger was an attempt to regain a piece of my youth by marrying the prom queen that eluded me back in 1984 now that she is now the divorced grandmother of three, this Pontiac is a true piece of history recently removed suspended animation and put on sale for the relatively reasonable price of $12,900. All it needs now is a new owner to use it, enjoy it and to love it. You perhaps?

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My thanks to KC Classic Auto for allowing me to wander around their show room and for their willingness to take me out in one of their cars for this review.

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117 Comments on “Classic Review: 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT V6...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    “All totaled, 370,168 Fieros of all types were sold over the course of five years.”

    I’m not sure how anyone could consider the Fiero a failure with sales numbers like that. 187K units in the first year? Wow.

    A car like this introduced today would struggle to match 1/5th of those sales in that amount of time.

  • avatar

    I don’t think $12k is bad for this in the condition its in. These are usually pretty beaten up and hooned like crazy. Too bad its an automatic, but still a consideration. These are fun cars and really surprising how low the seat is in them, at least in the 1st generation ones.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      There was only 1 generation of Fiero.

      • 0 avatar
        Drewlssix

        1988 can be considered 2nd gen considering there was no true 2nd gen. If there wore the 88-90 would probably be considered 1.5gens. Being distinct from early cars while wearing essentially the same skin.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Please allow me to state an opinion about the Fiero that had and continues to, impact it’s legacy.

      The Fiero’s biggest problem was it’s automotive partner, the Toyota MR2. What made the Pontiac such an exciting project when being conceived and designed, could also be found in the MR2. Instead of being the only two seater, mid-engine, affordable car in the market, all to itself – it ended up arriving at the same time as another two seater, mid-engine, affordable car in the market.

      What hurt was that the MR2, did everything the Fiero promised, and did it better. So instantly, from launch, the Pontiac Fiero showed up being second best, bettered by a competition that made all the glamour and glitz put out by GM over the preceding three years, look like empty hype. And you know how much the automotive press loved being taken for a ride. After the GM X-car fiasco, the automotive press was not pleased when the Fiero arrived, exposing them as gullible saps once again. They were even less impressed when they compared the Fiero to the MR2.

      Worse, the MR2 was not hyped by Toyota as GM had hyped their Fiero. Toyota under-promised and over-delivered, and GM did the opposite.

      Being second best is all the Fiero has ever been.

      Then came the fires. GM sent stickers to every owner it could find and told them to put these embarrassing stickers smack dab on the freaking dashboard. You try telling someone interested in your car why you have a fire warning sticker prominently displayed on the dash.

      By the time GM fixed the Fiero, Toyota was at it again with the MR2 Spyder update. The little Pontiac could never get from under the MR2 shadow. The Fiero is still second best.

      And as GM was trying to remedy the problems with the Fiero, every auto journalist still sore over how they bought the PR stunt, would feel forced to mention how GM needed to fix the Fiero.

      So the Fiero will always be seen as a second-rate automobile.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        The Taurus SHO was born from the abandoned engines of Ford’s Fiero-fighter. Ford abandoned the idea after watching GM’s MR debacle.

        Had this car been released, the Fiero would have likely been a third-rate automobile. You could have put that engine in the back of a Yugo chassis and it wouldn’t have mattered.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        “Toyota under-promised and over-delivered, and GM did the opposite.”

        Great observation. If I had one sentence to sum up the failure of GM in my opinion it would be:

        “GM consistently over-promises and under-delivers.”

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        The only reason the MR2 lasted longer than the Fiero is because it had a global market to share the costs and production.

        The Fiero outsold the MR2 and CRX every year they were in production together. By 88 the 2 seater market had really tanked.

        The MR2 spider was a decade after the Fiero went away, so not sure what you mean by that.

        • 0 avatar
          Kevin Kluttz

          It means there were a lot of stupid people out there who chose GM over Toyota. And there still are a lot of stupid people buying GM shit.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            You sound just like another moron who posts on Niedermeyer’s site all the time…his name is kevin too. Ironic.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        So true about the “under promised” thing. I’d abuse random used cars at the dealer I worked at and took out an MR2 without expecting much, and then immediately bought one. I let my friend drive it, without saying much about it. He immediately went out and bought one too. Everyone thought it was a chick car. Until I drove one, I thought that too.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Also, the manual Fiero was saddled with the X-car’s dreadful transaxle, which was hardly a joy to shift. I don’t know anything about the shifter in the MR2, but I’m willing to bet serious cash that it was much better. That said, I think the fastback Fiero is better looking.

        • 0 avatar
          VanillaDude

          The MR2 with a manual is simply spectacular. One of the finest shifting vehicles out that year. You sat low enough that the transmission console was a natural arm rest, and the shifter handle fell perfectly into your right hand.

          Short throws, snick-snick, flawless – the first time I really had a manual transmission that felt beyond unbelievable.

          Real joy.

      • 0 avatar

        I never drove either car, and I only ***rode*** in the MR2, but I could tell from that one ride that the MR2 was a superb automobile.

        As for the Fiero’s reputation, consider the numbers: only roughly slightly more than 10% were produced in those last two really good years. It IS a damn shame that the car didn’t catch on after it got good.

        The Saturn is an even sadder GM story

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-saturn/

        but at any rate, it’s nice to get the full story on the Fiero. Thanks TK!

      • 0 avatar
        Drewlssix

        The fiero in purely technical terms is the superior car in many aspects. It has a superior chassis. Compared to the toyotas run of the mill unibody. It has the better front suspension and though it out weighs thy mr2 it is significantly larger. The failure was mostly the lack of a performance option at launch. It would have only made up a fraction of total sales but the halo effect like with other cars would have been significant. Until the GT the fiero was simply another small econo car with zero practicality and no reputation to over come that fact.

      • 0 avatar
        360joules

        Yay! V Dude is back!

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    In its day regardless of being the parts been derivative that it was, it was still too my mind a technical knockout. The spaceframe with plastic body panels, the mid engine arrangement, and the stunning timeless understated clean styling, it’s an amazing car.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    Always had a soft spot for Fiero’s. I was about 4 when they really hit their stride so to my toddler eyes it was one of the coolest cars on the road.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    You should have bought that Probe. I still don’t like that Charger; hearing that the inside is all beat up just made me sad. That an adult voluntarily drives around in a tired, rust-patched, repainted k-car cousin and then goes to look at a Fiero in awe makes it that much worse.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If you’ve followed along his other stories, Mr. Tom needs a car which isn’t too nice. He has a mental thing where he will attempt to preserve/tarp any nice, older possession because it “should not be used.”

      So ratty is in his best interests.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve been reading closely. I’m not sure whether I should be honored or frightened.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          It’s something I do – remember things I read and very small details, for no good reason. It often does not benefit me, except for in the case of my job where memory is very important. Outside of that, it annoys people sometimes.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            If my co-workers or wife read your post they’d assume it was me. I’ve come to term the less often useful than most imagine condition being “hard of forgetting”.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            This is probably why we have the same sense of humor as well.

            It’s bad because I can’t turn it off. I can’t NOT remember everything. I’ve tried.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Why sad? He doesn’t have to worry if his kid spills his ice cream cone or he spills his coffee. The car pushes certain nostalgia buttons and is an affordable vice. Sometimes it’s liberating to just drive a slocar that’s fun to drive but can be parked in a cramped, high-theft lot without finding it’s stolen because it’s super cool. My wife brought a Ford Probe into our marriage and the K-car Shelby wasn’t too different from a Probe GT.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I almost had one of these for my first car. An ’86 GT fastback, 4-speed manual. A friend of mine was cutting me a deal, I just couldn’t come up with the last $500 fast enough. I still think of it as a missed opportunity, and keep my eye out for the GT models.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I realize the car is selling on its pristine original condition, but it needs a 3800 or a Caddy 4.9 to be in that five figure range, IMO. TBI 60V6 doesn’t cut it for me at that price.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I have heard that a few enthusiasts have put Northstar V8s in Fieros as well, but big engines always seem like the equivalent of putting a 20 hp Briggs and Stratton on a skateboard.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’ve seen 4.9s, Fiero people have told me with the alum block and all they seem to be the sweet spot. L67 3800 also popular, esp since they are much easier to obtain now vs 4.9s. Never seen N* in a Fiero, seems excessive and oafish in that model.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          I wouldn’t think a 4.9 would be particularly hard to find, being the standard FWD Caddy engine of the early ’90s. Granted, there are more 3800s out there, and there might even be some kind of aftermarket for them.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Every post-97 W body aside from the Century (and a few H bodies) ended up with the 3800SC at one point so finding one is super easy.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Last model to carry the 4.9 was built in CY95, so they are nearly 20 years old. Scrap has been high for years and unibody GM is particularly heavy. Finding a 4.9 in the not to distant future will be much more difficult than finding a L36 or L67 3800.

            @NoGoYo

            Most cars got the NA L36. The L67 Supercharged 3800 was not available in models such as Eighty Eight, Lesabre, and base G-body Park Ave. I can’t recall if L36 was available on H-body Bonneville or if they were all L67s.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            They made the Eighty-Eight past 1997?

            Also when I say “got the 3800SC”, I mean that it was available, sorry. The Impala, Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Regal, Bonneville, Riviera, and Park Avenue all had an optional 3800SC and those are just the models that I remember had it. Some Oldsmobiles had it as an option, but I’m sure it was only one model and for a short time, because I think the only motor in the Intrigue was the N* based 3.5 V6.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The Oldsmobile 88 (a.k.a. Eighty-Eight) was a full-size car sold by the Oldsmobile division of General Motors and produced from 1949 until 1999.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldsmobile_88

            “I think the only motor in the Intrigue was the N* based 3.5 V6.”

            MY98 Intrigue used the L36 3800 Series II as the 3.5 Shortstar was not ready in time. MY98 is frequently the model year of Intrigues still on the road.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The later 88s have aged well, including the regular and the LSS. The interiors don’t look particulary dated either, considering the market for the car. I especially like the wrap-around continual wood trim.

            The thing I don’t care for is the obvious way they glued on the new Olds logo on a design which was meant to have the rocket logo. It’s too high up on the nose at the front, and too large.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Agree, to me even $10K sounds too high. I wouldn’t go over 8 for this. It’s an automatic, small engine, and no leather.

      Those wheels are LEGIT on there though. And I like the color.

    • 0 avatar
      turbosaab

      There is even someone putting a Saab (GM) 2.8 turbo V6 in one
      http://www.fiero.nl/forum/Forum1/HTML/091238.html

      Knew someone in the late ’90′s who owned a late ’80′s model, not an enthusiast but loved the car.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      A quick search on kijiji found an ’88 GT for about $5000, and an ’86 with an (uninstalled) supercharged 3800 for about $4000. Lots of choices available if you don’t mind a little bit higher mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Nah, in this shape and condition the price is a little high but not outragious.

      This car really doesn’t need anything more than the 2.8
      The 2.8 sounds awesome in it and has plenty of punch to have fun.
      You put the other engines in the $1500.00 beaters.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Agreed, Poncho. The straight line performance of these cars was quite good for their price point and era. The B&B have an unfortunate tendency to give pre-’73 cars a free pass on performance metrics while simultaneously holding ’80s cars to present-day standards.

        Also, the L44 version of the 60-degree V6 had multiport fuel injection, not (as stated above) throttle-body injection.

        I’m not a fan of the period-incorrect wheels on this example.

        Ate Up with Motor has a good and very even-handed article on the Fiero.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Early in 1985, I bought a year-old Mazda RX-7 with the injected 13B engine. The Fiero’s notch-back styling, poor performance and handling, and bad reputation kept it from being a candidate. At the time, the UAW was challenging people to buy cars made by the big three instead of imports. My response was that I would have been glad to buy a Pontiac RX-7 but Pontiac (really GM) chose to build the Fiero instead. By the time they fixed it, I was committed to the RX-7 which I kept until 2008.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “the UAW was challenging people to buy cars made by the big three”

      How were they doing this?

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        UAW reps camped out in front of supermarkets (everybody’s gotta eat) and when customers approached, they were met by a UAW rep with a slap across the face with a pleather glove while screaming the following, “I challenge thee to buy American!”

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    From what I recall, you could get this, or you get an MR-2, which was altogether a much better car and far less likely to shed parts, fail to start or self-immolate.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very much agreed on MR2, but hindsight is 20/20.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The 1987-89 supercharged MR2 made close to the same power as the V6 Fiero too.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The 1984 Fiero 2M4 was so damned attractive when it showed up. Pontiac could never move Fieros half as fast as they sold that one, even though they gained worthwhile engines and eventually even decent suspension. The reason was that they ruined the car by extending the front and rear overhangs for reasons known only to some designer that sits down to pee. I don’t even care if the giant bumper covers improved fuel mileage and created downforce, they still helped the Fiero transition from a stunning car that people admired to being the butt of jokes.

      The MR2 was a better car of course, but it looked like a cubist copy of the Fiero.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Like so many GM cars before it, the Fiero is one of those cars that was killed just about the time its full potential was being realized.

    Yup. That is the most telling line in the whole story. Although John DeLorean was long gone by the time the Fiero was realized the story of the Fiero makes me think: “On a clear day you can see General Motors.”

    My father thought about one of these for a FUN car but there wasn’t enough room for his golf clubs.

  • avatar
    turboprius

    To be honest, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen a picture of a Fiero. I’ve read about them, but never actually seen one. Looks awesome.

    And to everyone who lists this as one of the worst cars of all time, there have been much worse Pontiacs. No, not the Aztec. This: http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/611204800/overview/

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      I was about your age when these came out. I graduated high school in the spring of 1983 and the Fiero went on sale in the fall of 1983 as a 1984 model.

      At the time the Fiero did look awesome. Unfortunately, before the Fiero ever went on sale there were rumors it would never achieve its full performance potential because GM feared it would rob sales from the Corvette. The Fiero might have done well as a budget, sporty commuter car were it not for all the cost cutting and quality issues that manifested after the cars went on sale.

      The Fiero was another case of GM having a solid concept that was undermined by poor execution (see also the Corvair, Vega, Citation, Oldsmobile diesel engines, etc.).

      • 0 avatar
        turboprius

        I just have a thing for cars from the 80′s, 90′s, and 2000′s that are in perfect condition with very low miles. To me, vehicles such as that Caravan and that Intrepid Dodge showed off at it’s birthday party (saw pictures online) interest me a lot more than the restored classics. Same applies to dealerships; I love seeing car dealerships from 10, 15 years ago, but those pictures are hard to find online. Best success are the Bill Heard dealerships when they were open.

        While the Fiero isn’t the best car in the world, this one feels special to me, and it’s cooler than a G3 (the car I posted a link to). :)

        • 0 avatar
          Joe McKinney

          When I was a teenager in the early 1980′s my favorite cars were those from the 1950′s and 1960′s. My first car was a 1962 Studebaker GT Hawk which was 19 years old when I got it in 1981. At the time I was only 17.

          For a teenager this 20-30 year age range is enough for a car to be an old car, but still be new enough to find affordable, surviving examples.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Fiero is a great metaphor for what ailed (ails?) the American auto industry.

    The MR2 worked well straight out of the box. The Fiero didn’t, and was killed off just as it was becoming almost tolerable.

    The MR2 worked just fine with a four-cylinder engine. GM never could make its four cylinder work.

    The Toyota was a reliable runner. The GM car, not so much.

    The GM product was inferior in just about every way, and uncompetitive in comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The Fiero hit the market a year before the MR2, which means GM heard about it and rushed their own compact mid-engine, 2-seater to market. GM can’t come up with an original idea, but still manages to beat competitor’s newest concepts to market. They follow the leader, a year before. Just like their S10 and small Blazer hit the market a year before the Ranger and Bronco II. Although GM must have been asleep at the wheel when the Mustang first came out. At least they pioneered the side-terminal battery. Stupidest concept ever. Except for the distributor against the firewall.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I don’t recall GM rushing the introduction of the Fiero in response to the impending introduction of the Toyota MR2. The Fiero project had been an on-again, off-again project for several years as GM grappled with downsizing its full-size and intermediate cars, rolling out the J-cars and coping with the severe national recession that lasted from late 1979 through the middle of 1982.

        Pontiac was finally able to get corporate approval for the Fiero by pitching it as an economical “commuter car.” Which, of course, seems ridiculous in hindsight.

        As Pch101 notes, the Fiero is the poster child for what ailed the American auto industry in general, and GM in particular, during the 1980s.

        The ultimate lesson should be, “Do it right or don’t do it at all.”

  • avatar

    I had an ’85 as my first car in high school (’97).
    Not a bad car, a lot of room inside and the seats were comfortable.

    It was a GT and there were a lot of issues I had with it. The V6 was crammed in there and you couldn’t get to the back side spark plugs. It was difficult to work on anything. I had a lot of overheating issues in the summer in Texas. It just couldn’t cool enough. They fixed a lot of issued with the ’86 as well as making it look nicer with the longer back. It also fixed the cooling and space issues under the hood. The light motor relays didn’t have a long life either but they were cheap and easy to fix. It was pretty fast for what it was with the 6 in it. The car really didn’t weigh much. The speakers in the head rest was a neat touch though.

    It didn’t last but a couple years and it broke down on the way to trade it in. Overall not the best ownership experience but it was a cheap fun first car.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    The price is much too high for what it is. $8k is about all I’d pay for it, if I wanted one.

    Otherwise, I’d save up for a while longer and get a real Ferrari 308 or Mondial.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I just saw a 308 at a local restaurant on Tuesday. I should have snapped a pic.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        A neighbour of ours has one. Still one of the best-looking modern Ferraris.

        A much different proposition, though. Probably $30-40K for a decent one, and a maintenance outlook that makes the W12 Phaeton look like a Corolla.

        • 0 avatar
          koshchei

          With all the talk of dropping a Northstar or 3800 into a Fiero, a proper job would definitely put you within spitting distance of a Mondial.

          True on the maintenance, but you’re not buying a relatively uncommon 30 year old mid-engine two seater with a reputation for overheating as a daily driver (I hope).

    • 0 avatar
      Drewlssix

      There’s no such thing as a cheap ferrari, even if it was free. The fiero is atleast serviceable and between the two actually reliable and well built

  • avatar
    Discoman

    I currently own an 87GT with the slushbox, mostly original. I used to have an 86 with the MT, and having to deal with a clutch change–dropping the engine and all, I will stick with the AT.

    It is a fun car to drive, but not the most powerful thing compared to cars today. Funny how back in the 80′s 140hp was considered respectable; now that is laughable.

    Even though this car is in excellent condition for its age, 12.9K is a bit steep. My guess is that 5-6K is a more realistic price for the car

  • avatar
    mikehgl

    Despite all the issues that this car had, and all the reasons that it was a(another) failure sourced from the extensive GM parts bin, it was, imho, simply a stunning piece of eye candy. I can’t help myself. I love it.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    I bought a Fiero 2M6 new in 1986. The V6 seemed powerful enough and the trunk was perfect to store and keep warm any take out food. This was my 3rd GM vehicle purchase of the 1980′s and was the final nail in the coffin. The A/C went ka-put in two months and I was left with no wheels for 3 days and never offered a loner. I could rent a car and that was my only option.2 years later , I’d had it with this car and unloaded it. It’s trade value sunk faster than the titanic. No more GM for this guy.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Classic Cars On Line:
    1986 Pontiac Fiero GT
    Pontiac Fiero GT. Like new inside and out with 8500 original miles with sunroof, v6, 4speed. Must go, too many toys for the garage.
    Price – $ 11,500 OBO
    Several others.
    1987 Pontiac Fiero SE
    Pontiac Fiero SE. 4Cyl 2.5L. Automatic. Power windows/locks. Clean inside and out. 6k Original Miles. Removable Glass Sunroof. All original parts. For more information or photos please call or email.
    Price – $ 7,950
    A Ford Probe better alternative:
    1990 Ford Probe GT Turbo 5-Spd, Sunroof, Leather… [Pennsylvania]
    $4.5 sold.

  • avatar
    DougD

    I think one of the biggest image problems with the Fiero today is that the Fiero People (if that is the correct term) seem to be obsessed with modifications, improvements, and righting the wrongs against their favorite car ever!

    A good friend of mine has an 85 V6 4-speed Fiero. That’s exactly what he wanted, and he bought the best one he could find. He enjoys it for what it is, a zippy fun little car that’s not worth very much.

    He does not attend any Fiero events, in his words “Those guys are loons..”

    • 0 avatar
      Drewlssix

      So they are like miata people? Not to mention rx7, supra, VW, 240SX and fox mustang people. It’s a car that simply screams to be modded one way or another. Like the others though the result tends to be a landscape littered with badly modded or incomplete projects with un molested examples becoming rare and over priced.

  • avatar

    The one statistic that surprised me in this article was the surprisingly low number of engine fires. Unless those are just the ones reported for warranty service or something like that. Without trying very hard, I can think of 5 times I’ve seen a Fiero on the side of the freeway with flames coming out of the engine compartment – 4 I stopped to help and one I couldn’t stop for. And it seems to me that I’ve seen more than that. So maybe I’m biased by my experience, but I always just kind of figured Fieros did that.

    Nice looking example, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Drewlssix

      The issue tended to be service related and not at all limited to the fiero. As a mechanic missing bits are common including gear shields and harness fasteners. Texts get lazy or things break and are never replaced and the result in a mid/rear engined car with little air flow will tend to be fires. Early fires were iirc due to faulty fuel line seals/connectors and injector O rings and fwd GMs suffered similar fires. Later fires tend to be from harnesses touching manifolds or missing heat shields. Poorly done swaps are fire hazards also.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    mid engine 2 seater was a niche market. sales also dropped because everyone that wanted one bought one, or an MR2… which also came with a targa i think,,, something fiero didnt offer.

    but hey, they sponsored the hall and oates big bam boom tour!

    outta touch, outta time.

  • avatar
    geo

    I clearly remember watching Tony Whitney (and the bald guy — I can’t remember his name) comparing the new 88 Fiero GT to the CRX and the MR2. The Fiero placed dead last, even though they agree that it looked like “a million dollars”. The Fiero handling didn’t measure up, and they said that the Golf GTI could run circles around it. They also didn’t like the fact that the gauges pointed at the driver’s chest. I think the CRX placed first in the comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      dead last out of three. you make it sound like the end of the world. I also distinctly remember it it only lost by a point or two. Lets not forget how subjective all automotive tests are. It comes down to the sales numbers right…or that’s what the Camry fanboys always like to say.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Good point about the CRX: lighter, fabulous gas mileage, Honda shifter, hatchback for much more usable cargo space. Against it and the MR2, Fiero didn’t have a chance.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I realize that it’s not a direct comparison, or even a fair one, but this car at that price seems like a great argument for buying a clean low-miles NB Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      the unfairness of the comparison is what makes this such a great argument. if you want driver engagement in a two-seater, you buy a miata. failing that, maybe you buy an mr2 if you can find one. i don’t know what could possibly drive someone to buy an old fiero instead.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        The Fiero GT body style is beautiful, and it will swallow anything from an LNF 2.0T to a 406 small block, and its mid engine cool.

        I have always always wanted one. A Fiero GT is my FIRST choice for when I have enough time, money and space for my next project car.

        You don’t buy a Fiero because it makes sense. You buy it because you just want one….and would rather have it than spend the same money on therapy for your twisted mind. :) Just like anything else like Alfa’s, old Jags or Land Rovers etc.

        • 0 avatar
          319583076

          Looks are subjective but performance isn’t. Miatas have superior suspension setups, an enormous aftermarket supporting supercharging, turbocharging, and V8 swaps, superior reliability in general, and the top comes down.

          I understand the crazy argument. I considered buying a mid 80s Audi 4000 three hours from my home sight-unseen based on a Craigslist ad and a short phonecall. You’re right, it’s easy to get emotional about cars. But sometimes the objective evidence just overwhelms the emotion and you gotta understand that following your heart can lead you straight to painful hell.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            If I wanted a weekend ready sporty two seater, I’d buy a Miata hands down.

            My Fiero idea is a project.

          • 0 avatar
            Drewlssix

            How’s this for objective. For the price of any decent NA miata I can have a swapped v8 or sc v6 fiero with room for plenty of mods in the budget. The day I start seeing drivable miatas on CL for $500 that might change.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    Crush it. Miserable piles of junk with the drive train of a Citation dropped into the back, complete with fixed tie rod ends. And perhaps the worst front end ever conceived, straight out of the Chevette. The Iron Duke, which is a very short stroke engine btw, made 90HP…. at 4000 rpm. It was a lousy boat motor too in 3 litre form. Do yourself a favor and buy a used Miata, a car that does a lot more than just look sporty. Miatas are dead reliable too.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Well said in all respects. I used to groan when one of these things drove by. All bought by what I term “hopefuls” – people without a clue, trying to look cool and broadcasting their lack of car knowledge to all and sundry. Much like the gormless buying those Chrysler “Cloud” convertibles a decade later. Look ma! It’s me!

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    And the Iron Duke 4 was NEVER installed in a Vega, it had it’s own aluminum 4 cylinder engine without cylinder liners. Another well know GM disaster, rebuilt blocks were all bored out and had steel liners installed.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that you point it out, you’re right. It was used to save Pontiac’s version of the Vega, the Astre. I’ll fix it now.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Only in its last year of production. The Astre had the crappo aluminum block, iron head engine for 3 of its 4 years of production – my parents had a ’74. An utter dog of a car.

        BTW, the Iron Duke, which had a better name than it deserved, you’d think it might actually be something great based on the name, had a 4 inch bore, 3 inch stroke and all the vibrations any keen driver could possibly hope for. What an utter dud, reflecting the GM POV that they could foist off any old piece of rubbish on the general public.

        No wonder the Japanese quickly took over around this time.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    I did not know the 151 was put in the Astre, which was the same as a Vega. I thought those Vegas were only good for showing off your car skills when you managed to stuff a 327 into one, as so many people did. I remember the iron duke well from it’s starring use in the X body front wheel drive cars. They had super soft engine mounts (which quickly disintegrated, along with the half shaft boots) and the cars were smooth running, for a while…they also made use of the early throttle body fuel injection, which was a miracle compared to a carbeurator. Lousy quality, some things never change and probably never will.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    More likely than not I’ll be buying an MX5 in the next 5 years. Neither the Fiero or the MR2 are complicating my decision.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    GM was afraid Fiero sales would cannibalize Corvette sales. OK……
    That’s classic behavior for a company with great market power or a near monopoly. The thing is, GM’s market share was down about 30 points from its peak by the time the Fiero came out. The question isn’t “How could they be so stupid?” It’s “How could they be so stupid for so long?”

    There was a time when GM would have to pull in the reins to keep its market share down. We had antitrust laws back then and it was thought to be suspicious for a large corporation to have too much market share. GM hired Robert Bork as their antitrust lawyer in the seventies. He gave them the green light to get as much market share as they could, and they ran it up to about 63 percent at the peak.

    Its not like the Corvette was some ball of fire when the Fiero came out. This ‘Sunset Boulevard’ level of delusion for years and years is really unique to GM.

  • avatar
    jnik

    The Iron Duke engine was given a smaller oil pan in order to shoehorn it into the Fiero’s space. This meant the engine always ran two quarts low even when it was “full”. That’s why so many first year Fieros are junk!

  • avatar
    geo

    Too bad GM didn’t simply build the best cars they could rather than give the reins over to overeducated MBA pinheads and their theories. Assuming there is truth to the theory that the funeral was cancelled do to GM’s desire to protect the Corvette, the story is tragic. Bob Lutz wrote that he used to mock these people, who would predict future Escalade sales down to the exact unit, for instance. Why can they never predict the obvious then? Anyhow, the Fiero makes me sad.

    • 0 avatar
      jnik

      Building the best cars they could instead of what they could build to a price, they would have had a full IRS in the 1959 Corvair, A Fiero with the Quad 4 engine, a decent cooling system in the Vega…The possibilities are endless!

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s just always burned me that GM had the right stuff to put in an affordable “performance” car, sitting right on the shelf, but gave us junk instead.

      Right car, wrong engine. Or right engine, wrong car. 454 SS? GNX? Syclone? Typhoon? Just infuriating. And at Corvette pricing, at the time. Why didn’t we kill GM when we had the chance?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    “The powerful V6 was replaced with GM’s 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, the slow-revving long-stroke iron block engine that had originally been intended for the Chevy II”

    Actually the Chevy II and Nova were offered with the Iron Duke 151 ci from 62-70. Most buyers depending on the year went for the 194 ci, 230 ci. or 250 ci 6 bangers or the bevy of small blocks. Later model Vega, Monza and Astre’s also had the Iron Duke as a replacement for the ill-fated 140ci. aka “Worst motor ever”

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Common misconception, but the Chevy II 4 cylinder has NOTHING to do with the Iron Duke.

      The 153 is based off the 230 inline six and ceased production in 1970, while the Iron Duke was based off the Pontiac 301.

  • avatar
    ry6puwh7vybo8ghot8nowo9ly4ne4deth5ca7ghe6bo7he7gyc

    I bought a new 1989 Shelby Daytona. Loaded. MSRP $18,xxx. Loved it.
    Always wanted a Fiero V6. They had a Pace Car at Auburn last year. Fuel cell up front and such.
    I think GM should have never strayed from from the Fiero size/type of car. At least the V6 variant and such.
    This is exactly what many single, young folks desire/d.

  • avatar
    71charger_fan

    The styling of the Fiero holds up very well over the decades. Exterior anyway. The interior wasn’t to my liking when they were new.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Sometimes I wonder if GM is solely responsible for the “never buy a car in its first model year” philosophy.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I’ve owned two MkI MR2′s, and loved them. Drove a 1984 2M4 that belonged to the boss of my best friend. Compared to both of the NA MkI’s, it was horrid. Still, I’ve never gotten behind the wheel of a properly sorted 88 GT, and would love to drive one just to see how a “mostly done right” Fiero feels like.

  • avatar
    agent534

    Not sure where all the MR2 was a much better car talk is about, I’ve looked at them in the past and almost all of them had bad head gaskets. Its pretty much a given with a first gen MR2, it has or will soon blow a head. Also, the 2nd gen redesigned MR2 was a carbon copy of the Fiero.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    the iron duke sucked, the pre fastback roof style sucked. I wanted to like these cars so bad. I agree that the final iteration, like this car, was by far the best of them.


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