My 18+ Year Build Thread (Page 1/10)
Doc John JAN 05, 11:49 AM
I thought that people might be interested in seeing the modifications that have been made to my car since I bought it new in the fall of 1985. It will take me a few days to get everything uploaded, so check back to see if there is anything new. Quick description of the car - it is a 1986 SE, silver with black trim when I bought it . It came with a sunroof, V6, 4 speed manual, and not much else. I bought it in September of 1985 from Zimmer Motors (Pontiac/GMC/Cadillac/Nissan) in Moscow, Idaho.

Here are some pictures of it the day I took delivery:

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 05-24-2010).]

Doc John JAN 05, 11:58 AM
Here are a couple of vacation pix: on the beach at Long Beach, WA, 1986 or 1987.

Here's one from the Oregon Gorge, 1986, 7, or 8:

And somewhere in eastern Washington (State):

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-05-2008).]

Mister JAN 05, 12:07 PM

Originally posted by Doc John:

Here are some pictures of it the day I took delivery:

Ahhhh a brand new Fiero...I can almost smell the plastic
Let the good times roll


T-Top Conversion~Dual HUD~LED Setup~Red Fieros~Montreal Club

[This message has been edited by Mister (edited 01-05-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 12:10 PM
In terms of maintainance and reliability, the car had all the usual, basic Fiero issues. It ground up the OEM tires in fairly short order, because back then GM was setting the rear toe in wrong at the factory. Water pump died at about 30K miles, and the oil pressure sender pegged and kept the fuel pump running (even with the key out of the ignition), also around 30K.

A fairly isolated problem that I had was the Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) breaking and part of it falling into the tranny (I was, of course, doing 75 MPH at the time, Murphy's Law demands that problems like that will never happen at parking lot speeds). This necessitated transmission repairs; I had the clutch replaced at that time also, as long as it was torn down that far (this happened at 51K miles).

OK, enough of the car as a stocker. Let the modifications begin!

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-05-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 01:29 PM
Fast forward to 1990. I am in the market for a Ferrari body kit. I had two in mind. The first was the Corson Fiero, which was based on the Ferrari Boxer Berlinetta (with a shortened wheel base):

The second was the Ferrari 246 Dino kit that was made by Norm at the time.

Then the Winter1989/Spring 1990 issue of "Fiero Secrets" arrived. In it was a brief piece that described how Jim Sutter from IRM was going to be adding what looked like a Ferrari 308 kit to the IRM product lineup. I was living in northern New Jersey at the time, so one weekend we hopped in the car and drove to Gaithersburg, Maryland, to visit IRM and check out the kit.

I was immediately impressed with both Jim's professionalism and the quality of the work done at IRM. I was equally impressed with the quality of the fiberglass in the "Mirage" (Ferrari 308/328) kits that Jim was selling. He didn't make the kits, he purchased them from George Fejer of Canadian Sportscars, Int'l, based in Nobel, Ontario. The fiberglass looked really good, all gelcoated, no weird fiberglass goobers on the back sides, uniform thickness, etc. The Fejer kit came with almost no brackets, which was a little scary, but Jim made up his own hardware kit to propery locate things like the lock cylinders, etc.

Here is a picture of the car Jim and his crew were working on when I visited:

This was the first "Mirage" kit that IRM did, and it took them a good 6 months to get everything right. Being the prototype, Jim based his design for future production brackets off of the pieces he made for this car. IIRC, this 1988 car belonged to Charlie Billella (sp?), and had a carburated 350 in it, using one of Archie's first V8 kits. Hmmm.... a V8 in a Fiero.... something to think about....

Getting back to the rebody - having seen this kit, it was now a coin toss between the Corson car, and the Mirage 328 kit. The deciding factor was Randy Corson raising the price of his kit by $1000. I could get the Mirage 328 kit and have it installed at IRM for less than the Corson kit. Case closed.

BTW here is the second Mirage kit that Jim installed. Also on an '88, this one belonged to Earl Barnes, a retired friend of Jim's who worked part time at IRM.

(not my car)

And here it is, painted Ferrari red:

(not my car)

A few months later Earl added a T top to his car (no picture, unfortunately )

Here is a page out of the IRM catalog that advertised the Mirage kits (I=308, II=328, III=a much toned down version of the GTO):

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-13-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 01:45 PM
Spring/summer 1990. My car was the third Mirage install by IRM. Step one was to strip off the old body panels. Jim could do this in about three hours:

BTW, if you squint really hard at the above photo, you might be able to make out a Herb Adams VSE rear sway bar. It's gold in color. That thing was unbelievably stiff. I had the matching front bar as well. I ended up selling the Adams bars and replacing them with a set from IRM. The Adams bars were really meant for autocrossing, not a daily driver.

And now slide on the new clips:

Jim and company only did body work on the weekends (they all had "day jobs"), so it took about three months to get everything right. Fejer said that you could install these kits in one weekend. I'm sure you could. And they looked like it, too. Getting all the gaps even and matched side to side really makes a lot of difference in how the car ultimately will look when it's painted. The brackets to locate things like door handles, lock cylinders, etc all help ensure that stuff will work 18 years down the road.

BTW, if you look to the far right in these pictures, you'll see #4 Mirage waiting. This one was assembled in Canada by Fejer, but the owner hated how it looked, so he delivered it to IRM and paid Jim to have the install re-done.

And here I am picking up the car. Jim Sutter is on the left in this photo, with Earl in the middle. Unfortunately I don't have the name of the guy on the right, which is a shame 'cause Jim said this guy did about half of the installation:

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-07-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 01:57 PM
Summer/fall 1990. Here I am keeping 3M stock prices up by going through a LOT of 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. The fiberglass was good, but like all fiberglass body parts, there were pinholes.

1) Apply putty
2) Sand
3) Repeat

The wheels are the Cromodora wheels that were on the 1988 Meras. Jim Sutter bought up all remaining stock. Tires are 245/50R15 front, 265/50R15 rear. The front light cluster (driving lights/parking lights/turn signals) are OEM Ferrari parts, as are the side markers (all removed in these photos to make sanding easier. Tail lights are Mera surplus. The back-up lights are in the lower rear grillwork.

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-05-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 02:17 PM
And here's a nice photo to close out Phase I of my build. The car was painted in January of 1991 by Citro's Body Shop in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey (I have no idea if they are still there or not). The paint was and still is fantastic. The bad news, as is really apparant in this photo, was that ground clearance was, uh, generous. Ouch!, those are big gaps above the tires in the wheel wells. Well, that will be addressed in Phase II.

Remember, when this picture was taken, the car was rebodied but everything else (suspension & drivetrain) was essentially stock. That changes next.

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-05-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 02:51 PM
Phase II - 1992/3/4. The car, while it looked great from the outside, was a little (ok, a lot) slower than you might like. Easy to fix - I had IRM install the Miller-Woods (=Design 1 Systems) turbo on my 2.8 V6. This was a fine drivetrain, and it really gave the car decent acceleration. The manual version included a new exhaust system, and put out in the neighborhood of 210 HP at the crank. 10 lbs boost max. I don't have any really old photos of the turbo on the motor, but here are a couple that were taken just before the engine transplant this last spring:

About this time I also decided to get rid of the fake, molded in hood louvres over the radiator and install a real hood vent. I used the vent from a mid-1980's Chrysler Laser Turbo. It fit just about perfectly, matching all of the curves front-to-back, side-to-side, and top-to-bottom.

This helped to get rid of some of the excess heat which a turbo motor will generate. Ultimately I upgraded to Archie's 4-core radiator, years before the actual V8 swap.

I also lowered the car around this time. We installed Bell tech spindles in front, and lowering springs in back. Huge difference in ride height:
(compare with the photo from a couple of postings above)

That pretty much covers Phase II. 328 body, turbo motor, suspension where it should be. Was I done yet?


Phase III involves pulling the body back off of the car, and welding & cutting.

And Fiberglassing.

And sanding.


[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-06-2008).]

Doc John JAN 05, 05:23 PM
Phase III. 1995-6. My quest for a targa top. Since the real "GTS" Ferraris have removable roofs, the next set of modifications involve the targa saga. Originally I was hoping to track down a surviving T top kit - I couldn't find one. Then I saw an advertisement for a new product from Randy Corson:

He said it would fit ANY Fiero based kit, and would even fit on a stock GT. I don't know about that, but it did fit my 328 kit, with some tweaking. One thing to note in the above photo: see how the targa panel is sitting casually against the car, obscuring your view of the top of the door gap?

The exact placement of the targa panel in that photo might not have been an accident. I discovered (a couple of years down the road) that the support frame that you will see below wasn't quite strong enough to support the car, and that it had a disturbing tendancy to sag in the middle, thus closing up the top door gap (more on this later). For the moment, remember that if you cut the roof off of a Fiero, you are removing a HUGE amount of strength. You will need to replace this somehow.

Anyway, on with the targa installation. I'm back at IRM here, in their new shop, a horse barn that Jim converted into a HUGE shop. The first step was to strip the car down to the frame again (the doors could stay on).

One of the IRM fastback cars is in the background.

The picture above shows the finished body panels removed (carefully!) from the car.

In order to restore some strength to the frame, the kit included "C" clips that welded in around the door frames. Here is where it gets interesting. Randy said to cut the car first, use door spreaders to open it up some, and then weld in the "C" clips. Jim didn't like the sound of that, he was afraid that if you cut the car first it would be too easy to introduce some twist or wedge into the car prior to welding in the "C" clips - and that you would make that twist permanant once you did the welding. I'm not sure who was right here, I can see an argument for both. Since Jim was doing the welding, we did it his way, and welded first:

There was also an "X" frame that attached to the corners of the "C" clips.

[This message has been edited by Doc John (edited 01-05-2008).]