Fiero Remembered

 In this, the tenth anniversary year of the manufacture of the last Fiero, we can take some time to reflect on how history will remember the Fiero.  In the book, All Corvettes Are Red - Inside The Rebirth of An American Legend, by James Schefter, we get a view of the turmoil that is GM, which on numerous occasions almost pulled the plug on GM's other sports car...the Corvette.  Schefter was given unprecedented access into GM, over the C5 Corvette's eight-year gestation period, to listen and record conferences, conversations, confrontations and confessions of the people who saved the Corvette from becoming a memory.  Some of these same people brought the Fiero to life, but could not save it from the ax wielded by GM brass.  Here are some excerpts from that book pertaining to the Fiero.

 Regarding John Schinella, Chief of Pontiac Exteriors during the design of the Fiero:  "John Schinella was running ACC [Advanced Concepts Center] after winning acclaim for the Fiero sports car designed in his studio, Pontiac 2.  Schinella's grasp of futuristic design concepts, and his ability to communicate with his temperamental charges, convinced Clay Dean that his future lay with GM's Design Staff."

 Regarding GM and sports cars:  "Two-seater sports cars have never been in favor in a company that concentrates on sedans and trucks.  In the eighties and nineties alone, GM started, than abandoned, three sports cars - the wonderful little Pontiac Fiero, the innovative Buick Reata, [sic] and the upscale Cadillac Allante.  Like the Corvette, each of them was imperfect in the beginning.  But each of them got better and better, until just as they reached something like real quality, and in the case of the Fiero, had a genuine following, they were killed.  Killing cars is a General Motors tradition."

 Regarding John Cafaro, Assistant Chief Designer of the Fiero:  "John Cafaro was seven when he fell in love with cars."  "He graduated from art school and went straight to General Motors.  He worked for John Schinella in a Pontiac studio, helping design the feisty little Fiero sports car."

 In 1992, four years into the design of the C5, Dave Hill became chief engineer of the Corvette.  He had this to say regarding the possible demise of the Corvette.  "The company can't delay Corvette anymore.  They've killed off every other interesting car in GM.  It was easy to kill the Fiero, then the Reatta, and finally the Allante because there was always something left.  But now we're down to one.  If GM killed the Corvette, that would be it."

 I think history will be kind to the Fiero, despite the alarmist and sensationalist reporting by the media regarding the Fiero during it's production.  Although Fiero was eliminated from GM ranks by the company that ignores the cars of its past; and although Pontiac has desperately tried to deny ever having created Fiero, historians will, and are, recognizing that Fiero was an important high point in automobile design.  The general car enthusiast public will one day understand that Fiero was an innovative car of meager beginnings that was well conceived, designed and built.  The Fiero history is still being written by enthusiasts like us who keep Fiero alive for people to remember, and maybe wonder, "What if...?"


Some Shocking Information

 Is Fiero life going smoothly?  How does your Fiero handle the twists and turns, bumps and stops?  How does it handle the jarring reality of Illinois roads?  When did you last replace your struts and shocks?  How much do you know about struts and shocks?  Hopefully, we can give you some useful information to answer some of these questions.

 When my Fiero accumulated just over 50,000 miles on the odometer, I had the struts and shocks replaced with OEM parts.  I did it because I figured it should be done.  I really didn't analyze whether they needed to be replaced, what to replace them with, or even what purpose they served.  I just did it because it seemed like the correct thing to do.

 When my car had past 90,000 miles, I was becoming disenchanted with its handling and ride.  I really didn't think about the shock and struts; I just thought my car was old.  I noticed that there was too much body roll to make me feel comfortable.  The car didn't handle bumps very well.  Railroad crossings caused the car to twist, rattle and squeak.  It didn't feel tight.  I asked some of our members who have driven a variety of Fieros of all ages and mileage if this was something that was inherent to the aging of Fieros.  The answer was always "No".  Then in November, a representative of Monroe attended our NIFE meeting to discuss shocks and struts.  He handed out printed literature about Monroe SensaTrac shocks and struts.

 Shocks and struts function as a major part of a moving vehicle's suspension system.  Our Fieros have shocks in front and struts in the back.  They are safety components that maintain vertical loads placed upon the tires.  This is accomplished by controlling spring and suspension movement to keep the tires in contact with the road.  Contrary to popular belief, their function is NOT to absorb shock.  Instead, they control the action of the spring and hold the tires to the road which is vital to steering and braking effectively, since all inputs are transferred to the pavement through a relatively small portion of the tire tread.  Without effective shocks and struts, the vehicle can bounce severely affecting handling and causing uneven tire wear.  So the springs support the weight of the vehicle, while the shocks and struts control the movement of the suspension.

 Shocks and struts also contribute to the driver and passenger comfort.  They prevent excessive fore and aft movements (nose dive under braking conditions and squat under acceleration) and body roll during turns.  These components will provide consistent control for improved handling and braking performance.

 Shocks and struts are "two-way velocity sensitive hydraulic damping devices".  That means there is a cylinder filled with fluid (an oil), which a plunger moves through.  The plunger has holes to allow the fluid to flow through and the fluid provides resistance to the plunger.  The faster the plunger moves, the more resistance the fluid provides.  SensaTrac uses patented technology that incorporates tapered grooves in the walls of the cylinder in the portion where normal movement occurs.  So the fluid can flow through the plunger as well as around the plunger.  At either end of the cylinder, the tapered grooves are absent.  This means the fluid moves through the plunger only.  This increases resistance for the portion of the cylinder that is used during excessive movement. 

Under normal driving conditions on a smooth road surface, shocks and struts move an average of 1,750 times for every mile traveled.  This equals 7.5 million stabilizing actions on average for every 12,000 miles, which is about the average mileage traveled in one year.  Therefore, depending on your driving habits and the condition of the roads on which you travel, the shocks and struts may wear out in as little as 15,000 miles or last for 50,000 miles.  These components wear out due to the quantity of use, the severity of the environment (including weather conditions), driving habits and the condition of other suspension components.  Well maintained shocks and struts will help other suspension components last longer.

 Worn shocks and struts will allow excessive tire bounce, poor tire to road contact, premature tire wear, premature wear on other components, reduced handling performance, increased stopping distance, noise and vibration.  Shocks and struts wear out gradually, so like me, you do not notice the problem until it is severe.

 The SensaTrac shocks and struts on my Fiero have changed the handling and comfort of my car appreciably.  However, I am comparing their performance against my old OEM worn shocks and I have only the seat-of-my-pants to gather information.  The body roll in turns has been eliminated.  Very good news, because along with my new tires, I can now take turns and ramps at a much faster speed.  The comfort of the ride is much better, although these shocks and struts are much stiffer and therefore I hear and feel every road imperfection.  The benefit is that for large roadway deformations such as expansion joints and railroad crossing, the suspension controls the motion instead of sending the force into the structure and passenger compartment.  I still think my car's structure has become more flexible as it ages (it bends and twists) however the bumps are not noisy, jarring, sunroof rattling events.  Although I can't prove it, from the drivers seat, it appears as if my car sits higher.  These components should not have affected ride height and from outside the car, the ground clearance appears unaltered.  I also can not comment on braking performance since my brakes are the next maintenance repair to be performed, but at least I know the shock and strut replacement hasn't hurt the stopping distance. 

One last note:  if you have the shocks and struts on your Fiero replaced, you ought to have a four-wheel alignment performed. The shop that performed the alignment on my car used a new machine that projects beams of light between the four wheels.  The projecting/receiving devices at each wheel transmit the information to a computer which then dictates the adjustments to be made.


Detailing Warning

 Here is a warning for those of us who use a spray vinyl protectant when detailing the interior of our Fieros.  Never spray a vinyl protectant around electrical switches or instrumentation.  The protectant can make its way through seams between interior pieces and behind clear plastic instrumentation and mar the lens or cause problems with the electrical wiring.

 Spraying protectant onto the dash is also discouraged because it can run down into the ducts and cause a chemical odor or even window fogging.  The recommended method of application is to spray the protectant onto an applicator and then apply it to the surfaces being maintained.  After applying the protectant, allow it to soak in and then burnish the excess material off with a soft dry cloth to develop a rich sheen as opposed to a wet, oily appearance.

 As always, when detailing your car, don't cross contaminate.  Use a separate cloth for each different type of product and area of your vehicle.  Remember, these car care products are chemicals designed for specific materials.  Using the same applicators or burnishing cloths for various materials can contaminate the various materials of your Fiero and cause unknown reactions as these materials come in contact with each other.  Also, for instance, if you get oils from a polish or a vinyl protectant on the glass, it becomes very difficult to acquire a streak-free glass.

 All of your applicators and burnishing cloths should be washed separately using the hot/hot cycle with bleach and detergent.  These cloths should be made of soft materials, preferably cotton.  As Meguiar’s, manufacturers of fine car care product, points out, the harshest material you may unknowingly apply to your paint is that little synthetic tag attached to the corner of the towel you are using.  Meguiar’s also suggests using only white 100% cotton towels which are restricted to cleaning your car's paint only (not serving double duty as cleaning your kitchen floor, furniture, etc.).  Also, if your drop an applicator or cloth onto the garage floor, do not continue using it.  Even if your can not see the dirt its picked up, its not worth the possibility of a single granule of dirt scratching the paint.

 Keep these tips in mind next time you are cleaning your Fiero, because after all...detailing a car is all about the details, and as architect Mies Van Der Rohe stated..."God is in the details".

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Fiero Focus Online is a publication of the Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts, Inc. (N.I.F.E.).  No copies of any part of this publication may be made, distributed, and/or sold without prior consent of N.I.F.E.  "Pontiac" "Fiero" the Pontiac symbol, and the Fiero badge are all trademarked by General Motors Corporation.  N.I.F.E is not responsible for any/all information provided herein.  Any and/or all adjustments made or information act on are done at the sole risk of the individual