A Look Back; How the Pontiac Fiero Won Our Hearts

12.22.15 - 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula

In the 1980s the  was a car that many of us loved at first because it was a mid-engined vehicle that offers an easy to live with price, a two seater coupe style and a definitive shape that let you feel like you were actually driving a Ferrari.  In fact the name is somewhat close to Ferrari, if you use your imagination, and the Fiero was meant to be a fiery player in the automotive world that would be a great ride in the back roads of America, which every town and state seemed to have.

As for the driving and handling, this car was amazing.  The quickness of the steering was outstanding and the light weight made it great for the ride on any road.  With small windows and a high placed engine your vision was impaired except to the front, but you needed to see where you were going in this little coupe to ensure you were going to be able to handle the ride.  This was a car in the 1980s that didn’t offer power steering either, which meant it had something that all car purists of the time desired.

What is misunderstood about this car is the fact it was looked at as a failure.  The fact that the Mk1 and MR2 were considered highly successful but the Fiero was not doesn’t make any sense at all.  It could be that there was something missing from the Fiero that we somehow missed along the way, especially in a time that was meant to have some of the most boring and unattractive cars on the market.  Because there was so little good about the automotive market at the time you might have thought the Fiero was the predecessor to the Mazda Miata, but it instead was considered to be a failure.

One of the elements that originally gave this car some issues was the transmission.  The first transmission only had four gears in a manual form and they were geared in a strange way.  If this car really was to be a backroad player in the US it really only had two gears for you to use because first was so low and fourth was made for overdrive on the highway.  In second and third you could handle curves and backroads pretty well, but it still left you wanting overall.

When the Fiero GT came out in 1986 the car was offered with a five-speed transmission and a well-designed 2.8-liter V6 engine to replace the four-cylinder that was part of the original car.  Unfortunately GM eventually cancelled the Fiero after 1988 when production ended, but this could have easily been one of the most impressive mid-engine cars on the road that we ever enjoyed if GM and Pontiac had handled it correctly.  Sometimes cars don’t make it due to timing on the market, which may have been the problem with the Fiero from the start, considering it made its way to market during the 1980s.

After this so-called disaster it seemed there wouldn’t be an American mid-engined car that was mass produced.  Although the timing by being in the 1980s was not the best for the Fiero there wasn’t any other era that this car could have been made.  This decade was made for experimentation and it ran rampant through the automotive world.  This was the decade that we saw the Grand National which was meant to challenge the Corvette, and offered us the Shelby Charger from Chrysler because Carol Shelby was at the outs with Ford.  At the same time Ford brought the Sierra from Europe as a luxury car, with all of this you could easily see how the Fiero fit in the mix.

The reputation and lack of toughness the Fiero brought were another reason for this car to be considered an absolute failure.  In the early 1990s this car was basically destroyed by many of the owners and became a joke of many sit-coms of the time.  Eventually this car would be overshadowed by other cars that weren’t any better, but with no more development and no hope that the car would come back the market turned on the Fiero in favor of many other models, even if they weren’t good performers.

Unfortunately for the Fiero the tires were too wide for the underpowered engine and caused the car to be a good road hugger, which is what this car was for.  In order to support the width of these tires you needed to have a more powerful V6, turbocharging certainly would have helped this Fiero survive.  This car should have and could have been developed further but like many cars it went away after only a short run.  The Fiero could have been much more and now is mostly just memories.

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