Pontiac Fiero: design & smoke in harmony

It’s a Ferrari. It’s a Lotus. Nope — it’s a tiny bundle of heat known as the Fiero, and in 1984 it was brought to the lucky U.S. consumers in a landmark joint venture between Pontiac and Vidal Sassoon:

Pontiac Fiero by Vidal Sassoon

Reports from the field indicate that the name “Fiero” means “pride” to Italians, and “ferocity” to Spaniards… but to anyone who ever owned one, the name Fiero is just a rough anagram for fire (as in, the one that is causing smoke to rise from under your hood).

Very few people realize that the Fiero was Pontiac’s triumphant return to the two-seater layout, after their coupes went out of production in 1938. Realizing how many fond memories Americans had of the 1930s, designers George Milidrag and Hulki Aldikacti seized the moment and blessed the United States with a brand new genre: the faux sports car.

The most celebrated Fieros were built at Pontiac’s plant in Muncie, Indiana — home to Garfield creator Jim Davis, Chicago Bears great Dave Duerson, and at last count, hundreds of thousands of crows. It was well known for being one of the safest machines on the road, scoring particularly well in the crash test categories of Head Injury Criterion, Chest Deceleration and Femur Load. Despite that reputation, the ’84 models were prone to engine fires, not to be confused with the similar-looking decals sometimes visible on the hood. Note a slight difference in aesthetics:

Fiero hood big bird burned out Fiero

Meanwhile, over at GM headquarters in Detroit, the PR team was working overtime to run interference & take the heat off the Fiero.  A plan to feature a souped-up Fiero as the getaway car for the ghost of Victor Maitland in the forthcoming Beverly Hills Cop 2 nearly came to fruition, but more conservative execs at the Ren Cen opted instead for a hood draping strategy.  Once finalized, the object of the strategy was simple: none other than smooth-rocketeer John Oates of the musical phenomenon known as Hall & Oates.

Pontiac Fiero - Hall & Oates

But the Fiero got its biggest break with a cameo in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), as the vehicle of choice for young saboteur Jeannie Bueller. Young enthusiasts also have Hot Wheels to thank for the 1:64 scale version which allowed them to re-enact the makeout session with Charlie Sheen.  Even today, almost thirty years after its heyday, the Fiero is a cult classic with an especially strong following among people who like speakers built right into their headrests.


Ripe Car Name: Pontiac Fiero
Years in production: 1984 to 1988
Price: $7,999 in 1984 (approx. $19,400 today)
Price equivalent: 412 3.4 oz spray bottles of Drakkar Noir

White Pontiac Fiero


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