At $6,500, Does This 1988 Pontiac Fiero Have The Right Formula?

Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The Holy Grail is how the seller of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Fiero Formula describes the car. It may have all the right kit, but does its price have what it takes to push it over the edge?

What scares you? For me it’s circus clowns and roadside sushi in Nebraska. For many, the prospect of possessing an old BMW can be nightmare inducing. There’s a lot that can go wrong with them, and at a certain age they do tend to require more and more effort to keep them ultimately driving.


Fortunately, yesterday’s 1988 BMW 735i was from the era before BMW really got serious about making their cars as inscrutably complex as possible. It may have been old, but it was still pretty simple. Another plus was that it rocked a rare manual transmission. Those attributes, and a modest $2,495 price tag, worked in its favor, and the car earned a laudable 78-percent Nice Price win. There’s nothing scary about that at all. Now however, let’s talk about... murder.

When Pontiac was killed off by partner General Motors back in 2010 you have to imagine that the folks over at Chevrolet breathed a sigh of relief. Like many siblings Pontiac and Chevy never really got along. Both brands played in the same sandbox and for decades Pontiac threatened broadsides against Chevy’s halo product, the Corvette.

The Bowtie brand was able to forestall the foray into their territory in sixties when they got GM to cancel Pontiac’s sweet Banshee before the sexy sports car could reach production. But you can’t keep a good brand down, and in the ‘80s Pontiac was back at it with a concept that could easily have cut into the Corvette’s game, a mid-engine sports car called that would eventually be called the Fiero.


Chevrolet had been teasing its fans with dreams of mid-engine Corvettes for years. At the same time the company had been chipping away at the performance of the production model in the name of emissions control and fuel economy.

The ‘Vette kept getting slower and creakier. And then in late 1984 along comes this usurper. Chevy’s new and much more modern—but still front engine—Corvette hit the market the same year, but with its sexy mid-engine styling and way lower price, it was the Fiero that proved to be the new hotness.


Because of the fear that the new Pontiac would take the wind out of the new Corvette’s sails, Chevy got got GM to reposition the Fiero at launch, not as a sports car, but as an economical commuter car. Seriously, that’s how they wanted you to see it.


Of course, just like Mulan in a pond, one look was all it would take to have buyers pointing at the little mid-engine Pontiac and say, that’s a sports car. Unfortunately, while the Fiero had the preamble to sporting intentions down, the Pontaic’s parts weren’t all that up to the task. The front suspension on the original Feiro was taken from the Opel Kadett a car that  had been introduced sometime before the discovery of fire, while the rear setup was out of the GM X car, a line specifically designed for people who had to avoid sportiness under doctor’s orders.

It would take Pontiac five model years to finally sort out the Fiero’s suspension, with the 1988 models featuring major changes in both components and geometry. That resulted in its full blossoming from sort-of sports car to one of the best handling cars to come out of any U.S. manufacturer that year. Pontiac built 26,400 Fieros in 1988, and then unceremoniously shut production down. This is why we can’t have nice things.


Well, except for this 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula, it seems pretty nice.


The seller of this 100K car says that the model year, along with the T-roof, V6/five-speed drivetrain, and lighter, less ornate bodywork makes this the most desirable edition imaginable. I’d have to say I agree. It should also be pointed out that the little pushrod V6 sitting in the back there looks as exotic as any Ferrari of the era, and offers remarkable accessibility for a mid engine car.

The paint here is new, but in the factory Bright Red. It rides on aftermarket wheels and sits at its factory ride height. Nothing about the appearance is too out there. Inside, the leather seats show a bit of wear on the bolsters, and the steering wheel is shiny from years of use. You won’t likely notice all that however as you’ll be too busy marveling over how ‘80s rectilinear the dashboard seems. Add to that the wildly tall shift lever for the Getrag box and you’ll realize this is a car from another era.


The seller says the car ‘runs, handles, shifts and brakes brilliantly!’ and notes that even tall folks will find comfortable accommodations in the cabin. The T-tops don’t seem to leak and there’s service records going back to the Clinton administration included with the car.

On the down side, the original FORMULA decals were lost to the repainting process. Those have been replaced with something similar but not OEM style. That and some inattentive masking of the VIN plate call into question the quality of the respray. Still, it looks great in the pics.


The price might also look pretty good, especially seeing as this is apparently the ‘Holy Grail’ of Fieros. Indiana Jones might aver that it belongs in a museum, but at $6,500, this is a Grail that could still get out and get things done.

What do you think, is this last-year, finally right Fiero worth that $6,500 asking? Or, is that price the wrong ingredient for this Formula?


You decide!


Seattle, WA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Fauxshizzle for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.