I wrote this a couple of years ago. I have been trying to get it printed without success. The last magazine said they would publish it as soon as they could. That was over a year ago. I think I have waited long enough.
I have been very interested in cars and drag racing since my teen years. Money has stopped me from becoming overly involved with them in many of the more traditional ways. I have never owned a race car, classic or muscle car. I have always looked for the unusual and unique bits of information about cars. Concept cars and one offs are my favorites. It wasn't until I was forced into retirement that I started to really become active with doing anything with my interests. I bought my first Fiero soon after and was hired at the REO Transportation Museum as the archivist. While there, I began writing articles about different cars. I have done several that have been published in various car club, as well as in the museum's newsletters. As a member of the Michigan Fiero Club I have written multiple articles for them. Since leaving the employment of the museum I have been attempting to finish a sort of 'REO Spotters Guide'. As for this article, it started with a picture of the car someone posted on a Facebook page. There was no real information except for Ed Koerner's name. I did some checking on Pennock's Fiero Forum (www.fiero.nl) and found nothing. I Googled Ed's name and found that, at one time, he had been involved with a small auto shop located not far from where I live. On a gamble I went to that shop with photo in hand and asked if anyone remembered the car. They did and they told me that Ed was actually just next door. They took me over and introduced me. I spent the next couple of hours listening to Ed tell me his story about his drag racing. Mixed in with his stories where his remembrances of the Fiero. I took what he told me and began writing. Later I contacted Pennocks member Rick Borecky. Since he owns a Diversified Glass Products (DGP) produced Fiero he was able to put me in contact with right people there. That's where I got the bulk of the photos I now have. Internet searches put me in contact with others who had worked on the car who either validated what I already knew or were able to provide bits of new data.
I Could Have Been A Contender! - Ed Koerner’s DGP Fiero
In the late 1980’s, the future VP of Engineering for GM, Ed Koerner, was involved in the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Competition Eliminator style drag racing. With aid and support of people within Pontiac itself and other racing affiliated companies, he built a Pontiac Fiero roadster to run in the G/Altered Class. It’s single purpose - dominating the competition! Qualifying for Competition Eliminator is based on how quick you can run under your class index and testing proved the car was capable of running as quick as 63 hundredths of a second quicker than the class index. Ed was certain he had a combination he could take to Indianapolis and win the US Nationals. But, that dream was never to come true. As reported in several racing magazines, including Hot Rod and Popular Hot Rodding, NHRA banned the car from racing before it could ever make an official qualifying attempt.
The super slick body was by DGP. Built in their Pontiac, Michigan studio from individual fiberglass panels; it included an integrated scoop and tonneau cover. It is Ed’s recollection that had the car been successful, DGP had plans of using the body to make a mold for a full production version. It was car builder and Riddler Award winner Dan Webb who used his magic in putting down the beautiful candy red and black cherry paint.
S&W Race Cars, of Spring City, PA built the chassis. A custom-built rack and pinion steering was required along with struts especially made for the front corners. In the rear, a 4-link system was mated to the axle. When testing revealed that the production axle was actually twisting under load it was replaced with a custom made heavy-duty version.
The 4-cyclinder, 144 cubic inch Iron Duke engine was fitted with SD4 parts supplied by John Callies of Pontiac Motorsports. The twin carbs helped produce a dynoed 300 HP that was delivered to the rear via a Liberty 5-speed transmission. In an effort to deal with the inherent shake of the 4-cylinder engine it was mounted off-center and was canted to the left at a 45-degree angle. Never the less Ed recalled in an interview given at the time, “We kinda felt like there's still a lot of shakin' goin' on when this baby puts the ponies to the pavement.”
What was it about this car that put NHRA’s tech team on the defense? Over the 3-day period of qualifying for the US Nationals they voiced several reasons why the car could not compete. First it was the lack of a drive shaft tube. When that situation was remedied the issue became whether or not the Fiero was available as a convertible. When it was pointed out that the rulebook did not require the ragtop be a factory option and that it was, in fact, a dealer option, head tech inspector Dave Danish led his team off to find other rule infractions. NHRA's Director of Operations Graham Light and it's president Wally Parks both joined in and violations as minor as a working taillight were added to the list. By the time the call went out for the final round of qualifying Koerner and his team had tended to all of the issues. They had prepped the car, warmed it and were waiting for what they hoped would be a quick tech inspection prior to being allowed a last ditch attempt to make the field. When NHRA’s white, red and blue tech van arrived it was greeted by a large group of spectators waiting on the final decision. And the decision came fast and it was final. NHRA had ruled the car overly modified and it was banned from competition. Bob Birchmier of DGP said, “I was there at Indy when he was going to run it for the first time, but it was outlawed because of so many protests from competitors so NHRA come up with a reason that it was too aerodynamically innovative for the class.”
Following NHRA’s ban, the car was shown at the annual SEMA Show and the Toronto Auto Show paid $2,000 to have the car presented as a featured car. Later the Fiero body was changed to a more conventional roadster and it raced in that configuration for a short time. Eventually the chassis was sold to someone from the Flint, Michigan area. The engine went to a man from New York who showed up with a paper sack filled with $20 bills. Ed quipped, “We never asked questions” but he was ever after known as the man “with all the moola.”
As for the body, its fate is uncertain. With Ed’s “I just wanted to get rid of it” mentality it was shipped “out west.” The destination “very well could have been Fiberglass Trends”. Fiberglass Trends was known at the time for manufacturing similarly styled roadsters made from other body types. If the body did end up with them it appears they never used it.
Did Ed Koener have the winning combination in his Fiero bodied racer? What might have happened if NHRA had allowed the car to compete? It's doubtful that success in drag racing would have effected Pontiac's decision to stop production. However a major win like the NHRA US Nationals would have been hard to overlook.