Good morning! It’s time to start your day off right, with a couple of bad automotive ideas. Today’s search takes us to New Mexico, to look at two uncommon sports cars that are each undesirable in their own way. So let’s take a quick look at yesterday’s results, and then dig in.
Well, I’d say that’s pretty decisive. Reader “greatfallsgreen” called this a tortoise-versus-hare race, and I’m mad I didn’t think of that one myself. But it looks like slow and steady has indeed won the race. It’s the Benz by a landslide, weird misspelled ad and all.
Now, today’s choices aren’t the sports cars you’re looking for. One has the wrong transmission, and the other has the wrong engine. Still, the price is right on both of them. Let’s kick some tires.
1986 Porsche 928S – $5,000
Engine/drivetrain: 5.0 liter dual overhead cam V8, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: in the mountains east of Albuquerque, NM
Odometer reading: 63,000 miles
Runs/drives? It doesn’t say, actually…
The Porsche 928 has always seemed to be a love-it-or-hate-it sort of car. It was a massive departure for Porsche, a cushy GT instead of a corner-carving sports car, with a V8 in front instead of a flat-six in back, and genuinely weird styling, with a prominent bubble-butt and those flip-forward headlights. I despised it when I was younger, but its weirdness has grown on me, and now I kinda like it.
In 1986, the 928’s quad-cam V8 displaced five liters and made 288 horsepower in US trim, nothing to sneeze at when the Corvette was only putting out 230. This 928, like too many, sends that power to a rear-mounted automatic transaxle. Absolutely no indication is given in the ad about the car’s mechanical condition; in fact, the whole thing is written as if this car is intended to be sold for parts. But if it does run, or could run, why chop it up? There can’t be that much demand for 928 parts.
And apart from some wear inside on the blue leather seats (!!!) and sun-scorched paint outside, it looks pretty good. In fact, if it is driveable, you could probably just leave the cosmetics alone. But a phone call is in order first, I feel, to find out if it’s functional or purely decorative.
But as we’ve seen, air-cooled Porsche prices are absolutely batshit off-the-rails crazy these days, so if you really must get into the club, these less-desirable water-cooled cars might make a good point of entry. If nothing else, it’s a flashy V8 coupe that you don’t see very often.
1985 Pontiac Fiero 2M4 – $2,000
Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead-valve inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Odometer reading: 155,000 miles
Who were Pontiac engineers kidding when they tried to sell this to the GM brass as an economy car? The plastic-bodied parts-bin special Fiero evolved into a quite a decent sports car by the time it was killed off, but even in the early days, this was not being cross-shopped by Sunbird buyers. It was a half-assed sports car, but the engine is behind the seats and it’s shaped like a doorstop. They weren’t fooling anybody.
Cramming the entire drivetrain and front suspension of an X-body into the middle of a car caused its fair share of problems for these early Fieros, but recalls and decades of owner knowledge sharing makes the risk of fire from a four-cylinder Fiero these days pretty small. Of course, the Iron Duke isn’t much of an engine even when it isn’t catching fire, but a Fiero doesn’t weigh much. I’ve driven a manual four-cylinder Fiero, and it was fine. Not a screamer, but fine.
The seller says this Fiero runs and drives, but is “not a commuter for someone non-mechanical.” But really, the same could be said of any nearly-forty-year-old GM product, or any car, for that matter. Condition-wise, from the photos, it looks nice, except for some wear on the driver’s seat. But you’ll want to keep those seats; the stereo speakers are in the headrests, presumably because there was nowhere else to put them.
I was nine when the Fiero came out, and I loved it then, and I still love it now. Even with the Duke, I’d happily spend two grand on this, if I had a place to put another car. But I don’t, and anyway, we’re not here for me to choose a car. This is all about you.
So, good readers, what will it be? The puffy Porsche that may or may not run, or the fire-prone Pontiac with the heart of a Chevy Citation?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
This was an easy one for me. That Fiero looks pretty darn good, already drives, and comes with a manual. That ain’t bad for $2k. When I was in college, I had a fraternity brother who loved Fieros and swapped a Northstar V8 into one at one point. He got shit for borrowing the engine hoist from the internal combustion lab on campus and not returning it for several months. He was an interesting cat. Haha.
I would like to own one of each, eventually.
I think these are good prices in today’s market. I think the Pontiac is a slightly better deal, and it’s much cheaper and easier to get sorted and modified. The Porsche would need much more work, and a transmission swap.
Tough choice, but for me it’s a narrow win that goes to the Pontiac.
Fiero, then V8 swap it.
Better the 928 on blocks in my front yard than being seen in the Fiero.
I’ll go with the 928, please. While I loved to drive the one I had I didn’t enjoy working on it much. Mine had the manual trans, but I wouldn’t mind the auto in this one. This looks like a good deal even not knowing if it drives.
The tone of the ad very much implies that it does not drive. That said, unless the engine is frozen, I think the rest of this is quite desirable. A southwestern car with intact bodywork and an uncracked dash? I can work with that!
That said, it will cost another $10,000 before you can drive it.
If the 928 isn’t a real Porsche (not a sports car), and the 914 wasn’t a real Porsche (VW?), why not the Fiero? It’s got the best of everything. It’s not a real sports car like the 928, has a middle engine like the 914, and is a pain in the ass to work on, just like a Porsche! Parts are also unavailable, just like a Porsche (at least for the Fiero specific stuff). However, for the shared GM components, parts are available and cheap, so when you end up breaking it trying to install it (ever hear the saying “10 pounds of shi- into a 5 pound bag”? That’s middle engine cars for you), it also has the benefit that those parts are cheap.
As much as I like the 928, I will spend half they money to get a running Fiero.
Never liked them but for the money it is the better option.
Fiero! tho I would prefer the final year with the improved suspension. Those are still relative bargains.. too bad by the time I can afford to keep one (I live in manhattan and already have 1 car lol) they will be out of reach.
Voted for the Porsche because I already own a Fiero dam near exactly the same as that one. My Duke broke so it is getting replaced with a Honda K20. The Porsche would be great if it runs well, if it doens’t run well it is an LS swap away from being lots of fun.
The Fiero new cost about the same as a CRX. The review of the CRX said something like, “Advice to GM: put a V6 in the Fiero and move it upmarket, fast.” I don’t think even that helped.
I’d go with the Porsche. There aren’t many around, all Porsches are appreciating, and I think 928s are rare.
I’ve loved the 928 ever since I had the Matchbox version as a little kid.
Both Porsche and Pontiac begin with “p.” So does pass, as in I’ll take a pass on both of these 80s ladies.
Bubble butt! bubble bubble bubble butt!
Turn around, stick it out, show the world you got a
The Fiero is easier to live with. Abundance of parts, easier to work on. So worth it!
Look, I love the 928 and it’s equally maligned sister the 944, but 2 grand for a running and driving Fiero? No contest for me
Stunned that Fiero is doing that well. I remember when they came out. My dad wouldn’t work on them. Junk.
Too bad the Fiero never got the Quad 4. Shit, even the 122 2.2L would’ve been better than the Iron Dukee.
Or, if you want, you could swap in a V6 or even V8.
I am swaping in a Honda K20 motor. Should be lots of fun when done. Double the power of the Duke and much lighter.
The ’89 Fiero was supposed to get a re-style and a Quad 4. What might have been…
Yes, I am aware of that. Too bad they didn’t release it 🙁
If it had been the beautiful later swoopy Fiero GT with the V6, I would have taken that, but the old notchback one with the sad fire prone Iron Duke engine does just not do anything for me. Except the old penta rims: Those were so nice!
So even though it’s going to be a very expensive time, it’s the 928 for me. It’s german and once very expensive, how bad can it be?
It can be still German and still very expensive, that’s how bad it can be.
yes that is what I wrote: It”s going to be expensive with a 928…
Easily the 928. Many Porsche snobs turn up their noses at these but I see them a bit differently…they’re gloriously weird. This was far from the best era at Porsche. They weren’t the juggernaut that they are today and it was becoming clear that the 911 alone wouldn’t sustain them, so they had to branch out in different directions.
The 928 was essentially a shameless appeal to MURICA and the Corvette demographic. Porsche threw their ethos out the window and tried to make a cushy V8 grand tourer to appeal to folks who wanted a nicer Corvette. By most accounts it wasn’t particularly successful. Porsche die hards wanted nothing to do with it and it was way too expensive to really eat into the American sports car market. Plus, most examples out there are automatic….and unless it’s PDK an automatic Porsche just ain’t it.
That being said, I love the design of them. The 80s retro/future vibe has aged really well. Obviously the car had prominent role in the movie Risky Business as well, which I consider to be a classic. Allegedly if you can find a manual example they’re still pretty engaging cars, but unfortunately they aren’t the buys they once were. I remember a time when you could get passable, running examples for 5-10 grand all day, but now the decent ones are nearly commanding 996 911 money and the super desirable ones like the GTS are nearly six figure propositions.
It’s a bit of a shame, because I don’t think they’re worth as much as the market dictates these days, but I’ll always love them for the oddity that they are. They’re decidedly Un Porsche, but at the same time they’re very Porsche. The styling holds up to say the least and even if they’re not a rear engine, flat 6, dynamic treat they’re still 300ish horsepower V8 GTs with amazing 80s styling and pop up headlights like only Porsche could do.
What I’m saying is I’d absolutely rock one.
I’m as hard as anyone here on people endlessly complaining about inflation/car values, but the idea of a six figure Porsche 928 has even me wondering if we are living in a simulation.
I exaggerated a bit, but not much. Looks like the GTS sells for an average of $73,000 or so in this day and age…but I still can’t imagine buying it for 70k plus when that’ll get you a well sorted secondhand 911, a decently equipped 718, a new M2, a new RS3 with 10 grand to spare, or if you wish to go the American route….a ZL1 Camaro, base Hellcat, C8, or GT350. You could even find a GT-R or load up a manual Zupra to the moon at that price.
A lot of people have more money than sense. Despite the fact that I’m a huge advocate for fighting income inequality and the senseless hoarding of resources by the 1%, I’m not one of those folks that just hates rich people, despite what folks here might perceive. But it’s pretty lame that attainable Porsches are essentially gone because a small handful of extremely wealthy people are able to incinerate money on even the less desirable ones…and unfortunately this is happening with a lot of enthusiast cars.
As my original comment suggests, I can did a 928. But I also can’t swallow the fact that it’s becoming a collector car. What’s next? Are people going to start paying $50,000+ for 944s or first gen Cayennes? Come on y’all. I love Porsche as much as anyone but this is getting ridiculous.
I would not be surprised at all if early Cayennes, especially manual ones, start selling for absurd prices at some point.
They’re actually great off roading/overland rigs. I see all sorts of early Cayenne builds making the rounds in the blog world. You’re probably right…they may be cheap now but they’ll be figured out soon enough.
The diesels will also be super desirable. There was one from the mid 2010s listed locally in a forest green metallic and the classic Porsche dark tan interior in the low 30s for a while. The mileage was up there (60-70k I think) and it had a minor accident on its record but against all logic, reason, and sanity I thought about picking it up for longer than I’d like to admit.
The mileage was high-ish by Porsche standards but barely past break in by diesel standards. I’m not sure if it would’ve made a GOOD car necessarily but it was an undeniably cool one. But alas, when I was last exploring secondhand Porsche world the wife was very opposed because she said she thought it was too much of a flex for that time in our lives.
…I kind of understood where she was coming from, but is it really that much of a flex when you’re not planning on spending over 50k? Who knows. Regardless, in the words of a great Austrian poet….I’ll be baaaaahck
I’d strongly advise reading the guest post about Cayenne diesels from a few days back before diving into that world.
I don’t think old-school attitudes about diesel lifespan apply to modern engines, especially VAG ones.
The Cayenne is a rebadged Touregg, so perhaps it might have lower value due to obviously looking too much like the cheaper version
Ok, I agree with you in theory. I went to look at a fairly low mileage driver a few months ago before I picked up my bavaria (another story), but let me tell you something: run. Run FAR away.
Look, for some perspective, I own a 77 911S, and the parts cost on this car is stratospheric compared to any of my other cars. Example: My transmission had grinds, needed to be rebuilt. I paid $2500 in labor (cheapest I could find) but $5000 in PARTS. Just gears and synchros. The same parts for a Honda B series trans would be $500ish. It’s not just trans parts, it’s everything. Want an exhaust? That’ll be 4 GRAND. Everything on my 911 is like… 5x what it should cost, and… okay, fine, because the cars are worth so much, it’s (kind of) justifiable.
But the 928? Again, I went to look at it, I drove it, I like the style, I like the interior, it’s most definitely a cool car, BUT THE PARTS ARE BATSHIT INSANE. Like…. not stratospheric, they have left atmo and are floating around past most satellites, crazy. Any small piece of trim you need? $150-200 MINIMUM. Everything on this car was just… I started adding up a list of what the car needed to be a good driver, and it rapidly became idiotic to consider buying it.
Because of the cost of parts, and the complexity of the car, you will find tons and tons and tons of them in exactly this condition “ok, but not great, needs TLC”, and it’s because it is not only a losing proposition, but financial suicide to consider owning one of these. I like them… still do… but unless one falls in my lap that needs almost nothing for an insane deal, it’s never going to happen.
I love those Porsches, but they are a big ball of financial pain waiting to happen.
The Fiero will accept many GM engines with a bit of work. You pay GM prices on parts, with the downside that they are GM parts. But still, less potential for pain. And doesn’t Krylon make paint that sticks to plastic?
Whoever gets that 928 better be able to read a wiring diagram in German. Tha’s all I’m going to say about that.
User name checks out here.
My comment is based in experience and facts. My user name is based on my 14 years ‘refreshing’ my 944 and keeping it in one piece. I bought my 944 after I researched 928’s and following a few through their similar ‘refreshing process’. They have real electrical problems that are problematic to track down. So, yeah, user name checks out.
I’ve been recommissioning a 924 for the last 18 months, so can concur.
Look, I get it, it’s a Porsche, but anyone considering it over the Fiero either has a seriously fat wallet or a complete lack of understanding of what they’re in for. Even if the 928 runs and is somehow free of problems (based on appearances no one’s been kind to it in a while), it’s going to need a complete paint job just to not look like it belongs in a pick-n-pull.
One of these cars you can drive today, maintain cheaply and looks decent from the street. The other will make your wife ask you just what you were thinking.
As my user name would suggest, the 928 is the easy choice for me. A seemingly unmolested and complete example with a better interior than I’ve seen on other examples at twice the price? Even assuming that it needs a good deal of recommissioning work, these cars are fantastically rock-solid highway machines with torque for days. As this buy-in (or a little less with some negotiating), it’s absolutely worth putting back into fighting form.
The ’85 Fiero, on the other hand, will always be… an ’85 Fiero.
“Even assuming that it needs a good deal of recommissioning work….”
A thermostat for a 1985 Pontiac Fiero costs $5.04. A thermostat for the 928 costs $26.50.
A factory water pump for the Porsche 928 costs $1,150.
A factory water pump for the Fiero costs $108.
Is OEM truly $$$$ better? An aftermarket 928 water pump can cost $46.
Do timing kits next. IIRC the 928 timing kit, with pulleys, is around $1000. Everything on that car is NUTS. Need a front duct for the bumper? $200 please. It’s batshit.
The Fiero was the defacto donor car for 80s and 90s kit cars. There are probably more Fieros that look like Testarossas rotting away in backyards than Iroc Zs. That being said, when is the last time you saw a Fiero on the street?
This Fiero is a Mean Girl.
Outwardly attractive, rotten to the core.
At first I read this as Mean Grill and thought you were making a fire joke 😉
it’s not a Ferrari
Both would make decent electric conversions. I preer the Fiero because it is mid-engined. The Porsche has a lower drag coefficient driving in reverse than it does going forward.
I think with EV’s, engine placement doesn’t really matter much. It’s all about drive wheels at that point.
I had a Chevy Citation with the heart of a Chevy Citation. I’ll roll the dice on the Porsche.
(Admittedly, I had the V6 with the automatic, but still.)