Pontiac Fiero

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Pontiac Fiero
Fiero88.JPG
1988 Fiero Formula
Overview
Manufacturer General Motors
Production August 1983 – September 1988
Model years 1984-1988
Assembly United States: Pontiac, Michigan (Pontiac Assembly)
Designer Hulki Aldikacti & George Milidrag
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Body style
Layout Transverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Platform P-body
Powertrain
Engine
Transmission
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,373 mm (93.4 in)
Length 1984–1986: 4,072 mm (160.3 in)
1987–1988: 4,144 mm (163.1 in)
1987–1988 GT: 4,193 mm (165.1 in)
Width 1984–1986: 1,750 mm (68.9 in)
1987–1988: 1,753 mm (69.0 in)
Height 1,191 mm (46.9 in)
Curb weight 1,176 to 1,265 kg (2,593 to 2,789 lb)
Base model (four-cylinder) Fiero gauge cluster
1986 Fiero SE 2M6

The Pontiac Fiero is a mid-engined sports car with hidden headlamps, that was built by the Pontiac division of General Motors from 1984 to 1988. The Fiero was designed by George Milidrag and Hulki Aldikacti as a Pontiac sports car. The Fiero was the first two-seater Pontiac since the 1926 to 1938 coupes, and also the first and only mass-produced mid-engine sports car by a U.S. manufacturer. Many technologies incorporated in the Fiero design such as plastic body panels were radical for its time.

A total of 370,168 Fieros were produced over the relatively short production run of five years; by comparison, 163,000 Toyota MR2s were sold in its first five years.[1] At the time, its reputation suffered from criticisms over performance, reliability and safety issues. Today, however, compared to less adventurous attempts at two-seaters such as the Ford EXP, the unique style of the Fiero compared to other American cars has left it a cult following as a collectible car. It remains a popular chassis for rebodies and electric conversions.

The word "fiero" means "proud" in Italian, and "wild", "fierce", or "ferocious" in Spanish. Alternative names considered for the car were Sprint, P3000, Pegasus, Fiamma, Sunfire (a name which would later be applied to another car), and Firebird XP.[citation needed] The Fiero 2M4 (two-seat, Mid-engine, four-cylinder) was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1984. The 1984 Fiero was the Official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500 for 1984, beating out the new 1984 Chevrolet Corvette for the honor.

History[edit]

The Fiero was originally designed as a small, two-seater sports car with all new suspension and V6 engine. While General Motors management and accountants were opposed to investing in a second two-seater sports car that might compete with the Corvette, they perceived the oil crisis as a market opportunity for a fuel-efficient sporty commuter car. To this end, the Fiero was re-designed to use a fuel efficient version of GM's 2.5 L four-cylinder "Iron Duke" engine capable of 27 mpg-US (8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg-imp) in the city and 40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km; 48 mpg-imp) on the highway with the economy-ratio transmission option. These figures are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test-circuit results, published by Pontiac, and confirmed from multiple sources.[2] It was impressive mileage for a 2.5 L engine of the period, and still good by today's standards, but the three-speed automatic reduced highway mileage to only 32 mpg-US (7.4 L/100 km; 38 mpg-imp). With respect to fuel economy, the Fiero was intended to appeal to a market niche for which the Corvette with its V8 engine was unsuitable.

A mid-engine layout was originally chosen as a way to reduce both aerodynamic drag and vehicle weight to improve fuel efficiency, and also for its handling, traction, and braking benefits. However, the sports car potential of the mid-engine layout was not realized when the Fiero debuted. As a cost-saving measure commonly employed at GM, the tires, brakes, and suspension components were carried over from other GM economy cars (like the Chevrolet Citation and Chevrolet Chevette). As a result, the handling and cornering abilities of the initial Fiero were merely on par with other contemporary sporty coupes (Road & Track 1985). Additionally, the Iron Duke I4 motor, which was designed for optimal running at low RPM due to its long stroke, was unsuited to drivers who purchased the Fiero expecting a quick, high-revving motor more in keeping with the design of the car. As drivers attempted to frequently run the engine at greater RPM than it was designed for, the engines experienced a number of reliability problems and breakdowns were frequent.

The public had high expectations for the Fiero with its mid-engine layout and aggressive styling, which resembled more exotic mid-engine sports cars. While initially garnering good reviews for its handling (Motor Trend 1984), the Fiero soon received negative reviews from other automotive critics who expected higher performance from a mid-engine two-seater. Despite the critical press, the Fiero sold well and although Pontiac operated three shifts at the factory during 1984, they could not keep up with initial demand.[3]

The sharing of suspension and other components with other GM cars meant the rear suspension and powertrain was virtually identical to that of the Citation and Pontiac Phoenix; the Fiero even included rear tie rod ends attached to a "steering knuckle", although these were hard-mounted to the engine cradle and only used for maintaining the rear tire alignment. The front suspension was derived from the Chevette, and Chevette enthusiasts found that they could upgrade their undersized front brakes and rotors using Fiero parts.

By 1985, the oil crisis was long past and demand developed for a Fiero having more engine power and better sports car performance. Pontiac responded by introducing the GT model which included upgraded suspension tuning, wider tires, and a V6 engine having 43 hp (32 kW) more than the base four-cylinder. In 1986, the GT model was restyled by Italian auto maker Bertone though a GM Europe deal to produce a more sleek appearance,[citation needed] but the performance and reliability still failed to deliver.

Finally, in 1988, numerous changes were made to the Fiero to bring it in line with its original design. The most significant was a completely redesigned suspension (and parts of the space frame) to realize the potential of the mid-engine layout. The unique suspension included new two-piece brake calipers and upgraded brake rotors.[4] The available I4 and V6 engines benefited from evolutionary improvements, but the planned availability of turbochargers and newer DOHC engines did not happen before production stopped.

In spite of the much-improved car which finally had realized its potential after years of mismanagement, GM ended production after the 1988 model year due to declining sales figures. Bad press and consumer sentiment frequently cited heavy media coverage of Fiero engine fires, as well as the poor reliability and performance of the 1984-1987 models.

Designing the Fiero[edit]

The Fiero turned out to be an unusual design for GM, which stood out from the rest of their product lines. The company had rejected development of a sporty, two-seater Pontiac since the late 1960s, as they believed it would steal sales from the Corvette. However, young Pontiac engineers in 1978 were able to sell the Fiero concept to the corporation as a fuel-efficient four-cylinder "commuter car" that just happened to have two seats, rather than a muscle car. When the engineers brought back a running prototype in less than six months, corporate bought it.[5] However, the budget for the car, from design to building the machines for making the parts, was 400 million dollars, just a fraction of what GM generally spent on bringing a typical prototype car into production. Pontiac assigned oversight of the Fiero to Hulki Aldikacti, a Turkish émigré with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and nearly 22 years of experience under his belt.

Aldikacti’s initial challenge was with GM's corporate structure, which split its engineers into two categories: the car engineers who would create blueprints for the car, and manufacturing engineers who would work out the fabrication and assembly issues. Fiero blueprints traveled back and forth between the two engineering branches, wasting time and money. Aldikacti was forced to sit the two teams of engineers down next to one another, allowing for no excuses to why there was “no build” after his design was done. Many modifications in the Fiero’s production needed to be made; for instance, despite his long-standing interest in manufacturing body panels from plastic, Aldikacti consented to metal body pieces, the dies for which were much less costly.

As the prototypes took shape, the exterior lines resembled more of a Ferrari or Porsche than a typical GM car, but the tight budget was taking its toll on the design, particularly on Aldikacti's dream of a high performance, aluminum-block V6; the cost of developing a new engine would be more than the production of the whole car itself. Instead, Aldikacti was forced to settle for the already manufactured four-cylinder engine GM produced for the Pontiac, the “Iron Duke,” nicknamed for its heavy iron block.[6] This engine was too blocky to fit into the tiny car so it was equipped with a smaller oil pan, causing the engine to always run a quart low.

Aldikacti’s unorthodox design methods and personal manner made him unpopular to most of GM’s bureaucracy. Three times he was told by counterparts at other GM divisions that his car had been killed by the corporate bean-counters. In fact, however, the Fiero project was kept alive at the wishes of certain high-ranked defenders, chief among them William Hoglund, who took over Pontiac in 1980. Hoglund took the reins as the division was suffering from the loss of their hot rods in the late 1970s; Pontiac’s cars were said to be bland, outdated, and what customers of the past would buy. In 1983 Hoglund told his top three dozen staffers that Pontiac would rebuild itself with cars that were “exciting” and “different.” These terms only described one of Pontiac’s cars in their current lineup, Aldikacti’s "commuter car." In order to build the 100,000 cars a year Hoglund’s marketing team committed to sell, Hoglund negotiated a deal to reopen a plant once shut down in the heart of Pontiac, Michigan. He and his staff wanted to prove that cooperation between management and labor could be solved without the use of robots on the assembly line, which GM’s top executives wanted to use. Hoglund allowed hourly workers to name Aldikacti's car; "Fiero" was their choice.[7]

Production years[edit]

1984[edit]

1984 Fiero SE

The Fiero began production in August 1983. In an effort to sell the car as economically sensible, GM equipped and sold the Fiero as a commuter car; although the marketing build-up leading to initial release indicated anything but a regular commuter. The car also proved uncomfortable for some drivers because of the lack of power steering.

The 1984 model line included a limited "Indy Pace Car" edition, consisting of an Indianapolis 500-themed option package on SE-model vehicles (a package that was specially reissued in 1985). Approximately 2,000 of these vehicles were sold. The Indy had aero body cladding and new front and rear fascias that would be used on the 1985 GT. Only the underpowered four-cylinder engine was available, though a few prototypes could be seen driving around the Greater Detroit area with a unique periscope-style inlet sprouting from the engine compartment and curving up and over the roof. This "periscope" style inlet was used on the actual Indy Pace Car Fieros that appeared at the 1984 Indianapolis 500. This inlet scoop, and the 2.5 L Super Duty engine that they fed, were not available on the production model pace car replicas.

1984 production
VIN Style Cars produced
1G2AE37RxEPxxxxxx Fiero 7,099
1G2AM37RXEPxxxxxx Fiero 2M4 62,070
1G2AF37RxEPxxxxxx Fiero SE 65,670
1G2AF37RxEPxxxxxx Fiero Indy 2,001
Total production 136,840

1985[edit]

1985 Pontiac Fiero GT (rear)

1985 saw the introduction of the GT model, which looked just like the 1984 Indy model without the decals or body color wheels. The problem with insufficient power was addressed, much to the satisfaction of the general public. A Chevrolet 2.8 L V6 engine rated at 140 hp (100 kW) and 160 lb·ft (220 N·m). was put into the car, satisfying most critics of the base engine. The High Output V6 was paired with a modified Muncie 4-speed transmission. The four-cylinder engine (known as the "Iron Duke") was now paired with the Japanese-designed Isuzu five-speed transmission (also produced at the Muncie, Indiana plant).

1985 production
VIN Type Cars produced
1G2PE37R#FP2##### Fiero 5,280
1G2PM37R#FP2##### Fiero Sport 23,823
1G2PF37R#FP2##### Fiero SE (I4) 24,724
1G2PF379#FP2##### Fiero SE (V6)
1G2PG379#FP2##### Fiero GT 22,534
Total production 76,371

1986[edit]

1986 Fiero Coupe

1986 was the first year the fastback roofline was offered (sometimes wrongly referred to as a "1986½" model - the 1986½ however would refer to the transition to the 5-speed Muncie-built Getrag designed 5 speed which did not arrive until mid-year). Though originally conceived by Pontiac insiders as a new model, possibly called the "GTP" or "GTU," it has been said that GM management at the time felt that using "GTP" or "GTU" suggested a racing car and thus an image they did not want to promote. Individuals present at the unveiling of the new fastback roof style designed by Bertone Italian Autos at a GM test track actually thought it was a new Corvette at first. But this new body style simply became the GT model for 1986 while the old 1985 GT body style became the SE model. Also offered late in the production year was a five-speed Muncie-Getrag transmission (coupled only to the V6 engines). Models equipped with the four-cylinder engine remained largely unchanged. The clutch hydraulic systems were redesigned with new master and slave cylinders.

1986 production
VIN Type Cars produced
1G2PE37R#GP2##### Fiero 9,143
1G2PM37R#GP2##### Fiero Sport 24,866
1G2PF37R#GP2##### Fiero SE (I4) 32,305
1G2PF379#GP2##### Fiero SE (V6)
1G2PG119#GP2##### Fiero GT 17,891
Total production 83,974

1987[edit]

Pontiac Mera 1987

1987 saw changes to the front and rear fascias on the "base coupe" with the SE and GT models keeping the same "Aero" nose. The new non-aero noses lost the black bumper pads of the earlier models and had a smoother look. The four-cylinder engine's power rating increased to 98 hp (73 kW) with some major modifications which included a roller cam, redesigned intake manifold, distributorless ignition system (DIS), open combustion chamber cylinder head and upgraded throttle-body fuel injection system. This was the last year for the spin-on oil filter on the four-cylinder. The car was offered in Bright Metallic Blue and replacing the ribbed black molding was the round style found on the GT models. As a side note, the SE models retained the ribbed molding, and added the aero nose found on the GT. Redesigned headlight motors appeared in 1987. Additionally, starting with the 1987 model Pontiac dealerships offered an upgrade in the form of an "option" that changed the original body to a Bertone Ferrari-type body, called the Fiero Mera. Corporate Concepts completed the "Mera" transformation and none were sold as kit form. The Mera body change was offered only on new Fieros, sold through Pontiac dealers and is considered a class of car in its own right. Only 247 Mera's were produced by Corporate Concepts before production was halted when sued by Ferrari. With its limited number produced, the Pontiac Mera is one of the rarest American made automobiles.

1987 production
VIN Type Cars produced
1G2PE11R#HP2##### Fiero 23,603
1G2PM11R#HP2##### Fiero Sport 3,135
1G2PF11R#HP2##### Fiero SE (I4) 3,875
1G2PF119#HP2##### Fiero SE (V6)
1G2PG119#HP2##### Fiero GT 15,880
1G2PG119#HP2##### Fiero Mera 88
Total production 46,581

1988[edit]

1988 Fiero Formula

The 1988 Fiero brought a new suspension design, thought by many to have a striking resemblance to those designed by Lotus, which at the time, was about to be acquired by General Motors. The suspension was never a Lotus design though; it was the suspension the Pontiac engineers had designed in the beginning, along with what they learned from the racing program. Up front were revised control arms and knuckles that reduced steering effort and improved the scrub radius. In the back, the old Citation parts were replaced with a real tri-link suspension with all new knuckles. This new suspension came with staggered wheel sizes on WS6 suspension equipped models, with 15 in (380 mm) by 6 in (150 mm) wide wheels up front and 15 in (380 mm) by 7 in (180 mm) wide wheels in the rear for improved handling balance and to offset the slightly increased front track that resulted from the improvements. Topping off the package were the new vented disc brakes at all four corners, which addressed braking complaints of road testers. A variable effort electro-hydraulic power steering unit, the same design later found on the GM EV1, was also to be a late addition. This option never made it to production — one reason cited is that models with the prototype power steering were noted as being too loud. The four-cylinder engine received an in-pan oil filter element and balance shaft. A "Formula" option was added, which offered many of the GT features with the standard coupe body, including the 120 mph (190 km/h) speedometer, WS6 Suspension (which includes offset crosslace wheels) and the rear spoiler. 1988 marked the end of production for the Fiero, and is also considered to be the best Fiero produced. Improvements to suspension, brakes, steering, and improvements to both the four-cylinder and V6 engines took the car to a level far beyond the 1984 model that had received much criticism. 1988 was also the only year a yellow exterior color was available as a factory option. During the Fiero's final model year, On September 1, 1988 the last window sticker was placed on the last Fiero to roll off the Pontiac, Michigan plant line. The 1988 Fiero is the most desired by automotive collectors because of the improvements made to the 1988 model year, and this being the last year of production. The 1988 Mera seen as the most sought after model and tops the Fiero list in resale value this model is commonly used to create "kit cars" (replicas of high end sports cars).

1988 production
VIN Type Cars produced
1G2PE11R#JP2##### Fiero 13,910
1G2PE119#JP2##### Fiero Formula 5,484
1G2PG119#JP2##### Fiero GT 6,849
1G2PE119#JP2##### Fiero Mera 159
Total production 26,402

1990 (prototype)[edit]

1989/1990 Fiero Prototype, displayed at the 2006 Michigan Fiero Club show, "Fieros at the Hall".
1989/1990 Fiero Prototype, Engine Bay.
1989/1990 Fiero Prototype, Interior.

A prototype of the never-produced 1990 Fiero was displayed at the 20th Anniversary show in July 2003, at Fierorama 2005, at the Michigan show in 2006 and most recently at the 25th Anniversary Show in Pontiac, Michigan in 2008. Continued showing of the prototype may no longer be an option in the near future, as GM has taken to cutting funding to relieve the pressure of its financial woes. As of 2011, the GM Heritage Center and the GM Archive do not have any record of the any 1989/1990 Fiero still being in GM's possession. Many of the 89/90 prototypes have been demolished in a scrap yard in Australia.

Much of its design influence is apparent in the Fourth Generation Firebird. New engines were proposed for the 1990 model year, from the then new DOHC 190 bhp (140 kW) "Quad 4" four-cylinder as a base engine to replace the 2.5 Iron Duke to a new 200+ hp DOHC V-6 for the GT models. Even a 231 CID (3.8 L) Buick Turbo V6 powered Fiero is rumored to have been seen at a test track.[citation needed] The single 1990 Fiero GT prototype had an early version of the upcoming DOHC V-6 that would be put into production in the Grand Prix and Lumina Z34 in the early 1990s. This engine developed more than 200 hp (150 kW).

GM cited slumping and unprofitable sales of the Fiero as the reason for its demise following its 5th model year.

1989 production
VIN Type Cars produced
1G2PE11x#KP2##### Fiero 1

Technical features[edit]

Suspension design[edit]

The front end of the car is a wider direct derivative of the Chevrolet Chevette and Pontiac T1000. It employs a double A-arm (or double wishbone) design common prior to the advent of struts, and has naturally good geometry. A drawback of this design, however, means that the car's front suspension has four ball joints. Nevertheless, the tie-rods allow toe-in/out adjustability. Minimal camber adjustments exist on 1984 to 1987 models without an after-market upgrade available from MOOG that replaces the upper ball joints with slotted mounting points units. The joints have typical grease fittings for regular lubrication commonly found on pre-2000 autos.

The rear suspension is essentially a GM X-car's (Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega and Pontiac Phoenix) front suspension moved to the rear of the Fiero. The uppers are top-plates and Chapman struts, while the lowers are attached with ball joints. In lieu of the steering rack which would have been installed in an X-car, tie rod ends are attached to the engine cradle and used to align the rear wheels.

The four-wheel independent suspension provides uncharacteristically accurate handling for a vehicle of its size and price range. However, due to the use of multiple suspension pivot and attachment points (similar to the Corvette's suspension architecture), maintaining the suspension is more costly than some less technical suspension systems.

With the 1988 model year came a completely new front and rear suspension with vented disc brakes at all four corners- what Pontiac's engineers had planned for the car to have from the beginning. The front suspension geometry was changed to decrease the scrub radius thus decreasing steering effort without adding a bulky power steering system. The camber curve was also much improved, the dampers are moved inside the coil springs, and new sealed bearing/hub units were used in 1988. The rear suspension featured multi-link (two lateral links and one trailing arm) Chapman strut suspension, and the tie-rod related bump steer experienced with the earlier suspension design was fixed. The brakes were also upgraded to 10.5 in (26.7 cm) vented rotors on the front and rear with an improved slide caliper design having larger diameter slides. The Fiero Formula (new for 1988) and Fiero GT models also received a rear anti-sway bar to compliment non-progressive rate springs.

The 1984–1987 frames will accept a 1988 rear cradle. However, the struts must be replaced with a narrower diameter Carrera coil-over unit with a steel tube extension and offset mounting plates added to replace the Chapman strut unit. Thus yielding a larger, 1984–1987 engine compartment with the ride-quality benefits of the 1988 suspension.

In the August 1985 issue of Road & Track, the Fiero was tested against six other sports cars. The slalom results (MPH): Honda Civic CRX Si: 62.5 Toyota MR2: 61.6 Pontiac Fiero: 61.5 Alfa Romeo Graduate: 58.4 Bertone X1/9: 58.3 Mazda RX-7 GSL: 57.2

Transmissions[edit]

Automatics[edit]

The Fiero's mid-mounted 2.8 L V6
The Fiero's mid-mounted base 2.5 L 4-cylinder

All automatic-equipped Fieros were equipped with the three-speed TH-125 with torque converter lockup. Automatic transmission final drive ratios:

    • 1984–1986: 3.18 (RPO "F75")
    • 1987–1988: 3.33 (RPO "GX3")
  • TH-125 Gear Ratios
    • 1st Gear: 2.84
    • 2nd Gear: 1.60
    • 3rd Gear: 1.00
    • Reverse: 2.067

Four-speed manual[edit]

All four-speed manual transmissions were built at the Muncie, Indiana Allison plant. The 1984 production line saw two transmissions, a performance four-speed with a final drive ratio of 4.10, and an economy four-speed with a final drive ratio of 3.32. The V6 on the 1985 model and part of the 1986 production year came with a four-speed with a final drive ratio of 3.65. The lower-geared 4.10 four-speed transmission showed improved acceleration, but sacrificed fuel economy.

Five-speed manual[edit]

Isuzu and Muncie (Getrag)- five-speed transmissions were available, depending on model and equipment beginning in 1985 for the Isuzu five-speed which came on four-cylinder cars and in 1986 for the Muncie five-speed which came on V6 equipped cars. The Getrag 282 five-speed is sometimes referred to as the Muncie 282 or the Muncie Getrag 282, as the design was licensed to General Motors for manufacture by Muncie (Getrag never built the 282). This Muncie transmission is the stronger unit, designed for use with the higher output of the V6.

Manual transmission gear ratios[edit]

Year Style Code Axle 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th rev.
1984 econo 4-speed MY8 3.32 3.69 1.95 1.24 0.73 3.42
1984 perf 4-speed M19 4.10 3.53 1.95 1.24 0.81 3.42
1985 V6/4-speed M17 3.65 3.31 1.95 1.24 0.81 3.42
1985 I4/5-speed MT2 3.35 3.73 2.04 1.45 1.03 0.74 3.50
1986 V6 4-speed M17 3.65 3.31 1.95 1.24 0.81 3.42
1986 V6 5-speed MG2 3.61 3.50 2.05 1.38 0.94 0.72 3.41
1988 I4/5-speed MT2 3.35 3.73 2.04 1.45 1.03 0.74 3.50
1988 V6/5-speed MG2 3.61 3.50 2.05 1.38 0.94 0.72 3.41

Crash Safety[edit]

The Pontiac Fiero, being popularly known as being "made entirely of fiberglass," is wrongly accused of being unsafe in a collision.

The Fiero, with its unique plastic body-on-spaceframe design, helped the Fiero achieve a NHTSA NCAP frontal crash test rating of five stars, the highest rating available.

According to Hemmings Motor News, the exceedingly sturdy, 600 lb (270 kg) space frame consisted of roughly 280 separate galvanized and high-strength steel stampings joined by 3,800 welds and, when assembled with the Fiero's mechanicals, was fully driveable without its skin.[8] The Fiero's body panels are purely cosmetic and carry no structural load. The Fiero was the second safest vehicle sold in America from 1984 to 1988, bested by the Volvo 740DL station wagon.

The official crash test scores were as follows:

  • Head Injury Criterion - 356.5/308.6
  • Chest Deceleration (G)-30.9/29.9
  • Femur Load (LB)- Left 840/800 Right 800/740[9][10]

The Fiero's technologically advanced spaceframe technology went on to be incorporated in the Saturn S-series, Pontiac Transport and Chevrolet Lumina APV carlines.[11]

Problems and issues[edit]

Engine fire reputation[edit]

Of the total production of the Pontiac Fiero of 370,168,[1] 135 (.036%) of them were reported to have had engine fires, 122 of these occurred while driving, according to the NHTSA.

The engine fires almost exclusively pertained to the 1984 model year. Later model years were produced with upgraded equipment, and frequency of engine fire was significantly reduced.

According to AutoWeeks publication of Fiero firing squad, on October 6, 1983 a Pontiac engineer wrote an urgent memo to report that two Fieros had suddenly caught fire during test drives. This was only 3 months after the production of the Fiero began at the Pontiac plant. It was thought to be caused by antifreeze leaking out of badly installed hoses but in reality it was defective connecting rods. After one meeting with the Saginaw foundry manager, he wrote that “…60 percent to 90 percent of the rods produced do not exhibit defects.” This means at least every 1 out of 10 rods produced were defective and possibly 4 out of 10 were also defective. The Associated Press quoted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as saying it had "...received 148 complaints regarding Pontiac Fieros catching fire including reports of six injuries.... Low levels of engine oil may cause a connecting rod to break, allowing oil to escape and come into contact with engine parts. The oil would catch fire when it contacted the exhaust manifold or hot exhaust components.... David Hudgens, a GM spokesman in Detroit... said, 'If you ran out of oil, and then that coupled with some aggressive driving, perhaps, and maybe not changing the oil very often, you end up with a broken rod, and that's where the connecting rod came in; it is still the owner's responsibility to check the oil.' "[12]

The Pontiac division claimed in a 1988 press release that "GM tests have shown that running these 1984 cars with low engine oil level can cause connecting rod failure which may lead to an engine compartment fire.... Pontiac is aware of 260 fires attributable to the condition, along with ten reported minor injuries."[13]

The larger of the two reported numbers of cars with fires (260) amounts to 0.07% of Fiero models produced. The fires affected the 2.5 L engine almost exclusively, and mostly 1984 models (although there may have been additional occurrences after the above reports were published).

There are several possible contributors to Fiero engines catching fire. The primary cause is thought to be a batch of poorly cast connecting rods, produced in GM's Saginaw plant, which failed when the oil level became too low. One theory is that the sports car styling attracted buyers who would drive the car hard, most notably by excessively revving the engine. Another factor was the incorrectly listed three-quart oil capacity; the actual oil capacity is 4.5 quarts, but a misprint on the dipstick and in the owner's manual resulted in owners using only three quarts, any leakage or consumption would allow the oil level to decline over time to a dangerously low level. If the proper oil level was not maintained, the bearings could seize, snapping the porous castings of the connecting rods. This could result in a hole being punched in the engine block, allowing oil to spray onto hot exhaust components where it could ignite.

Alternatively, some fires may have been because of the engine wiring harness bulkhead connector (C500) being located in the center of the engine bay above the exhaust manifold, where heat could possibly melt and ignite the wiring. The 1984 model had a magnesium grille over this area. In later models, the main engine harness connector (C500) was moved to the battery area, and was improved to some degree with better heat shielding wrapped around the wiring harness.

A third cause might be cracks in the engine block from overtightening the head bolts. Some engines developed cracks in the block that would leak coolant and/or oil, sometimes accompanied by broken head bolts directly above the crack. The leak would spray coolant or oil, the latter resulting in fire if sprayed onto the hot catalytic converter or exhaust manifold at the front of the engine compartment.

Most vehicles existing today have been serviced by GM during one of the safety recalls on the car.[citation needed] For the fire-related recall, shields and drip-trays were added to prevent leaking fluids from contacting hot surfaces. The presence of drip shields between the engine block and the exhaust manifold are a clue that the car has been retrofitted. The addition of the longer AC Delco PF51 oil filter and a re-calibrated dipstick added extra oil capacity to the oiling system, and enabled running four quarts of oil in the crankcase instead of three, to help prevent oil starvation to the rods. Certain vehicles also had their connecting rods or entire block replaced.

Any fires that happen today would most likely not be caused by the aforementioned causes, but instead due to faulty repairs and failure of engine components, wiring, etc. due to age.[citation needed]

Cooling system issues[edit]

With a normal operating temperature of 220 °F (104 °C) prior to the recall switching to a 195 °F (91 °C) thermostat, the midmounted engine utilized long pipes to carry coolant to the front-mounted radiator. This demanded that a special coolant filling procedure be followed to prevent air pockets, as with many modern cars. Simply pouring coolant into the thermostat housing (on the engine) might leave an air bubble in the radiator, while adding coolant just to the radiator might leave an air bubble in the engine's coolant passages. Proper procedure (with engine idling and the thermostat removed, filling the thermostat housing, popping the bubble out of the radiator by cracking open the radiator cap until coolant exits) must be followed in order to ensure an air-free cooling system.

Another problem has become common since more Fieros are being serviced by auto repair shops which do not know their design very well. The underbody coolant tubes are positioned in a manner in which not even a casual glance underneath the car would suggest their durability. As a result, many of them have been crushed by shop lifts, resulting in a near complete lack of engine cooling. The age of the car suggests that even General Motors dealerships may now be unaware of the proper jacking methods.

However, the cooling system of the Fiero, properly maintained and in good working order, is more than adequate for even the most demanding environmental conditions.

Today[edit]

Stereo speakers embedded in the headrests; one of many innovative features to debut in the Fiero, eliminated in the 1986 model year due to cost.
Customized Fiero with Corvette LS3 engine.

Currently the Fiero has a cult following of owners and customizers. While all Fiero models are considered to be collectible, the 1988 model year is especially sought after by collectors due to its limited production numbers and vastly improved underpinnings. Because of an abundance of replacement parts available from other General Motors vehicles, there are many upgrades that can be done to improve performance and reliability of the cars. Additionally, a multitude of different General Motors engines have been installed by enthusiasts, from the Quad-4 engine to the Chevrolet small-block V8 to the Cadillac 4.9 L and Northstar V8s. The GM 3800 Supercharged is also a very popular choice, as well as the 3.4 L found in the 1993, 1994, or 1995 Camaro/Firebird. One shop in particular that pioneered and now specializes in V8 installations has even gone so far as to install the famed Z06 Corvette powerplant, the 505 horsepower LS7, into a Fiero. Installation of the 4.9 L V8 or smaller engines is possible with few modifications to the car itself, because Fiero prototypes were tested with a similar small aluminum V8 prior to production.[3] As a result, the engine bay is large enough to accommodate engines of that size.

Chopping the top on a Fiero is a popular modification.

A large following of owners still exists with many web pages, groups, and clubs devoted to the car, and the basic chassis is commonly used as a kit-car platform from wild custom rebodies to Ferrari Testarossa and Ferrari F355 replicas. Due to their small size and weight, they are also a popular choice for all-electric conversions.[citation needed]

Fiero's Help with Future[edit]

When the Fiero’s 1984 model was introduced, it played a major role in building the “excitement” image that the Pontiac Division Motor Company wanted to establish in its car buyers. This car pioneered new concepts such as the participation of autoworkers in production methods as well as new materials provide a showcase as the first production car in the world to use a space/frame chassis with a separate body shell composed of fiberglass. According to Design News, Pontiac engineers pointed out that the Fiero experience helped the company to develop the sporty look of the Grand Am and Sunbird, as well as “road car” features in the once-traditional Bonneville and Grand Prix.[14] Such Fiero advances as the composite skin lived on in new GM products like the Saturn. This base form of a new sports roadster, but also fuel efficiency, has allowed for Pontiac to make their Solstice from the Fiero’s shadow.

Models[edit]

Fiero models and die-cast replicas have come and gone over the years. Hot Wheels released a 1984 Fiero 2M4 under many paint schemes. These Hot Wheels cars are now very rare. Matchbox and Majorette also released Fiero models during the car's heyday. Monogram has released and re-released a 1985 Fiero GT model (the re-release is currently available). In recent years, a large 1:18 die-cast model of a 1985 GT has been released in red and silver. In 2007 the Motor Max toy company began releasing small die-cast Fiero GT toys under the 'American Graffiti' and 'Fresh Cherries' lines. Select Wal-Mart locations sold a special "Since '68" Fiero made by Hot Wheels, which uses the original 1984 mold with a new paint job. The Kenner toy line M.A.S.K. had a black Fiero GT that converted into a glider craft and three wheeled chopper, called "Fireforce." Tonka's toy line Gobots included a character, "Sparky", who converted into a 1984 Fiero 2M4 (called a "P-car" on the packaging). Also worth mention is the Transformers character "Punch-Counterpunch", a spy who converts into a vehicle looking similar to a 1985 Fiero GT, but modified to avoid trademark issues. Other plastic-kit display models were released by MPC-ERTL in 1:25 scale. One was a 1984 2M4 kit 10883, the other was 1987 (essentially identical to 1986) GT kit 6401. Decal set 230 for the Fiero Indy Pace car was also released by an unknown manufacturer; no manufacturer information on the instructions or decal sheet.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Corbin, Mark (1996). Fiero Spotter's Guide (Second Edition ed.). Galion, OH. 
  2. ^ Witzenburg, Gary (1990). Fiero: Pontiacs Potent Mid-Engine Sports Car. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International Publishers. 
  3. ^ a b Aldikacti, Hulki (July 2003). "Speech given to the Classic Fiero Owners Group, International (CFOGi)". 20th Anniversary of the Introduction of the Fiero Celebration. 
  4. ^ Vance, Bill (May 3, 2004), Motoring Memories: Pontiac Fiero, 1984–1988, Canadian Driver 
  5. ^ Ingrassia, Paul; Joseph B. White (19 September 1994). "Victim of success". AutoWeek 44 (38): 24. 
  6. ^ Vasilash, Gary S. (January 1999). "How the Pontiac Fiero helped save the North American steel indusrty". Automotive Manufacturing & Production 111 (1): 62–64. 
  7. ^ Tegler, Eric (3 December 2007). "Woulda, Coulda, Shuolda". AutoWeek 57 (49): 23. 
  8. ^ Hemmings.com. "Space Age Space Frame | Hemmings Motor News". Hemmings.com. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  9. ^ "NHTSA VSR | Search Media Page". Nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Pontiac Crash-Test Results, Pontiac Safety Information, Pontiac Insurance Data, NHTSA, NCAP, IIHS, Bonneville, Montana, Vibe, GTO, Firebird, Aztec, Fiero, LeMans, Trans Am, Grand Prix, Grand Am, Sunfire, Transport, Sunbird, 6000, 2000". Safecarguide.com. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  11. ^ by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (June 8, 2007). "HowStuffWorks "Pontiac Fiero"". Auto.howstuffworks.com. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Steps Up Probe of Alleged Fire Danger in Pontiac Fieros". Fiero Owner newsletter. Associated Press. 1st Qtr 1989. 
  13. ^ "Pontiac Division Release" (Press release). Fiero News. November 25, 1987. 
  14. ^ "Pontiac Bids farewell to the Future". Design News 44 (19): 19. 3 October 1988. 

http://www.autowp.ru/pictures/pontiac/fiero/autowp.ru_pontiac_fiero_indy_500_pace_car_7.jpg

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