Pontiac Fiero

Pontiac Fiero

Infobox Automobile
name = Pontiac Fiero


manufacturer = General Motors
class = Sports car
body_style = 2-door notchback
2-door fastback
engine = 2.5 L (151 in³) Tech IV I4
2.8 L (173 in³) L44 V6
transmission=4-speed manual
5-speed Getrag 282 manual
5-speed Isuzu manual
3-speed THM-125 automatic
production = 1984–1988
layout = RMR layout
assembly = Pontiac, Michigan, USA
platform = P-body
length = 1984-86: 4072 mm (160.3 in)
1987-88: 4144 mm (163.1 in)
1987-88 GT: 4193 mm (165.1 in)
width = 1984-86: 1750 mm (68.9 in)
1987-88: 1753 mm (69 in)
height = 1191 mm (46.9 in)
wheelbase = 2373 mm (93.4 in)
weight = 1176 kg (2590 lb) to 1265 kg (2790 lb)
designer = Hulki Aldikacti

The Pontiac Fiero is a mid-engined sports car that was built by the Pontiac division of General Motors from 1984 to 1988.

History

Once a dream originally envisioned by John DeLorean (inspired by his Pontiac Banshee prototype), the Fiero -- meaning "proud" in Italian -- was finally designed by 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 mass-produced mid-engine sports car by a U.S. manufacturer. Additionally, many technologies incorporated in the Fiero design were radical for its time. Alternative names considered for the car were Sprint, P3000, Pegasus, Fiamma, Sunfire, and Firebird XP. The Fiero "2M4" (2-seat, Mid-engine, 4-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 Corvette for the honor.

Already selling the Chevrolet Corvette, General Motors management and accountants were opposed to investing in a second two-seater sports car. But in 1979, during the oil crisis, management saw a market opportunity for a fuel-efficient sporty commuter car and design work on the Fiero commenced. To this end, it was fitted with a fuel efficient version of Pontiac's 2.5L 4-cylinder engine capable of convert|27|mpgus|L/100 km mpgimp|abbr=on in the city and convert|40|mpgus|L/100 km mpgimp|abbr=on on the highway with the economy-ratio transmission option. These figures are EPA test-circuit results, published by Pontiac, and confirmed from multiple sources.cite book
last = Witzenburg
first = Gary
title = Fiero: Pontiacs Potent Mid-Engine Sports Car
publisher = Motorbooks International Publishers
location = Osceola, WI
year = 1990
] It was impressive mileage for a 2.5 liter engine of the period, and still good by today's standards, but the 3-speed automatic reduced highway mileage to only convert|32|mpgus|L/100 km mpgimp|abbr=on. In respect to fuel-economy, the Fiero would appeal to a market niche for which the Chevrolet Corvette with its V8 engine was unsuitable.

A mid-engine layout was 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. The sports car potential of the mid-engine layout was not fully realized when the Fiero debuted. In line with its market position, the tires, brakes, and some suspension components were carried over from other GM economy cars (like the Chevrolet Citation and Chevrolet Chevette) so the Fiero could be priced appropriately. As a result, the handling and cornering abilities of the initial Fiero were merely on par with other contemporary sporty coupes (Road & Track 1985). The public had high expectations for the Fiero with its mid-engine layout and futuristic styling, which resembles more exotic mid-engine sports cars costing much more. While initially garnering good reviews for its handling (Motor Trend 1984), the Fiero soon received disappointing reviews, as the automotive critics expected higher performance from a mid-engine two-seater. Despite the critical press, the Fiero sold extremely well and Pontiac operated three shifts at the factory during 1984, and could not keep up with initial demand.

The sharing of suspension components with other GM cars meant the rear suspension and powertrain was almost identical to that of the Chevrolet 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 Chevrolet Chevette and Chevette enthusiasts found that they could upgrade their undersized front brakes and rotors using Fiero parts.

By 1985, the oil crisis was a thing of the 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 convert|43|hp more than the base 4-cylinder. In 1986, the GT model was restyled to look even more sleek.

Numerous changes were made to the 1988 Fiero. The most significant was a completely redesigned suspension (and parts of the space frame) to realize the potential of the mid-engine layout. Now unique to the Fiero, the new suspension included new two piece brake calipers and upgraded brake rotors for 1988.cite web
url = http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/bv/fiero.htm
title = Pontiac Fiero, 1984-1988
publisher = Canadian Driver
date = 3 May 2004
last = Vance
first = Bill
] The available 4 & 6-cylinder engines benefited from evolutionary improvements, but the planned availability of turbochargers and newer DOHC engines did not happen before production ended. Officially, production ended because of an internal GM forecast of insufficient future profits due to an expected decrease in overall demand for two-seater sports cars. The forecast may have been a year premature, as the actual sales in 1988 were lower than prior years but still double the forecast. The Fiero was still turning a small profit for the company even in its final year.

Production years

1984

1984 was the first production year for the Pontiac Fiero, beginning production in August 1983. In an effort to sell the car as being economically sensible, GM equipped and sold the Fiero as a commuter car; however, 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.

1984 was the only year in which the Limited "Indy Pace Car" edition, consisting of an Indianapolis 500-themed option package on "SE"-model vehicles, was offered (excepting 1985, in which the package was specially reissued). 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 4-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 liter Super Duty engine that they fed, were not available on the production model pace car replicas.

1987

1987 saw changes to the front and rear fascias on the "base coupe" with the SE & GT models keeping the same "Aero" nose. The new non-aero noses lost the black bumper chunks of the earlier models and had a smoother look. The 4-cylinder's power rating increased to 98 hp (73 kW) with some major modifications which included a roller cam, redesigned intake manifold, distributorless ignition system, 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 4-cylinder. The car was offered in Bright Metallic Blue and replacing the ribbed black moulding was the round style found on the GT models. As a side note, the SE models retained the ribbed moulding, 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 Ferrari-type body, called the Fiero Mera. While technically a "kit", the change in body style was offered only on new Fieros and is considered a class of car in its own right. There was a limited production of Fiero Meras made however, as the company that produced them, Corporate Concepts, was sued by Ferrari and ordered to stop.

Technical features

Suspension design

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 and four tie rod ends. Nevertheless, the tie-rods allow toe-in/out adjustability. Minimal camber adjustments exist on 84-87 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 convert|10.5|in|mm|0|abbr=on 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 84-87 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, 1984-87 engine compartment with the ride-quality benefits of the 88 suspension.

In the August 1985 issue of Road & Track, the Fiero was tested against 6 other sports cars. The slalom results (MPH): Honda Civic CRX Si: 62.5 Toyota MR2: 61.6Pontiac Fiero: 61.5 Alfa Romeo Graduate: 58.4
Bertone X1/9: 58.3 Mazda Rx-7 GSL: 57.2

Transmissions

Automatics

All automatic-equipped Fieros were equipped with the three-speed TH-125 with torque converter lockup.
Automatic transmission final drive ratios:
*I4
**1984-1986: 3.18 (RPO "F75")
**1987-1988: 2.84 (RPO "F17")
*V6
**1985-1986: 3.06 (RPO "?")
**1987-1988: 3.33 (RPO "GX3")

4-speed manual

All 4-speed manual transmissions were built at the Muncie, Indiana Allison plant. The 1984 production line saw two transmissions, a performance 4-speed with a final drive ratio of 4.10, and an economy 4-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 4-speed with a final drive ratio of 3.65. The lower-geared 4.10 4-speed transmission showed improved acceleration, but sacrificed fuel economy.

5-speed manual

Isuzu and Muncie (Getrag)- 5-speed transmissions were available, depending on model and equipment beginning in 1985 for the Isuzu 5-speed which came on 4 cylinder cars and in 1986 for the Muncie 5-speed which came on V-6 equipped cars. The Getrag 282 5-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 V-6. People that use a high output V-6 or a V-8 often upgrade to the rare Getrag 284, found in 91 to 93 Grandprix's, with the help of a shifter head conversion on the transmission.

Manual transmission gear ratios

Problems and issues

Engine fire reputation

Total production of the Pontiac Fiero over all 5 years was 370,168.cite book
first = Mark
last = Corbin
title = Fiero Spotter's Guide
year = 1996
location = Galion, OH
edition = Second Edition
] Regarding the number of cars which suffered an engine fire, we have the following two references, one from NHTSA and one from Pontiac Division.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...said it has 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 on 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 owners responsibility to check the oil.' "cite news
title = U.S. Steps Up Probe of Alleged Fire Danger in Pontiac Fieros
publisher = Associated Press
work = Fiero Owner newsletter
date = 1st Qtr 1989
]

"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."cite press release
publisher = Pontiac Division of GM
year = 1987
date = November 25
title = Pontiac Division Release
accessdate = Spring 1988
publishedin = Fiero News
]

The larger of the two reported numbers of cars with fires (260), amounts to 0.07% of Fieros produced. The fires affected almost exclusively the 2.5 L engine, and mostly 1984 models. (Note that there may have been additional occurrences after the above reports were published.) The primary cause of engine fires was a batch of poorly cast connecting rods which failed when the oil level became too low. The faulty connecting rods were produced in GM's Saginaw plant. The theory is that the sports car styling attracted buyers who would drive the car hard, most notedly over-revving the engine. Another factor was the misprinted three quart oil capacity, the actual oil capacity was 4 1/2 quarts but a misprint in the dipsticks and the owners manuals lead to people running three quarts and perhaps a leaky valve cover gasket which 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 resulting in punched holes in the engine block, thus spraying oil onto hot exhaust components where it could ignite.

Most vehicles existing today have been serviced by GM during one of the safety recalls on the car. On 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 good clue that the car was 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 4 quarts of oil in the crankcase instead of 3 quarts to help prevent oil starvation to the rods. Certain vehicles had their connecting rods or entire block replaced.

Another theory is that some fires may have been due to the engine wiring harness being located in the center of the engine bay above the exhaust manifold, where the heat could theoretically melt and ignite the wiring. Also, the 1984 model had a magnesium grille over this area. In later models, this was improved to some degree with much better heat shielding wrapped around the wiring harness.

A third cause of fires was due to the method used to cast the engine block and possibly overtorqued 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 onto the hot catalytic converter and exhaust manifold located at the front of the engine compartment resulting in fire. This was the cause in several cases.

Cooling system issues

With the mid-mounted engine and long pipes carrying coolant to the front-mounted radiator, the Fiero was also prone to overheating if the cooling system had not been properly filled. Simply pouring coolant into the thermostat housing (on the engine) would leave an air bubble in the radiator, while adding coolant to the radiator would leave an air bubble in the engine's coolant passages. Proper procedure (filling the thermostat housing, then burping the bubble out of the radiator by cracking open radiator cap until coolant exits) must be followed in order to ensure an air-free cooling system.

A second problem has become common as more Fieros are being serviced by shops unfamiliar with their design. The under-body coolant tubes are positioned in such a way that a casual glance beneath the car will not suggest their fragility. As a result, many have been crushed by the shop lifts, resulting in a near complete lack of engine cooling. The age of the car means that even GM dealerships may be unaware of the proper jacking methods.

Today

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 4.9L and Northstar V8s. The GM 3800 Supercharged is also a very popular choice. Installation of the 4.9L 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.cite conference
last = Aldikacti
first = Hulki
year = 2003
date = July
title = Speech given to the Classic Fiero Owners Group, International (CFOGi)
booktitle = 20th Anniversary of the Introduction of the Fiero Celebration
] As a result, the engine bay is large enough to accommodate engines of that size.

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 F355 replicas.

Models

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-Marts sold a special "Since '68" Fiero made by Hot Wheels, which uses the original 1984 mold with a new paint job.

Gallery

Pop Culture

The Fiero was used as Marshall Eriksen's Car in the hit CBS show "How I Met Your Mother." The car met its end in the episode "Arrivederci, Fiero" in which the car breaks down on its 199 thousandth mile.

In the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Ferris' sister Jeanie owns a white Fiero.

Multiple Fieros can also be seen in the 1986 movie, "," when the crew time travels back to the mid 20th century to bring a couple of humpback whales back to the future to communicate with a probe which threatens life on earth.

References

External links

* [http://www.fiero.org/ The Fiero Owners' Home Page]
* [http://ccgi.binna.plus.com/FieroWeb/index.htm The Fiero Forum UK]
* [http://www.waynesfieros.com Waynes World of Fieros]


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