Rich Warber's Incredible "Chopped Top" 450 450HP V8 Fiero GT

By Paul Vargyas

What happens when speed, horsepower, cubic inches and torque are in your blood?  What happens when your racing days are over, you have family responsibilities, but now you want a fast street machine and you were enamored with the Fiero ever since it was introduced.  In the case of Rich Warber, Geneva, IL, (a Western suburb of Chicago), you build up a 350 V8 Corvette block to produce 450 horsepower, do a custom install in a Fiero, then change the exterior appearance by chopping the top 3 inches!!!! 

The need for speed in Rich's blood started back in 1959.  As the owner of a machine shop, Rich built a Crosely station wagon with a Chevy V8 in the driver's compartment.  The car was driven from the rear seat area! Then it was on to building a "B" dragster in 1960, a "A" gas dragster in 1961, a "C" Fuelie in 1962 and a "AA" Fuelie in 1965.  Rich held many local, regional and national records.  The "B" dragster held a national record for 5 years with a 9.40, 143mph in the 1/4 mile.  The "C" Fuelie car did a record 7.42 and 240 mph in the 1/4!  All of these cars were sponsored by Al's Speed Shop in Aurora, IL.

After selling the "AA" dragster in 1966, Rich drove for other car owners and subsequently left racing in 1968 when the usual pressure of kids, house, etc. made it necessary to get caught up in the reality of everyday life.  For a number of years, he raced model boats (100mph!) and owned an Excalibur in the early 80's, but never forgot the thrills of going really fast.  His first Fiero was a 86GT he bought from his son, but then traded it in on a "pickem up" truck.  He then bought his 86 Black GT in 1993 with 16,300 miles.  It was a well-maintained, cared-for car equipped with the Muncie 4-speed.  In 1994 Rich and his wife, Jeanette, bought a 85 Red GT to use as a daily driver.  It is still a daily driver today with over 89,000 miles on the odometer.  Rich attended the Pigeon Forge, TN National Fiero Convention in 1991.  During the convention, he ran into (just a figure of speech!) V8 Archie who gave Rich a ride in one of his V8 powered Fieros.  Rich was hooked on making his Fiero fast!  In the winter of 1993, the Fiero 2.8L, 140hp, V6 engine came out and "The Project" began.

Rich decided on a 1970 Corvette 350 block which was rated at about 300 hp in 1970.  He started by boring it out by .030 over, added 6 inch Crower rods, a Crower cam (280 degrees duration dual pattern), roller rockers, Weisco forged pistons, MSP ignition, fluid damper balance, air flow research aluminum heads, all chromed, tuned port injection (by Street and Performance), Sanderson ceramic coated headers, NASCAR aluminum radiator and then used a V8 mounting kit by Gary Zumwalt to set it up in the Fiero engine bay.  The battery was relocated to the right rear of the luggage compartment in an upholstered enclosure.  With the overbore, Rich now had a 355 cubic inch fuel injected engine putting out 450 hp!  Mated with the bulletproof Muncie 4 speed, plenty of torque and power are always available.  To keep the car street legal and emissions compliant, Rich added dual catalytic converters and dual glass packs.  How long to build up this engine and install?  All Rich can say is over 100 hours!  What about results?  How about 0-60 in 3.70 seconds?  In 1995/96 Rich added the IRM ground effects package, Compomotive TS 16 inch wheels, Goodyear Eagle GT tires, P205/55R16 fronts and P225/50R-16 rear, cut the springs by about 1-1/4 coil to lower the car, and raised the rear wing 2-1/2 inches.  In 1996, the car won numerous awards at all the various Pontiac and Fiero car shows.

Most of us would stop there.  Great looking car, really fast, show winner, etc.  But not Rich.  In the winter of 1996, he decided to cut the top off!  He changed the rake of the windshield "A" pillars, so the original windshield would lay back 1-3/8 inches lower than the factory height. This created interesting problems for the inner trim panels, the rear window, and the GT quarter panels. The rear window was cut down 3 inches, the inner sail panels were replaced with 1985 trim (no speakers in the trim panels) and Rich spent numerous hours designing and molding acrylic GT sail panels. Instead of "GT" , the sail panels now say RW (in script).

The remaining engineering left to be accomplished is providing proper windows for the doors. Since the rake is changed, the original door glass will not meet the new roof line properly. Currently Rich uses acrylic snap-in panels for side windows while he is designing and building custom acrylic side windows. Also added was a functional cowl induction scoop, facing rearward over the engine compartment. This was a custom modification of a 1968 Camaro hood scoop.

The "coming out" was in Spring, 1997. The chopped top looks…..well, I guess the best word is EXOTIC. Since the original sunroof is retained, there is enough head room for most folks, and, obviously enough for Rich & Jeanette.

How long did this chop top project take? Again, Rich says in excess of 100 hours! Certainly a labor of true love. All the work on this car was done by Rich himself in his spare time.

Rich & Jeanette are owners of Warbers Miniatures, a home based business where they create and handmake doll house décor and doll house accessories. They have been in this business for over 21 years and have clients/outlets who sell their creations all over the world.

How do you go from drag racing to doll house creations to a 450hp Fiero? "It's easy" say Rich & Jeanette. "The particular attention we give to our products carries over to the detail in creating this one-of-a-kind speed machine"! A true FIERO SPEED RACER.

A word to the wise: if you ever pull up to a Black GT with "RW" on the quarter panel, don't smile and rev up your engine at the red light, even if you are in your new C5 Corvette (unless you want to check out this car’s rear induction scoop)!

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