I’ve been looking for a Fiero to feature in this series for a while and while I have found a couple, they were so stripped down by the time I located them that I didn’t think they were worthy. I’m glad I held out as my luck changed recently when this first year example popped up. What I didn’t expect is that it was no longer a stock example.
The Fiero, while interesting to me when new, debuted a little before I got my driver’s license, and I recall it as being a pretty big deal back then, even in Southern California. Pontiac certainly had a potential hit on their hands, as here was a small two seater, mid-engine, with some interesting body technology.
Of course, as we all know in hindsight, they pretty much bungled it from the start by saddling it with the Iron Duke, GM’s 4-cylinder 2.5liter that wasn’t known for either show or go and by simply re-using the suspension bits from some decidedly uninspiring vehicles such as the Citation and Chevette.
Then when Toyota introduced their MR2 a year later, the initial partying at Pontiac had died down a lot. Pontiac tried to (re-)compete by finally introducing a V6 version, which Toyota countered eventually by supercharging the MR2, although the standard engine was a marvelous piece of machinery. However the time the damage was already done, not helped by engine fires in the 4-cylinder versions and the reviewers in general becoming disappointed with and sort of turning their backs on the Fiero.
At the end, the Fiero actually turned into a pretty good car, but as they GM is wont to do, their killed it right as it was starting to live up to the promise.
Looking at it now, I find that it has aged fairly well, this particular angle reminds me of the Lotus Esprit (another mid-engine car with a 4-cylinder at the start that was hotted up significantly over the years and also didn’t have a metal body). This one, in red, is one of the two colors (white was the other one) that were available at the beginning of the model year. The paint shop apparently had issues painting the panels, and were not ever able to handle more than four colors at a time. Later in the first model year black and light gray metallic (silver?) were added.
The structure of the Fiero was designed to be all internal, the composite body panels carry no load at all and are merely affixed to the underlying steel “skeleton”. This aspect made the Fiero quite popular as the basis for several kit cars, for example there were several companies converting these to look to like Ferraris (uncomfortably so, Ferrari ended up suing several of them), and of course the Zimmer Quicksilver, which we’ve recently featured, was another.
But as I alluded to in the title, this Fiero is not completely stock anymore. While all 1984 Fieros (136,840 of them, of which 65,671 were SE’s like this one) came with the Iron Duke, people eventually figured out that other engines would fit. So let’s raise the lid and see what we have.
I believe that’s the Buick 3800 V6 with a supercharger as offered in various GM vehicles over several generations. I had one in my own Buick Regal GS and found it to be a very enjoyable (and reliable) engine with plenty of power. Identifying which generation this one is is beyond my immediate knowledge but at a minimum these produced 210hp and quite a bit more later in the run. Given that the stock Iron Duke produced 92HP and 134lb-ft of torque in this car, any of these Supercharged V6’s provided quite the boost.
It looks like this may have been a project that was never finished based on the masses of wires and the painted pulley on the supercharger that doesn’t have a belt installed. Or it ran but had issues that couldn’t be resolved, I don’t know. I do know that this is not that uncommon of a swap and seems to make a lot of sense if you have a decent 4-cylinder shell to put it in. I don’t know if I’d bother if I already had one of the faster 2.8 V6’s from later in the run although it’s still a huge power boost. The above picture also shows the luggage area aft of the engine (designed to hold two golf bags), I figured that’s decent for this car but the front must have more space.
Not so! The front is completely taken up by more mechanical bits and the spare tire. That’s kind of a bummer, the MR2 had a usable trunk at both ends as does the Porsche Boxster as another mid-engine example that isn’t really any larger.
Perhaps Pontiac took a page out of the Brougham playbook and figured that a luggage rack on the rear decklid would help. As those things go, it’s probably the best integrated one I’ve ever seen, to the point that I never really even noticed it before. A few bungees hooked over the front of the engine lid and then the little wing thingy and you and your luggage are good to go for a long weekend at El Pollo Del Mar in Santa Barbara or wherever your fancy may take you and your main squeeze.
While worn, those seats look fairly comfortable and “sporty”, the speakers in the headrests are a nice touch too. Shame about the automatic (the THM-125 3-speed unit) with the 3.18 rear end (stock), that couldn’t have been helpful whatsoever to a sports car. That being said, the manual on offer was only a 4-speed which is surprising, by 1984 5-speeds were not uncommon, and especially in a sports car…
While certainly blocky and dated now, looking back 35 years and imagining this in a showroom I can see the appeal. This is far better than a lot of Pontiac interiors both prior to and subsequent to this car. The colors work together, it looks mission appropriate and while I wouldn’t pick brown and tan with a red exterior, it’s “warmer” than a gray version would be.
The mileage reads 112,150 which seems appropriate for the general condition of the car.
I keep forgetting just how common manual window winders still were back in the 80’s, but that lower panel carpeting looks fairly good and just not something that is often seen anymore at all. That door panel in general looks pretty well designed with what seems like a comfortable armrest and I remember those door latch pulls very well too.
The SE version was the most popular in 1984, representing just over half the total production that year. Starting at $9,599 it included more features including the WS6 handling package than the “base” version ($8,499) which was actually the mid-level car and denoted (but not labeled) as Sport Coupe.
It sold almost as many, and a lot more than the really base car (Fiero Coupe), whose mission was to be a fuel economy leader – it was offered with a four speed manual, A/C was not an option and neither was an automatic. Only about 7,000 of those left the lots starting at $7,999 which is no surprise although originally the car was pitched to GM brass as an economy car in order to get it approved for production in the first place.
By the time it was actually produced the fuel crisis was over and while still available in economy spec, that became a secondary mission overall. And not to be forgotten, there were also a couple of thousand Indy pace cars in the bunch.
The 2M4 obviously stands for 2 seats, Mid-engine, 4-cylinder. Later there was also a 2M6 (you can figure that out) and a GT badged version along with Formula and SE, all having various permutations of body and powertrain. While I did mention the MR2 above as a direct competitor, the Fiero really wasn’t a failure even though it wasn’t renewed for another generation. The first year (admittedly an extended model year) handily exceeded expectations and over the five years that it was offered it sold more than 370,000 copies. The MR2 in its first five years sold less than half that.
It almost looks better without the wheels. The original alloy wheels somehow defined it as a Pontiac as the design of them was shared with the Firebird and GrandAm, without them (although I didn’t mind them at all) I find this shape to be more attractive and am able to imagine it badged as something entirely different. It just doesn’t really look like a Pontiac.
Overall, while getting saddled with a bad reputation for engine fires and sundry other items, it was an interesting idea and somewhat surprising to see come to fruition. While a 4-cylinder with 3-speed automatic as this one started its journey is about the last version I would want, a later V6 model or perhaps one like this with a functioning supercharger swap would be an interesting proposition. Although, upon a few seconds of thought, a base 1985 MR2 would still win my affections in the end as it was just a better package with far fewer compromises from the start.
This particular car is a very early example; while the date is unfortunately no longer readable, the VIN ends in 212001 – the first one started at 200001, so this was the 12,001st off the line in Pontiac, Michigan. As noted there were over 137,000 made that first year, so this was from near the launch. I can’t figure out how many Pontiac dealers existed in 1984, perhaps a thousand? This car might have been in the first couple of batches shipped.
As it turned out, the end of the Fiero was also the end of the manufacturing plant in Pontiac, it closed when production stopped. The last year’s production totaled 26,000, so about a fifth of the first year and it had been trending down since the beginning. I don’t think I’ll ever find a better condition one that is this old in a junkyard, but I will keep searching.