We are excited to celebrate Fiero racing at the Fiero 35th Anniversary presented by Black Top Racing!
Racing has been a part of Fiero history since almost the conception of the Fiero. A huge part of the first model year 1984 was the Indy Pace Car replica edition. Of course, having a replica means that there was a specially prepared Fiero Indy Pace Car that could stand up to the task of leading the Indy 500. The man tasked to put together a Fiero that would meet the specifications for pacing the prestigious race was Lead Engineering Manager of Pontiac Motorsports, John Callies. Callies developed a 2.7L Super Duty 4 cylinder capable of putting out 232 horsepower propelling the car to a record-breaking 144mph four-lap average. 3 cars were prepared for pace car duties in the event that anything one of the cars developed an issue. Callies himself drove the pace car for the 1984 Indianapolis 500 won by Penske Team Driver Rick Mears. After the race Fiero Pace Car #2 was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Fiero Pace Car #1 was returned back to GM and is now part of the Heritage Center Collection, and Fiero Pace Car #3 was contracted to join the PPG Indy Car World Series Pace Car Fleet. It is reported that winning driver Rick Mears wanted to take home one of the actual Fiero Pace Cars, but unfortunately all were spoken for and he was awarded one of the replicas.
The Fiero Indy Pace Car #3 started pace car duties with PPG in June 1984 in essentially the same form as it participated in the Indy 500 with various graphics changes and a few extra safety upgrades. At the end of the 1985 Indycar race season, Fiero Pace Car #3 had a major makeover with the addition of a DGP Aero Widebody, custom experimental paint, and engine upgrades that brought the engine horsepower up to 280 HP. Fiero Pace Car #3 remained active with the PPG Pace Car Fleet until mid-season 1987, pacing several Indycar races in the United States and Canada when the car was retired. The car remained in the PPG storage warehouse until 1989 when PPG and GM donated the car to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago to become a permanent display with in the Race Car Room at the museum. The car was put on display in a climate controlled glass enclosure that contained a lighted sign with some misleading information that described the history of the car inaccurately. In 2007, access was granted into the glass enclosure to document the car. It was this research trip that verified that the car was in fact the lost Indy Pace Car #3. In 2009, the museum decided to sell off a fairly large lot of their inventory at auction due to budget shortfalls caused by the reduction of state funding. The Fiero Pace Car was sent to Brookline, MA to be auctioned off in a non-running and very dirty state of condition. Midwest Fiero Clubs President Fred Bartemeyer Jr obtained a bidder number with the aid of two other Fiero Enthusiasts to be able to purchase the car and continues to preserve the large amount of history that accompanies the car. Fred will be displaying this special Fiero in the Poncho Perfection Hall of Fieros.
The re-purposed Indy Pace Car #3 was not the only Fiero involved in the CART Indy Car World Series, though. PPG Industries and Autostyle Industries also sponsored a Precision Driving Team made up of 6 specially prepared Fieros. These were truly the first Fiero fastbacks shown to the public featuring a European influenced body design giving the six cars a very unique look. They were all painted six different colors in experimental pearlescent effects to showcase PPG’s new future product lines. A team of women drivers would “warm up the crowd” showcasing their driving skills in the 6 Fieros before each Indycar race as part of the pre-race festivities. At the end of the Precision Driving Team tenure, the six cars were donated to various vocational schools through out the upper Midwest area in 1989. The donation distribution of the six cars were administered through the GM Vocational Donation Program by PPG and Pontiac Motorsports.
Over the years, many Fiero enthusiasts attempted to track the locations of where the cars were donated. In 1998, the Michigan Fiero Club was able to find and visit the Pearl Yellow GTP car at the Vo-Tech vocational school in Adrian Michigan. Harold Hooten of the American Fiero Chapter of POCI alerted that the car could possibly be available in spring of 2001. Fred Bartemeyer stayed persistent in obtaining the car and eventually was able to purchase the car in April of 2005. The Pearl Blue GTP car was retained by Pontiac in their special vehicle collection and was auctioned off in the 2009 GM Heritage Center Barrett-Jackson offering and purchased by long time Fiero owner Ed York. In 2004, through the contacts of the Cleveland Fiero Club, Fred Bartemeyer was able to view and document the Red Turbo GTP car at the Cuyahoga Vocational Center in Brecksville Ohio. The school contacted Fred to come and retrieve the car in 2010 in exchange for a monetary donation to the educational facility. Much effort went into tracking down the remaining PPG Fieros. Although the Red Turbo GTP car is in need of a complete restoration, is currently white and in very poor condition, it is important that the car is saved from the original intention of being destroyed when the school determined that the car no longer was of useful educational purposes. Through out the duration of several years of research, it is unfortunate to know the fate of the other three cars in which the cars were subject to the intended donation agreement and destroyed per the signed contract. We are excited that the three remaining PPG GTP Pace Cars will be in attendance at the 35th Anniversary. Come and see a unique part of Fiero history.
Fiero racing was not just about pacing races though, it was also about winning races, as Pontiac Motorsports campaigned Fieros in a number of racing series: several classes of SCCA including Pro-Rally, IMSA GTU, GTO and GTP classes and NHRA Competition Eliminator class. Pontiac Motorsports largest efforts concentrated in the IMSA GTU class during the mid 80’s, teaming up with Huffaker racing. Drivers Clay Young, Terry Visger and Bob Earl put their IMSA Fieros on the podium multiple times.
We are very excited to have one of the Huffaker IMSA Fieros scheduled to be displayed in the Poncho Perfection Hall of Fieros. In 1984 Huffaker Engineering put together a tube frame chassis with anti-squat and anti-dive adjustments. Huffaker utilized a modified Spice Racing running gear, and of course the potent Super Duty 4 engine powered the race cars. Huffaker went on to build a number of Fiero race cars, but it is believed that only 4 were made in this configuration. This Fiero campaigned in GTU class as the number 55 Goodwrench / Huffaker Fiero from 1985 to 1987. Bob Earl started 27 races and came away with 10 victories and 16 poles. Terry Visger ran 10 races and came away with 7 wins.
In 1989 the car was set up for TransAm racing for a corporate sponsor. The Super Duty 4 engine was replaced with a 4.5 Liter Buick V6. The sponsor’s CEO drove it in three Trans Am races and then the program was halted. The car was then raced in two IMSA GTO races by Dominic Dobson. The Huffaker Fiero then sat until 1999, when an SCCA enthusiast purchased the car to compete in races in the San Francisco region. The car claimed an additional 25 victories in the SCCA Super Production class along with qualifying records at Laguna Seca and Sears Point. In 2012 the Fiero underwent a complete frame off restoration and the Buick V6 was replaced with a NASCAR Chevy 354 V-8. In 2013 the Huffaker Fiero was sold to Mark Schwartz who continues to race the Fiero when time permits. Mark still has the NASCAR Chevy motor in the Fiero, but hopes to replace it with a proper Super Duty 4 some day. We look forward to seeing Mark and his IMSA Fiero this summer in East Peoria.
Also scheduled for display is Paul Hosler’s home built Fiero IMSA Racecar. The car emulates what would have been available to the general public if a person desired to build their own racecar from the information available from the Pontiac Motorsports issued Pontiac Performance Plus Magazine. A 412 ci Small Block Chevy with prototype Pontiac 867 heads developing 645 hp powers the 2300 lb racecar. The suspension has been fabricated by the original IMSA Fiero engineer to period correct specifications. With a host of features ready for the track, this 210 mph track rocket is a work of art performed exclusively by the owner. You can find more details about this car at http://www.cardomain.com/ride/789315/2003-pontiac-fiero/
Fiero racing would not be what it was without Lead Engineering Manager of Pontiac Motorsports John Callies. His involvement spanned from the original Super Duty engine in the Indy Pace cars, to overseeing the Spice Fiero GTP Daytona prototypes. John was in the catalyst of it all. We are happy to say that John has stayed in touch with the Fiero community (he has spoke at the Fiero 20th, 25th and 30th, and made a surprise appearance at the 2016 Heartland Fiero show a few years ago). John is scheduled to attend the Fiero 35th Anniversary show, so please bring all of your Fiero racing questions!
Fun Fact: Did you know that John Oates (famous for posing with a Fiero on an album cover) drove the number 55 Huffaker Fiero at Road America in the 1985 Löwenbräu Classic 500?
Fun Fact 2: Did you know the Dodge M4S Prototype, more commonly known as The Wraith, is built on a stretched Huffaker Racing Fiero chassis?