When I have the time, I enjoy doing things other than slinging code such as working on a my car that I have owned for many, many years. In 1986, after a disappointing breakup with my girlfriend I decided to buy some toys to get over my “mood”. I went out and bought a boat, a motorcycle and a car. The boat and motorcycle are long gone but I still have the car. It’s a 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT. Now, to get some of the typical questions out of the way:
- Yes, some models of the Fiero did have a tendency to catch fire. Luckily the model I have wasn’t one of them.
- No, they didn’t make them for very long. GM only made the car for 5 years (‘84-‘88).
- Yes, it is a small car and for those who don’t know me, I’m 6’4” and I do fit in it quite well.
- It is a mid-engine design (engine’s right behind you).
- No, it doesn’t handle all that well (still fun to drive though)
- Yes, Pontiac was one of the brands that GM bagged during their “restructuring” along with Saturn.
- Why do I still have it? Well, it’s a sentimental thing now and I’ve been working on it for so long I can’t just give it up.
About 10 or so years ago, after the original engine had died, I decided to put a slightly larger one in it. The original was a 2.8 liter V6 and on a good day it put out around 110 horsepower. Certainly not a lot by any standard except, maybe, for go-karts. The engine I put in it is a Chevy small block 350 (yes, it fits, barely) which use to put out 400+ horsepower. There were a couple issues with that decision. First, the car became stupid-fast. I smoked a Mustang GT and a Z-28 when I was able to drive it. The second issue was that it overheated, bad. In the Fiero, the engine’s in the back but the radiator’s in the front. It has to push a lot of water, a long way. As a result, the way it was set up, it overheated. Third, the brakes suck. The combination of a stupid fast, overheating car that can’t stop made it not so much fun anymore (also, kind of a deathtrap). Without a suitable solutions, the car sat. Several years passed.
This past winter I decided to change things. I pulled the engine – myself. May not sound like a huge thing to some but the engine has to come out the bottom and I’m doing this in my garage. The first time I changed engines, I had a shop do it. The shop, who I won’t mention, cheated me huge and overcharged me (I found this out later by becoming friends with the mechanic). Now, my trust in car-shops is all but gone and I believed that I could do it myself. So, in my garage, I had to lift the back of the car high enough (about 4 feet) so I could drop the engine out the bottom and roll it out without letting the car fall. Let me just say…there were a few squirrely (aka, scary) moments but I did it. It was very much like working on a very large and very heavy jigsaw puzzle. Everything had to be just so or it wouldn’t work.
Here’s most of my changes (all new):
- Cam/Hydraulic Lifters
- Carburetor – the first three on the list are to tone down the death-trap speed issue. Still will put out around 300 ponies though.
- Intake Manifold
- Water Pump (high flow) – Hopefully this will help avert the overheating issue
- Fuel Lines and Pressure Regulator
- Rear Water Lines
- Brakes (Refurbished Porshe 4-Piston Calipers / 12” Corvette Rotors) – It’s gonna stop now damnit!
The jury is still out but I am very hopeful that I will have a drivable car after this. Here’s some pics of the motor going back in:
Oh yeah, forgot to mention. When I originally switched the engine, I had it painted and changed the original silver to a very cool “pearled purple”.
Now all I have to do is hook it all back up and hope for the best. Hopefully, I will post some pics of it on all 4 wheels soon.
BTW, I mentioned that I bought the car when I broke up with my girlfriend. Well, I eventually got her back and married her and she’s been a major driving force behind me trying to get the car running again. Thanks Alice!