Rare Rides: A Completely Stock 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula (Part II)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

In Part I of this two-parter, we learned about the Fiero’s high-cost conception, and initial stumbling blocks in the form of fires and subsequent piles of melting plastic. But the team behind Fiero never gave up hope, as evidenced by what happened in the second half of its life.

Appearances changed for Fiero halfway through 1986 when the more exciting “1986.5” GT debuted a new fastback body style. The fastback looked larger and more modern than the standard coupe and wore its big, smoked heckblende with even more pride than the original. In its first full year of production, the GT trim sold well and made up 15,880 of the Fiero’s total 46,581 sales that year.

But the most substantial improvements were made to Fiero in 1988 when it gained a new suspension. In fact, it was the debut of the suspension the Fiero’s engineers designed for it in the first place. Changes were also made to address common consumer complaints: Brakes were upgraded to vented discs in all corners, and a new power steering pump was added. Also new for ’88 was the Formula trim, which brought many of the desirable features of the GT to the coupe’s form factor.

The most notable reasons for selecting the Formula trim were the sportier WS6 suspension, and its accompanying lace alloys and rear spoiler. Across all Fieros, yellow was available for the first time in 1988. The Formula proved a good seller and reached 5,484 sales in its only year, about 1,400 shy of sales on the GT.

But as was the way with GM, around the time the Fiero was improved to become the vision its engineers dreamed years before, the plug was pulled. There was already a 1989 Fiero prototype in the works, which was elongated and pulled in design features from the extant Firebird. Engineers proposed replacing the awful Iron Duke with a Quad 4 as the base engine and developed a new 3.4-liter DOHC V6 for the prototype. Also proposed for use was a newly developed turbocharged version of the Buick 3800. And that 3800T would’ve been the one to get, obviously. The new 3.4 V6 didn’t go to waste though. It was developed fully as the 210-horsepower LQ1, and GM put it into production in the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Z34 version of the Lumina.

GM declined to greenlight the second generation Fiero citing its complete unprofitability and slow sales. Perhaps an expensive upcoming recall of 244,000 cars was also a factor. A sad end for an ambitious little car. Very not sad is today’s bright yellow V6 five-speed Formula in stunning original condition. With a couple of upgrades, modern air conditioning, and 54,000 miles, it asks $8,900 in Florida.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Akear Akear on Oct 14, 2020

    GM made more interesting cars in those days. All GM produces today are angry looking SUV and Trucks, and EV's that nobody wants to buy. How is GM going to thrive with less than 15% of the US market. This is where they are headed by their own admission. Barra will stop at nothing to achieve an all electric future, which only 2% of the car buying public wants.

  • YellowFiero YellowFiero on Oct 14, 2020

    I worked at Oldsmobile Division in the Fiero Timeframe. Olds built many Fiero parts, including RRIM body panels, gas tanks and other ancillary parts. I had the privilege of touring the Fiero plant in January of 1984, which was the heyday of Fieros. Consumers couldn't buy them without being on a waiting list and dealers charged premiums for them. This was also when the Indy Pacecars were being produced. Couple of issues with this article. First off, the vehicle shown is not stock. The seats in it were retrofitted from a GT likely. Also, production 88 Fieros never had power steering as mentioned in the article (there were no power steering pumps! as the engine is in the back and the steering is up front!). I worked on a prototype '89 that had electric power steering that Saginaw was going to debut in that vehicle. The coolest thing I had the chance to work on was an Olds proto Fiero that was 'stretched' to have a back seat! It was a 2+2, very odd looking. I always wondered what happened to that prototype. We also had a big hand in the '89's quad 4 because that was an Olds developed powertrain. I have an '88 yellow fiero that is truly stock, unlike the one in this article. Love mine, Fiero problems aside - but I was part of its history. -Bob

  • Stephen Never had such a problem with my Toyota products.
  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!