1984 Pontiac Fiero
The Fiero encapsulated both the triumphs and the failures of Pontiac: originally an aggressive and sporty car, it was neutered to avoid competition with Chevrolet, and then killed right when it was getting good in 1988. At first, the Fiero was supposed to be a two-seater, mid-engined sports car with an advanced new suspension and a unique aluminum V6. But the new car had strayed into the tangled corporate war zone that was General Motors in the 1980s: worried that the new car could steal sales from the Chevrolet Corvette, The General eliminated the new engine and the new suspension. The powerplant was replaced by the 2.5L “Iron Duke,” an engine that was acceptable in economy cars but without the grunt for a sports car. The new suspension was swapped for existing bits and pieces from the corporate parts bin.
When the new car finally emerged from the meat grinder, it was a mixed bag of style and performance: low-slung and sporty but with a smaller engine and sold as a commuter car. GM used the higher mileage on the small mill to push the car away from direct competition with the Corvette. Not to mention that the car suffered from quality and design problems—although, like the Ford Pinto, the actual number of incidents was inflated by panicked consumers. Fiero was supposed to mean “proud,” “wild,” and “ferocious,” but stuck in corporate back-and-forth with Chevrolet, the Fiero ended up more oddball than fireball. Despite all that, this was the only mass-market mid-engined American sports car and initial sales reflected the inherent appeal of the sleek little Pontiac. In 1985, Pontiac finally received permission to add an optional V6, but sales were already slipping. Two years later the sophisticated suspension intended for the new car finally arrived—but it was too late. The car was discontinued in 1988, right when the Fiero was on the cusp of living up to its name.