With its stylish body, fine handling and zesty power, the Fiero V6 is
truly an enthusiast's car.
By Jeff Coch
Pontiac had been gunning for its own two-seat sporty car from the DeLorean
days onward, but it wasn't pushed seriously until the late 1970s. Between
government-sponsored fuel economy requirements and the gas shortage that
brought those regs on in the first place, Firebird sales were slipping
fast. The thought of a sporty-looking two-seater commuter car that could
get excellent gas mileage led Pontiac to create what was known internally
as the P-car.
Thanks to money crunches, the Fiero was a car of compromised desires.
Enthusiasts were hoping for this to be a rip-roaring sports car, but due
to tight purse strings in the early '80s, Pontiac would never fund such a
project unless it was a commuter car. On the other hand, if off-the-shelf
components (like Citation and Chevette suspensions) were used, the car's
looks would promise things it couldn't possibly deliver. The only hope was
to introduce it as a commuter vehicle and refine the basic package as time
The fantastic plastic-skin-on-steel structure was a technological calling
card and a had mark of the car's innovation that remained throughout its
production. However, some questioned it as being unnecessarily heavy and
complex. Wouldn't all-metal weigh much as plastic with metal
reinforcements are be cheaper to boot! Maybe, maybe not. But considering
the fact that GM has gone on to use this system in its minivans the F-body
cars and the Saturn--we can safely say that was a pioneering achievement.
The car was small enough and stylish enough to make people expect far more
than it could initially accomplish. With a short 93.4-inch wheelbase, a
68.9-inch width and a low 46.9-inch roofline, it certainly seemed to
warrant great performance promise. Similarly styled cars--the Fiat X119
and the Toyota MR2, to name two--certainly lived up to the performance
expectation of their leadfoot GM was selling all it could make.
Fiero 2M4 exploded onto the scene in the fall of '83 and found 136,940
buyers in its debut season. Considering that the Pontiac marketing types
were aiming for 50,000 to 60,000 buyers, you can imagine their elation. A
highly modified Fiero was chosen to pace the 1984 Indianapolis 500. That
car featured a 2.7-liter Super Duty engine, custom bodywork, an
over-the-top "Fi-Air-O" air scoop, custom rims and more. The image of
performance was there, even if it couldn't be had on the streets (yet).
If so many people bought the car with just the ancient 2.5-liter Cylinder
Iron Duke (later called Tech IV) Four, how many performance it fans would
turn to the car when it had a hotter engine!
THE V6 ARRIVES
Performance fans found their joy a season later, when the GT was
introduced. A 2.81iter V6 engine rated at 135 horsepower (though output
was always at least 140) was the GT's only engine, although last year's
choice of 4-speed stick or 3-speed slushbox remained as the tranny
options. (The 5-speed available in the four-cylinder '85s couldn't handle
the torque that the V6 pumped out.).
At least Pontiac's tuning of the corporate V6 eked out more power than any
of the other divisions could at the time, thanks to the shiny red intake
runners and other tweaks. Dual exhaust was part of the package, as was
revised body styling that aped the Indy Pace Car's. A slightly humped rear
decklid was included for intake clearance. The Pace Car's rear spoiler
was--and forever would be--optional on the GT. Color choices--red, white,
black and Light Gray Metallic--were carried over from the previous season.
The WS6 handling package tried to cover the suspension's lowly roots with
revised control arms for more travel, as well as stiffer springs, revalved
shocks and more. Fourteen-inch Hi-Tech wheels on 215/60 Goodyear Eagle
tires helped out as well. The interior stayed largely the same, as it did
throughout the Fiero's life, with just fabric and detail changes to
separate the years.
All Fieros were eligible for the optional V6, not just the GT. Base cars
received a "2M6" designation, while SEs were not specifically adorned.
Car And Driver got their 85 GT to hit 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds, while
tripping the quarter-mile lights in 16 seconds flat. Top speed was a
respectable 119 mph.
In 1986, Pontiac took away the GT's standard V6, but left everything else and called it
SE. A new GT was introduced midyear. It received new rear styling--the
squarish roofline was replaced with hatchback-esque sail panels with full
rear quarter windows. But this was an illusion; the engine cover remained
as is. Taillights grew to taller, wraparound lenses with a reflective
"Pontiac" callout in the center. The bodywork and new 15-inch "diamond
spoke" rims were GT exclusives. Color choices grew to five: Silver
Metallic replaced Light Gray Metallic; red became Bright Red; and Gold
Metallic was an all-new hue. By midyear, the long-awaited Cetrag/Muncie
For 1987, changes were minimal. Base cars received new front and rear
fascias, and all cars got larger 12-gallon gas tanks (up from10.2). Medium
Red Metallic replaced Bright Red, and a new Bright Blue Metallic was
A $30 million, fully independent Lotus-designed suspension graced the 1988
Fiero's chassis, which finally let the car live up to its performance
promise. Shorter spindles, smaller scrub radius, reduction of: kingpin
angle, longer A-arms and a 28mm: anti-roll bar replaced the Chevette
pieces at the nose. A new subframe with different attaching points, a
three-link design, lower spring rates and a 22mm anti-roll bar did away
with haggard old X-car pieces out back. A new model, the Formula, was
introduced; it used the low-line body panels (including the roofline), but
had full GT running gear and included the snazzy rear spoiler standard (it
was optional on all other cars). T-tops were introduced as an option.
Bright Red returned and Bright Yellow debuted, though Bright Blue was
dropped, leaving it a one-year-only color.
Sadly, Fiero was axed at the start of 1988, making this orphan a beloved
memory. Sagging sales couldn't justify continuing the car any further.
Fiero never matched its first year sales peak, and a 1987 recall affecting
1984 cars that were prone to engine fires may have sealed its fate. Ideas
for turbo engines and using aluminum instead of steel for the
understructure never came to fruition, and a 1990 redesign was stillborn.
A total of 370,167 Fieros were built during the car's problematic
five-year life, with an estimated 300,000 still on the road. The V6 lives
in 110,820 of them--roughly every third car had it. When you consider that
130-odd-thousand were built in '84 when a V6 wasn't even available, that
shoots the V6 totals to about half of Fiero production for the years it
Total GT production topped out at 63,010. All 5,643 Formulas received the
V6. A total of 42,167 V6-powered base cars and SEs were built, though
separate production breakouts weren't available concerning how many of
Many Fieros have been imported to Europe--officially and otherwise--though
generally these are four-cylinder cars, since the price of gas is so dear
over there. The Dutch, in particular, seem to be fascinated by them.
DECODING THE VIN
The typical Fiero VIN looks like this: 1G2PG119*JP200001.
This example VIN represents a 1988 Fiero GT. All V6 Fiero VINs start out
with 1G2P. 1G2 is the Pontiac code, and the P (fourth digit) is for the
P-car (Fiero) designation. The fifth digit is a model code (E: coupes and
Formulas; M: Sport; F: SE; and C: GT). Digits six and seven are body style
codes. For'87 and '88 Fieros, 11 stands for a two-door coupe; earlier cars
have a 37 code. The engine code is the eighth digit: if the car has a V6,
the eighth digit will be a 9. The ninth digit, represented here by the
asterisk, is a check digit and may vary. The 10th digit is the year: E=l
984, F=1985 and so forth. The letter I was skipped over for 1988; those
cars have al date code. The 11th digit, P, is the plant code--fieros were
all built at the Pontiac plant in Pontiac, Mich. The last six digits are
the sequential serial number starting with 200,001.
There is no great danger of buying a "nonoriginal" Fiero, such as a V6 car
that started life as a Four. The conversion simply isn't worth it--too
many wiring and computer changes--although those who are into Fieros can
tell you of Quad 4 swaps, V8 swaps, 3.4 DOHC swaps and more.
Magazines moaned about the Fiero's spotty paint quality throughout the
car's life, but at least the skin wasn't susceptible to rust. The pre-'88
cars had the Chevette front end, and larger tires to mask the suspension's
shortcomings, which often makes them handle oddly. (Luckily, there's a
small but healthy aftermarket to improve early cars). Also, improperly
rebuilt 2.8s have been known to stress-crack, so check for oil in the
antifreeze and vice versa. The American Engine Rebuilder's Association has
issued advisory bulletins on the matter. The sturdy metal understructure
should be checked only if the car lived its life in a high-salt area.
THE SKIN GAME
Because of the removable body panels, the Fiero became popular kit-car
fodder toward the end of the '80s. The Ferrari 308GTB style MERA is just
one example of this. Convertible conversions were not uncommon, either.
Florida and Arizona have large concentrations of these custom-bodied cars.
Of course, customizing and personalizing is a hallmark of the old-car
hobby, but factory-original cars are inevitably "worth" more on the open
Fiero-mania seems to be gaining, so now would be the time to get in on
them before prices get really out of hand. Four-cylinder Fieros are still
available on the used car lots of small-town America for relatively low
prices. They're old enough to have depreciated fully. But the GTs are a
different matter. The 1988 cars are the most desirable of the lot. They've
got the suspension upgrades that remove the weakest link of an otherwise
Other than that, look for T-tops (just 1,251 made), WS6 cars, 5-speeds,
leather seats, the driver's lumbar seat (1988 only) or rare paint colors
like Bright Yellow or Bright Blue. Better still, find a combination of the
above. Most people who bought cars like this know what they have; many are
low-mileage and well cared for. It's tough to touch an '88 GT for less
than $8,000. Those that are cheaper usually have high mileage or are beat
up. Or, if you're lucky, it's owned by someone who \U doesn't know what
Low-mileage, high-option '88 GTs can bring close to $20 grand. (Not bad
for a car that sold for $14,000 less than 10 years ago!) Formulas are
usually a few thousand less than GTs, but more than SEs. Nice'86 cars will
run you in the five grand area; used-car lot finds should again bring a
grand or two less than that. Indy Pace Cars are also a good
investment-especially one of the 200 4-speeds- but remember, they're
four-cylinders. For driveability, only the V6 will do.
An accurate, current and complete price guide is yours for $2.50 postpaid
from Paul Vargyas, 2600 Longview Dr., Lisle, IL 60532.
CLUBS AND LITERATURE
To learn more about the Fiero, we recommend that you join the Fiero Owners
Association (P.O. Box 83, Montgomery, TX 77356; 409-4484193; $25 dues gets
you a quarterly newsletter), or the Fiero Owner's Club of America (2165
South Dupont Dr. No. 1, Anaheim, CA 92806). Tech, shows and minutiae are
covered by both clubs in mind boggling depth. For instance, did you know
that while Fieros were initially bought in equal numbers by young men and
women, they are now likely to be owned by men in their late 30s to early
There are also a number of regional and local clubs across the country,
one of which should be near you. FOA's membership roster alone has tripled
in the past year and a half, so clearly these cars are coming into their
own. The clubs were of invaluable assistance in the preparation of this
You may also want to pick up the Fiero Spotter's Guide by Mark Corbin. For
$5 postpaid, you get an 80-page pocket-sized volume that will tell you
what's worthwhile and what's not. You can buy it through Mark himself at
5474 SR19, Gallon, Ohio 44833. Also, check out the Fiero Museum in Adrian,
Mich. Call curator Harold Hooten at 517-265-2290 to see if the museum is
open when you're in the area.