Posted December 12th, 2012 @ 9:37am
C'mon Baby, Light My Fire
Back in the day this '80s icon got on my oh-so-prestigious short list of cars that I would buy if I had the money. That's right. Right there with Camaros, Trans Ams and Mustang GT's, was the Pontiac Fiero. Let's take a closer lookie at that bastion of rear engine plasticness.
Despite her fantastic good looks, the plastic bodied, "mid engined" Fiero (the engine was in the middle of the car although most would say she was rear engined) had a troubled youth and struggled through adolescence. Despite those challenges it had growing up, the Fiero bloomed in young adulthood into quite the strong performing sports car. Then it got killed.
In the dark days of the second gas crisis in the 1970s, GM began baking an economical, two passenger, plastic bodied sports car for Pontiac. This despite the presence of a two passenger, plastic bodied sports car over at Chevrolet. GM believed buyers of what would become known as "Fiero" would be different from those buying the Corvette.
Right from the get go the Fiero was a looker and I've always been a fan. Especially these fastback GT's. Funny, no matter how old you get the crushes you had when you were younger still work for you. No matter how much you know better now to stay away. Far, far away. Why, hello thar, darlin...
To keep costs down, GM used front suspension parts for the Fiero from the Chevrolet Chevette, please note which Chevy Vette I just mentioned, and the rear suspension guts came from the Chevrolet Citation's front suspension. Heh? Yeah. Sturdy enough but not the stuff of high performance motorin'. Not that GM was targeting Mario and Maria Andrettis. Most of the people buying early Fieros were buying it more for the styling and image than anything else. Read that as the target market being young adults who wanted a little flair. Any performance mojo an almost coincidental bonus.
Driving a Fiero was not without some challenges and sacrifices. Take power steering for instance. Never offered on the Fiero. Ever drive a car without power steering? What at first seems cool and sporty quickly becomes a burden. The car also had a very firm ride. Some would call it jarring. Some would even wonder if the car even had a suspension.
For 1988, Fiero's last year of production, GM sunk $30 million into revising the front suspension to make the car not only perform better but make that non boosted steering somewhat easier to live with.
One little thing put a damper on Fiero's image that no amount of suspension tuning could remedy; engine fires. The engine on 1984 models was prone to oil leaks and that leaking oil could ignite. GM eventually recalled all Fiero's to modify to reduce the chance of fires.
So, what extinguished Fiero? All boiled down to sales. Those being sales lower than expectations, underwhelming projected sales and a fore casted slump in the sales of two passenger cars in the early '90s. Let's not forget about those engine fire recalls.
Too bad. Fiero, you still light my fire.