America's most misunderstood car.

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Each time a Fiero appears on Jalopnik’s “Nice Price or Crack Pipe”, it inevitably leads to a large “Crack Pipe” loss. And the comments are always the same - “parts bin”, “fire hazard”, “I know a guy who had one, and ..” “I heard this about them..”

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People who “know cars” love to rip on the Fiero, but the truth is, most of the naysayers know nothing more than what they have read or heard.

Fire hazard is my favorite, because everyone knows that most Fiero’s burned up, right? Of course, no one bothers to actually check the facts.

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So here are The Facts:

Engine Fires: Of the 370,168 Pontiac Fiero’s produced, only 135 of them were reported to have had engine fire issues. (0.036%) And these were exclusive to the 1984 model year. 0.036% - find another car with that LOW of a stat for engine fires.

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Safety: Known as being “made entirely of fiberglass,”(also wrong) the Fiero is accused of being unsafe in a collision. The truth is however, with its unique plastic body-on-spaceframe design, the Fiero achieved a NHTSA NCAP frontal crash test rating of five stars, the highest rating available. The Fiero was the second safest vehicle sold in America from 1984 to 1988, bested only by the Volvo 740DL station wagon.

Illustration for article titled Americas most misunderstood car.
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Illustration for article titled Americas most misunderstood car.

The driver of this Fiero GT (pictured) suffered only minor injuries

Reliability: While often criticized for being a “parts bin” car (Like a LOT of 80's GM cars), this gave it the advantage of being easy to service. The 2.5 Iron Duke was used in many GM applications, was relatively easy to service, and parts are still easy to come by.

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Underpowered: While the 2.5L Iron Duke left much to be desired performance wise, the 2.8 push-rod V6 offered in 85 and up (and all GT and Formula models) produced 140 HP with 0-60 times around 8 seconds. By comparison, the 1984 Corvette 0-60 times were just under 7 seconds (at 2-3 times the cost).

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2.8 V6 in a 1988 GT

Quality: This one can go either way. Quality control at GM in the 80's was pretty poor, so this would be true for almost any mid-80's GM product. (Remember the Chevy Citation?)

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Not Profitable: This is one of the biggest fallacies out there. the Fiero was profitable EVERY YEAR it was produced, including 1988.

Now in no way am I saying the Fiero was the perfect car. Like a LOT of GM products, there were build quality issues. The 2.5 Iron Duke cars were under-powered. Many corners were cut to bring the Fiero to production, and it took until the 1988 model year to get it the suspension the design team had originally envisioned for the 2-seater. Future editions were to have better and more powerful engines - but this all came to a screeching halt on February 29th 1988 when GM management decided to cease production.

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There are many arguments as to “why” GM executives decided to kill the Fiero, but one of the popular is that sales were starting to threaten the Corvette, as the Pontiac 2 seater’s performance was rivaling that of Chevrolet’s flagship sports car, at about 1/2 the cost. There are records of prototype models with more powerful engines (including a turbo charged variant) that were seriously outperforming the Corvette at GM test tracks, and that did not sit well with the boys at Chevy.

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1989/90 Fiero Formula prototype

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1989/90 Fiero prototype engine bay

But for those seeking an inexpensive, easy to maintain, fun weekend car, the Fiero may be something to consider. Parts are readily available (with the exception of a few GT body pieces), there is a strong enthusiast community and aftermarket support, (check out Pennock’s Fiero Forum), there is considerable documentation and information about engine swaps - but most importantly, they are FUN to drive.

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Illustration for article titled Americas most misunderstood car.

Authors 1987 GT

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