Car Feature: The Fiero that Should Have Been


photos by: Grant Cox

Taking a Fiero to the Next Level, Courtesy of a Pontiac Descendant

The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that will get you talking every time you see one. It’s a cool little two-seater that didn’t last long in production, but has left a lasting impression on the automotive world. It came in as the only mass-produced, mid-engine sports car produced by a U.S. manufacturer, and still holds that title (although the Corvette seems to be gunning for it, lately).

In 1988, Fiero had taken a play out of the Firebird’s playbook, as a Formula option was added that offered many of the GT features in the standard coupe body. This includes the 120 mph speedometer, WS6 suspension, and a rear spoiler. The Formula model was rarer than the GT, and only accounted for a small portion of the overall production of the year. This was quite possibly the best year, and sadly the last (production wise) — making the Formula a one year option.

When Amir Farajpanahi, a Wichita, Kansas resident, found a 1988 Fiero Formula for sale back in April of 2002, he had to bring it home. It was a rare car amongst a unique platform of vehicles and it needed some love.

“The rarity of a car like the Fiero is the most enjoyable part of owning it.” – Amir Farajpanahi

When he brought it home, it was painted about ten different colors, and Amir was only looking to use it as a daily driver. It didn’t take long for him to change his mind about wanting to make it a D.D., and he decided the car was better than just a commuter vehicle.

Amir had it painted only a few weeks after buying it, and then took it on the Hot Rod Power Tour a week later. The Fiero Formula did great through the entire Power Tour. Amir and a his dad put 3,000 miles on the car, and the updated 3.4L pushrod engine (the largest engine available in Fiero was a 2.8L V-6 –Ed.) and 5-speed transmission did just fine along the way.

Once Amir completed the Power Tour in his ’88 Fiero Formula, he started to get the urge to do more — he got bit by the speed bug. He had a friend who had swapped a 3.8L Series II Supercharged engine into his Chevy Lumina, and had done a Fiero swap before, so Amir enlisted his help to transform the car.

To power the small framed car, a 231 cubic inch engine from a 2000 Buick was built up for the job. Largely rebuilt with stock replacement components, it does have a ZZP XP hydraulic cam. This camshaft has a 212/224” @ 0.50” intake and exhaust duration, with 0.520/0.538” @ 0.50” lift. and a 116 LSA. Besides some machine work and Yella Terra 1.60 roller rockers, it’s mostly stock from there, on the inside.

GTPFIERO-7An Eaton M90 Gen V blower with 2.8” pulley and 11-12 psi of boost gives the Fiero a bit of ‘go’. The system also has a ZZP Stage 2 intercooler with Frozen Boost heat exchanger and Meziere pump with intercooler tank.

Amir also added some 60 lbs. fuel injectors, Walbro 400 fuel pump, PRJ fuel pressure regulator, LS1 MAF, K&N filter, and a Cadillac Northstar 75mm throttle body. Coming off the engine are TOG headers that feed into a 3” exhaust, which is run through a Magnaflow muffler.

This Fiero Formula started out as a 5-speed manual, but after tearing it up, he swapped in an automatic. The transmission behind the engine is now a heavy-duty 4T65E-HD using a Neal Chance custom 3000 stall torque converter and Meziere aluminum flexplate. He also got a ZZP shift kit, front trans cooler, and ZZP aluminum vented cooler pan. The powertrain feeds into a custom built rearend.

A good bit of suspension work helps to keep the Fiero on the ground. Held Motorsports tubular control arms help with traction, while front Carrera shocks/struts, front and rear Held Motorsports coilovers, and rear KYB shocks aid with handling. All of the bushings have been changed to polyurethane, the front and rear components have been powder coated. It’s complete with zero lash end links, and a manual steering rack.

All said and done, it puts out 400 horsepower and 420 ft.-lb. of torque. When it hits the track, this Pontiac Fiero Formula doesn’t mess around! It covers a 1/4-mile in 11.77 seconds at 115 miles per hour, with a 1.60 60-foot.

The build rolls on Mille Miglia MM11-2 17-inch wheels in the front and back. The front tires are 215/45/17s and rear tires are specs’d at 245/45/17s Nitto 555R drag radials. Twelve-inch diameter Corvette rotors on all four corners and EBC Yellow brake pads help slow the mini-beast.

Amir has never taken his Fiero Formula to a road race or autocross event, but it seems like it would do quite well in those events. The light body and reinforced suspension could make it a killer road race car, but it doesn’t seem like Amir is particularly interested — he’s more of a straight line racer.

Looks-wise, it was overhauled with new paint, Fierohouse side scoops, flush mount headlights with Lexan covers and GTPFIERO-9HID bulbs, and custom side skirts. The interior is all black and red leather. The door panels are customer from RW Upholstery. The Fiero Formula was also given new carpet and a new headliner.

It’s got an Ichibahn steering wheel, Eclipse speakers, PPI 10-inch sub, MTX amp, Alpine DVD player, Indiglo gauges, an Aeroforce scan gauge, AEM wideband gauge, timing commander gauge, and Autometer booster and water temp gauges.

Amir isn’t quite finished with the Fiero, but it’s at a good place as the small projects on it continue. He’s already shopping for a new hood and some go-fast goodies in hopes of getting the car into the 10s. He did note that having a reliable 11-second engine wasn’t anything to complain about though.

“It’s not the fastest car in the world, but it holds its own quite well. I am always trying to find things to mod on the car as the list gets smaller to do, but it’s been a passion since owning it.” – Amir Farajpanahi

Amir is also very active in the Fiero community — as he lent his insight and experience — picking up many lifelong car friends along the way. Prior to owning the 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula, Amir also owned a 1987 Fiero GT, which he has since sold. It speaks to his passion for the cars and how he sees the true potential of the gone-too-soon Pontiac Fiero.



  • CAR: 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula 
  • OWNER: Amir Farajpanahi
  • ENGINE BLOCK: Buick Series II 231 3.8L
  • PISTONS: Stock
  • CAMSHAFT: ZZP XP Cam – 212/224” @ 0.50” intake and exhaust duration, with 0.520/0.538” @ 0.50” lift. and a 116 LSA
  • CYLINDER HEADS: Stock, ported and polished
  • INDUCTION: K&N air filter, Cadillac Northstar 75mm throttle body
  • POWER ADDER: Eaton M90 Gen V Blower
  • INTERCOOLER: ZZP Stage 2 with Frozen Boost heat exchanger
  • BOOST: 11-12 psi
  • IGNITION: Stock
  • EXHAUST: TOG headers, Manaflow muffler
  • OILING: High volume oil pump and L32 aluminum oil pan
  • TUNING: HPTuners
  • CONVERTER: Neal Chance 3000 stall
  • FLEXPLATE: Meziere aluminum
  • REAREND: Custom
  • CHASSIS/SUSPENSION: Held Motorsports tubular control arms, Carrera front shocks/struts, KYB rear shocks, polyurethane bushings, Held Motorsports rear springs
  • BRAKES: 12″ Corvette breaks in the front and rear with EBC Yellow brake pads
  • WHEELS: Mille Miglia MM11-2 17″ front and rear
  • TIRES: 215/45/17″ fronts, Nitto 555r drag radial 245/45/17″ rears
  • HP/TQ.: 400/420
  • 1/4-Mile E.T.: 11.77 at 115 mph
  • 60-FT: 1.60

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