Final Year 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT Mecum Florida Auction Bound18
The Pontiac Fiero was conceived as a sports car in the late 1970s. Then, it became an economy car in an effort to get it green-lighted by GM brass. Then it evolved into a sports car. Then it was killed off just as it became the car it was supposed to be.
In the late 1970s, Pontiac had lost much of the cachet it had garnered in the 1960s. The youth market had become enamored with the Excitement Division due to offerings like the GTO and Firebird, but the Corporate Annual Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and gas crisis had gutted performance and created the automotive Malaise Era. Pontiac suffered more than most other brands, as they had tied their image to performance, and there was little of that to be had.
Bill Hoglund was appointed Pontiac’s new boss in 1980. He issued the edict to Pontiac engineers that they needed to start thinking differently. Pontiac needed something to recapture that excitement and youth market. The Pontiac Fiero would be just the thing. It was designed as a lightweight two-seat sports car with a high-output all-aluminum V6. When Pontiac pitched the idea to GM executives, the concept was shelved. It wasn’t that the Pontiac Fiero was a bad idea, it was that the Chevy Corvette was clinging to a narrow market share and needed no competition from within GM.
However, if the Pontiac Fiero became an economical two-seat coupe, it might be able to make it to production. It would help Pontiac achieve CAFE standards. Development cost would need to be kept down, as would production cost. Enter Hulki Aldikacti.
Mr. Aldikacti was a brilliant Turkish engineer who had a different way of looking at things. In order to keep Pontiac Fiero development costs down (the budget was only $300 million, or about one-third that of a normal car) he raided the GM parts bin, using the subframe, disc brakes, and suspension from the front of the Chevy Citation, but moving it to the back of the car, and used the front suspension from the Chevy Chevette up front. It was determined the 92-horsepower 2.5-liter Iron Duke four cylinder would be the sole powertrain, mated to either a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual. The Fiero would have a steel spaceframe that would provide all the structure, allowing for the use of lightweight plastic Enduraflex body panels.
The Pontiac Fiero tipped the scales at just 2,650 pounds, and had an extremely low drag coefficient, allowing it to reach the 50-mile-per-gallon EPA target. It was also the first mid-engine layout for any American manufacturer (no, the DeTomaso Pantera and the AMC AMX/3 don’t count). It had four-wheel disc brakes, something only seen on sports cars of the era.
The Pontiac Fiero continued to evolve over the years. By 1988, the little commuter car had become a sports car as it was originally intended. It could be ordered with a 2.8-liter V6 that made 140 horsepower, backed by a four-speed automatic or a much more sporting five-speed manual. This allowed the Fiero to be nearly as quick as the Ferrari 308 (7.5 seconds from 0 to 60 mph vs. 7.6 for the Ferrari, 15.9 seconds in the quarter mile at 86 mph vs. the Ferrari’s 15.8 tics at 88 mph). How mad would you be if you had just dropped nearly $70k on your 308 only to get your clock cleaned by a Pontiac in a stoplight race? But I digress. The front suspension had been completely redesigned for far better handling. Car and Driver said, “Pontiac and America finally have a budget-priced sports car to be proud of.” Before the issue that held that line made it to the newsstand, the Fiero was canceled.
The problem, as GM saw it, was that a second-generation Pontiac Fiero would cost a pretty penny to design. It was to be bigger, more aggressive looking, and more powerful with either the Quad 4 or a turbo V6 powertrain. It was also facing more competition from the Honda CRX and Toyota MR2. General Motors forecasted losses of $20 million to $30 million. The little car that had finally come into its own was given the axe. The Fiero would remain GM’s only mid-engine powered car until the C8 Chevy Corvette.
Our feature 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT is from that final shining year of production. It is finished in bright red with a tan leather interior, a five-speed manual transmission, and the final-year coilover front suspension. It has a pop-up sunroof, power windows and air conditioning. It has covered just 56,515 miles, but the condition belies that number. So many of these have been absolutely hammered over the years, it is refreshing to find one in this shape.
This 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT will cross the Mecum Auctions block at their Kissimmee, Florida sale taking place January 4th through the 15th.
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I find it hilarious that GM forecasted a loss of $20-30million for the 2nd Gen Fiero (1989-1990).
Why? Because that’s what GM spent upgrading the suspension in 1988 for the final model year. As I recall, GM did little to no advertising for the 1988 model year, so it’s no wonder it did not sell as many units.
IMO it outsold the corvette and was rated the 2nd safest car of the 80’s (first being Volvo).
There is a lot more to this than many know.
#1Pontiac took a risk over building the car in the first two years . The market got two seat cars is limited.
They had to over build to justify the plant that could build 250k cars.
#2 the GM 80 F body replacement was cancelled. This car was to fill the production out. Ford decided not to make the Probe as a Mustang so GM killed the GM 80.
#3 this made the plant very unprofitable as production settled up 30k as expected but no available car to fill the production out.
#4 this gave Chevy the excuse to kill the Fiero due to plant loses to help save the C5 program . Note it too was canceled at one point too.
#5 most have never seen the second gen 1990 GT but it was going to get more power and wider with the DOHC V6 and Quad 4.
Most sports cars live short lives look at the MR2. The Fiero was only expected got one more gen. But the Politics killed the car.
But the Fiero did what it was put out to do. It brought people into Pontiac dealers and help sell a lot of Grand Ams. This took Pontiac from being closed and moved it to Olds. Yes Pontiac was set to die first.
I have been involved with the Fiero over 40 years and have gotten the story from those inside the program .
This was really a lot of GM disfunction. Chevy competed harder against Pontiac than Toyota.
This was nothing new as Pontiac even back in 64 had to break GM rules to build the GTO.
As for the Solstice it was a parts bin car. It was not perfect and GM had no money to fix it. Sales were way low and it contributed little to the bottom line. If times were good it would have survived but GM needed money for products that paid the bills like trucks.
I actually have parts from the 1990.
GM only has one 1990 GT left and it is amazing. The lifted the styling got the 4th gen F body and the 4th gen even got the same dash as originally used in the 1990 GT.
It would have been a disaster if they had produced the Fierro with the quad 4
That was a POS of an engine. It didn’t make any power until just below red line and if you pushed the red line to often it blew up.
I did see 2 Fiero GTs that I thought was after market body kits. Bulging fenders over the rear wheels with super wide tires. An amazing looking cars. Then I was thinking why were they identical? Made no sense. But I bet they would have sold like hotcakes…
Back in the day of the GTO the head of GM didn’t want to be building performance cars.
I am 64 and I can’t figure out why GM saved Cadillac and dumped Pontiac.
Pontiac built some cool cars. I was a Pontiac fan.
Even at 64 I wouldn’t buy a Cadillac if it was half the price. So not sure who they are building Cadillac for now days.
The DOHC V6 was no better.
The big fender cars you may have seen were the DGP IMSA body kit. GM designed it DGP made the both the race cars and street cars.
GM used them as show cars and you could buy the kits.
The 1990 just used wider fenders and doors and Trans am wheels.
GM in general had followed the racing ban that came in 63. But they raced out the back door often.
Pontiac really died with the Fiero. They were an engineers car and their engineers did ,any great things but often were stopped by GM. Back in 1960’s they had lots of advances that were killed.
Most of their best ideas were cars that broke rules. The Fiero was the last car the engineers that came in under Delorean did.
After that there really was no Pontiac.
Today if they had survived they would just be better styled Chevys.
The reason Cadillac lives is they cost 4 times more and make money. Pontiac was not all that profitable and they were hated by Chevy.
Could of been so much more.
The 1990 was.
Another GM screw up the same with the soltice and the other from saturn both nice cars that could fill a gap in that segment of sports car that are not vettes or porches
Just no money for a low volume car when you go bankrupt.
Building high profit truck come first.
The more I think about it the Solstice is a miracle it was ever built. With the money issues it really should never had happened.
It was not perfect but considering the parts heritage it had they did a good job mixing CTS, Trail Blazer, HHR, GTP and Envoy parts.
GM’s 1st mid-engined car is still a more attractive overall design than their 2nd…GM execs didn’t want the Fiero to be too fast…maybe now they don’t want the Corvette to be too pretty.
And I say the Pantera and AMX count…
The ZGT looked better as done for the GTP for the PPZg driving team the tail lights on the fast back were too big and the side windows needed tinted.
The C8 is doing fine.
Actually most GM executives did want the Fiero at all.
Pontiac made a lot of enemies.
I was there when they were going to roll out the 1990 GT but they threaten John Middlebrook not to do it.
John Schennella brought slides to the meet at the Silver-dome to show us the car against GM rules.
At its best it didn’t hold a candle to the Toyota MRII. (Mine is still performing as it did nearly 40 years ago!)
The Fiero never got a chance to take it in with a second gen. It was getting a DOzH V6 and a wider track. They even tested a V8. GM killed it.
Had the new car made it it would have been good.
The Fiero never got a chance to take it in with a second gen. It was getting a DOHC V6 and a wider track. They even tested a V8. GM killed it.
Had the new car made it it would have been good.
Really liked the second gen Fiero GT
The little 2.8 V6 had an amazing sound. I didn’t have the money back then to afford one.
So when the Solstice came out I bought one for my wife. Still have it.
GM was always far a head of both Ford and Dodge when it came to producing specialty cars.
I say specialty because they weren’t popular with everyone.
But I have to hand it to GM for products that break the mold from that of the boring cars that the other car companies produced.
Probably one of the best looking american cars from 1980-present time. I lusted over the Fiero but I was a freshman in college when it came out, could not afford one. The indy 500 pace car version was fantastic looking.
I purchased a yellow 1988 Fiero Formula new and drove it 28 years! Best handling car ever, so low to the ground, new suspension! I had a 20th TA with the turbo, it was awesome, but it didn’t compare to the WS6 suspension on the Fiero! The V6, 5 speed manual was the trip! I miss that little car, Pontiac did build excitement!