Pontiac’s decision to build a small, inexpensive, mid engined sports car was not revolutionary, Fiat and Lancia had already marketed similar cars. But two things about the Fiero were unusual, it was commissioned as much as an economical commuting car as a sportster, and the vehicle was constructed in a radically new way. Under the Fiero’s very pretty skin was a tough steel understructure, it was an exceptionally strong little car, providing the majority of the car’s strength. The external panels were made from a variety of plastics, including special RRIM from the doors and front wings that could spring back into shape after minor impacts. The skin was attached to the Fiero’s chassis by a new ‘mill and drill’. Pontiac reckoned this system allowed the impressive development of Targa and convertible versions, as well as inexpensive re-styling. Sadly, the drive train on the first Fieros was as old fashioned as the styling and engineering was advanced. The Fiero’s reputation also suffered in the early years with a catalogue of quality problems. Later developments, though, made the Fiero into a fine car, especially the installation of a V6 engine and a restyle that wasn’t as crisp as the original, but looked more up market.
Sadly, despite the symmetrical dash layout, or easy right hand drive conversion, and early interest from General Motors in Europe, the Fiero never made it across the Atlantic. The innovative construction technique was also used on GM’s MPV (multi-purpose-vehicle) line and, much more significantly, the all new Saturn marque. Ironically, the easily detachable exterior panels made the Fiero a favorite base for kit-car enthusiasts, who re-clad it as a surprisingly convincing Ferrari look-a-like.