Sunday, March 27, 2011
Car Of The Day: March 27, 2011
Today's car of the day is Matchbox's 1985 Pontiac Fiero.
The Pontiac Fiero was a mid-engined sports car that was built by the Pontiac division of General Motors from 1984 to 1988. The Fiero—meaning "proud" in Italian and "wild", "fierce", or "ferocious" in Spanish—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 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. 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 Chevrolet Corvette for the honor.
370,168 Fieros were produced over the relatively short production run of 5 years; by comparison, 163,000 Toyota MR2s were sold in its first 5 years. 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 even electric conversions.
For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Pontiac Fiero
Obviously modified for racing purposes, this was a favorite model of mine as a child. It spent a lot of time near the front of the pack in the races I ran. And despite surviving my childhood it's not in that bad of shape.
Already selling the 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 GM's 2.5L 4-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. 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 32 mpg-US (7.4 L/100 km; 38 mpg-imp). With respect to fuel economy, the Fiero would appeal to a market niche for which the 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 43 horsepower (32 kW) 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. The available I4 & V6 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, however this decision was commensurate with heavy media coverage of Fiero engine fires. GM's 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