The Fiero is a mid-engine sports car Pontiac introduced in 1983. This era branded most performance cars with a bad reputation for being either unreliable, slow, or just plain ugly. In some cases, these claims were not justifiable just like the case of Pontiac Fiero. The car looks as good as any other performance car from the era, rivaling Mazda RX-7 and Toyota MR2. The Pontiac Fiero offers a rear-engine layout that wasn’t common among American cars.
Pontiac’s plant in Michigan was responsible for the assembly process of the Fiero which saw a total of 370,168 units manufactured in a production run of five years. It was a highly successful model in terms of sales, despite its image of an unreliable car. The Fiero utilizes a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with two petrol engines available. Let get to know more about the Fiero and its possible shortcomings.
The winged horse logo
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One will wonder why the Fiero badge is adorned with a winged horse. Going through the production stage of the car, there were suggested names such as Fiamma, P1000, P5000, Sunfire, and even Hummingbird. With Pegasus topping the list before Fiero eventually won out unfortunately the logo was already designed
The Pontiac Fiero Engine
The Pontiac Fiero featured two engine options over its short lifespan from 1984 to 1988. The first was a 2.5-liter inline-four called the Iron Duke. The engine generated 92 hp accelerating the 2,580-pound car from 0 to 60 mph in 11.3 seconds. Shortly, in 1985 the second engine came along in the form of a 2.8-liter V6 for the Fiero GT. It made 140 horsepower, which is more than a Toyota MR2 made at the time. The Fiero chugged along for the next three years, earning new suspension, hydroelectric power steering, and new brakes before Pontiac discontinued it in 1988.
Common Pontiac Fiero Problems
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The warm embrace of the Fiero by enthusiasts was based on the fact that the car was affordable and handles well. Its sleek nature was another appealing feature and then being an American car sealed it all. Be that as it may, it did not take long for some of its setbacks to be noticed. In a decade full of lovely sports cars from many manufacturers, the Fiero felt like an imprecise mixture of parts that were available at General Motors’ development center in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The cost of maintaining the Fiero was very high compared to other sports cars. This high cost was a result of its complicated independent suspension due to the use of multiple suspension pivots and attachment points. The cooling system was very vulnerable to air bubbles thanks to its long pipes connecting the front-mounted radiator and the engine.
Going by “an affordable sports car” lead to replacing the high-revving 1.8-liter engine that would have given the Fiero the power it deserves with the cheap 2.5-liter Iron Duke unit just because it was already available and required no further investment from General Motors. Just as the saying goes “good things don’t come cheap”. The Iron Duke unit was awfully heavy, noisy, slow-revving, and underpowered. The bigger V6 variant was quite a performer, but it started at $13,489 for the 1987 model year – about $5,000 more than the base model.
The weight of the car became the next challenge because the car’s innovative body structure with a space frame and plastic panels was expected to keep the weight under 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms), but the complete structure ended up just as heavy, or even heavier than, a similarly sized car with steel monocoque. Thanks to its weight of more than 2,500 lbs (1,135 kg), the Fiero was slow, really slow. Real road tests performed by Car and Driver in December 1983 showed an uninspiring 0-60 miles per hour (0-97 kilometers per hour) acceleration in 11.3 seconds and a top speed of only 105 mph (169 kph) for the base model.
And then Fiero’s nightmare came to life – the Honda CRX with its super light body, compact sizes and engines, and simple structure. Despite being less powerful than the entry-level Pontiac, the CRX was faster from a standstill, had the same top speed, and was more pleasant to drive. With a drag coefficient of 0.33 versus 0.377 for the Fiero, the Japanese car was also more fuel-efficient.
Flammability became a household name for the early Fiero models which according to NHTSA, a total of 135 cars were reported to have had engine fires with 122 of these occurring during driving. Shockingly, Pontiac engineers were allegedly familiar with the problem shortly after production started in 1983 and GM eventually admitted in 1988 that test has shown that running 1984 cars with low engine oil level can “cause connecting rod failure which may lead to an engine compartment fire.” Ten minor injuries were reported in connection to this issue.
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