Over… Wait For It… Rated

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This is a 1986 Pontiac Fiero. I’m going to say something here, and I get the sense you may not like it. It does relate to the car, in fairness, as it was a prominent part of what I’m going to say. Maybe not a huge part, but it did factor in here and there. Okay, I think it’s best if I just come out and say it. Ready? Here goes: I hate How I Met Your Mother.

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If you haven’t clicked away yet, I appreciate you, and I understand what you’re going though. It’s a tough life, hating How I Met Your Mother: living in constant fear of someone shoehorning another uninspired quote from that godforsaken show into a conversation. It could be a coworker, a friend, or even a loved one who you didn’t save in time. Why the writers decided to dedicate an entire episode to a Pontiac Fiero is beyond me, but they did anyway, and I consider it a grave mark on the face of the celebrated history of the Fiero.

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“Celebrated,” in this instance is of course a stand in for “kind of disappointing.” The Fiero was General Motor’s foray into the world of affordable sports cars, a foray that may not have even happened if the businessmen of the company were to have made the decision. Many at GM worried that the car would be compared to Chevrolet’s Corvette, and perhaps even rob that car of sales. That didn’t happen, primarily for two reasons. First, the “let’s build it!” button for the Fiero was pushed 20 years before the car was released, giving it an insane gestation period.

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The second reason the Fiero didn’t encroach upon the Corvette’s territory is that it wasn’t all that good. Which is kind of confusing, because Pontiac seemed to have all the right ingredients for a good sports car. It was rear wheel drive (check), wedge-shaped (check), and most importantly mid-engined (check, double-check and an extra side of check to go with it). In theory, a mid engined setup is probably the best way to arrange an engine in a car. This means that the car effectively has two trunks (one in the back and one in the front, where the engine would’ve been). With the engine in the middle, the weight of the car is more evenly divided between the front and the rear, allowing for sharper handling at speed. This, as opposed to front-engined cars, which puts all the weight over the front wheels, or rear engined cars, like the Beetle or some Porsches, which puts all the hullabaloo over the whatsamajig. Each setups have their pros and cons, but mid-mounted engines offer the most neutral handling, which is good when you’re piloting a two ton hunk of steel, glass and flammable liquid at a high speed.

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So, all that stuff up there in the last paragraph. Yeah, the Fiero didn’t do that. Somehow. My theory is that the car, which entered its real engineering stages right in the midst of the gas crisis, was too heavy, around 2800 pounds, which upsets performance, fuel economy, really everything. That, plus the engine wasn’t great either: a 2.5 liter inline four cylinder called the “Iron Duke,” which sounds like a Game of Thrones character. Horsepower ratings for cars in the 1980s are sad to the point that they’re funny. Case in point, the Pontiac Fiero, with the Iron Duke, made 92 horsepower. It couldn’t even crest the 100 mark.

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Another thing I forgot to mention about Iron Duke Lannister: he (ahem, it) burst into flames. The problem mostly afflicted early models, but that combined with the disappointing weight and power sealed the Fiero’s fate as the “cousin your family never talks about” of the car world. Which is a shame, because towards the end of its life cycle, GM put a bigger, more powerful (still not great, but better) 140 horsepower V6 in it. The Fiero really was on its way to being the car it always should have been, and then they killed it in 1988. And then they kicked salt into the wound of the dead horse and put one on How I Met Your Mother. The Fiero deserves better. It was a good idea that maybe wasn’t executed well, but it had potential. I like that.

Additional Thoughts:

  • In 1964, Pontiac released a prototype called the XP-833, or the Banshee, which eventually turned into the Fiero.
  • Other names for the Fiero that were considered include: Sprint, P3000, Pegasus, Fiamma, Sunfire and Firebird XP.
  • The Fiero is the only mid-engined car produced by a major American manufacturer.
  • There is a huge community of people who convert their Fieros into “Fauxrarris.”
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One thought on “Over… Wait For It… Rated

  1. Pingback: Always The Answer | Forgotten metal

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