Custom Cruise Friday
Every now and again, a vehicle comes along that is just ahead of its time. Its features are so forward thinking and innovative that it can be hard for people to understand what it is they are looking at. A very strong argument could be made this is the case for this week’s Custom Cruise Friday feature, a 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT owned by John McEwen. This car was filled with so many cutting edge features and accomplished so many firsts that in the nearly 30 years since it was last produced, the Fiero has developed a small, but loyal fan base.
McEwen inhereted the 1986 Fiero GT from his cousin Gary McGowan, a long time radio personality and prominent business owner in Edmonton, following his death. McGowan bought the car when it was just a year old from a Pontiac dealer in Sherwood Park, Alberta. McEwen stored the car for his cousin during the winter, which has contributed to its excellent condition today. As a long time owner, restorer and appraiser of vintage vehicles, McEwen knows when he sees something special. For all of the faults the Fiero may present to its owners, regardless of time period, McEwen still appreciates the leaps in technology the car represented.
“It’s a bit noisy and a bit cozy,” McEwen said. “(And) when you hit a bump you know about it.”
As a complete vehicle line, running from 1984 until 1988, the Pontiac Fiero was the first vehicle built by an American manufacturer to have mid-engine. Obviously, most people are familiar with the engine being mounted on the front of the car under the hood. The engine of the McEwen’s 1986 Fiero sits in the middle of the car’s space frame and is almost directly behind the driver and passenger. Combined with the non boosted rack-and-pinion steering of the Fiero, owners certainly had a very responsive coupe that had as a sharp handling profile as anything from more traditional high-end automakers.
Another first for the Fiero was the use of staggered-sized tires. The practice of having larger tires in the back and smaller ones on the front is common place today on high-performing vehicles and can be found on modern versions of the Chevy Corvette. After taking ownership of the 1986 Fiero GT, McEwen took upon the task of fixing various maintenance issues that his cousin may have overlooked.
One of the first things he did was replace the tires that were on the car with proper staggered-sized ones. He chalks up the mistake to service personnel not knowing any better, because putting different sized tires on a vehicle wasn’t done on vehicles not producing several hundred horsepower. The change instantly restored the handling of the Fiero to where it should be.
When the Fiero was first marketed to buyers, it was more or less positioned as an economy driving vehicle, that was good for commuters looking for decent fuel economy amid the high oil prices of the time; albeit with a very futuristic exterior design. The reality of the situation is that there is a bit of a learning curve to be able to properly get the most out of a Pontiac Fiero.
“Driving the Fiero with a four-speed requires a bit of skill,” McEwen said. “… The connections between the gear shift lever in the car and the transmission, which lives way out in the back behind the engine, are a little dodgy, a bit difficult to manage.
“Because it’s moving rather long cables. It’s not connected solidly as if it were a stick sticking out of a modern transmission. It’s all done by cable.”
To illustrate the skill in which it takes to properly manage the transmission of the Fiero, McEwen described a day trip be took with his daughter out of town and back. After navigating the seemingly endless amount of road construction in Edmonton, twice, he was quite physically tired by the end of the day from the innumerable amount of gear changes he needed to make.
The 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT, is powered by a 2.8-liter, V-6 engine making 140 horsepower. While this may not be the most power ever produced by a vehicle, it is still more than enough to get the car moving smartly because of the incredibly light weight of the car. McEwen estimates that his Fiero weighs 2,700 pounds. The staggered sized tires are wrapped around diamond spoke alloy wheels. As a GT model, McEwen’s Fiero comes with just about every option GM had to offer at the time. Some of these special features include exclusive gauge cluster and a fancier radio with a cassette deck.
If you have a special, classic or modified vehicle that you would like to see profiled in a Custom Cruise Friday blog, contact Don Wheaton internet manager Melina Kawecki by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include all pertinent information as well as some photos of the vehicle. Come to Don Wheaton on Saturday (Sept. 12) to check out the All Pontiac Show and Shine.