Pontiac Saved the Best for Last With the 1988 Fiero GT

pontiac saved the best for last with the 1988 fiero gt

General Motors was the object of plenty of criticism in the Eighties, much of it deserved as its divisions’ distinctions faded into differentiation by grille and trim alone, the identities of once-proud nameplates blurring into a corporate morass of cost-cutting and badge engineering. There were, however, still designers, engineers and more folks at GM who were legit car guys, doing everything they could to preserve the spirit of a company that not so many years before sold more than half the cars in the U.S.

In the 1980s, GM introduced an all-new Corvette that was light years ahead of its predecessor. It developed the turbocharged Buick Grand National, a quarter-mile-killing hot shot of a coupe at a time when the muscle car was supposedly dead. There were track-focused versions of the Camaro and Firebird. The company also managed to produce the Pontiac Fiero, a mid-engined, composite-bodied, rear-drive sports car that was probably the most exotic production car from GM to that point. This 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT, now offered at Hemmings Auctions, appears to be a highly original example of the final-year model that proved to be the best GM could make it.

pontiac saved the best for last with the 1988 fiero gt

1988 Pontiac Fiero GT, front quarter view with doors, hood and decklid open

An All-New Way to Make Cars

At its introduction in 1983 for the 1984 model year, the Fiero was truly revolutionary, both in in its production as well as the car itself. Just look at some of the specifications of the first American-made, mid-engined two-seater: a plastic body over a space frame; ab engine mounted behind the driver and in front of the rear axle; fully independent suspension; four-wheel disc brakes, full instrumentation, rack-and-pinion steering and even an upshift light on four-speed manual cars.

Pontiac used the term “Enduraflex” to advertise the plastic body panels for the Fiero, but there were actually four different types of reinforced composite plastic used in the assembly of the car: sheet-molded compound for the hood, rear engine cover, upper quarter panels and roof; reaction injection-molded urethane for the front and rear bumper covers; reinforced reaction injection-molded urethane for the front fenders, doors and lower rear quarter panels; and thermoplastic olefin for the rocker panels. Even the pop-up headlamp covers were made of a composite plastic.

pontiac saved the best for last with the 1988 fiero gt

1988 Pontiac Fiero GT, rear quarter

Strong Initial Sales

Marketing the car more as a sporty, economical commuter rather than an all-out sports car, Pontiac sold an astounding 136,840 Fieros for the 1984 model year, an impressive figure given a modest goal of 30,000 units. But all was not perfect in the Fiero-land.

Since we are talking 1980s GM here, compromises abounded to keep the cost of the otherwise exotic Fiero down to economy car standards. The only available engine in 1984 was the “Iron Duke,” a 2.5-liter OHV inline-four developed in the 1970s for economy. Even with electronic fuel injection and a 9.0:1 compression ratio, it could only muster 92 horsepower. The four-speed shifter had a reputation for being sloppy. The front suspension had been cribbed from the Chevette and the rear was a modified version of the strut front end of an X-car (Citation, et al.). A spate of engine fires required a recall in 1987 of nearly all 1984 Fieros.

pontiac saved the best for last with the 1988 fiero gt

1988 Pontiac Fiero GT, interior

Updates and Upgrades

Fortunately for enthusiasts, Pontiac engineers did not sit still and improvements began with the 1985 model, when a 140-horsepower 2.8-liter V6 was added to the options list, as was a five-speed manual—but only for the four-cylinder models. A slick fastback model joined the notchback version for 1986. Late in the ’86 model year, the Muncie/Getrag five-speed manual became the standard gearbox for the V6 cars. The body got a mild refresh for 1987, and, finally, in 1988, the entire suspension was redone, with revised control arms and steering knuckles up front and a new tri-link rear suspension with struts for the rear. Fatter stabilizers bars were used on both ends.

The road test magazines of the day that had cautiously endorsed the original Fiero while pointing to faults in previous years took no pause in praising the vastly improved car. Unfortunately, despite Pontiac finally getting the car right, much of the wind had gone out of the Fiero’s sales. For the 1988 model year, just 26,402 examples were sold, less than 20% of the 1984 model year. There would be no Fiero in Pontiac’s lineup after 1988.

pontiac saved the best for last with the 1988 fiero gt

1988 Pontiac Fiero GT engine bay and 2.8-liter V6

This 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT now listed on Hemmings Auctions appears to be a clean, unmolested example of that final-year goodness. It features the vastly upgraded suspension, the fuel-injected V6 engine and a five-speed manual transmission. It’s also noted as being all original, save for an aftermarket cassette stereo system likely installed when the car was much closer to new.

With just under 73,000 miles on the odometer at the time of submission, this Fiero seems properly broken in but with plenty of miles still remaining to be enjoyed by its next driver. The Bright Red paint still seems to shine in the Florida sun where the seller is offering the car and the black lace alloy wheels show no discernible curb rash in the photos provided.

Take a look at what peak Fiero looks like on Hemmings Auctions and let us know what you think.

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