1988 Pontiac Fiero GT: The first mid-engine American sports car

1988 Pontiac Fiero GT: The first mid-engine American sports car

1988 Pontiac Fiero GT: The first mid-engine American sports car

Engine Inline 4 Horsepower 98 BHP (72.128 KW) @ 4800 RPMTorque 135 Ft-Lbs (183 NM) @ 3200 RPMEngine Location MidDrive Type RWDWeight 2600 lbs | 1179.34 kgTransmission 3-speed automatic, 5-speed manual

Pontiac Fiero – was supposed to be one of the best American cars – affordable, powerful, and inexpensive, with great design. But alas, it became a disaster and an absolute nightmare for GM. 

Source: Zero260

The rapid expansion of the Japanese automobile industry in the second half of the 1970s created enormous problems for Detroit. The extraordinary success of the Toyota Celica and Datsun Fairlady compact coupes spoke eloquently of the prospects for inexpensive sports vehicles. Of course, their technical characteristics were far from the capabilities of imported “Gran Turismo” (Porsche, “Ferrari”) or domestic sports cars (Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac Firebird). However, the attractive features of the “newcomers” from the East were a practical design, low weight, and unprecedented maneuverability, multiplied by a reasonable price. As in the case of the Corvette model, General Motors was the first to respond to the challenge of overseas rivals. They started in 1978 with the implementation of the project of 2-seater “personalized” sports cars on the P-car chassis. GM, for the first time, used a layout with a central location of the engine and gearbox in one block, which was successfully implemented back in the early 70s on 2-seater Porsche 914 and FIAT X1 / 9 cars. The end product in 1983 was the 2-seat Fiero. It was the first American mass-produced automobile with a body assembled from plastic panels on a steel frame. This method made it easy to change the body’s shape by installing various plastic parts.

The origins

Source: Mecum Auctions

In 1978, the company’s engineering team, led by Robert Dorn, proposed management to build a low-cost, mid-engined, plastic-bodied sports car. As a former racing driver, Dorn had long wanted to make such a vehicle, but GM’s executives doubted the market success and hesitated. Then Dorn suggested using an existing chassis and an inexpensive four-cylinder engine. Having estimated that the launch of a vehicle series would not require significant financial investments, the management gave up. Work started at the end of the same year, and the project received the code P-car. Only 410 million dollars were allocated for the development of this model. Since GM did not have a mid-engine platform then, the engineers went for a trick. They turned the platform 180 ° from the front-wheel drive Chevrolet Citation and borrowed the front suspension from the Chevrolet Chevette. Thus, they constructed a cheap mid-engine platform with an independent MacPherson-type suspension front and rear. An essential part of the P-car project was its plastic body. Here, specialists did not save much but developed a solid spatial frame to which the body panels were attached. The body came out strong, confirmed during crash tests, and the ability to change panels subsequently made the Fiero the most popular base for building replicas. The design didn’t disappoint either. The automobile looked fast and modern due to the wedge shape and the cockpit shifting forward. But despite this, the Cx coefficient of 0.37 was relatively high. In 1982, the P-car was named Pontiac Fiero, and mass production began in the spring of 1983. Later, in 1985, sales began to plummet due to technical problems: аlarming reports for Pontiac of spontaneous combustion of the Fiero started to surface. Initially, the manufacturer attributed the issue to the owners themselves, but in 1986, after 112 confirmed cases, the company admitted the problem. The official statement on the termination of assembly on March 1, 1988, was made by David Campbell, head of the production department of the Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada group.

The 1988 model year

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At the beginning of 1988, the plant management attempted to save the car, even offering to start production of an open modification, but in vain. In 1988, the model received its last upgrade. The new rear suspension and brakes finally made the vehicle the way the engineers initially intended. Like most cars, the Fiero was of a load-bearing design. Its difference was the existence of body panels made of composite plastic, which were easily detached. However, it was too late, sales were at most 39 thousand, and in the same year, the model was discontinued. Some company executives agreed that the “untimely death” of the model was not due to its low quality – it was just that the Americans lost interest in 2-seater cars. However, the Japanese Mazda Miata, which appeared a year later and instantly became a hit on the US market, rightfully took the vacant seat of the Fiero. However, it should be mentioned that Fiero, despite its “fiery” fiasco, left a noticeable mark in the history of the American automotive industry.

Did you know?

Source: Mecum Auctions

Popular in the 80s, Fiero appeared in such films and TV series as “Stay Alive” (2006), “In the Deep Woods” (1992), “Sleeper Cell” (2005-2006), “Pineapple Express” (2008), “Motorweek “(1981-2022), “The Change-Up” (2011), “The King of Queens” (1998-2007) and many others.

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1988 Pontiac Fiero GT: The first mid-engine American sports car

Engine Inline 4 Horsepower 98 BHP (72.128 KW) @ 4800 RPMTorque 135 Ft-Lbs (183 NM) @ 3200 RPMEngine Location MidDrive Type RWDWeight 2600 lbs | 1179.34 kgTransmission 3-speed automatic, 5-speed manual

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