Sporty '80s Pontiac: This Car Is Popular For Crosswords but Not a Great Vehicle

Hannah DeWitt
· 4 min read
Fiero has a bit of a muddled reputation. The Fiero had good initial sales and status as a classic car, but it left many customers unhappy and
ended production
on a low point. Its complicated history has made the Fiero a popular subject of debate among gearheads, as some people still seek to own the car despite its issues.
The Fiero also seems to be a popular name dropped on crossword puzzles these days. According to
Crossword Tracker
, it has earned multiple crossword mentions in the last two decades.
Does “sporty ‘80s Pontiac” sound familiar? It’s a crossword clue.

The Sporty ‘80s Pontiac

The Pontiac Fiero was mentioned in crosswords a total of eight times over the past 11 years as an answer to the clue “Sporty ‘80s Pontiac.” Seven of the features occurred in the LA Times and one popped up in the Washington Post in 2012.
When it was first designed, the Fiero was meant to be a light, zippy, and affordable
sports car
, according to
Auto Trends
. The first model was a 1984 two-seater mid-engine with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive.
In order to make it affordable and lightweight, GM tried to think outside the box by piecing the car together using different parts from other cars they built. They added their 2.8-liter Iron Duke V-6 engine to it, and also gave the Fiero four-wheel independent suspension.
At first, its affordability and handling helped boost sales, and people were generally happy with the car. The first-year sales surpassed GM’s 100,000-unit minimum marker.
However, the Fiero’s run ended after just five years in 1988 when reliability issues began tanking sales.
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The Pontiac Fiero had significant issues

The Fiero soon began underperforming, with its speed, acceleration, and reliability landing well below par.
Though GM had tried to give the car a light frame to cut its weight, the engine and overall construction of the car put it over 2,500 pounds. This severely hindered its speed and acceleration speed, as the engine wasn’t powerful enough to support the vehicle at high speeds.
reported that the Fiero reached 60 mph in just over 11 seconds—quite slow for a sports car.
The main issue, though, was the
. Not long after its release, people started reporting issues with engine fires caused by defective connecting rods and poor heat transfer from the iron engine blocks. The fires affected 135 cars in total, many of them starting while the car was in motion. Luckily, these only caused minor injuries and no deaths were reported.
The final nail in the Fiero’s coffin was its maintenance costs. The four-wheel independent suspension relied on a very complicated system and was a pain to repair. The cooling system’s long pipes made it prone to air bubbles as well.

Why is the Fiero still considered a classic car?

The Fiero’s look is highly sought after, as well as its fun features like built-in speaker headrests and a removable sunroof. Plus, most of the Fieros around today have been restored or repaired to prevent most of its common issues, and GM issued a recall for 125,000 first-year models for engine improvements.
Though the implementation fell a bit short, some have come to admire GM’s gumption for trying to create a high-performing, affordable sports car when they did.
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