Modified Pontiac Fiero With Tesla Engine Represents a Different Timeline for Electric Cars

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By Car Brand Experts

Let’s be honest: To acquire a Tesla Roadster, you’ll need to either spend a significant sum on the old version or wait indefinitely for the promised new release. But if you’re open to the idea of repurposing another car as the base for your Roadster, you could fast-track the process by creating your own version. For instance, you could install the components of a Model S inside a 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT.

Recently spotted at charging stations in Colorado, this Pontiac might just be the most senior vehicle you’ll ever witness sporting a Tesla emblem. This is not a mere badge swap, as it harnesses the powertrain from a salvaged Tesla Model S 85. With its retro 1980s angular design and state-of-the-art technology, it presents a nostalgic vibe akin to the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

The current owner, Tim Bradley, boasted that when he acquired this Fiero, it was a standout specimen. It was the 1988 GT model from the final year, featuring updated suspension and the top-tier powertrain including a 2.8-liter V6 engine mated to a five-speed Getrag manual transmission. At the time of purchase, it had only clocked 14,000 miles, and he chose it because it matched the exact car model he first met his wife in. Bradley enjoyed the Fiero in its original state for a few years until one evening when he shared a meal with his nephew Nick, who is employed at Classic EV Conversions. This is where the story takes an interesting turn.

During a conversation about the challenges of servicing the Fiero’s belts, Tim humorously mentioned how his electrically converted 1966 VW Beetle had surpassed his sports car in terms of speed. Prompted by Nick’s suggestion of turning the Pontiac into an electric vehicle as well, the idea swiftly evolved from a jest to a serious project. Without the influence of alcohol, and after some contemplation, the Fiero was placed on a lift, its powertrain removed, and preparations began for the conversion.

Parts were salvaged from a wrecked 2015 Model S 85D, featuring 16 battery modules laid out in a configuration similar to Tesla’s adaptation in the Lotus Elise: five in the front trunk and eleven in the rear engine compartment. Despite an increased weight of approximately 3,650 pounds, around 700 pounds heavier than the stock Fiero, Nick Bradley claimed that the weight distribution was superior to the original setup, resulting in significantly improved handling.

This necessitated custom rear coilovers and extensive engineering specific to this unique conversion. An aftermarket inverter with open-source control electronics had to replace Tesla’s proprietary software-locked inverter, although the original Tesla battery thermal management system was retained. While it can no longer utilize the Supercharger network, it is capable of accepting up to 10 kilowatts via its J1772 port, commonly found on most Level 2 chargers.

Due to its predominantly Tesla nature, the range of this vehicle approaches that of the original Model S: Tim has managed to extend it up to 230 miles. Nick mentions that it outperforms a standard Fiero in terms of speed—while the exact power output is unknown, even its solitary small Tesla drive unit is more than capable of rotating the rear wheels. Tim believes it could have better traction with wider tires, potentially improving its acceleration from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. One aspect where it doesn’t fall short is its top speed, as Tim Bradley confirms surpassing 100 mph and speculates that the car could reach 120.

Adapting the electric Fiero for practical use has also necessitated reimagining the interior, converting the tachometer into an ammeter and relocating the gear shifter to a knob on the dashboard. A center cupholder has been added in its place. The overall appearance still closely resembles the original design, except for the taillight now displaying “electric” instead of Pontiac. The vehicle elicits an enthusiastic response from onlookers.

“At traffic lights, people often roll down their windows to inquire about the vehicle,” mentioned Tim Bradley. “Upon explanation, reactions have ranged from ‘cool’ to ‘that’s badass’ and ‘awesome.’ I even had one offer, during a red-light stop, to purchase it. Although, it was a teenager who likely didn’t have the funds!”

Since the roof can still be opened, consider this Fiero EV almost like a homemade Tesla Roadster. Currently, it stands as the sole vehicle constructed this decade that is deserving of such a title, as the actual Tesla remains four years behind schedule with no clear timeline. Though, one could opt to simply strip off the roof of a Plaid, but the allure of transplanting its drivetrain into a Fiero carries a unique appeal.

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