Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why a Fiero?

The following appeared in the November/December 2006 edition of the Fiero Focus, the newsletter of the Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts, Inc.

"I never even knew that I wanted a Fiero!

But....Now, I own the best handling car, the most fun-to-drive vehicle that I have ever owned! And I am 61 years young! Let me back up a bit.....

I love to restore old cars and trucks, especially orphans! My last project was a 1966 Corvair Corsa Convertible with a 140 HP engine. It was a sad day when I sold it but I needed to free up space for new projects.

My current project is a 1965 Ford Econoline 5-window pickup which I am restoring from the ground up. Since it is not going to be a trailer queen, I am substituting some parts with those from other vehicles. The early Econoline vans and pickups had the engine between the seats and the seats themselves were mounted on top of the wheel wells. That location means that the seats must have low butt cushions and can not be any wider than 21 inches. Guess what? Fiero seats are a perfect fit! In fact, the mounts from the 1965 Ford seats bolt right up to Fiero seats with minor modifications!

The lease on my wife’s ‘02 VW Passat Wagon was just about up and we were going to need a replacement. The planets are starting to fall into alignment!

While looking on Ebay for Fiero seats, I stumbled upon a 1988 GT with a 5-speed transmission and only 2,700 original miles on the odometer.

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Hmmmmm! The seller was Hollern and Sons Dodge in Windber, Pennsylvania where the original owner traded the Fiero in on a Durango. The planets are really falling into alignment quickly now!

Should I consider the Fiero as a daily driver? The low mileage really sparked my interest. It would be a lot cheaper than buying any new car and probably a lot more fun to drive.

I joined the Yahoo Fiero group and started asking folks for their opinions of the car listed in the auction. I received a lot of useful information from many very helpful people. I also read everything that I could find on the Internet that pertained to Fieros. I determined that of all of the years that the Fiero was produced the best for my purposes would be a 1988. I liked the looks and creature comforts of the GT and I feel that cars with manual transmissions are more fun to drive than those with automatics.

We decided to contact the seller and I made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse! He stopped the auction and I sent him an overnight deposit of $1,000 with a stipulation that after I saw it in person I could make the final decision to go ahead with the purchase or get a return of my deposit.

My wife and I drove the 475 miles from our home in upstate NY and arrived in Windber in mid afternoon. We checked into a hotel and drove to see the car. WOW! It looked like a new car. It didn’t have a blemish anywhere. The paint was perfect. The interior was perfect. All of the numbers matched on the body panels. No leaks were visible. All fluids looked clean. We decided to take it for a ride before a final decision. The car was driven out of the building and they handed us the keys.

We drove the car on highways and back-country roads. We were impressed to say the least. It felt like a new car. It looked like a new car. Heck, it wasn’t really broken in yet! We decided to buy it. The papers were signed and hands were shaken. The owners of Hollern Dodge were quite surprised to learn that I had every intention of driving the car home. They thought that I was going to have it transported and that I would keep it just for shows and parades!

I drove the Fiero to the hotel and my wife and I went out for dinner and guess which car we took! The following day the drive home was uneventful. The car performed perfectly.

To help protect against rust and corrosion we had the car rustproofed by Ziebart. I replaced the rotors with cross-drilled and slotted versions and the brake pads with Carbon-Metallic. I replaced the front shocks with KYB Gas-A-Just shocks because I noticed a small leak of fluid on the right side shock. The rears appear to be OK.

I installed a Valentine One radar/laser locator in a location above the rearview mirror. The V1 slips in and out of its mount quite easily for multiple vehicle use.

I installed Rodney Dickman’s “Competition Short-Throw Shifter” and also his “Ultimate Getrag Shift Kit.” The combination is a vast improvement over the stock setup.

I clipped the wire to the annoying parking brake chime and I installed a Daytime Running Lights module which illuminates the front side markers and front turn signal filaments. I also installed Rodney Dickman’s “Full Time Electric Window Kit” which eliminates the need for the ignition key to open or close the windows.

I flushed and replaced the clutch and brake fluids. I drained and replaced the transmission fluid with Red Line synthetic gear oil, the engine oil with Mobil One Synthetic motor oil and the coolant with Evans NPG+ waterless coolant.

I put the original wheels and tires in plastic bags to protect them from the elements and they are now in storage. The current wheels are lightweight alloy 16" with Kumho performance tires for Summer driving and a set of Bridgestone Blizzak REVO 1 Winter tires mounted on a second set of 16" alloy wheels. The car has never been driven in the snow. The Winter tires are a precaution just in case we come upon unexpected "Black Ice."

This car is without a doubt the most fun-to-drive car that I have ever owned. It has a nice exhaust sound. It handles well. It has enough power to make it interesting. Its looks are quite modern and better looking than most of the current crop of vehicles on the road.

So, for a person that never really wanted a Fiero, I am one of its biggest boosters!"