The Pontiac Fiero was typical of John DeLorean. American manufacturers had watched for over a decade as Europeans like Fiat, Ferrari and Lamborghini had produced exotic, mid-engined sports cars. DeLorean was the first to believe that America could match that success, and do it more cheaply. The Pontiac Fiero (the name means ‘proud’) was the first, and as it turns out the only, mid-engined sports car designed and built in America.
It was an immediate success, selling on the technical innovation of its space-frame construction and impact-resistant plastic body, and the kind of futuristic styling that looked more expensive than it was. It was cool enough to be chosen as Indy 500 pace car in its 1984 launch year. DeLorean’s savvy marketing raised expectations. The Fiero’s performance and handling dashed them. It took four years of continuous redesign before the Fiero became the car it had always promised to be.
Ironically, the 1988 Fiero was, technically, exactly as its engineers had originally designed it, and been prevented from implementing by a 1984 budgetary necessity to borrow suspension and brake components from downmarket ‘mall machines’ like the Chevette and Citation. The 1988 Fiero’s suspension was both new and made-to-measure, along with nearly everything of importance. Finally, it had the balance and handling to make sense of its mid engined sports potential, and a sleeker, snappier profile as aerodynamically improved as it was prettier.
The 1988 Pontiac Fiero was still not a great car of itself. Rather, it is a testament to what US car makers were missing out on. Corporate timidity killed it off just when the car incorporated the lessons engineers had learned from the racing programme, and from unhappy parts-sharing schemes. General Motors conjured a threat from the 1988 Pontiac Fiero’s opportunity, and blitzed it.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1984 (until 1988)
ENGINE: 2.8 I (173 cid) OHV V6
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.7 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The prototype for the never produced 1989/1990 Pontiac Fiero, with more than a hint of Ferrari in its fire-breathing look, has been displayed at shows including Fierorama 2005 and the 25thAnniversary Show 2008 in Pontiac, Michigan. The Fiero’s continuing popularity owes much to the versatility of its engine bay – capable of holding almost anything including a V8.