The V8 Story!!

V8 Conversion Project (s)

Just thought I would share with all Fiero owners members my project (s)! .......by Paul Vargyas , August 1999

If you would have asked me in 1998 (or earlier) if I ever planed to install a V8 in a Fiero, I would have said...NO, absolutely not! Well, like a LOT of people in the club, after I have owned several Fieros, I got involved in the "how can I go faster" discussions. Since I live about 30 miles from V8 Archie’s, I have had the opportunity to see his work at the spring 1998 club meeting held at his shop in Lake Barrington, IL. I originally thought about a 3800 supercharged V6 (looks hi-tech!), but after looking at the V8 engine installation process, pictures of Fiero V8’s and then listening to the SOUND of a V8, I was hooked on the idea of a V8. I thought about doing a installation myself………even bought a 88 cradle and started looking around for a engine & transmission. I could see that this was going to be a looooong project. Then fate took over…..The time was right. In April 1998, I purchased a Red 5-speed Formula with Sunroof, pw, pdl, cruise (sort of hard to find with all this original equipment). I knew the owner and the car. I decided this was going to be the car for my V8 project. I had all the brakes redone with new rotors and calipers and then took the car to Archie's in early June, 1998 and told him I wanted a brand new crate 350 engine, TPI fuel injection with LT-1 injectors, and his "master installation kit". I also purchased poly rear suspension bushings, and new Monroe SensaTrac struts and asked him to install these items during the conversion since the engine cradle would be out of the car. Since I was close enough to Lake Barrington, I had the opportunity to visit Archie’s shop on occasion to monitor the installation progress. I was going to offer my "expert help", but Archie quickly explained that he charged $300.00 extra if I wanted to "help". I decided to let him do his job, so the only "help" I was able to offer was to stay out of the way and do some detailing and parts procurement while the engine was out. The "V8 transition" took about 3 weeks, but I had told Archie that I was in no hurry. 

I picked up the car on Thursday. , July 30th, 1998.

What a ride! This is a fast car. I have ridden in "hopped up" V6's, 3.1 upgrades and even a 3800 Supercharged 5-speed 86GT. I have owned Corvettes (some years ago) and currently have a 98 Grand Prix supercharged GTP, but all I can say is: #1 There is no sound like a 350 V8 (w/twin cats and twin resonator tips), #2 there is no substitute for cubes when it comes to raw torque & power.  Archie feels we are getting about 260-270 hp from this setup. (No hot cam or headers…. yet!). Seat of the pants feeling says there are few vehicles on the road that will keep up with this car.

While I have no official times, a stop watch is showing mid to upper  5's for  0-60 times. The torque is the most pleasant part of this set up. It comes on in any gear at very low RPM's. It really puts you back in the seat. I have added a sport shifter from Rodney Dickman which makes it feel like I have better shift control.

Engine looks great in the bay, the TPI system gives it the contemporary hi-tech look, and there is no noticeable weight transfer penalty (the battery went up front UNDER the spare tire). Handling appears to be close to pre-V8 handling. Possible reason is the addition of 225/50ZR16 Comp TA's on 7.5" rims. Everything works, including the factory a/c. One of the main problems I can see with this conversion is excess rear tire wear due to the drivers need to use the accelerator too aggressively! I guess I am one of the guys who talked about this with a lot of people in the club and on the Fiero Internet newsgroup list, but decided to do something to make it happen! Before you ask.... Here is what it costs to have this conversion done:
(Note: these are 1998 costs)

Master build kit (manual) $3150 (Auto is $2950)

New 350 crate engine (long block) $1500

TPI fuel injection system $1600 (incl. LT1 injectors, ECM, chip, wiring harness, intake manifold, HEI distributor, gaskets, etc.) Only $400 if carbureted)

Labor to do complete installation $2250 (incl. cleaning/painting cradle, engine compartment, etc.)

Total $8500 

Is it inexpensive? NO

Was it done right, on time? YES

How much could I have saved if I did it myself? $2250. Was it worth it to me to have Archie do it? YES.

Can you cut corners yourself? YES (used engine, no 4-core radiator, cheap clutch, no TPI, do your own exhaust etc)

How long if you do it yourself? Too long! (And probably very frustrating)

Was it worth it? YES.

If you have been thinking about an engine conversion for awhile, my suggestion is: go for it, life is short, enjoy it.

 

BUT, the story does not end here. In July, 1999 I sold this car, and decided to put essentially the same drivetrain in my 88 Formula T-Top car. This one adds Sanderson headers, SLP Siamese air tubes, more chrome, Koni struts/shocks and a cleaner engine compartment. Costs were roughly the same as above, except that the headers were more, plus I had them "jet-hot" coated, the SLP chromed tubes were expensive (but they look great), the Koni's added costs, but...... the project came out great. The pictures are available off the home page link.

 

Paul Vargyas

paulv@xnet.com