88Gt and Pace Car
Ken and Kim Shadlak and our two sons Kyle, and Kurtis joined the fiero club on July 29, 2002. We are the owners of a red 1988 Fiero GT equipped with an automatic transmission coupled to a 300 hp Cadillac Northstar engine.
We bought the car in 1990 for Kim to drive. She had a 1984 SE with a stick that she loved and we wanted to upgrade to the 1988 GT. She didn’t like the automatic as much as the stick. She used the car to go back and forth to work for about 4 years until she got pregnant with our first son in 1994. We bought a Chevy Astro van for her and parked the Fiero in the garage.
With a new child in our lives the fiero didn’t get used very much. When I did find the time to drive it, I always felt that the 2.8l with an automatic wasn’t powerful enough. Compared to the two corvettes I had owned before I got married, it just seemed too slow to me.
I loved the design of the Fiero so I started looking for 1988 yellow GT with a five-speed stick. I wanted yellow because it’s my favorite color and the sticks seemed more powerful, although not as powerful as the corvettes.
I learned that there were V8 conversion kits for the Fieros with stick shift, but my initial research found that the automatics couldn’t be converted.
After three attempts to buy a yellow 1988 Fiero GT (missing out due to timing or money) I started to do more research on what I could do to make my current car more fun. I learned that there was a conversion kit to put a Cadillac Northstar engine in Fieros with automatics. I started gathering information on the Northstar conversion from a few different companies. After extensive research I chose to work with Design 1 Systems Conversion. Kevin, the owner, was the nicest and most knowledgeable person I talked with.
Next, I needed to find the engine. The computer in Kevin’s conversion kit requires an Northstar engine from a 1993 to 1999 Cadillac of which there are only two to choose, the stock engine with 275 hp and the l37 option 300 hp (called a ‘vin 9”). The choice was obvious; I had to go for the ‘VIN 9’.
After a month of looking for an engine, I only found a few. They all had between 60,000 and 100,000 miles on them. Since I couldn’t find one with low miles on it I gave up on the idea of the conversion.
In the early summer I started going to car shows and cruises. I got the itch for more power again. I started calling around to the local junkyards and searching the inter-net. Thanks to Chris Craton at Schrams Auto parts, I found a 1998 Eldorado “VIN 9” with only 2,800 miles on it.
I got the engine on my son Kyle’s 7th birthday, June 11, 2002, and the conversion began. I wanted the conversion to be show quality. Cut and cobble was not an option. Most of the parts that were installed in the conversion were powder coated by Steve Taylor of S & S Powder coating and by Bill Walker of Q.C. coatings.
I also made countless calls to Kevin at Design 1. I was truly impressed by his ability to walk me through the sticky points of the conversion. His suggestions helped make the engine look like it was standard equipment. He is the kind of person I would recommend to my friends.
While I had the car apart I upgraded the rear suspension and detailed out the engine compartment. With the help of some old friends and some new ones from the Fiero club (Ron Lafortune & Don Adkins) I finished two days after the Woodward dream cruise on August 19, just two (long) months from the day I started. A special thanks goes to my wife for taking care of the kids while I devoted nearly all of my spare time to the project.
My first show won me two trophies. One for 1st place street machine 1988 to future, and one for outstanding street machine 1986 thru 1990. I couldn’t be prouder.
I have recently bought a 1984 Indy pace car for Kim so she can have her own fiero to show and drive. I have recently made a real pace car scoop with lights and I will be doing some engine modifications.
I was also given a 1984 SE Fiero for free (the price was right) so now I have three. This red 1984 SE was just like the first car Kim had. I am making it into a 1988 Formula clone. This car will be our all weather daily driver.