1988 Pontiac Fiero

1988 Pontiac Fiero

The Fiero was first released in 1984 with Pontiac advertising claiming it was one of the most innovative cars in American auto history. Despite this bold statement, the Fiero did largely live up to this claim.

With the exception of the Corvair, it was the first American sports car to feature a mid-engine layout, which had been standard for European sports cars since the Miura in 1963. The car also incorporated the latest technology, making it a near revolutionary two-seater. The Fiero concept was exclusive to Pontiac as other GM divisions did not produce a similar version.

It began life in the experimental design studio not only as GM’s first mid-engine car, but also included their first spaceframe chassis and featured bolt-on, entirely rustproof, plastic body panels which were capable of absorbing minor knocks. This was the first GM car to use this type of body skin, which originally appeared as nosecones and small body parts on other GM vehicles.

In the initial concept design the Fiero had a rather slow 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing little more than 75 kW, but mounted on a lightweight chassis it was quite fast.

Later in development a new aluminium V6 turbo delivering around 261 kW was trialled. Its behaviour on the race track readily demonstrated that the car’s chassis was more than capable of handling the power and the growing ranks of Fiero fans were looking forward to the time when foreign imports, and even the homegrown Corvette, would be beaten on their own terms. The threat to Corvette performance supremacy was real enough.

Although the ‘84 Corvette had just been released as a high-priced supercar, the cheaper plastic bodied Fiero two-seater looked likely to give it a run for the money. Certainly it lacked the exotic digital technology of Corvette but the Fiero was still roomy enough and included all the creature comforts to make it a stiff competitor to Corvette. One of the reasons for its appealing appearance was the fact that it was very low and wide. In fact, inside, the Fiero was a very big car.

The V6 power plant used in the Fiero was mounted sideways behind the driver in the approved European fashion. It was the basic 2.8-litre Chevrolet V6 engine which delivered a respectable 104 kW at 5200 rpm; not quite in the same street as the twin turbo, but a noticeable difference over the original four-cylinder. The V6 also had a top speed of 201km/h compared with only 160km/h from the concept’s four-cylinder and acceleration was also markedly improved.

The people at Chevrolet would never acknowledge that the Fiero was a strong competitor to the Corvette even though Fiero sales continued to outstrip Corvette due to its lower price. When it was announced that the turbo version of the V6 Fiero would not go into production few were surprised. The official reason given was that the power output of the engine was too high for it to be sold to the general public.

After three years, sales came to a fairly rapid decline and Pontiac decided to drop the Fiero at the end of the 1988 model year.

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