By on May 31, 2016

1986 Pontiac Fiero in California Junkyard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Pontiac Fiero was a frequent junkyard sighting up until about a decade ago, but now they’re quite rare. So far in this series, we have seen this excessively yellow ’86, this ’88 Formula, and now today’s Iron Duke-powered ’86.

1986 Pontiac Fiero in California Junkyard, SE badge - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The SE was the second-to-top Fiero trim level for ’86, and it came with aluminum wheels and a black “aero package.”

1986 Pontiac Fiero in California Junkyard, air cleaner - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Unfortunately, the SE didn’t come standard with the 140-horsepower 2.8-liter V6. Instead, the gnashy, rattly, shaky 2.5-liter pushrod Iron Duke four-cylinder offered 92 horses.

1986 Pontiac Fiero in California Junkyard, tachometer - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

You were in the danger zone when you revved the Duke to 4,500 rpm. Meanwhile, the ’86 Toyota MR2 came with a 112-horsepower 1.6-liter engine, weighed 2,282 pounds (versus the Fiero’s 2,499 pounds), and sold for $11,298 (versus the Fiero’s $10,595). On top of that, the ’86 Honda CRX Si listed for $8,279 (though you’d probably end up paying a lot more than that), weighed a mere 1,954 pounds and packed 91 high-revving horses in its 1.5-liter engine.

1986 Pontiac Fiero in California Junkyard, rear glass - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Did any affordable sporty cars of the 1980s escape the decade without an application of this horrible purple window film?

1986 Pontiac Fiero in California Junkyard, backbone - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Fiero keeps its fuel tank in this tall central chassis spine, and the coolant lines live in channels on the other sides of the seats. This put the Fiero driver deep in a trough.


I was in college in Southern California around this time, and I don’t recall seeing a single Fiero in the campus parking lots. Plenty of shiny new Volkswagen GTIs, Fox Mustangs, and Honda CRXs, of course, but no Fieros. Maybe things were different in the Midwest.


Strangely, no mention of the Iron Duke in this ad.

[Image: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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43 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Pontiac Fiero SE...”


  • avatar
    Waterview

    I looked at the Fiero and the MR2 at one point in my life. Drove the MR2 and realized I’d be spending too much money on speeding tickets, so did not buy. Great formula – mid engine, light, and quick. Too bad GM didn’t get it right until the end with the V-6.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The ’88 models are the only ones worth having – they finally got their own suspension, ditching the Chevette front suspension and the front-moved-to-rear suspension from the X-Body platform.

      • 0 avatar
        Sketch

        While it is an improvement, the 88 suspension isn’t really THAT different. The early suspension handled fairly well. The main thing with the 88 is it helped get rid of the bump steer issue from the rear suspension, so it was less likely to surprise you while cornering over uneven surfaces.

    • 0 avatar
      montecarl

      I test drove a MR2 around that time also…The gal I was womanizing said…”where my two kids gonna sit”..Didn’t know she had any kids…The Fiero wasn’t even on the radar

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Ah this brings back a memory of the spoiled girl in high school who got one of these – an ’84 if I remember – that was only two years old. Trying to cram three or four teenagers inside was uh, interesting.

    During the 80s/early 90s I saw two of these on the side of the road, plastic burning away.

  • avatar

    Had a GF with one of these. She was a nurse, and this was her first new car. She loved it. She also became unhappy with me when I got over 75 mph, which was a clear sign…

    When I drove it, the Chevette front suspension and the Iron Lump just killed it. I wanted to engine swap the 2.2 turbo from my Omni GLH.

    Everything that has been said about this car is true….it coulda been great, but was trash GM partsbin under a pretty face. The big tires on incompetent suspension meant you could chunk the outside of the tires, too.

    Yeesh. GM has some good parts, but none of them made it to this car.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Just GM being GM. The final couple years had the suspension and V6 it needed from the start, but sales were torpedoing, from 136K in ’84 to just 24K in ’88. There was a lot of bad press, including poor reliability/quality and engine fires, early on.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        “Just GM being GM.”

        Pretty much says it all. Supposedly, the Chevette front suspension and Citation front-now-rear-suspension/drivetrain was the only way they were able to get it past the GM bean-counters as a ‘commuter’ car.

        The problem was the Fiero’s good looks promised a whole lot more than what was delivered. I think it was Car and Driver that said the Fiero was a lot like the stunning girl in high school who was desired by every boy until she spoke.

        Maybe if the Fiero had been less attractive in the beginning, it would have done better, particularly if the styling had later been improved along with the better suspension/drivetrain.

  • avatar
    kjb911

    I deeply miss my fiero. My first car came about during the high gas prices of the early 2000’s. $4.64 a gallon was extremely intimidating to my 16 year old self in 2006 so I wanted to find a cheap car that would not burden my parents. After going for my morning run one day, I came across a white 1985 Fiero SE with one headlight up and a ripped driver seat. The sign said $300 OBO.

    Later that day I was trying to manage driving the car to my house since it had a busted clutch and a blown slave cylinder. The first month of summer was a daily regiment of work by day and moonlight repair using an old Haynes Manual and constant bothering of the Fiero Club on Yahoo.

    By Senior Year in September, “Vesper” was ready for action after a partial tear down of the the duke, a new clutch, new coolant lines, refurbished headlight motors and MR. Mike’s leather upholstery. Everyone wanted to know what I was driving. She had 175,000 miles, White exterior with Gray Leather, the rare WS6 suspension package, and even the Delco Bose Subwoofer!

    Sure the Sunroof panel leaked, the cassette player failed long ago, it rattled like a b**ch over unsettled pavement, but I never had more fun in a car that cost me $1,500.00 all together as well as only costing $20 to fill up.

    My ex crashed it Freshman year in college and by then I had 225K on the clock with a cross country journey under its belt. Someday I hope to have another…just hopefully it’s a V6 this time.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    i had a used ’86 Fiero SE 2M6 in high school and i loved the car. the girls loved it, too and i would let them drive (manual steering rack was a chore at slow speeds) or stand up through the sunroof. wasn’t easy to make out in but we made it work ’cause we were motivated and young/agile.

    when i first got it i drove it so much i was putting 3k/mo on it. i remember because that was back when you still did the 3k-mile oil-change and i would go in to the local guy once a month and was like, “back already?!”.

    never gave me any trouble (other than headlight motors/relays) and i drove it hard. i bought it with 70k miles or so and drove it until 118k miles I think; into my first year of college when it just wasn’t practical any more being away from home. distant relative got it and as far as i know put quite a few more miles on it.

    towards the end the front end was getting pretty sloppy. i drove it through northern IN winters with the lake (MI) effect snow. i don’t think i ever got stuck and that was with crappy off brand all-season tires. i did do a couple of un-intnded 180s though.

    after college i almost bought an ’86 GT but my friend and i went to drive it and time had passed it by and i realized it was a great first car but the love was gone.

    also, mine had the three-speed auto. sucked a lot of power from the engine but my brother bought a manual version later and it was NOT fun to shift that thing, but it definitely had more power to the wheels.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    My friend in college had one of the 2M4’s and he held the record amongst us for holding the highest speed around the offramp near the school. However we started to question the rest of the car when, while driving on the highway, he switched on the (pop up) headlights and one of them blew completely off the car.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    At least styling wise, the early models are timeless knockouts. There was one parked at work yesterday and it rekindled my admiration for it.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Agreed. The first 2M4s looked like the future. The Fiero, the Daytona/Laser, and and MK VII LSC all seemed to be pointing towards a return of relevant American cars at a time when Reagan was restoring pride in being American. Alas.

      • 0 avatar
        kmars2009

        Pride? Are you kidding me? Any President who BLATANTLY IGNORED THE AIDS CHRISIS…until it was an epidemic, is NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF!!!
        Are you some sort of NAZI?

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          Calm down, relax.
          Life is too short to take it that seriously!

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          I knew exactly nobody who got AIDS while I did know people who died at the hands of murderers released from prison on technicalities. Many of us only tend to care about things that affect our own communities, which couldn’t possibly be more true than it is of any American who doesn’t appreciate what Ronald Reagan did for the country and the world because of a disease that impacted people who acted with a pathological level of irresponsibility. If anything, we cared far too much about AIDS in the ’80s. I took precautions myself, when it turns out that as a straight white man I was more likely to die by lightning striking the mast of the yacht I crewed.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Todd, according to the World Health Organization, 34 million people have died of AIDS. Although few were heterosexual yachtsmen, I think that’s still a considerable number of humans.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            tonycd,

            More than 50 million people have died of malaria since the DDT ban, which represents willful mass murder by ‘environmentalists’ who knew they were lying when they advocated for the deaths of millions. Do you think anything Ronald Reagan did by not knowing what to do about AIDS in the context of an age when nobody wanted to treat it as a traditional communicable disease and quarantine victims or hold intentional disseminators accountable is comparable to the actions of the liars that sentenced fifty million and counting people to death out of pure misanthropy? I’m guessing you haven’t even bothered to worry about the people that die because of environmentalism.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “willful mass murder by ‘environmentalists’”

            Gotdammit! Did I miss another one? I’m supposed to be on the alert list. They sure as hell process my payments!

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          The AIDS crisis was extremely overblown, it’s no worse then than it is now and we hear nothing about it any longer. Hell they’ve actually cured AIDS in an individual, how many people have pulled out of the last stage of cancer after its spread to their blood system, and then brain?

          Similarly zika and that other big media sensation from 2-3 years ago are overblown because stupid people see some “new-never before discovered” disease or virus and think it’s the end of the GD world.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Superfluous punctuation, excessive capitalization, spelling mistake, and very unexpected invocation of Godwin’s Law (12th post on this article) make me think kmars2009 might have been being sarcastic.

          • 0 avatar
            HotPotato

            AIDS was not overblown. My mom was an antique dealer. Most in that biz were gay men. My childhood consisted of watching our family friends die horrible deaths one after the other–wonderful people who had been so kind to me and my sister from the day we were born. An effective treatment did not arrive for many years, needlessly delayed by Reagan, who resolutely ignored the crisis, refusing to even say the word AIDS as the corpses piled up, let alone point any CDC resources toward a cure, while his press secretary actively mocked those afflicted.

            Zika is a big deal if you live where it is spreading and you plan on becoming pregnant, and it will be a big deal here if we let it spread north. Ebola is a horrifying way to die and extremely contagious. You can thank your lucky stars that US, EU and UN health officials work to develop containment and treatment protocols for diseases like these, and that the wealth and weather of your continent offer some inherent protections. If not for all these factors, your apathetic fatalism would be rewarded with an awful and avoidable death.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Anyone calling AIDS ‘overblown’ is either a funeral director or severely lacking in human compassion. Unfortunately, personal experience is typically the only cure for the latter.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “The AIDS crisis was extremely overblown”

            Nothing overblown about it at all. It killed that little “diet candy” Ayds fast as tainting it with arsenic could have.

            But while Ayds tasted great they really didn’t work. The more of my older sisters’ I stole, the fatter I got.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Does anyone think AIDS is more important than the cold war, or deregulation, or the fall of the Berlin Wall? Because if you even have to think about it, AIDS is overblown.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            What about Iran/Contra? The tripling of the American debt? Mining Nicaragua’s harbors without provocation? Arming the Muhadeen/Taliban/bin Laden?

            Were those overblown?

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            ToddAtlas, you are a despicable being. Not sure you are human. Those environmentalists that you revile have done more to help humanity than your polluting companies that have created horribly toxic compounds in the name of money when less toxic alternatives were available – looking at tetraethyl lead as a great example. Not to mention they saved the symbol of America from extinction. As for AIDs I hope you never get the chance to see your friend (who was not gay – not that it should matter – though to your ilk I’m sure it does) get sick and have to go through a lifetime of cocktails that could conceivably stop working at some time…picture living with that all of YOUR life.
            ——————————————————

            Reagan did do one thing well for America – he made Americans feel good again. I was only in high school and the feeling of America being a second class nation seemed all but impossible to ignore. Even in music of the era the Malaise was everywhere. Listen to Charlie Daniels ‘In America” or The Kinks with “Low Budget”, “Captain America”, “Gallon of Gas”……The musical representation of the desperation shown to all Americans with Carter’s sweater and “get used to it” speeches. That said, I am happy I did not vote for him. His political position was in direct contrast to mine.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Yours is the brand of hateful idiocy that kills tens of millions. Your condemnation is my endorsement.

  • avatar
    Notadude

    Oh, the Fiero. My college roommate had one in 1988 and we made lots of trips back home in it, loaded up with our crap UNTIL the day flames started shooting up behind her head while she was driving it around our hometown. Fiero means pride, but it sounds a lot like fire.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      LOL that reminds me that about twenty years ago a neighbor’s Fiero caught fire parked in their driveway.
      Maybe GM should have spelled it Fireo.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    If I remember correctly, the plastic panels were also in issue for insurance, putting the car out of reach of the very young people buying it.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      When GM designed these they called them a commuter car. However the insurance companies lumped these in with other 2 seater sports cars so in many areas you paid more than a subcompact.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    My wife wanted one of these very badly in 1985. We went to the Pontiac dealer late in the model year to look at them. I was trying hard to talk her out of it. After all we had two kids and it was only a two-seater. But she was convinced it would be a good commuter car for her. In desperation I asked the salesman if they had any Firebirds. They had one base Firebird left; a base V6 model with T-tops. I said bring it around so we could test drive. Afer the test drive she decided the Firebird was the one to buy so I dodged the bullet.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I just saw a nice Fiero the other day, black with gold wheels and gold lower body trim. Guy even put a big old-school tach on the dash.

    It was cool stuff.

  • avatar
    85FieroGT

    The Fiero was not my 1st car but I sure wanted one in 85 but didn’t buy one, the Ford ranger got my cash because stupid GM was leasing the Fiero, what a stupid idea. However I did get my 1st 85GT off eBay in 2005, it had the 4 speed… it was a great $500 midlife car…. until the clutch, shift cables, and slave cylinder went out and I couldn’t get it going.so, I resold it on eBay. Now proceed 10 years, I bought my 2nd red 85GT for another $500 but this one came off craiglist, and it has the automatic, nevertheless,i am putting a lot of money into this one, restoring everything, I really love this car,right up to the abuse I put to it 2 weeks ago seeing how fast I could get it to go… well I got my answer and barely got it back home… yeah, the 2.8 more than likely needs a rebuild, but hey, it’s just money, right? What better thing to do than restore an American classic????

  • avatar

    Always liked the way the Fiero looked and considered getting one when my 72 Charger started to shows signs of needing to consider replacing at 265,000. Heard some negative stuff about the vehicle and was somewhat undeterred. Then I came across a used 84 Shelby Charger at a dealer I trust implicitly. Went with the Shelby instead although . . . I still would have considered a Fiero if everything had been “right”.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Were the shake weights (engine photo) optional, or standard on the SE?

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Back in October 83, my new wife and I purchased a special-order Fiero SE (we had ordered it the first day they went on sale in early September 83). It had automatic (it was her car) and no other options. Over the course of six years and ~63K miles, it chewed through three sets of expensive (at that time) Goodyear Eagles because not a single alignment shop nor dealer was able to get the rear toe settings correct. Three recalls, a rebuilt transmission (at 61K miles), a warped instrument cluster, and premature faded paint made us part with that car. The wife just recently left for what she considered “greener pastures”. Given everything, I still wish I had the Fiero, the wife…not so much.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    On a side note and a bit of trivia:

    Q: What were the first two production cars with basecoat/clearcoat paint?

    A: The 82 Corvette and the 84 Fiero.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Let’s all try to get along. Everyone has a point…

    AIDS was not trivial…but if 50 million have died of malaria since DDT was banned, and we can’t quantify the benefit (and we probably can’t), THAT is worse.

    Reagan made people feel good again, yes. He also PRESIDED OVER an era in which debt on many levels increased to levels that (till then) had been unprecedented–public and private. This paved the way for where we are.

    Yet, he Reagan had common sense. He actually talked to the Soviets, and did NOT provoke them. HE did not cause the massive deficits that ran up the debt–but he was not entirely innocent. The Democratic Congress ran up entitlements. Reagan wanted to cut taxes and increase defense (which contributed to the end of the Cold War), and to get enough Dem support, he let the Dems spend on THEIR priorities. Key words…SPEND!

    As for Carter, I remember the malaise era…1979, peak malaise! US hostages in Iran, the aborted rescue debacle, the spike in gas prices that year. Later, in the 80s, I learned that “Jimmuh” was the choice of the ‘establishment’–so I liked him even less. Mr. Human Rights lifted the lame US arms embargo on Turkey, which had illegally attacked Cyprus, and in which 7 Americans simply…vanished. Carter = LOSER!!!

    And yet, now, looking back, Carter also had a few good points. The biggest was, to try to reduce energy use in particular, and live within our means in general.

    That didn’t play well with the voters then. But now we seem overextended…to me at least.

    As for the Fiero–like many good “new” GM ideas, it wasn’t ready for prime time at lauch (Corvair–rear sway bar, Vega, bad engine & rust, X-car…) but at the end of it’s life, the Fiero V6 5-spd was a terrific car by the standards of 1988!

    And while Carter’s malaise era winners were….full-size GM cars and Ford’s Fox Fairmonts, Reagan presided over the renaissance of good cars people could afford—starting with the 82 Ford’s Fox Mustang GT, the PA-made 83 Rabbit GTI, and (sadly for GM) many imports (Honda Civics, the Toyota Supra and MR2), the 82 Accord, the 86 Taurus…..

  • avatar
    nicktcfcsb

    Speaking of the purple window tint, I had an old timer tell me it was the high levels of ammonia in window cleaner that did the black to purple change, maybe he was wrong but I’ve never used any window cleaner since on tinted windows. R.i.p lil mid engine buddy


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