Keepers: Pontiac Fiero GT

By Christopher Smith

June 01, 2010

Ah yes, the glorious Fiero. Nothing says 1980’s poseur mobile better than a cheap version of the same-era Toyota MR2, and that’s not including the countless fiberglass body kits—some of which are truly craptastic—to have graced the pint-sized Pontiac over the years. It seems that even Fiero owners are embarrassed when sitting behind the wheel; what other reason would drive a person to shell out substantial coin for a Ferrari F-40 conversion kit designed by someone without depth perception? Have we totally lost our minds to call this car a Keeper?

That’s what some of you are thinking. We know, because for years that’s how the Fiero was regarded. Time, however, has been kind to this car, especially the 1988 model year (pictured in our gallery above) which marked the end of Fiero production. We’re not alone in our assessment—Fiero fans are out there in droves, canvassing thousands of miles and spending hundreds thousands of dollars to find just the right car for restoration and/or motoring thrills. Fiero fans are rabid, defending the car they love (even the rather pitiful 1984 model) to their last breath. Most importantly, Fiero fans are growing in numbers, and yes, the Winding Road staff is proud to be among them, as should you. After all, we’re talking about a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-seat, lightweight sports car. What’s not to like?

Okay, so the Fiero launched to a pathetic start in 1984 with a tired four banger and underpinnings borrowed from the Chevette. Here’s the thing though—for the 1988 model year, GM actually got the formula right by giving the Fiero its own suspension. We don’t understand why it took four years for GM to realize a mid-engine sports car needs a sports car suspension to handle like a sports car, and we can only speculate at how successful this car would’ve been had such a setup been installed from day one. Take note future auto executives—this is what happens when bean counters overrule the people who actually know something about automobiles and driving excitement.

Coupled with the 1986 fastback redesign and V-6 power, the 1988 Fiero GT is a fabulously capable and attractive sports car with enough straight-line power to be entertaining. Introduce the 1988 Fiero to corners, and it rewards both driver and passenger with a balanced setup that can only come from a mid-engine machine utilizing a properly calibrated suspension. Yeah, the interior is wanting for space, and the blocky dash is totally 1980s, but this car isn’t meant to be a comfort cruiser. You feel expansion joints through the suspension, you sense cracks in the road through the steering, and though you could opt for an automatic, the only way to fully appreciate this car is to row cogs with a manual transmission. It’s elemental, it’s attractive, and it’s a rewarding driver’s car. So once again, what’s not to like?

The looks may resemble that initial 1984 effort, but the 1988 Fiero GT is literally a completely different animal underneath, and for one fabulous year, it became the car it should’ve been from day one. There will always be the haters who recall the Fiero’s early days, who will point to the cornucopia of ridiculous Fiero-based conversion kit cars and laugh. There are many more people, however, who recognize and appreciate the capabilities of this machine, and because of that, the Fiero has well and truly earned a spot in our Keepers garage.

We’ll help explain the Fiero lineup and the differences in the 1988 model for our next Keepers segment, coming soon.