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 upgrade.
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 the ride.
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?

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