Though the '88 Fiero is the model viewed by many enthusiasts as the year "they got it right and killed it," the '85 edition was also pivotal in the path of the breed. It was then that Pontiac's true intentions could be seen.
Pontiac management had purposely downplayed the Fiero when in development and the first year of production. They knew that it would be a hard sell to market the little two-seater as a sports car because GM and Chevrolet management were not about to let it compete with the Corvette, which was being re-introduced for '84 after a one-year lapse in production. As it had always been, the Corvette was hallowed ground to many GM executives, and the last thing they wanted was competition from within. Instead, a different strategy would be implemented.
Pontiac General Manager William Hoglund put the Fiero project in the very capable hands of Hulki Aldikacti, the brilliant Turkish-born engineer, who was also a very adept corporate politician. The pair would push the P-car's development and approval process through the GM hierarchy by branding it not as a sports car, but as a "commuter car" that just happened to be a two-seater. Later, after the model was established, Pontiac could roll out its true intentions and beef things up a bit. The plan worked, and Fiero production began in summer 1983.
It was a sporty-looking little car with the 92hp 2.5L "Iron Duke" four-cylinder, which achieved very impressive mileage figures.
As one might expect, the Iron Duke-powered Fieros were pretty dismal from a performance standpoint. Zero-to-60 times were in the mid-to-high 11s, and it could not break out of the 18- second quarter-mile range at 74-75 mph. Top speed was a wheezy 105 mph. As a result, the Fiero was criticized by road testers for its sluggish performance, but was praised in most other categories. It was given high marks for its styling, fit and finish, cornering ability, and thrifty gas mileage.
Nevertheless, the little two-seat Pontiac sold incredibly well. Three versions were offered. The base model sold 7,099 units, a mid-line sport coupe accounted for 62,070 cars, and the top of the line S/E sold a remarkable 67,671. Included in the S/E sales are 2,155 Indy Pace Car Replicas.
The '84 Indy Pace Car Replicas were an interesting launching point for the '85 model year. Those cars received a revised "aero" nose, rocker panel extensions, and specific rear wing. Along with an upgraded powertrain, these would be incorporated into the new-for-'85 Fiero GT.
Of course, the heart of the new performance-oriented Fiero would be the implementation of a V-6 engine and an upgraded suspension. Owing to its X-Car heritage, the Fiero GT received a special version of the 2.8L 60-degree V-6. Using the short-block from the previous H.O. 660 powerplant installed in the Citation X-11 and Phoenix SJ, the Fiero V-6 was topped off with a new port fuel-injection system, as well as new intake and exhaust manifolds. The horsepower jumped from the old carbureted version's 135 to 140 at 5,100 rpm. This engine could be ordered with the Muncie four-speed manual or three-speed automatic. A new optional Isuzu-built five-speed transaxle available in the four-cylinder models was not available with the V-6, as it didn't have sufficient torque capacity.
The 2.8L V-6 made use of the earlier X-car High Output cylinder heads and camshaft, combin
Leather appointments abound on this Fiero GT, includingthe steering wheel, shifter, boot,
The gauge cluster is housed in an upright pod. Its speedometer only goes to 85 mph per gov
The GT's new powertrain was responsible for a substantial performance increase. Zero-to-60 times dropped to a much more respectable 8.1 seconds, and quarter-mile times dropped into the 16.3-second range at about 85 mph. Top speed jumped to 120 mph. Automatics were a hair slower all around.
In addition to the upgraded powertrain, the '85 Fiero GT also benefitted from a heavy-duty suspension, which was available in other models as optional equipment. Changes included 10-percent-heavier rear spring rates, revalved shocks, 0.5-inch-greater front suspension travel, and reduced rear-end roll steer.
Pontiac built a total of 76,371 '85 Fieros—a drop from '84 but still a strong showing. At least part of the drop could be attributed to the new Pontiac Grand Am, which no doubt sent a few would-be Fiero buyers to a more practical vehicle.
Fiero owners are a fiercely loyal part of the Pontiac hobby, and you'd be hard-pressed to find an owner who has more fun with his than George Johnson of Sandusky, Ohio. His '85 Fiero GT has been restored to its original glory, a new trend at car shows. In years past many of the Fieros displayed were highly modified examples. Now clean originals and restored cars are becoming a significant segment.
George purchased his automatic-trans equipped GT back in the summer of 2001 from his dad, who only owned it a short time. The original owners were from the Huron, Ohio, area. The little two-seater was pretty worn out and had a quickie repaint that was starting to show its age. Its interior also needed a lot of help. It was, however, mostly complete and was a nicely optioned example with A/C, sunroof, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and AM/FM stereo/cassette deck. George handled much of the restoration himself, including painting the underside of the body and engine compartment, detailing the engine, rebuilding the braking system, swapping in a new A/C compressor, and installing the new leather interior.
The paint and bodywork were expertly handled by Kasper Transportation, who repainted the Fiero GT in the original Bright Red using a PPG basecoat/clearcoat system. George did all the color-sanding and polishing using 1,500- and 2,000-grit sandpaper, and finished it with 3M polishing products. "It was the first time I ever did that," George said. "I bought a polisher and had a friend show me how—it really came out great."
His efforts were rewarded with Silver Awards in Points Judged Stock at the 2010 POCI Convention and Points Judged Modified (due to the leather seat covers) at the 2012 POCI Convention, and a First Place in class at the 2012 Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals.
In addition to this stock '85 GT, George also has an '87 Fiero GT, which is lowered 2 inches all around and sports a set of 18-inch wheels. The 82,550-mile '85 is more of a show car and has a set of historical plates; the '87 sees more street use and is frequently driven to North Coast chapter events. For George, Pontiac two-seaters are the only way to fly!