Classic Fiero Focus – Barteyemer’s Bits – Fiero Paces the Indy 500

Editors Note: This article originally appeared in the May/June 2008 issue of Fiero Focus Magazine published by Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts

With spring in the air and Memorial Day around the corner, most of us car people turn our attention to Indianapolis. It was just yesterday 24 years ago that our beloved Fiero paced the big race on May 27, 1984. Customers at the dealerships lined up to get their first look at the new Indy Fiero during the first week of April. Visitors to the Pontiac showrooms had the opportunity to enter a raffle to win a gas powered Indy Fiero Go-Kart at the top selling Pontiac dealerships.

In a letter dated May 4, 1982, just one day after the “P” car was approved for production, Bill Hoglund sent a reply to Indianapolis Motor Speedway accepting the invitation to pace the 1984 Indy 500. At that time, John Calles was awarded the project to develop and build the Super Duty components required for pace car duties. Working directly with John Schinella in styling, John was given the resources to build three special cars to pace the race.

In a letter dated January 4, 1983, a meeting was called on January 17, 1983 to make the final decisions regarding the three track cars and the Indy replicas. At this meeting, several key program decisions were discussed and made. The number one concern was public consumer identity. Many of the exterior design proposals for the three track cars did not resemble a production Fiero. The Aero body, wing, and snorkel were a toned down version of what the styling department really wanted to do with the Indy Fiero. One of the major points was that the Indy body that was actually produced could be used on future Fiero models without any major tooling or development costs. This decision presented a major task for the engineers to produce the new body panels with the correct aerodynamic characteristics in such short notice. Another point discussed was that all of the Super Duty components were to be marketed to the general public under the Performance Plus Parts program. Intentions were to allow the public to build their own replica of the track car from parts available at the dealership. Most of the mechanical parts were available to the public short of the wheel disks, electric power brakes, and strobe lights. From this meeting on, the three Indy Fieros that were prepared for pacing duties remained unchanged in design and mechanical specifications.

During the months of July and August 1983, the pilot build replica was built in the styling studio. This is the car that sat in the front of the Fiero Plant and currently resides at the Gilmore Auto Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The final approval decision to build the replicas was made as soon as the pilot car was finished leaving the car unchanged from the proposal. The replica count was determined at 2000 units based on marketing estimates and production costs.

The first 15 Indy Fieros were built on January 25, 1984. These first 15 went to the executives at Pontiac and were used for quality assurance and marketing purposes. As a matter of fact, replica #2 ended up as a prototype car that is currently in stock at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The remaining replicas were built starting February 21, 1984. The production goal was to build three Indy Fieros per hour. Supplier delays proved this schedule to be hard to keep. At the close of February, only 86 cars were ready for shipment. At the close of the second week of March, 488 Indy Fieros were completed. Specifically selected dealers were to receive the Indy Fieros for display only until all 2000 replicas were built. By the fourth week of March, 658 replicas were built, but production had to be ceased in order for the supplier of the wings to catch up on supply. Finally on May 11, 1984, the last Indy Fiero replica was produced. NIFE member, Mike Maver, currently owns this car.

To witness the Fiero in action at Indy, Pontiac employees took 9 buses to see the time trials and 23 buses on race day. The race day bus trip participants received Indy Fiero rain ponchos, bleacher seat cushions, hat, T-shirt, and wristwatch as part of the $30 dollar package including the bus fare. And finally, the very first Indy Fiero replica was raffled off at the 2nd Annual Fiero Family Picnic on August 19, 1984. Guests of the picnic were given items such as Indy Fiero yo-yos, Frisbees, t-shirts and hats. The destiny of the very first replica is unknown at this time. The contents of this writing is an accumulation of information taken from papers acquired from Hulki Aldikacti, interviews with the employees that made the Indy Fiero happen and Fiero Plant “Fiero Facts Newsletter” sent to Fiero Plant managers and team leaders.

editors note: If you are looking for Fred on Memorial Day Weekend, you will find him in the stands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo courtesy of Fred Bartemeyer, Jr

Fiero 35th – Celebrate Fiero Racing History!

We are excited to celebrate Fiero racing at the Fiero 35th Anniversary presented by Black Top Racing!

Racing has been a part of Fiero history since almost the conception of the Fiero. A huge part of the first model year 1984 was the Indy Pace Car replica edition. Of course, having a replica means that there was a specially prepared Fiero Indy Pace Car that could stand up to the task of leading the Indy 500. The man tasked to put together a Fiero that would meet the specifications for pacing the prestigious race was Lead Engineering Manager of Pontiac Motorsports, John Callies. Callies developed a 2.7L Super Duty 4 cylinder capable of putting out 232 horsepower propelling the car to a record-breaking 144mph four-lap average. 3 cars were prepared for pace car duties in the event that anything one of the cars developed an issue. Callies himself drove the pace car for the 1984 Indianapolis 500 won by Penske Team Driver Rick Mears. After the race Fiero Pace Car #2 was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Fiero Pace Car #1 was returned back to GM and is now part of the Heritage Center Collection, and Fiero Pace Car #3 was contracted to join the PPG Indy Car World Series Pace Car Fleet. It is reported that winning driver Rick Mears wanted to take home one of the actual Fiero Pace Cars, but unfortunately all were spoken for and he was awarded one of the replicas.

The Fiero Indy Pace Car #3 started pace car duties with PPG in June 1984 in essentially the same form as it participated in the Indy 500 with various graphics changes and a few extra safety upgrades. At the end of the 1985 Indycar race season, Fiero Pace Car #3 had a major makeover with the addition of a DGP Aero Widebody, custom experimental paint, and engine upgrades that brought the engine horsepower up to 280 HP. Fiero Pace Car #3 remained active with the PPG Pace Car Fleet until mid-season 1987, pacing several Indycar races in the United States and Canada when the car was retired. The car remained in the PPG storage warehouse until 1989 when PPG and GM donated the car to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago to become a permanent display with in the Race Car Room at the museum. The car was put on display in a climate controlled glass enclosure that contained a lighted sign with some misleading information that described the history of the car inaccurately. In 2007, access was granted into the glass enclosure to document the car. It was this research trip that verified that the car was in fact the lost Indy Pace Car #3. In 2009, the museum decided to sell off a fairly large lot of their inventory at auction due to budget shortfalls caused by the reduction of state funding. The Fiero Pace Car was sent to Brookline, MA to be auctioned off in a non-running and very dirty state of condition. Midwest Fiero Clubs President Fred Bartemeyer Jr obtained a bidder number with the aid of two other Fiero Enthusiasts to be able to purchase the car and continues to preserve the large amount of history that accompanies the car. Fred will be displaying this special Fiero in the Poncho Perfection Hall of Fieros.

Indy Pace Car #3

Indy Pace Car #3 back on the track at the Fiero 30th Anniversary

The re-purposed Indy Pace Car #3 was not the only Fiero involved in the CART Indy Car World Series, though. PPG Industries and Autostyle Industries also sponsored a Precision Driving Team made up of 6 specially prepared Fieros. These were truly the first Fiero fastbacks shown to the public featuring a European influenced body design giving the six cars a very unique look. They were all painted six different colors in experimental pearlescent effects to showcase PPG’s new future product lines. A team of women drivers would “warm up the crowd” showcasing their driving skills in the 6 Fieros before each Indycar race as part of the pre-race festivities. At the end of the Precision Driving Team tenure, the six cars were donated to various vocational schools through out the upper Midwest area in 1989. The donation distribution of the six cars were administered through the GM Vocational Donation Program by PPG and Pontiac Motorsports.

Over the years, many Fiero enthusiasts attempted to track the locations of where the cars were donated. In 1998, the Michigan Fiero Club was able to find and visit the Pearl Yellow GTP car at the Vo-Tech vocational school in Adrian Michigan. Harold Hooten of the American Fiero Chapter of POCI alerted that the car could possibly be available in spring of 2001. Fred Bartemeyer stayed persistent in obtaining the car and eventually was able to purchase the car in April of 2005. The Pearl Blue GTP car was retained by Pontiac in their special vehicle collection and was auctioned off in the 2009 GM Heritage Center Barrett-Jackson offering and purchased by long time Fiero owner Ed York. In 2004, through the contacts of the Cleveland Fiero Club, Fred Bartemeyer was able to view and document the Red Turbo GTP car at the Cuyahoga Vocational Center in Brecksville Ohio. The school contacted Fred to come and retrieve the car in 2010 in exchange for a monetary donation to the educational facility. Much effort went into tracking down the remaining PPG Fieros. Although the Red Turbo GTP car is in need of a complete restoration, is currently white and in very poor condition, it is important that the car is saved from the original intention of being destroyed when the school determined that the car no longer was of useful educational purposes. Through out the duration of several years of research, it is unfortunate to know the fate of the other three cars in which the cars were subject to the intended donation agreement and destroyed per the signed contract. We are excited that the three remaining PPG GTP Pace Cars will be in attendance at the 35th Anniversary. Come and see a unique part of Fiero history.

PPG Pace cars

PPG Pace cars at the Heartland Fiero Show.

Fiero racing was not just about pacing races though, it was also about winning races, as Pontiac Motorsports campaigned Fieros in a number of racing series: several classes of SCCA including Pro-Rally, IMSA GTU, GTO and GTP classes and NHRA Competition Eliminator class. Pontiac Motorsports largest efforts concentrated in the IMSA GTU class during the mid 80’s, teaming up with Huffaker racing. Drivers Clay Young, Terry Visger and Bob Earl put their IMSA Fieros on the podium multiple times.

We are very excited to have one of the Huffaker IMSA Fieros scheduled to be displayed in the Poncho Perfection Hall of Fieros. In 1984 Huffaker Engineering put together a tube frame chassis with anti-squat and anti-dive adjustments. Huffaker utilized a modified Spice Racing running gear, and of course the potent Super Duty 4 engine powered the race cars. Huffaker went on to build a number of Fiero race cars, but it is believed that only 4 were made in this configuration. This Fiero campaigned in GTU class as the number 55 Goodwrench / Huffaker Fiero from 1985 to 1987. Bob Earl started 27 races and came away with 10 victories and 16 poles. Terry Visger ran 10 races and came away with 7 wins.

Huffaker IMSA Fiero

The Huffaker IMSA Fiero still racing and still winning after all these years.

In 1989 the car was set up for TransAm racing for a corporate sponsor. The Super Duty 4 engine was replaced with a 4.5 Liter Buick V6. The sponsor’s CEO drove it in three Trans Am races and then the program was halted. The car was then raced in two IMSA GTO races by Dominic Dobson. The Huffaker Fiero then sat until 1999, when an SCCA enthusiast purchased the car to compete in races in the San Francisco region. The car claimed an additional 25 victories in the SCCA Super Production class along with qualifying records at Laguna Seca and Sears Point. In 2012 the Fiero underwent a complete frame off restoration and the Buick V6 was replaced with a NASCAR Chevy 354 V-8. In 2013 the Huffaker Fiero was sold to Mark Schwartz who continues to race the Fiero when time permits. Mark still has the NASCAR Chevy motor in the Fiero, but hopes to replace it with a proper Super Duty 4 some day. We look forward to seeing Mark and his IMSA Fiero this summer in East Peoria.

Also scheduled for display is Paul Hosler’s home built Fiero IMSA Racecar. The car emulates what would have been available to the general public if a person desired to build their own racecar from the information available from the Pontiac Motorsports issued Pontiac Performance Plus Magazine. A 412 ci Small Block Chevy with prototype Pontiac 867 heads developing 645 hp powers the 2300 lb racecar. The suspension has been fabricated by the original IMSA Fiero engineer to period correct specifications. With a host of features ready for the track, this 210 mph track rocket is a work of art performed exclusively by the owner. You can find more details about this car at http://www.cardomain.com/ride/789315/2003-pontiac-fiero/

Paul Hosler IMSA Fiero

Paul Hosler’s IMSA Fiero

Fiero racing would not be what it was without Lead Engineering Manager of Pontiac Motorsports John Callies. His involvement spanned from the original Super Duty engine in the Indy Pace cars, to overseeing the Spice Fiero GTP Daytona prototypes. John was in the catalyst of it all. We are happy to say that John has stayed in touch with the Fiero community (he has spoke at the Fiero 20th, 25th and 30th, and made a surprise appearance at the 2016 Heartland Fiero show a few years ago). John is scheduled to attend the Fiero 35th Anniversary show, so please bring all of your Fiero racing questions!

John Callies talks to attendees at the Fiero 30th

John Callies talks to attendees at the Fiero 30th

Fun Fact: Did you know that John Oates (famous for posing with a Fiero on an album cover) drove the number 55 Huffaker Fiero at Road America in the 1985 Löwenbräu Classic 500?

Fun Fact 2: Did you know the Dodge M4S Prototype, more commonly known as The Wraith, is built on a stretched Huffaker Racing Fiero chassis?

Tom’s Corner – Let’s go racing!

tomscorner

The Richard Petty Driving Experience is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to actually drive a Sprint Cup stock car on many of America’s fastest race courses. I have been very fortunate to have driven these race cars at Lowes Charlotte Motor Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet Illinois. This is a hands on heart pounding high speed fast action adventure you will never forget! Having driven these same speedways that the great race drivers competed in over the years is an honor for me. The fact that you can drive at speeds over 170 mph and feel the power of a 358 CU inch 600 HP V-8 with all the noise and heat is almost a religious experience for me.

The class session starts with professional instructors on how to find your marks on the tri-oval. The instructions are very detailed. Then you climb into a van that takes you to the top of the oval, which is 1 ½ miles in length around the race track and is banked at 36 degrees. This is to acclimate you with what will be a very exciting day. Then, you get strapped into one of the stock cars and wait your turn in the pits to go out onto the track. These race cars rev up to 7000 rpm’s and I advise you to use ear plugs! The cars can be Chevrolet Monte Carlo’s, Pontiac Grand Prix, Ford Taurus and Dodge stock cars. All drivers are issued flame resistant suits, neck restraint, and helmets. You must provide the driving shoes and gloves. The session lasts for 10 laps and there are 3 sessions. After each session, you are brought in and the instructor who is assigned to you will critique your driving style and advise where you can improve your lap times. At the end of the course, you are congratulated and issued a diploma to certify that you have completed the course.

The cost can range from $1500.00 to $3500.00 depending on where you go for your driving school. I highly recommend the three day course because it will really sharpen your driving skills and you will come away with a deep appreciation for the race drivers who have to do 500 laps! I was very fortunate to have driven Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s number 8 Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway and at Chicagoland Speedway. My sponsor, Lennox International paid for all expenses both times. My two diplomas are a treasured part of my racing heritage which started in 1946 as a kid and along with my Skip Barber racing school diploma and my racing license from the Pomona Drag Racing School, and my vintage racing experience in my cousins’ 1965 Corvette at Road America in Elkhart Lake.

Tom drives Dale Earnhardt Jr's number 8

Tom drives Dale Earnhardt Jr’s number 8

Tom’s Corner – Taming Road America!

tomscorner

Welcome to Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin where I will take you through this 4.0-mile road racing course in a 1965 vintage 700 hp Corvette! I have driven this track many times over the years in different race cars and still to this day learn something new on the racing surface. All the information in this article is for dry track conditions only. If the track is wet, all bets are off! Imagine that you are driving this car and not me. You will be going faster on the straights but maybe a little slower in the corners. If all goes well, we should be able to do a complete circuit in this race car at 2 minutes 40 seconds!

When our session starts, we will depart the ‘false grid’ and into the hot pit lane and from there onto the race track. As you are going through the hit pit lane to the race track, hopefully you will notice a STOP and GO light on the fence at the end of the hot pit lane. If the light is RED…STOP! ~ If the light is GREEN, Go, BUT…please stay to the right until you are past the apex of turn one. Now do a parade lap around the race course and after turn 14, coming up the hill to the starter please stay on the left and let cars that may pass you pass on your right. You should be approaching 170 mph at this point and from turn 14 to turn one, you have covered 4405 feet. I would suggest going to the brake pedal at the #4 brake marker. Turn #1 is a right hander approaching downhill and is faster that it initially appears and many race drivers have ‘lost it’ there and gone into the gravel pit. Leaving turn #1 and going downhill on the left, and passing the flag station on your right, you will be approaching turn #3. This is 1561 feet from turn #1. Come down to this turn on the left side as you prepare for the right hand corner entrance and set up your apex accordingly. It should be a ‘late apex’ well past the middle of the bump strip on your right. This will lead you to the second fastest part of the track Coming out of turn #3, keep to the right of this slowly descending 3888 feet leading down to turn #5. You are going about 186 mph through this section. Watch for your brake markers here. This is the sharpest left hand turn on the race track. You should ‘late apex’ this turn as you head up to turn #6, which is a blind off camber left turn. Stay to the right side of the track when coming up the hill here. This section is 960 feet in length and you will use second and third gears to get to turn #6. Turn #7 is 788 feet going downhill with a slight kink to a section called ‘hurry downs’. Elevation change and 1322 feet to turn #8, you must stay to the right and very hard on the brakes in this 90 degree turn. You will be going about 90 mph approaching this turn.

The infamous ‘Carousel’ is 3383 feet in a slightly increasing radius and you will pick up speed considerably here as you approach ‘the ‘Kink’. Do not take ‘the Kink’ flat out! It has caused many crashes by driver who over-drive this portion of the track. From ‘the Kink’ to turn #12 is 2736 feet long and you will approach ‘Canada Corner’ at a very high rate of speed, about 190 mph! Watch your braking points here as you will need to down shift to first or second to get through this corner. Again, stay to the right side of the track and apex slightly sooner to get through properly. From turn #12 to turn #13, its uphill for 1140 feet and stay to the left. This section is called ‘Thunder Valley’. At corner #13 start your line to the right side as you approach turn #14 which is 1009 Feet. From here, you will start going back up hill to the start-finish line which is 1380 feet and wide open on the throttle! There are many elevation changes to this race course and that is what makes a favorite of race drivers. There are of course signs indicating braking points and rumble strips at the inside or outside of the apex’s and as you learn the course as I have, each time you drive here it will be a very memorable experience. To be able to tour this track at 2 minutes 40 seconds in my cousin’s vintage Corvette is just one of the highlights in all of my driving life.

Just think…172 mph…700 hp…arm restraints…ear plugs…safety harnesses… driving suit… helmet… roll bars…racing fuel…loud…hot and fast!!! This is what it’s all about!

There are many opportunities throughout the year to attend driving events at Road America,  for more information check out http://www.roadamerica.com/

I drove this Corvette road race car to 172 mph in 2005... Very loud,hot and fast !

I drove this Corvette road race car to 172 mph in 2005… Very loud,hot and fast !

 

Tom’s Corner – Racing Schools

tomscorner
In previous articles, I told you about the racing school that Skip Barber puts on. Since I have graduated from it, I can tell you first hand it is well worth every cent and then some!

We arrived at Road America in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin an hour earlier than we needed to. The weather was threatening and we wanted to avoid the rush hour traffic going through downtown Milwaukee that morning. We met people from all around the USA who flew in for this school. The first thing on the agenda was a 45 minute lecture on the laws of physics and handling characteristics of racing cars especially open wheel ones which we would be driving. Then it was time to get suited up and get in the race car. To get in you have to stand on the racing seat and wiggle your way down to the pedals. The quarters are very tight once you are strapped in and about the only thing you can move are your feet and arms. Once your helmet and neck restraint are in place and your gloves are on, you move on to the starting grid with the rest of the members of your session.

In this school, you must follow a pace car to get acclimated to the course and gradually build up speed. These Barber Dodge cars are tricky in that there is no synchromesh transmission and you must use the ‘heel and toe’ procedure to shift gears correctly. This was explained in detail in the lecture in the class room. Steering in these formula cars is very precise and it takes some getting used to get it right. You learn your braking points and entrance to the corners as well as the exit of the apex’s and as the speed picks up, these cars are capable of going from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds and the braking is astounding. Each student must follow the other for a lap and switch places with the lead race car so the instructor can determine how well they are doing. After about 5 laps on a course which is 2 and 1/2 miles in length, the group is brought in and the instructor goes to each driver and tells him/her how they can improve their driving techniques such as the right entrance with corner acceleration out of it and drafting techniques. This is very serious stuff! On one occasion, the driver in front of me was approaching a very sharp 90 degree turn to the right when he mis-judged his braking point and spun directly in front of me and ended up in the gravel trap backwards! When I looked for an instant in my mirror, all I could see was dust and debris. You cannot take your eyes off the racing surface in front of you because of the speed you are traveling…one slight distraction and you are in trouble. Concentration is the key to doing well at this racing school and as the session ended about two hours later, we were brought in for a final critique of our driving abilities in an open wheel race car.

The instructor gave me an A+ for my efforts and the diploma I received was worth all the time and money spent to attend this racing school. I heartily recommend to anyone who has the desire to drive an open wheel formula race car to give this some consideration. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have on this subject. You can reach me at: tom165mph@yahoo.com