Found on Road Alive: 1985 Pontiac Fiero

During the fuel crunch of the late 1970’s and gas prices that doubled to just about a buck a gallon GM saw a niche to be filled.  A super light weight commuter car with sporty lines.  First shown on the auto show circuit as a “Banshee” the car was sufficiently neutered and cobbled with an anemic “Iron Duke” 4cyl capable of giving great MPG and hit the road in 1984 as the Pontiac Fiero.   First year sales of 136,000 units showed promise but quickly dropped off.

Concurrent to the launch of the Fiero was Toyota’s MR2.  Similar niche but Toyota took the high road and went for a high fun to drive factor with good mileage.  They had the better idea and soon kicked the Fiero into the dirt.   Production ceased in 1990 with 26,000 units, the MR2 remains in production and is in its fourth generation.

One more pick and a little more info after the jump.

The drive-train may have been borrowed from a front driver and tricky engineered for a rear engine application but that was not the legacy left us with the Fiero.  The innovative engineering came in the use of plastic body panels that made it possible to significantly reduce weight and allow rapid style changes to the car.  The Fiero may have died an early death, but the legacy of the plastic paneled car was applied to the Saturn line up when it was launched in 1990.

Pic by me with the trusty phone cam.

21 thoughts on “Found on Road Alive: 1985 Pontiac Fiero”

  1. I went through high school with a couple of guys who owned Fieros. This was especially surprising because it was the mid/late 90’s and Michigan winters are not, by any means, kind to cars.

  2. True, but the Fiero’s plastic body was rust proof which is a good thing in the heart of the rust belt. Was that UP or down in the mitten?

  3. I sent a postcard to MTV in 1991 and won the solar powered electric Fiero from the movie Naked Gun 33 1/3. Battery tech wasn’t quite there – there were 18 full-sized car batteries in the trunk adding a thousand pounds and they replaced the engine with a motor. Had it up to 70mph on the freeway and was able to commute from Burbank to a job in Century City and back. The solar panels were more groovy than practical. I’ve got photos somewhere around here.

  4. I’d like to see those photos of the solar Fiero.

    If I recall correctly, the real legacy the Fiero left behind was that of a car that would spontaneously set itself afire. But perhaps that’s why sales dropped off toward the end.

  5. Burns I do believe you are correct in that some of the early models had a problem with fires but if memory serves correct it was a quick fix. I believe the real damage came from the MR2.

    I’d like to see more of the electric fiero too and dropped rickety a note.

  6. When I lived in Denver, my friend had a white one, definately not good in the snow. Not good for minor collisions either as she ripped a door open in an alley one night.

  7. I distinctly remember riding in my baby-sitter’s fiero, driving over the Sepulveda Pass on the 405, drinking a GLASS bottle of squirt. Thanks for the memory jog!

  8. Excellent post!

    If I recall, the drive train is from the ‘K’ car.
    You could see where they simply replaced the tie-rods (steering component) with a strut because the drive train was originally for a front wheel drive car.

    They also did not have self-centering steering, which seems a bit scary.

  9. John Darko. The Fiero was a poorly designed wiring system that would get too hot in the rear and wiring would ignite. The pinto needed an impact in the 71-74 sedan and runabout models, which were later corrected with a recall costing $11 per car.

    The recall still stands and I know a guy that bought a 1974 model a couple of years ago and ran it through the dealer for a going over. The dealer discovered the recall repair wasn’t made and guess what…they did it for him, and NC of course.

    The Fiero sold about 300K units in its 6 year run, the Pinto sold 3 MILLION units in its 10 year run.

  10. Mike Kelly…missed yours comment. The powertrain came out of the front drive GM Cavalier/Sunbird cars that used the Iron Duke. The K was a Chrysler product and was what kept Chrysler afloat until they made it into the minivan.

  11. Congrats on finding probably the last Fiero that has operating headlight motors. Unless, of course, they just happen to be stuck in the down position…

  12. Oh, and the ‘ol “Mister 2” stopped getting imported in ’04. I don’t know if they still make them in Japan, though.

  13. I stand corrected, Frazgo. The only excuse I have is that my younger years were spent where the steering wheel was on the passenger side and the only GM car was called a “Holden”.

    Maybe it was because I was bogging (furtively) at work :)

  14. Mikekelly…Holden’s eh? They have had some interesting machines over the years. Some are even now turning up on our door steps.
    Easy mistake. Just remember GM of the 80’s meant Generally Mediocre and you have a good sorting point.

  15. The Fiero also had to compete with the Fiat X1/9, which the Fiero substantially copied, both in styling and the mid-engine design (or vice-versa, although the Fiat went on sale some 6 years earlier). But perhaps the Fiero would have done better against the MR2 if it didn’t have prominent Toyota advertising in place of a front license plate!

  16. frazgo, Your comment on “Production ceased in 1990” is incorrect. The last year of production was 1988. The last year, 1988, is when GM got it right.

    The 2.8 V6 introduced in 1985. Many of us are still getting 30+ MPG.

    Here a fact not many know, Pontiac built a prototype with an aluminum V8.

    While testing, they raced it with the (then) new Corvette, and blew it away. A fact documented by the designer of the Fiero at the 20th Anniversary show held in 2003. We had over 400 Fiero’s at that show, all show quality condition.

    If you or readers of this are interested, is a world wide Fiero owners forum, you can learn more about the Fiero’s there.

    Currently we have 16032 registered members. Many of our members have swapped engines, added 3.4 & 3.8 V6’s and V8’s, including Northstar V8’s.

    There are more Fiero’s out there then most people realize.

    I’ve owned 5, currently have 2, an 88 Formula used as a daily driver w/100k miles.

    I also own a 87 Blue GT w/ 1760 miles (no misprint 1,760 miles) which has won many trophies in national shows country wide. It is 100% original and is the lowest mileage blue GT known to exist.


    Come visit us sometime.

  17. I stamd corrected. The wiki references 89 as last year with 90 only as a prototype.

    The banshee was a v8, but cobbled down to an Iron Duke to make the high mileage commuter car.

    Sweet jeebus someone stuff a northstar in the ass of that beast?

    Thanks for the invite, I’d show up at the show and check them all out. Could I have a personal tour of your 87? Is it driven at all or a trailer queen at this point in its life?

  18. Hey Mummey,
    I went to high school in the mid 90’s and was one of 2 people to own a Fiero, we both actually had matching red Fieros. I still own one to this day and it’s birthday is May 25, 2008, the last month and year the Fiero was produced.

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