“Back then we were so bereft of good domestic cars it seemed like a ray of hope,” my C/D compatriot Rich Ceppos recalls. “So everyone hoped it would be something else. But it was crap.”
On the occasion of GM’s introduction of its second mid-engine car, the new 2020 C8 Corvette, let’s take a few solemn moments to remember the first one. That would be the 1984 Pontiac Fiero; a car that in its day was as eagerly anticipated as the C8. Maybe even more so. And Rich Ceppos, who wrote of our first contact with the long-awaited C8, was also there to write up the first Fiero way back when.
Pontiac anticipated selling somewhere near 30,000 Fieros that first model year. Instead it shipped 136,840 out to eager buyers. That’s an astonishing number. Corvette sales peaked at 53,807 in the 1979 model year. As far as my research takes me, the 1984 Fiero holds the single-year record for the most sales of any two-seat sports car ever sold in the United States.
Then all the compromises made in developing the Fiero began shining through. According to a 1988 post-mortem in the Los Angeles Timesafter the Fiero’s cancellation, the car was developed on a strict $300 million budget. “We weren’t able to get the extra $40 to $60 million we needed to finish it off exquisitely,” recalled Karl Krapek, who had been the manager of car assembly operations as the Fiero was being developed.