I had a dream. It started when I bought a Honda Odyssey - not the underpowered minivan with more cupholders than seats, I'm talking about the 1980's vintage single seat go kart, the one with a fully independent suspension. I found one on eBay with a 65 HP 4 cylinder motorcycle engine and front suspension off a Yamaha Banchee. I love driving this cart! It'll do 70 MPH in a cornfield, floating over the bumps. I've spent the last several years dialing it in - reworked the steering so it now has positive caster, changed the gearing for better launches, changed the clutch and shifter so a paraplegic can drive it, etc.
It's so much fun to drive that my dream was to drive it to work. I started looking at what it would take - proper lights and signals, fenders, a windshield and windshield wiper. Then my wife brought me back to earth, "You can't drive that thing on the highway - you'll kill yourself!" Damn, I hate it when she's right. You see, I drive 33 miles to work each day. Some hilly twisting roads and some 4 lane highway. And then one night it came to me - I need to build a car! Something rear engine, light and with a good suspension. The list of rear engine cars is pretty slim. There's that old chestnut the VW bug, but I just can't stand the sound of the engine on those things.
It didn't take long for me to land on the Fiero as the ideal car for this project - light, relatively inexpensive and with lots of interchangable parts available. I found an ideal base car in Lincoln, Nebraska. The seller had it listed on eBay (I may have a shopping problem) and the car came with a 1996 Nortstar engine and trans. It wasn't in the car yet, just sitting in the guy's garage still in the engine cradle. I had a project! This was 2007.
Starting with an 87 GT, I'm building an off-roader that will have a Jalapeno body. I've welded 2"x4"x1/8" wall thickness tube steel under the chassis, effectively creating a 4" body lift. The front track has been widened 2" per side, and for the rear I've mounted a Cadillac Northstar 4.6L engine/trans. The front spindles and rotors from the Caddy will become the rear wheels, and I'm now fabricating the rear suspension - Macpherson struts are lame, so I'm going with a custom link suspension tied to the Caddy spindles (they're aluminum!). There are air bags on the front end, and coilover air bags for the rear. I've upgraded the Northstar cams with high-lift units from Cadillac Hot Rod Fabricators, with a proported 375 HP output - the stock engine was 300. In front (where the engine is "supposed" to go) there's an 8,000 LB winch with synthetic rope instead of cable - 86 lbs. I think of it as ballast. There's still a lot to be done on the car, but I'm getting there. I'll post pictures of what's been done so far, and update as progress is made, but I'm not the fastest builder. I don't know how those guys on tv can do a car in a week - or 48 hours.
I don't know if you can see it, the lower front control arms are HT Motorsprts, except they've been mounted with screw-in ball joints from a Chysler. The front spindles are early Ford Pinto - turns out they're the same height as Fiero. The good news here is that there are lots of after-market parts for Mustang/Pinto spindles, so the front brakes are 11" aftermarket for Mustang II (the hot rodders friend). The upper a-arms are aftermaket Mustang also. The air bags are from Universal air, with about 9" of articulation. Of course, the suspension only gives me about 7" of front movement, but I'm trying to keep the stock Fiero geometry (I'm not a rocket scientist).
The rear suspension is all 1" DOM 1/8" wall, mated to 1/4" steel plates that bolt to the Cadillac spindles. The front of the "traction bar" is bolted to the frame with 5/8" chrome-moly heim joints. Caster is fixed by the track bars, and toe-in is adjustable by changing the spacing of the heim joint to the frame - two shear ponts for each bolt means adjusting spacing on both sides of the heim. Camber is adjusted with heim joints and a "swedge". Each rear axle is supported by a coilover unit, with airbag over the steel spring. I'm waiting for the bags to be delivered now, then I need to order the shocks and steel springs.
I haven't done any new build work lately but I've been busy collecting parts. I've solved the engine and trans controller problem. Cadillac Hot Rod Fabricators put me in touch with a guy selling a Holley Commander and trans controller he had in an 88 Fiero. It should work fine for my application, and solve a lot of brain damage problems. I've also been working on the rear spring/shock. I found an airbag coilover system I like from Universal Air - the bag goes over the shock and works in conjunction with the steel spring, so I get the best of both worlds - air lift and steel spring dependability.
The photos above show the rear suspension in place - note the subtle difference between these and the earlier photos - we had to re-fab the shock mounts so they would clear the spring perches. The top mount uses the original strut bolt holes, but there's a 1/4" plate instead of the old spring perch. The airbags clear just fine, and will give me 5" of forced articulation. The steel springs are 300 lb/inch coilovers for a stiff ride when the bags are full or empty. In between, the air will give a nice cushion. Man this stuff takes a long time!
Front shocks mounted! Notice the S10 brake calipers on the custom brackets, connected to the early Pinto spindles. The lower A arms started out as a part from HT motorsports and got tweaked from there. The upper A-arm is hot rod stock for chevy.
I was able to get some work done on the car this weekend. These are the coolant lines that run under the car between the engine and radiator. They're fin tubes from a home boiler heating system with AN-20 fittings on each end. The radiator already has AN-20 bungs welded to it, and the northstar now has bungs welded on the coolant log and thermostat. Now I just need to order the braided lines to connect everything. This should provide enough cooling. I'll still need to install an aluminum skid plate to the bottom of the frame rails.
Congrats on starting a build thread, but you may want to ask Cliff to change the title. When people want to find your thread 10 years from now they will probabaly remember the N* and the Pisa Jalepeno body, but little else. A descriptive title will help people find your thread for years to come.
The car is in Freeport. I actually live in Jo Daviess County - about 30 miles further west. But I work in Freeport and my friend Gary's workshop is there. He's the metal expert so all the chassis fabrication takes place there. Once we have the project to a place where it runs, I'll move it to my shop for body work and prep for finishes.
Here's the rest of the story on my inspiration for this build. I like small, fast cars. When Pontiac debuted the Solstice six years ago I knew I needed to have one. My "official" reason was a car for my wife, and the truth is she rarely lets me drive it (usually just to make repairs). Owning the Solstice informed me about what I want and don't want from the Fiero build. I like the small size and good handling, but I don't like the low performance and low profile. The car is just too low to the ground for my taste. I fixed the low performance on the Solstice by installing a turbo, which cranks it up to a reported 250 HP.
My plan is to build the Fiero project so it compliments the Solstice - same grille, same color (black!). If I realize my dreams, the wife and I will take the pair to local car shows together - hers is the summer Solstice, mine the winter Solstice.
[This message has been edited by artworks (edited 03-27-2012).]
I've always thought of the cooling fins as a great way to dissipate more heat. An issue might be is heat transferring up to the passenger compartment. Another one is with the skid plate, dirt and stuff will find stuff in the fins. Make the skid plate easily removable to clean the fins.
I've always liked the look of louvers, on a hood or decklid. I'm seeing a 3/16" aluminum plate with three rows of louvers running down it - one in the middle and one on each side. Without louvers directly under the fin tubes I'm hoping to keep them sort of clean. I'm not yet certain how to attach it, but since I have 1/8" wall square tubes, it won't be real hard to just bolt up the plate to the underside of the framerails. I may have to make the plate in 2 pieces just for ease of handling. You're right that they need to be removable for cleaning and access to the fuel tank and lines. Regarding heat transfer, I figure it can't be any worse than the original lines - they were on the far outboard sides of the passenger compartment but they were tight up to the floor without insulation. The fin tubes will have the ability of radiating the heat from the pipes and the pipes themselves are about 2-1/2" from the floor panel.
I ordered the radiator lines this week. OMG that hurt! And to add insult to injury, Aeroquip has a backlog on crimped fittings in AN-20 for 36 days. I switched the order to reusable fittings and the lines will be here this weekend. I would have preferred the crimped fittings but what can you do? I'll post photos of the lines in place once done. They better be pretty!
Yep, I looked at Earl's. Aeroquip has the fittings I need in -20, Earl's doesn't. Unfortunately, the backlog at Eaton is killer so I went with the reusable instead of the crimp fittings. There isn't much difference between the two fitting types, I just didn't want that anodized blue on my car. But I'm also not willing to wait 5 weeks. Price is the same either way.
The lower bar is the antisway bar - 1" solid with splined ends. The upper bar is a 1" piece of cold rolled steel. Together they'll guide the synthetic winch cable under the radiator. Notice the nylon rollers - they've been tapered on the lathe to help keep the cable centered.
Nothing to do with the Fiero project but I couldn't pass up sharing this. My friends have some sweet American iron and they just happened to park in the perfect red, white and blue order outside of the shop. The 63 is an SS with a 409. The 66 Chevelle SS has a 427. But the best car is the blue 38 Ford with a 40 nose. Tucked under the hood is a monster of a Hemi.
A few more photos of the radiator lines installed - these from the back of the car. It actually a fair amount of work to make this happen - cutting off the existing hose flanges and welding on AN-20 bungs to the water log and the thermostat housing. You can also see the fuel lines in the lower left corner of the second photo - all braided from the tank to the injector log.
[This message has been edited by artworks (edited 04-10-2012).]