Design Notes: 1st Generation Fiero
Within days of corporate approval, design development had been handed over to Pontiac II Studio, under the auspices of John Schinella. He ordered all exterior panels revised and, within two months, the car was massaged into something that was much closer to the production model. Interestingly, in that transition, the car’s cab took on a different shape.
The P-car, up to that point, had been designed with only a four-cylinder engine in mind. Even though it wouldn’t be realized from the start of production, Mr. Schinella had greater ambitions for the car’s future. So, he had the engine compartment reconfigured to accommodate a V-6 engine and that affected the passenger compartment. So much so that the seating position had to be moved forward, and moved forward enough that the angle of the windshield had to be increased by 4°, to 63°.
Mr. Hill, apparently still involved with some level of influence, felt that the design lacked a Pontiac presence, particularly in its face which had no grill or any air intake vents–components that Pontiac commonly used to impart visual characteristics for the brand. Mr. Schinella responded quickly by adding the large black bumper pads that, after some refinements, made it to production.
So what about the horse?
Mr. Schinella’s studio was not only responsible for the car’s design but also for creating a unique emblem that would adorn the exclusive car. While that could be as exciting to work on as a vehicle design, there was a hurdle: the P-car hadn’t been officially named. Worse, some names that were being considered would have paid little justice to the legacy that was in the making. Consider how some of these titles could have affected the car’s character or appeal: Fiamma, P1000, P5000, Sunfire, and even Hummingbird.
Thankfully, they didn’t settle on any of those but, instead, moved ahead with one altogether different: Pegasus. Not only did Mr. Schinella fancy the name but so did Pontiac management. It was all but settled, so Pontiac II Studio worked up an emblem that incorporated not only a familiar Pontiac look but also the winged horse.
So what happened and why did the horse remain? The car’s name was switched at nearly the last possible moment to Fiero but budgets and time constraints prohibited any changes to the emblem’s design, hence, the horse.
Media conjecture and more corporate interference
In the Detroit Report section of the October, 1980 issue of Motor Trend, the editors speculated about Pontiac’s P-car. They were obviously not privy to everything that’s been presented above, so their opinions were… off.
The illustration provided was titled Banshee and looked more like a Triumph TR7/8 than what we’d actually get from Pontiac. The speculation continued to enlighten readers to the fact that the car would not be “the Firebird replacement after all” but would rather be the new Goat. They continued wandering further into not-going-to-happen land when they stated there would be two models available, a fastback and notchback, and that it would be released by middle of 1982.
Back at Pontiac’s studio, everything seemed to be going along fine–until fall of 1981. That’s when GM corporate again cancelled the P-car’s development. That was the third time it had been cancelled, in three years. The official reason given by GM was, “corporate review of [the] two-place vehicle market of the ’80s.” What that meant, literally or in GM-ese, is apparently still a mystery; however, a rumor persists that the program experienced so many cancellations and reinstatements because of infighting. Pontiac’s sister division, according to some, continued to play the “unfair” card fearing that Pontiac’s mid-engined, two-seater would negatively affect the Corvette’s image and claim of being America’s only sports car.
Like a washing machine predictably moving through its cycles, GM’s blockade was again lifted in summer of 1981. Mr. Schinella and his team wasted no time putting finishing touches on the car (probably out of fear it could be cancelled again). At that point, they were fiddling with trifles such as taillamps, tape logos, and color and trim selections.
Pontiac II Studio presumed the looks of the car (still named Pegasus) were essentially finalized, barring any last minute hiccups.
Guess what? There was a hiccup.
The clays still had vent-less side panels, stemming from changes instituted by Advanced III Studio in 1979. It wasn’t until April of 1983 that development engineers determined the engine compartment’s need for a cold-air inlet. The best location, almost ironically, would be just behind the driver’s side door where designers had originally envisioned it. Working furiously, Pontiac II Studio added the familiar black rectangular opening that is situated below the mid-body rub-strip.
The models that didn’t make it
Pontiac made two special models with the original batch: Fiero SD-4, created to show off supposedly factory available tuner equipment, and a roadster.
While the SD-4 was considered feasible, the roadster was not. Pontiac’s engineers and even public relations people informed journalists that the roadster was not possible due to “structural problems.” Having not been designed with a convertible in mind, and knowing first hand how flexible that car’s chassis was, it does not come as a surprise that the factory convertible was never produced.
Despite being relatively easy to create, having no side windows or even a top, you might not believe it took less than seven weeks to build.