The 87 Fiero SE - "Angel"
Finally! Pictures of the 87 Fiero SE, which I've nicknamed Angel (because it's white with a wing). As you can see, it's in pretty good shape. Actually, this is the youngest of all of our Fieros. It was built about 2000 cars after the 87GT. But it had over 120.000 miles on the original L4 engine, so we decided to rebuild it. The previous owner had complained about hard starts and a Code 42, failed inspection due to bad shocks and wheel bearings, so some action was required anyway, so why not go the distance and have a close-up look at things? And it's a good thing we did...
Here is a look at the crank (top left & right) and rod (bottom) bearings after 120.000 mls. In case you're wondering: the surfaces are supposed to be smooth and shiny. I wish you could see and feel the surface on those bearings! There was even sand (!) in the oil pan, so the moral is: change your oil, and do it regularly. And use quality oil. The engine rebuilt cost us around $750 for parts alone, since we decided to not only rebuild the block with a Fiero Store kit, but also rebuild the head (new valves/springs). Other parts that we replaced while everything was out and accessible included the rear coolant hoses, a stuck LH e-brake cable, new cat and exhaust, GT exhaust tips on the LH side, new plugs, wires and filters, etc.
The old plug wires looked like they were about to come apart at the slightest touch, and the plugs installed were Bosch and the incorrect heat range. So much for the hard starts. The cause for the Code 42 was still to be determined, although the DIS module is known for trouble if there is something wrong with the ignition wiring.
The front suspension needed some attention as well, 3 out of 4 ball joints were shot, the shocks were worn, and the brake hoses were close to bursting. Add worn front bearings and rotors, and you are looking at a complete front suspension job. This is also why the car failed inspection and why we got it. Oh well. The car is worth it.
The A/C is unfortunately shot, so we will change over the car to R134a, because without either sunroof or A/C, the car won't be much fun to drive in the summer. The interior was in an overall good shape, the only thing I initially changed was the chrome ignition lock, which I replaced with an original black lock. The plastic steering wheel also went the way of the dodo, and we put a GT-style steering wheel into the car. Since the trunk release wiring is already in place in Fieros not equipped with those, it was no big deal to add the missing parts, i.e. the switch and mounting plate, relay and wiring from the trunk connector to the solenoid. And, of course, the solenoid itself. Changed over to the backlit GT instrumentation, replaced the map strap with a map pocket and the interior looks like that of a GT now.
This is the engine after our rebuild, a big thank you goes to my Dad for the countless hours spend disassembling, cleaning and reassembling the engine. Thanks, Dad! Note how clean the tranny can look after just cleaning it, there's not a bit of paint on it! Same goes for the intake, BTW. The cradle was cleaned, the few rusty spots cleaned up and then painted three times with anti rust paint. It looks just beautiful, although many clean spots can no longer be seen with the engine in the car. Installation was not difficult, and the engine would have started immediately if it were not for the idiot mechanics who installed the wrong plugs and replaced the ignition module in their quest for the hard starts and the Code 42. After replacing the old module with a new one with no success, they reinstalled the old module, but reversed the two ignition coils. Now, the DIS engine has no part that needs to be adjusted (lifters, distributor), and the coils are even numbered 1/4 and 2/3. So putting the plug wires on the correct coils resulted in the only non-serious no-run condition: reversed plug wires. A quick check revealed this yet another paux-pas of the know-nothing grease monkey with good intentions but no clue. After putting the wires on correctly, the engine fired right up.
With that out of the way, the car got new brakes, front wheel bearings and front shocks I had left over when I upgraded my Gt, and alas: the car passed inspection without problems. So we put plates on the car and started driving it. After about 500 miles, the engine started running on only 3 cylinders though. After long investigations it turned out that an old rocker arm had broken. About the only thing we didn't replace in our rebuild were the rocker arms. Dropped in a new set, and the engine ran great again. But there was still an occasional Code 42.
Finally an article brought me on the right track: GM apparently used a special circuit board coating on these ECM's, which shrinks over time and literally tears components off the board. So I resoldered all SMT parts along the path of the EST circuitry, and when doing that I found one capacitor that had lost its metallization. Replaced it with a 100nF cap, and the code 42 has not returned since. Now was the time to recover the sagging headliner, which worked well. Now the interior looked really nice. This is when fate struck again...
Next a rocker bolt on the #4 cylinder snapped. Well, we hadn't replaced those either, so I dropped in a new set of those as well. A few miles later the engine developed a ticking noise, which fainted as the engine warmed up, so it was not a crank bearing. A few days later, the same bolt snapped again. The rockers are not adjustable on this engine, and I lacked the tool to measure the installed valve height. So I put a new bolt in, which again snapped a few days later. The intervals that the bolts lasted became less and less, and after 2 or 3 bolts we were down to 20 or so miles. Finally the rocker cracked instead of the bolt, and the pushrod was bent. The rocker had cracked sideways, so I think the pushrod was bent when the very first bolt snapped, and the impacts of the bent rod were just too much for the rocker/bolt, so one of them always broke after a while.
My solution: install an adjustable stud instead of the bolt, so that valve lash is adjustable just like it is on the V6. Only time will tell if that is a solution of my problems or just a temporary fix...
There have been visitors to this site since May 31, 2000.