Monday, October 12, 2015

Pontiac Fiero: A Sports Car That Wasn't

At the time this post was drafted, this Wikipedia entry went into a good deal of detail regarding the birth of the Pontiac Fiero, a small, two-passenger, mid-engine sporty car marketed model years 1984-1988.  If my memory and the entry got it right, key Pontiac management players wanted to produce a sports car, but this was impeded by others in the General Motors hierarchy.  Having it reach production at a reasonable development cost meant performance compromises related to use of some parts from existing models.  At any rate, when introduced, it wasn't marketed as a sports car, though better-performing versions appeared later.  Fieros sold fairly well despite bad publicity related to engine fires.

Regular readers know that I am not a fan of rear-mounted motors or of so-called mid-engine placement.  This is despite the fact that my father owned a Porsche 912 and then a 911, and that I owned a mid-engine Porsche 914.  Mid-mounted motors seem fine for racing cars, but are not very compatible with good use of non-engine space.  Their weight distribution tends to be rear-biased, and this can create control problems such as I once experienced on a snowy road in upstate New York.  Finally, and most important when it comes to the focus of this blog, it is difficult to style a car whose motor sits over, or slightly forward of, the rear axle line.

Regarding that last point, I think Pontiac stylists did a pretty good job.  The Fiero was designed a few years before aerodynamic efficiency became a key determinant of a vehicle's general shape. At that time, the fashion was for a crisp, taut appearance based on simple, slightly curved surfaces joined in beveled-like fashion.  So far as mid-engine cars are concerned, Giugiaro's 1970 Porsche 914/916-based Tapiro concept car that I discussed here might have inspired some of the stylists on the project.


Mecum auction photo front 3/4 view of a 1984 Pontiac Fiero.  Headlights are in flip-up panels just aft of the bumper zone.  When raised, they reduce whatever aerodynamic efficiency the Fiero design possesses.  The rub-rail that extends around the car helps tie the design elements together.

A brochure spread showing internal features of the 1984 Pontiac Fiero (click to enlarge).  The engine placement, besides reducing potential luggage storage space, makes it very difficult to include a large, curved backlight window.  This is due to the need to have access to the motor.

This 1984 Fiero 500 has a slightly different nose than regular Fieros, as can be seen in this Mecum auction photo (the rub rail on the side does not continue around the front end).

Rear 3/4 view Mecum auction photo of a '54 Fiero.

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