Curbside Capsule: 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT—So Very Nearly Inspired

I’ve been sitting on this one (too busy catching up with life after our Road Trip Outtakes series), but after Paul’s screed thoughtful observations about the 1985 Camaro RS, I thought I’d pour more oil on a hot exhaust manifold and see what happens…

I shot this 1986 GT in Big Fork, MT, parked next to the parts store where I got a new battery for our road trip van – I haven’t seen a Fiero this nice in years. Surprisingly, I was unable to find a previous CC on the Fiero; this post will not be one, as Aaron Severson over at AUwM already has done a superb writeup on the development and history of America’s only mid-engine sports car (to date). Can’t beat that with a stick.


The Fiero was introduced in 1984, the same year I rebooted my college education by switching my Architecture major for one in Industrial Design. I clearly remember the hoopla (and lots of hype) that surrounded the Fiero. We ID students were particularly interested in Pontiac’s “mill and drill” process for mounting the plastic body panels, which influenced the proposed material and process of  my Senior project in 1986: A three-wheeled sports car designed to be built on a steel space frame with molded body panels.

The early notchback styling on the first two-seat Pontiac since 1938 really didn’t do much for me, but when the fastback treatment was introduced I fell in love. Unfortunately, I had “Fiero Champagne” taste and a “Pre-owned Vega” budget, so I could only gaze wistfully on the few that graced our campus (rich Frat kids, probably).

Of course, by this time the Fiero’s propensity to catch fire was becoming common folklore—thankfully, the head of the ID Department at Tech (who had connections) was able to get personal attention paid to his daughter’s car before it went all Fuego on her.

Like many of you, seeing this car for sale made my heart skip a beat—first when I saw it, and again when I saw the low, low $3,500 price (with V6 and manual transmission, too!). However, cooler (and wiser) heads prevailed, and I settled for these photos instead.

Oh well, it’s all for the best, I’m sure. In typical GM fashion, a great idea was cost-reduced to death before being unleashed on the public (honestly, Chevette and X-body suspension components???); by the time they sorted out the Fiero into a really good product, there was no equity left in it and it was killed.

I found it very interesting that the prototype Fiero for 1989 (which can be seen here – scroll down a bit) not only looks a lot like the Firebird, but was speced out in a way that would have made it a really engaging vehicle to drive. For that matter, the final model year ’88s were getting mighty close to what the car should have been when it launched four years earlier.

So there you have it. Deadly Sin? Well, in my book, and from a certain perspective, yes. But when you look at it from a different angle, it’s really not a bad little car. No, not bad at all.