By on April 3, 2020

Have you ever wished for a very luxurious coupe for grand touring purposes — one with an unconventional engine placement and the underpinnings of an economy car?

Well, we’ve got a car for you: the 1988 Zimmer Quicksilver.

First, the brand. Zimmer was founded in 1978 as a coachwork company in Syracuse, New York. The company’s mission was simple: Use existing production cars as a foundation upon which to implement neoclassical styling. Founder Paul Zimmer came up with the idea for a specialized company to produce elaborately rococo rides, and looped in his son Paul to run the business.

The company’s initial offering was the Golden Spirit, which entered production in 1978. Ford provided Mustangs as the base vehicle, and Zimmer stretched the wheelbase, added extensive fiberglass bodywork, and replaced the stock Ford interior with a much more luxurious one. The styling was intended to look roughly like a pre-War Mercedes-Benz coupe. In the fashionable late Seventies, the Golden Spirit was a success.

Continuing on into the Eighties, Zimmer grew its business to employ around 175 people at its peak. Seeking a second model offering, the company wanted to step away from approximations of past vehicles and make an elegant coupe of a new design. The new Pontiac Fiero seemed like a good basis for such a coupe for several reasons, and thus the Quicksilver was born. In 1984, new Fieros of 2.8-liter V6 and three-speed automatic specification were sent from Pontiac Assembly to the Zimmer manufacturing facility, appropriately located in Florida. From there, a transformation occurred.

The first thing removed from the Fiero were its body panels, which were all plastic and bolted very simply to the frame.  To get the proportions spot-on for a luxury coupe, the Fiero’s wheelbase was stretched by 16 inches, with an overall length increase of 28 inches. The long, sweeping body of the Quicksilver was fiberglass, and its lines concealed the underlying Fiero-ness fairly well. You might even recognize the corner markers from a contemporary Corvette. Front grille inserts were custom, and cast iron.

Zimmer stripped down the Fiero’s economy car interior, replacing cheap plastic panels with real wood ones. The upholstery was always leather, and sourced from Italy. Special attention was paid to finishes, build quality, fitment of parts and trim, and covering surfaces in shag carpeting. This was a luxury car, after all. Improvements arising from the vehicle’s additional length included a glovebox (not found on Fiero) and a much larger trunk — both cargo areas being necessary for grand tours. Assorted interior handles, pulls, and lights were borrowed from Cadillac.

Zimmer didn’t spend any time altering the engine or transmission from stock Fiero status. Given it was a vehicle for longer-distance jaunts, Zimmer overlooked a fuel tank rework: The tiny eight-gallon tank from the Fiero carried over here, and meant a seriously short cruising range. At least the steering was considered, as a rack-and-pinion setup replaced GM’s simpler recirculating ball system.

Proud of its Quicksilver, Zimmer felt the care and design warranted a slight increase in cost. While the Fiero cost around $12,000 at the time, the Quicksilver was a bit more dear: $48,000 ($113,000 adjusted). The Quicksilver found customers even given its asking price, and continued in production through the end of the Fiero’s run in 1988.

Zimmer found itself under new ownership by the mid-Nineties, renamed to Art Zimmer Neo-Classic Motor Car company in 1997. Now headquartered in New York, AZNCMC builds up to 20 cars each year, split between custom Mustangs and custom Chevrolet Silverados.

Today’s Rare Ride is in excellent condition, in stunning white over boudoir. The dealer invites you to make an offer.

[Images: seller]

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46 Comments on “Rare Rides: Extended Luxury With the 1986 Zimmer Quicksilver...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    Pimpin’ ain’t easy, on the eyes.

  • avatar
    dwford

    All the effort to produce a car that looks very GM anyway. It kind of looks like a ’66 Olds Toronado with a 70’s Mercury grill.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I remember seeing these out front of Don Gooley Cadillac as a kid and wondering WTF they were.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    That is the nicest Fiero interior I’ve sen since the early 90’s though.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    These, the Excaliburs, Clenets and Stutzs, oh and the short-lived remake of the Duesenberg/Auburn/Cord only succeeded in making the malaise even worse then it already was. Let’s take an average car and make it truly fake and awful, then charge a boatload of money for it

    Funny thing, though, these faux-cars are actually commanding a good buck on the classic car sites

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Limited production numbers and the mentioned build quality and materials used are the main reasons for them holding value. They’re as ostentatious as the original 1920s-30s were trying to be, so they appeal to the same demographic, who will always be with us. I call them the Liberace’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        It’s their humble underpinnings that bug me, because no matter what body you put on them underneath they’re still Pintos/Mustangs/Thunderbirds and Fieros

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I wouldn’t lump the Clenet in with the rest – it was a real attempt to make a high-end car. Past owners included Rod Stewart, Marvin Gaye, and boxer Ken Norton. Original selling dealers included Beverly Hills Porsche-Audi.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I agree, those were better

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        I remember touring the Clenet factory as a kid. Even as a kid, I remember thinking, who wants a $100,000 rebodied Ford? So many things were off about it: the tires weren’t tall or skinny enough for it to look genuinely retro (and those generic lowrider wire wheels were a misfire). The fenders being square-edged rather than gently curved over made it look ham-fisted rather than elegant. The next-gen was even worse, losing the low-slung look and gaining screamingly obvious VW Bug components. They were going for vintage Mercedes-meets-Duesenberg but it just looked like a lengthened kit car or a 70s barge with the full Pep Boys pimp treatment. My god, it wouldn’t be hard to make a truly elegant retromobile: just copy a vintage Cord’s body panels, full stop. Nobody has done it yet.

        (And remember, what made Duesenbergs impressive was the fact they were better than other cars of the time, not just imposing to the eye.)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    well now that there are lots of engine swaps that have been done to Fieros, you might be able to make this one interesting. However you’d probably have to lose some trunk space by slapping a racing fuel cell in there to solve the “small tank” issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Since it is an automatic a Front wheel drive LS stuffed in there seems like a no brainer.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        3800 V6 have been made to fit, including the supercharged version, as far as V8s go I have heard of one powered by a Northstar V8 (out of the frying pan into the fire)… Likely somebody has put a more mainstream pushrod GM V8 in their at some point in the past 30 or so years.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    Hard to believe, but when these first came out, this car made the COVER of Car & Driver magazine (back in the day when they were still relevant). It was a very strange sight to see.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    This or a 6000 SUX. Tough choice…

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    This is awesome. I love it. What an interstate cruiser. Thanks for posting.
    :-)

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    ‘Continental’ style trunk lids on Town Cars, Cadillacs, Cordobas and VW Beetles.

    RR style grilles on Beetles.

    Opera windows, coach lights and landau/vinyl roofs on many vehicles, but not this one.

    Yes the Malaise Era was a golden era for car styling.

    Personally I think that a Silverado is by far a better vehicle for this type of treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Malaise Era was a golden era for car styling”

      It was a potpourri of Pep Boys stick on trim pieces and opera lights and windows that should only have been used for going to the opera

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Yes, but… slightly upscale Pepboys is what Detroit used, and if it wasn’t for two oil crises in the 1970s, would have sold well. Look what Ford did in the late 1980s.

        They took a successful car, the Taurus, stretched the wheelbase, gave it a formal roofline, slab body panels, a chrome grille, opera lights, and all the stuff you can get at Pepboys, and called it the Lincoln Continental.

        They sold like the proverbial hotcakes, with some reviewers calling them ‘pocket battleships’. The chassis couldn’t handle anything more than the Essex 3.8 V6, but that was a good enough engine, and the steering/suspension was also Taurus-limited, but that was good enough too, because styling sells cars.

        Then in 1995, when they upgraded the Taurus, they improved the drivetrain with an optional V8 and steering/suspension, and removed all the cheapo stuff that gave the previous Continental model a pseudo-classic look, and sales nose-dived. Under the skin, the 9th generation was a much better car, but the 8th generation styling sold much better.

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          I have a soft spot for those Taurus-based soft riding Continentals from 89-94. Damn near bought one around 2000, but backed out. They are largely gone now, at least around me.

          Same with Town Car from 90-97. We had various Town Cars and Continentals as rentals on vacation from that era, because there were 5 of us and luggage, so that’s why.

          Those air ride systems were certainly floaty, but they both rode so softly. The Conti was nearly too soft though, possibly to further isolate its Taurus roots.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Yes, I did recognize the side marker lights as being Corvette parts. Also the front parking lights; the taillights look like partially covered standard (not GT) Fiero units.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The proportions scream V8 RWD. So imagine the surprises when someone pops the hood to see… nothing and instead there is a little engine stuck sideways behind the seats.

    The red plus medium wood interior is an odd choice, should have gone with a much lighter wood color.

    All told this appears to be best Fiero kit car out there, but that bar is set incredibly low.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    At least this one came assembled and presumably functional.
    In ancient times did some work for a kit car company. The engineering of the kits was primarily cosmetic and the kit body interfered with many automotive functions. Fortunately a dip in the economy slowed kit car sales and the frustrating work that I was doing disappeared.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Oh brother. I still remember the Car and Driver magazine cover.

    Now you need to find a Bugazzi. Not a Bugatti – a Bugazzi.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    Astoundingly tacky.

  • avatar

    Why it was so difficult to come up with tasteful design? They could hire e.g. intern from SF Academy of Art college. Or ask Italians for help. With new EV skateboards coming online I could see the rebirth of new neoclassical couch builders.

  • avatar
    80Cadillac

    I still have my copy of Car & Driver with the red Quicksilver on the cover. I thought – then and now – that it was a striking, good-looking car. Being so low to the ground, the proportions were a bit unconventional, but it was out there like a concept version of what a Toronado or Riviera could look like. I think it has aged very well. I’ve only ever seen a few in person, I think both in Florida and in Detroit while in college in the late ’80’s (I’m from western NC).
    BTW, the Quicksilver was not at all “retro” at its debut…it was regarded as futuristic.

  • avatar
    Manic

    4-door abomination for sale: hemmings.com/classifieds/cars-for-sale/zimmer/golden-spirit/2253181.html

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    https://i.imgur.com/T9ze33y.gif

  • avatar
    amca

    One of these sold at the RM Sotheby’s auction in Scottsdale this year. I’d never seen one up close, and I was impressed. The workmanship and finishing seemed to be first-rate, very high quality. Did not have the kit car vibe I had expected.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Who would have been the market for these? Boomers with money or Greatest Generation with money that wanted uniqueness?

    I had no idea these were Fiero’s underneath. Pretty decent work honestly (from the pictures) hiding the Fiero-ness until you get inside.

    If it was sleeker and not as barouque, maybe? But pass, these and all the other pseudo “coach-built” stuff out there ( there was one off the GM G-body right? Excalibur?) do nothing for me.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I have an acquaintance that worked at the Clenet factories. He told me that, after some of the changes, it was a tense situation not knowing if he’d have a job the next day.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Wow… how garish! It’s almost a caricature of a car, for some reason it makes me think of some of the fictitious cars from the Grand Theft Auto video game series.

    I can see how these would turn heads and I can also see how there would be a niche market of customers who’d pay a crap ton of money to own one. (Not for me but to each their own.)

    What a really neat car!

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