Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac Fiero Coupe

The Pontiac Fiero started out as an innovative sports-car design, got bean-countered into an overweight parts-bin commuter car with embarrassingly public reliability problems, then got a complete redesign in 1988… which turned out to be the year of its demise.

Here’s one of those final Fieros, found in a Colorado car graveyard last year.

The most important change for the 1988 Fiero can be seen underneath, where Chevrolet Citation (rear) and Chevrolet Chevette (front) suspension bits no longer reside. The Fiero’s engineers finally had the opportunity to install the suspension their car should have had all along, but The General predicted — correctly — that the sports-car market would shrivel during the coming decade and decided to cut losses and axe the Fiero.

Not only did the last-year Fiero handle and stop better than its predecessors, the body looked sleeker and more modern. Did these improvements help sales? No, they did not; years of news reports of Fiero engine fires and recalls coupled with competition from the Toyota MR2 and Honda CRX two-seaters (and maybe even from Malcolm Bricklin’s Bertone-badged Fiat X1/9s) had turned the car-buying American public firmly against the Fiero. The Pontiac Division announced the demise of the Fiero in March of 1988, and barely over 25,000 of these cars made it out of the showrooms.

This car has the base engine, the 2.5-liter Iron Duke aka Tech 4, which was about the least sporty four-cylinder gasoline engine GM could find anywhere in its far-flung empire (and that includes Daewoo and Isuzu). Essentially one cylinder bank of the old Pontiac 301 V8, the Duke grumbled out 98 horses for the 2,597-pound Fiero. By this time, most Fiero buyers had figured out that the optional 2.8-liter V6 and its 135 horsepower were worth every bit of the extra cost, though the Duke-ized Fiero managed to get decent fuel economy when it wasn’t bursting into flames.

Had Fiero production continued past 1988, we would have seen Fieros with Oldsmobile Quad 4 engines beating up on MR2s and CRXs… and sales for all three cars fading into irrelevance at the same time, while truck sales skyrocketed.

1988 Pontiac Fiero in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAn Iron Duke Fiero with an automatic, even a 1988 model, wasn’t much fun to drive. This car has the five-speed manual, which probably contributed to keeping it alive until age 31.

1988 Pontiac Fiero in Colorado junkyard, keys - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen you see the keys in a junkyard car, you know that it didn’t get towed away for too many parking tickets. Perhaps some Denver dealership got this one as a trade-in.

1988 Pontiac Fiero in Colorado junkyard, CSU parking stickers - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt lived here since at least the middle 1990s, according to these Colorado State University parking stickers.

The Trans Am gets most of the screen time in this screaming-guitars-and-big-hair television commercial, but you’ll find some Fiero footage between the Daewoo LeMans and the Grand Am.

Seeing the Fiero lumped in with the wretched LeMans is depressing, so let’s watch an oonsk-oonsky Fiero ad from the optimistic first model year.

You’ll find links to more than 2,000 additional Junkyard Finds by visiting the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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