On the Acquisition of a Fiero. Again

Back in 1989 I bought a Fiero. Actually it was my sister's car and she had gotten tired of it. I had driven a rental for a week back in '84 when they came out and enjoyed the idea of a car you wore. Her Fiero was like that rental - red 4 cyl automatic with a/c, radio, and a luggage rack about the only options. Everything else was manual. It did have "Rally IV" wheels of which the less said the better.

Even so I really liked that car and drove it until son turned 16. Original plan was to give him the Sunbird but decided it would be a better idea if his first car was an automatic. He had it for about a year before a lady ran a red light and totalled it. Fortunately there were witnesses. Now he has a Grand Am.

I also have this friend John who is either older or younger (of course I never made it past 16) and is into used computers. In a big way. Often his station wagon is not big enough to hold his purchases so he goes home for a van. No room for cars in his garage, is full of computers.

At a social event last month he mentioned he was going to an auction on a weekend Linda was going to be in Indiana and asked if I would like to go. He brought out a brochure and mentioned that it was a municipal auction and there would be some motor vehicles. Scanning the rows of Ford Tauruses, Tiempos, Vicrorias, and Rangers plus several tractors, implements, and a street sweeper (went for $7500) and found an entry from the City of Cassleberry for a 1986 Pontiac Fiero. Was in Zellwood, about 50 miles from my house but I had nothing planned.

Showed it to John who said it was probably an abandoned car that had sat in a field for a year with the windows down. Then again he said it might be cheap. I like cheap.

Put it out of my mind until the week before the auction when I remembered the phone number copied down from the brochure. Called and found out that the car had been seized in a felony arrest in 1992. Between 1992 and 1998 it had been used by the city to promote the high school anti-drug D.A.R.E program. Far from being left to mildew it had been specially outfitted, had the interior redone, was regularly maintained receiving a starter and a clutch during that period, and had been driven only about 25,000 miles in the six years the city had it.

Was a popular program, the city even had some baseball cards printed to give out at schools.

So was interested but expected a 4 cyl automatic like most of the Fieros produced. Was wrong.

We arrived as the auction and saw what looked like an empty space between two pickups. Closer examination turned up a decent looking black Fiero in the space though not much could be told from the super dark tinting on the glass, much darker than legal but guess since it was driven by police officers, who was going to argue ? Surrendered my driver's license in exchange for keys and found it to be an optioned out SE with V-6/4spd, power everything (some even worked), and factory Am Stereo/FM Stereo/Cassette with graphic equalizer.

Firing the engine produced very healthy sounds and a pegged oil pressure guage. A/C produced cold air. Fortunately for me headlight actuation only produced one headlamp and a berserk actuator motor that only stopped when the battery was disconnected.

Suspect this dampened some potential buyers enthusiasms as may have the fact that it was the 43rd car to be auctioned (near the last) to a Ford crowd. In any event it became mine for a rediculously low bid, fortunately so as it turned out.

The auction rules specified cash, cashier's check, or letter of credit. I had gone to the credit union and they had typed up a letter of credit. However it was not the autioneer's idea of a letter of credit and was told I would have to produce the cash (plus sales tax). Fifty miles from home. On Saturday.

John loaned me his wagon and I began a search for an open bank or ATM (said it was a low bid). An hour later one was found only fifteen miles away and returned with relief.

Much later we headed for my house (the computers were auctioned after the cars and then John had to call his wife to come with a pickup for the rest of the stuff that would not fit in the wagon). I was going to lead and John would follow. This plan evaporated about halfway through second gear...John arrived at my house after I had time for a long cool shower (June, 1998 in Florida was an experience, a rather warm one and the office equipment was in an unventilated tin warehouse).

Was an even more interesting drive as the auctioneer had assured me of an obscure Florida law that allowed a new purchaser (with title) to drive a car home without a license plate. Right.

However since I did not have a legal plate, took him at his word (he was auctioning for police departments so should know). And drove home without one. As I went through Plymouth, Florida suddenly there was a local policeman along side (palpitate, palpitate). He turned off. In the course of driving home I passed at least three highway patrollmen and what must have been an entire shift change of sheriffs and deputys (seven in all). None showed any interest (in counterpoint drove from Orlando to Washington DC last month and saw a total of two policemen in 900 miles and they were talking to each other. Escort only went off once. Go figure).

Since then have repaired the headlamp actuator (was just caked grease gone to wax clogging the gears), changed the oil, replaced the plugs (with Rapidfires - have no desire to do that again soon - three plugs are easy to get to, three aren't), plugged in the cruise control, and went to visit my sister in south Florida. 25 mpg and never missed a beat.

Still have some work to do - door locks are a bit erratic - and need to polish out all of the orange peel/lettering residue (was removed without much care for the paint before the auction) - is a 20-20 car. At 20 mph and 20 feet away it looks good. Need some really deep tint for the sunroof to keep from finding new places to sunburn. Am seeking a 87-88 5 speed transaxle. And if I just had a light bar...

Since then have done a lot of puttering as many things did not work - fixed the power door locks, cruise control, gas door opener, replaced fan belts, front shocks (made quite a difference though could not feel any just pulling on the shocks), sunroof hinges, etc.

Biggest change was going from the aftermarket 14x6 wheels and baldini tires to a set of 15x7s and 205/60xHR15 Goodrich Touring T/As. No more planing and steering is lighter. In the process I found out a lot more about GM FWD wheels than ever thought existed. See the process.