Final Farewell: 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula – SOLD!

by | May 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Free For All Friday

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Since the 1970s, General Motors (“GM”) created a sordid history of killing off models just as they get better.  In each case, the clash between what GM engineers wanted to do and what the company’s bean counters would approve often clash.  This resulted in a “measure once, cut twice” approach in that the cars at launch immediately needed improvements. Then, when the improvements the engineers wanted in the first place get approved, the bean counters kill the car line.

The poster child for GM’s consistent behavior is the Pontiac Fiero.  Denying Pontiac a two-seat sports car of its own for many years (fun fact: the original Firebird was pitched as a two-seat sports car; we all know how that ended), late 1970s Pontiac management smartened up by getting the Fiero approved as a two-seat, mid-engine, fuel-efficient, sporty car built with existing parts pulled from GM’s extensive parts bin. While launched with great styling, using “X” (Citation) and “T” (Chevette) Body suspension and steering parts did not impress true enthusiasts any more than the underpowered “Iron Duke” inline four buzzing behind driver’s heads.  While a great first-year sales success in 1984, production fell every year thereafter as Pontiac engineers scrambled to improve the car every model year.  By 1988, a revised suspension and steering system finally made enthusiasts take notice. Sadly, it was too little too late in the minds of GM bean counters, who killed the Fiero without giving the 1988 car a chance to prove itself in the marketplace.

Besides this black V6/4-speed 1986 Fiero SE we offered recently for auction, one of the rarest Fiero models available is the 1988 Formula edition.  In typical Pontiac fashion, the Fiero Formula provided all of the fun stuff offered in the fastback-styled GT, with the more sedate original body style.  Bonus points if you can find one with the one-year-only aftermarket T-Top installation.  This red over gray cloth 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula for sale checks most of the boxes we would look for in this swan song model.  If you’re looking for Concours-level originality, this is not the Fiero Formula for you, as it features a more powerful 3.4L V6 engine swap mated to a less-desirable four-speed automatic transmission.

Last offered for $12,500, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is well below the one-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for other 1988 Pontiac Fieros sold at auction in the past rolling twelve months.  By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of the Fiero featured here:

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #2 Very Good” estimate of $8,900 and its #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $13,100. Interestingly, the rare T-Top (+15%) offsets the less desirable automatic transmission (-15%) in this example.

The 1988 Fiero brought a new suspension design, thought by many to have a striking resemblance to those designed by Lotus, which at the time, was about to be acquired by General Motors. The suspension was never a Lotus design though; it was the suspension the Pontiac engineers had designed in the beginning, along with what they learned from the racing program. Up front were revised control arms and knuckles that reduced steering effort and improved the scrub radius. At the rear, a tri-link suspension with all-new knuckles was installed. This new suspension came with staggered wheel sizes on WS6 suspension-equipped models, with 15 in (380 mm) by 6 in (150 mm) wide wheels up front and 15 in (380 mm) by 7 in (180 mm) wide wheels in the rear for improved handling balance and to offset the slightly increased front track that resulted from the improvements. Topping off the package were the new vented disc brakes at all four corners, which addressed the braking complaints of road testers. A “Formula” option was added, which offered many of the GT features with the standard coupe body, including the 120 mph (190 km/h) speedometer, WS6 Suspension (which includes offset cross lace wheels), and the rear spoiler. 1988 marked the end of production for the Fiero. Improvements to suspension, brakes, steering, and improvements to both the four-cylinder and V6 engines took the car to a level far beyond the 1984 model that had received much criticism. 1988 was also the only year a yellow exterior color was available as a factory option. On August 16, 1988, the last Fiero rolled off the Pontiac, Michigan, plant line.

The MotorWeek Retro Review YouTube Channel features this vintage 1988 comparison between the 1988 Pontiac Fiero and the Toyota MR2:

If you want a performance-oriented, American-made, mid-engine, open-top, two-seater, then this 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula for sale is one of the extremely limited options available to you, short of buying a much more expensive C8 Corvette.  While the engine swap to the bigger 3.4L V6 likely makes this Fiero Formula even more of a hoot to drive, that experience is likely hampered a bit by the four-speed automatic transmission.  While we love the look of the aftermarket wheels, our first question to the seller would be whether the original lace wheels that this Fiero left the factory are part of the sale.

If you are serious about buying this Pontiac Fiero, you can start the conversation by contacting the seller using the information provided in their Craigslist ad.  When you connect, please remember to mention you saw their rare Formula featured here on GuysWithRides.com. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“This is the holy grail of Fiero’s. 1988 is the only year of the Formula. It has been upgraded with the 3.4 motor plus HP cam and sport exhaust. Auto trans, tee tops, aftermarket wheels, and rear spoiler. fully serviced and in fantastic condition. It had a restoration done years ago but still looks new. Does need the park brake parts ( I have ) installed. Other than that it is ready to go.

Show or go: What would you do with this 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula for sale?  Please comment below and let us know!

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