Weekend Junkyard Quiz (06/24): What Car Are We Looking At?

Many eagle-eyed Roadkill readers identified our last Junkyard Quiz pretty quickly: a turbocharged Chrysler LeBaron. Well done, RK Nation! This week, we’ve got a Maneater-endorsed car for your perusal. Can you tell what it is from one cropped photo? Scroll down for more on this car we found in the junkyard.

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Does a wider look at the body cladding and phased-out teal body color help? That color seems to have vanished from company’s color catalogs by about 2000, which should help narrow down the year, at least.

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Of course it’s a Pontiac Fiero! General Motors’ first attempt at a mid-engined car (Just like a Ferrari!) lacked the refinement of the Toyota MR2, the Trans-Pacific mid-engined rival that we found in the same junkyard.

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We can see one major part of the Fiero’s problem here: The Tech 4 four-cylinder engine, better known as the Iron Duke, made just double-digit horsepower from a very heavy 2.5 liters. The MR2’s 1.6-liter engine made more horsepower and weighed about 200 pounds less than the Fiero.

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Early Iron Dukes like those in the Fiero experienced engine fires from a design defect. Fiero fanatics are quick to point out that (A) this affected Tech 4 engines in other cars and (B) General Motors fixed that problem after the 1984 model year.

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Ultimately, it doesn’t matter: The Iron Duke is forever associated with the Fiero because it was mostly used in forgettable sedans otherwise. And as Pinto and Corvair enthusiasts—Yes, they exist—will tell you, you can’t just shed that kind of reputation.

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This one looks to have lived a hard life at probably no more than 80 miles per hour, judging by the slushy three-speed automatic transmission mated to a 90-horsepower boat anchor. The interior design is pure ‘80s with pseudo-futuristic gauge cluster.

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Any kind of mid-engined car would be a tough sell to the American carbuyer. Sure, there was the ability for Fiero owners to claim their car was “just like a Ferrari” at the pinnacle of Ferrari hip-ness. That went far and having Hall & Oates shill for Pontiac helped. John Oates did walk the walk, though; he occasionally road-raced a Pontiac Fiero in IMSA’s GTU class.

Today there is still an enthusiastic Fiero following, largely because they’re cheap and plentiful. Pontiac sold quite a few of them and you’d be hard-pressed to find one worth five figures. People can and have drag-raced Fieros, which popularly can take V8 and bigger V6 swaps. Not long ago, Matt Farah drove this super-sketchy Mitsubishi 4G63-powered Fiero at #gridlife in Michigan. [Side note: Do you guys want to see coverage of #gridlife?]

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The Fiero is a natural fit for the 24 Hours of Lemons of course. Even with the street car’s shortcomings, they can make reasonably alright race cars. The Midwest Engine Destroyers were an early apologist for the Fiero, although they left a wake of swapped-in GM 3.8-liter V6s behind them in several years of racing.

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Mike Austin, a former Autoblog editor who just moved over to Hagerty, raced this Fiero many years ago in what turned into a total debacle involving a very-long tow and a snowstorm. He eventually sold it and the veteran of early races still runs on the East Coast with Rusty Tear Racing. They swapped in the 3.4-liter V6 from a later Beretta GTZ or some other GM product and regularly finish in the Top 30.

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Salt Lake City’s Salty Thunder Racing have run a reasonably well-sorted Fiero in Lemons for a few years. At this year’s B.F.E. GP in Colorado, however, the team added a second Fiero to go with their “Guy Fiero” theme.

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This teal ‘86, however, is headed to Fiero Heaven. We don’t know exactly what it’s like there, but we suspect it’s the place where all cars are 1988 Fiero GTs and John Oates drops by to say hi every morning. Check out the gallery below for more photos of this Fiero.

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover