He built one for himself 17 years ago, and liked the results so much that he decided to offer the kit to the public. C. Archambault, V-8 Archie, as he is known to friends and customers, will be happy to sell you a kit to drop a small-block beneath the engine cover of your Fiero (www.v8archie.com). Don't laugh: he's sold 1,700 of these kits thus far, and has built another 200 vehicles at his Barrington, Illinois, shop. As he likes to point out, he's been building Fieros longer than Pontiac did. Fours, sixes, no matter. Archie converts 'em all.
Each calling card he builds for his shop has to outdo the last, he believes-and it only makes sense. You've got to continually top yourself, to evolve, if you're going to continue to be noticed in an increasingly crowded performance field. V-8 Fieros, the core of his business, are plenty potent but old hat to an extent: from a sheer surprise standpoint, he's been there, done that-and still doing it. Why, he even built a chop-top Fiero 4 years ago-and made everything look sufficiently smooth that you had to look twice to register what you were seeing. Clearly not factory ... but not the sort of crude thing that the aftermarket has been known to barf up every now and again, either. So what to do for an encore, Archie?
Ladies and gentlemen: the world's only suicide-door, chopped-top V-8-powered Fiero built from a '87 donor car.
We'll start with the mechanicals. The engine itself is a '96-vintage corporate LT1 crate engine: factory fuel injection, roller cam, and rated 300 hp net at the flywheel...or roughly triple what a stock four-cylinder Fiero was born with in its cradle. Only a Lingenfelter throttle body, a Buick Grand National fuel pump, and coated 90-degree, 1 5/8 Sanderson headers (blowing through a 2 1/2-inch collector and 2-inch pipes, with twin aftermarket replacement cats and twin resonator tips) clue you in that you're not looking under the hood of a stock '96 Firebird. Well, that and the intake covers that say Corvette ... but never mind about them. All that power is handled through a stock Getrag five-speed, with a CenterForce clutch, a shortened shifter, and a custom billet steel flywheel that's supplied with Archie's V-8 conversion kits. That's a lot of power to be sending through a stock gearbox ... how does the Getrag hold up? "I've never broken one myself," says Archie. "Usually the tires go up in smoke before you overload the trans. A few have broken, though usually it's because they're high-mileage units-like 200,000 miles. I've got several customers racing them and they stay together." The final drive ratio is 3.65 in this Fiero.
And how exactly does that LT1 fit in there? Quite nicely, thank you. (Thank you ladies and gentlemen! I'm here all week! Tip your waitstaff!) Naturally, Archie used one of his own conversion kits in there; a bundle of goods that consists of everything you need, from new A/C, alternator, and starter mounts to a remote oil filter kit to a new radiator to all of the vacuum hoses and fittings you'll need to get on the road. No serious shoehorning or butchering is needed: Fieros are deceptive little machines, and you can physically fit anything from supercharged 3800s to Cadillac Northstars to 455ci Pontiac stompers in the cradle, it's just hooking everything up and getting it to work that poses the challenge. Archie's got that bit licked.
And if you're worried that dropping a V-8 will upset the Fiero's natural handling prowess, guess again: at less than 2,700 pounds, a V-8 conversion weighs just 135 pounds more than a four-cylinder Fiero, and a scant 85 more than a V-6. Assuming your suspension is as it should be, there should be no discernible difference, except for that 200 percent boost in power as you accelerate out of the turn. Snort all you want, non-believers: 300 hp in a 2,700-pound buggy sounds pretty compelling to us.
Then there's the suicide doors. Archie explains, "I'd planned this car for several months, and because the plan called for suicide doors I began by building the hinges and latches first. I wanted to make sure I could make them work before committing a lot of time and money into this project." Additional reinforcements using 1x2-inch box tubing and sheet steel, to prevent the reversed doors from sagging on their new mounts, were devised. There's also a 6 1/2-inch wide hinge and a Grade 8 bolt as a hinge pin. "Other suicide-door cars rattle over bumps," reports Archie. "Not this one. I stood on one of the [open] doors to make sure it was sturdy."
Once the hinging mechanism was sorted and installed, the space frame went in for a bit of a chop, 3 inches to be exact, with the windshield laid back an additional 9 degrees from stock. The welds at the B-pillars were parted, telescoped down, and re-welded 3 inches lower; the A-pillars were pie-cut and laid back, with the roof structure trimmed to slide into the lowered B-pillar section. The space-frame was wire-brushed clean and free of any surface rot, and the whole frame was painted Imron black. Window glass, including the back and side windows, were trimmed to fit.
The suspension, attached to that chopped frame has been modified as well. Most of it is stock, save the vintage Belltech 2-inch lowering spindles, a set of Monroe shocks and struts, and the thorough powdercoating of suspension components in the same Ferrari Fly Yellow that the body has been treated to. Seventeen-inch Konig Tantrum rims (7 inches in front, 8 out back) roll on 40-series Yokohama A520 rubber (215mm wide in front, 235 out back). Its stabilizer bar is stock, save a round of powdercoating. The brakes are a tasty home-brewed hodgepodge of existing ingredients: 11 1/4-inch vented rear rotors from a Chrysler LeBaron SE now live on all corners ("They're the same bolt pattern and offset as the Fiero-and stock Fieros had small brakes") with Third-Gen Firebird calipers in front and late '80s Cadillac Seville calipers, with the integral parking brake feature, for the back.
The body is mostly stock-all of the lower panels are stock shape-except for the shaved door handles, a slightly more aggressive-looking front luggage compartment cover, and the roof panel needed an inch and a half taken out of it for everything to line up. All of the body bits were given four coats of PPG primer, four coats of Ferrari yellow (wet-sanded with 1,000-grit paper between coats) and four coats of PPG clear (wet-sanded with 1,500-grit paper between coats). The LT1 badge on the engine cover lid nearly gets lost if you're not looking for it.
Here is the Fiero during buildup stages.
Its interior is very black: all of the shapes inside are stock, but most of what was once covered in vinyl, cloth and plastic (seats, door panels, dash, console) are now covered in black leather, thanks to a Mr. Mike's kit. An ACC rug remains one of the few surfaces not given the dominatrix effect inside.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about the whole combination, beyond the fact that it even exists, is the timetable involved: it took 8 weeks from the word "go" to the running, driving, vitamin-fortified monster you see before you-and all of it done within the confines of Archie's shop. (Well, hey, they built it in the middle of winter in Chicago-it's not really car show season.) Our little screaming yellow zonker was finished in the waning days of January 2002; its second-ever show was at the annual indoors Chevy Vette Fest, held at McCormack Place in Chicago. Archie placed 96 points out of 100, earning a healthy round of boos from the thoroughly annoyed Corvette owners huddled round the stage during the trophy ceremony (heh heh).
What's next? Archie's talking about a hotter cam for the LT1 and, quite possibly, a centrifugal supercharger. Beyond that, he's not talking ... but surely it's enough to soak up the accolades in this particular beast for a while before having to think about what's next?
Here is the Fiero during buildup stages.