My 3.4L Fiero By Keith Collins
My 88 GT automatic with original T-tops is a daily driver. Over the years, I
have added a lot of inexpensive personalized features that I think add to
appearance, daily driving comfort, convenience, and safety. Driving the car
longer will be more profitable for me than trying to keep it original, and a lot
more fun. With that in mind, I have always said to myself, when the car needs an
engine, I will plan to upgrade. This is my story of how I came to make that
My 88 passed the Illinois emissions test this year with flying colors, breathing
cleanly while the tester revved the motor on the rollers. I was encouraged by
the printout, actually thinking as I drove away that there may be a few years
left on the 111,000 mile drive train. WRONG! It died less than two miles from
the test center. After several shocks from the ignition switch, I finally got
the 2.8 beating again, but it barely limped home. My local mechanic pronounced
the motor DOA, and it was time to decide on a transplant. (I'm a JD, not an MD,
but I love those hospital emergency room shows.)
Consultations occurred with several very knowledgeable and helpful Fiero
experts, including Paul Vargyas, Bob Steiger and Ed Parks regarding various
engine/transmission/exhaust combinations. We've all read and heard many horror
stories about engine transplants, so I wanted to proceed cautiously, but
quickly. Tempering pragmatism and fun is difficult, but I quickly narrowed the
decision to a stock 2.8, or a 3.4 Litre V6 engine. I tend to distrust internally
modified engines, and believe that relatively stock engines tend to hold up
better, and offer more for the dollar. However, I also subscribe to the old
theory that (within reason) more displacement is better.
It didn't take long for me to decide against a V8. Even a relatively low output
V8 is more of a load on the stock cooling and braking systems than I think would
be prudent. Considering upgrading the rest of the car to keep pace with the V8
didn't seem worth the extra effort and expense. With T-tops, I am not sure that
the space frame rigidity with stand up to the torque stresses that spirited
driving with a V8 would produce. (Years ago I had a stock factory V8 automatic
Chevy Monza Spyder that kept breaking body welds.) Plus, although V8 Archie and
some of the club members have proven that these conversions can be dependable
daily drivers, somehow they strike me as a bionic Fiero, and no longer true to
the original. For me, a V8 just seems out of character in a Fiero, but to each
his or her own.
Ultimately, I decided to upgrade to a 1993-95 Camaro 3.4 liter V6. I went with a
low mileage 1994 Camaro engine, which increases the horsepower from 135 to 160,
but more importantly increases the torque from 165-foot pounds @3600rpm to
210-foot pounds @3600rpm. From everything I have read and heard from the
experts, with an automatic transmission torque is what counts, not the
horsepower. Thus, the use of an engine designed for torque like the 3.4 is the
way to go in a Fiero automatic. However, those of you with manuals should keep
reading, because a 3.4 may also be for you, just in a slightly different flavor.
Those of you who remember Corvairs, may recall that the famous four carburetor
140 horsepower factory option actually came in two variations. The true 140
actually lacked sufficient torque for the automatics, so there was a special
high torque version with an actual 122 horsepower, but lots of torque, that was
still sold as a 140 when it was ordered as an automatic. Running a true 140 with
an automatic in a Corvair was a dog of a car, but the 122 which had a different
cam and higher torque was quick with an automatic. The 3.4 torque motor with an
automatic gives results based on the same concept.
My local mechanic's advice was that even though he does engine swaps all of the
time, he had not done a Fiero swap; he recommended that I use a Fiero specialist
who has experience with this specific engine swap. We have all heard the horror
stories, so I knew I was only going to use an extremely reputable Fiero
specialist to do the installation. I am happy to say that I decided to have Bob
Steiger of Twin Lakes Fiero do the job. If you are in Illinois, Bob is
convenient for you (all of downstate and northern Illinois seems to be his
backyard). He picked up my broken Fiero on his flatbed hauler, and returned it
by the same method in much better shape!
Bob subscribes to a few pragmatic truths that I appreciate. One is that you
shouldn't make piecemeal changes unless you know how they will impact the
system. More important, although he will build what you want, he doesn't
encourage you to needlessly waste your money on extras that may not be real
improvements. Ultimately, Bob installed a low mileage 1994 Camaro 3.4 without
internal modifications and a low mileage Fiero automatic transmission in place
of the original automatic.
The way Bob does the swap, it looks deceptively simple when he is finished.
That's because the stock Fiero intake manifold and top end is used and
everything appears to be stock Fiero. Appearances are deceiving. The Camaro
starter mount is on the right side and the starter must be moved to the left
side, where it is normally located on a Fiero V6. That requires a very exacting
jig and needs to be done by someone with experience and expertise modifying the
block to remount he starter. The 1994 Camaro 3.4 does not have a distributor.
Fortunately, there is a plug on the block that can be removed for installation
of the Fiero distributor. If your car is not an 88 Fiero, then there are some
additional parts changes required. Not all of which are mentioned here.
For example, the water pump can either be an 88 Fiero pump with an 88 cover, or
Bob prefers to use the pump from the larger displacement 3.4. However, the 3.4
pump requires substituting a Fiero impeller, and modifying the cover. Whether or
not your car is an 88, most 3.4 swaps are done using the Fiero intake, but with
larger injectors, usually the ones that come with the 3.4. Some experimentation
has been done with the injector size, selection, and fuel pressure regulations.
As far as I know, no one has figured out yet the optimum or "best"
injector/pressure combination. Bob is using the stock GM 3.4 injectors without
changing the pump or pressure, and it works well in my car.
What I have is a hybrid of a stock Fiero's V6 parts with a stock Camaro's 3.4 V6
and parts, with modifications where necessary to make it work in a Fiero. One
cost advantage in choosing a used Camaro V6 was that it was complete with
injectors and other Camaro parts needed for the swap which would not have been
included with a new or rebuilt block.
Although a relatively simple swap, there is more than just drilling new starter
mounting holes involved. There are a lot of minor, but important hardware and
parts changes that have to be made. Based on what I have heard and read, if you
are having this done to your car, you should have it done by a specialist that
you can trust from start to finish in his shop (unless you are a masochist and
have the knowledge, skills, time, tools and temperament to do it yourself).
The only "performance" parts modification was the replacement of the
exhaust manifolds with a pair ported and polished by Darrell Morse. (Darrell
also does nice work, as many NIFE members know.) I considered, but did not have
the exhaust system ceramic-treated. Darrell Morse, who ported my exhaust
manifolds, also does a beautiful machining job of opening up the Fiero intake,
which should increase its flow potential. However, keeping the guts of the motor
stock, I didn't know if that modification would be wasted on my 3.4, so I did
not have Darrell rework the intake.
There are many variations on the 3.4 V6 swap theme, depending on who is doing
the work, what your goals are, and what you want to spend. Even with a stock
automatic, there is not necessarily one right way to do the swap in terms of
choices like fuel pressure, or injector selection. Depending on where you live (NIFE
members are everywhere), other specialists besides Bob Steiger who I understand
have done a lot of the 3.4 swaps that you might consider in other parts of the
country include Ed Parks in Alabama and Joe Wynman in the northeast.
How do I like my 3.4 Fiero? It's great! The seat of your pants kick is strong,
but not enough to damage the space frame or break the transmission. Acceleration
is smooth and strong. The engine doesn't really windup between shifts, it has
more of a continuous band of uninterrupted power and acceleration. So far I have
driven the car on a seven hundred mile trip and driven it daily for a few
months. It is reliable, predictable, and quick. If you need an engine for your
Fiero and are not going to keep it pure stock, unless you want to spend a lot
and have to have the fastest or most exotic setup, I believe the 3.4 torque
motor is the way to go for all automatics.
How quick is it? Quick enough that I am not going to try to find out until I get
used to the car and put some miles on it before pushing it. Perhaps later on I
will run some times and give you all an update. Until then, I am just enjoying
For those who want even more horsepower in a Fiero automatic, Bob Steiger likes
the 4-speed automatic 440 transmission with a 3.4 torque V6 massaged with a cam
and a few changes that go beyond what he thinks one should prudently run through
a stock Fiero automatic transmission. Bob thinks that the massaged 3.4 with the
440 transmission combination is more sensible than the 3.8 V6 because 3.4's are
so much simpler a swap, maintain stock appearance, and require far less in the
way of engine compartment changes.
Am I satisfied with my 3.4 V6? Yes. Is it worth the extra expense over a stock
replacement? In my opinion, yes. Do I think I could drive it the way it is for
another 100,000+ miles? Absolutely. It is very driveable, and I think it will
prove to also be reliable and durable over time. Am I glad I paid Bob to do the
job? Yes. Will I tinker with it? Only externally, and then only in moderation. I
don't want to sacrifice that almost stock motor reliability factor. For the time
being with Bob's input, I have experimented a little with the timing and octane.
Meanwhile, I have been following what people have to say about 3.4 results with
various fuel injector and pressure combinations. Personally, I think we could
really use a computer chip programmed for Fiero 3.4V6 automatics to tweak
performance a little. Driveability is fine, but I don't know of anyone yet who
has optimized the fuel/ignition/rpm performance parameters for a Fiero intake on
the 3.4V6. (I understand that Joe Wynman has programmed a chip for 3.4V6 five
speeds, although I don't know if he is marketing it yet.) Anyone out there going
to do it for the automatics?