had just hung up the phone with David, a good friend of mine who is a Realtor and part-time builder-developer. David was telling me how he had negotiated a sales contract for a rather large tract of land, which was part of an old farm. His intent was to subdivide the farm into smaller tracts to sell as building lots. Earlier in the day he had been 4-wheeling across the farm when he stopped to inspect an old barn on the property. To his dismay he discovered what he described as "numerous old junk cars and lots of probably hazardous chemicals" stored in the barn. He wanted me to go back with him and see if I knew what all of this stuff was.
It took less than a hour for David and I to drive from Mechanicsville to Tapahannock, where the farm was located. On the drive up David explained that the farm belonged to a rather eccentric gentleman who had retired to the area in the mid eighties. No one knew a whole lot about him, other than it was obvious he was not a farmer. Rumors were that he was once a project engineer with General Motors. Most of the land had laid fallow since he arrived, becoming overgrown with weeds and scrubby little cedar trees. There was an attempt one year for some men, who supposedly worked on the farm, to plant soybeans. But, for some reason they were never harvested. In the summer of '89 the owner took ill and died rather suddenly, leaving the farm totally unattended and barren for what was now over seven years. David had recently been contracted by the two surviving children, who lived in California, to serve as their agent to subdivide and sell the property, explaining that it took that long to probate the estate and clear title to the land. What was strange was that the children had no idea their father owned the farm prior to being contacted by estate attorneys.
We pulled off the blacktop highway onto a dusty back road shortly after 6 p.m. The sun was fast dropping off the horizon to the west. The road took us to a rather weathered and dilapidated old farm house well off the beaten path. David drove through the front yard, pulled the levers on the Bronco, shifting into 4-wheel drive, and began to drive across an open, unmowed field. As we rounded a small hill, a massive old wooden barn with a rusting metal roof came into view. The barn had to be at least 200 feet long and maybe half as wide. The power line to the barn had been cut. The ends were dangling from a tall pole, fast being overtaken by Kudzu, as was a huge silo at the end of the barn. The image was that of a giant green monster consuming everything.
We parked in front of the barn and walked up to the front doors. David pulled back on the door latch, switched on his krypton powered lantern-type flashlight and swept the beam of light inside. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but I immediately recognized the outlines of several Fieros sitting in the barn. They were scattered among hundreds of old hay bales, covered with the dust of time and a thick covering of white cement like droppings from the pigeons roosting in the rafters above. There were several 55 gallon drums near the cars with the flammable/hazardous chemical warning labels on the side. The faded labels showed they contained Acetone, a cleaner used for fiberglass resin.
Slowly, we began to walk into the barn, illuminating each car as we carefully felt our way through the darkness. I counted 12 cars, all Fieros, resting piece fully in the gloom.. Some appeared to be early coupes, at least two were late model GTs and there were two "skinless" Fieros near the rear. The two skinless Fieros were made of shinny material, unlike the customary black steel space frames I was familiar with. From where I stood, I would have guessed they were aluminum frames. Far in the back of the barn were two very strange Fiero-looking cars with extremely wide bodies and huge fins across the back. Even through all the dirt I could make out the words ENTECH GTP painted across the nose.
I was puzzled by a wall framed out of 2x4s that ran down the center of the barn. Nailed to the 2x4s was a combination of chicken wire and heavy opaque plastic sheeting, making a seemingly secure partition for something on the other side. Near the center of the barn we found a large double door in the middle of the plastic and wire wall. On the door was a cheap padlock and hasp - not much of a barrier, just enough to keep a curious visitor at bay. As David flipped the lock back and forth in the beam of his flashlight, I looked into the open trunk of an adjacent Fiero. There, under the spare, was the tire iron resting on It's hooks. I took the tire iron and placed it into the eye of the hasp and looked over to David. Without saying a word, he gave a nod of approval to continue. I pulled down on the end of the tire iron, the screws holding the hasp to the door frame let go and the lock drooped down to the left.
We carefully pulled open the doors and scanned the room with the beam of the flashlight. All around us were fiberglass molds, bags of fiberglass chop, fiberglass cloth, drums of gelcoat, resin and acetone. In one corner there was a mound of clay, with eerie long spider webs projecting out to nearby attachments. A huge air compressor flanked the back of the room, along with an assortment of glass chop guns and hoses.
I walked slowly over to a huge roll top desk sitting near the end of this inner room. The top of the desk was partially open, exposing the butt of a roll of blueprints. Carefully, I opened the top of the desk and unrolled the blueprints. David was standing behind me with the flashlight beam coming over my left shoulder. As I looked through the blueprints I was amazed to see detailed engineering drawings for a car unlike any I have ever witnessed. The line drawings showed numerous dimensions, contours and notes. One of the paragraphs on the left of the drawing noted: "The new bonded aluminum space frame has increased torsional stiffness to the point that lighter glass panels are no longer cracking. As my eyes scanned across the blueprints and the numerous papers in the desk I noted a rather fat, red notebook with a Federal Express letter lying next to it. I picked up the letter, the date was March 1, 1988. I began reading the letter.
"Dear Terry, It didn't work. Losh will announce tomorrow in a press release that the plant will shut down on August 17. Alcan is dropping out. Our only hope is with Entech.. As far as GM is concerned, the project is dead. There are no more funds to continue. I am sorry, my friend. There is nothing more I can do." The signature at the bottom was simply, "Jay."
I opened the red notebook, careful not to damage the yellowing and crumbling hand-written pages inside. As I scanned through the notebook, it became apparent that this was a diary of sorts. Each page had a date at the top and numerous notes relating to telephone conversations, design changes in the project car, warnings of some type and ideas for further design improvements. I was reading fast, skipping over some pages. Still, certain passages seemed to jump off the pages and scream for attention.
"........utmost secrecy is IMPERATIVE at this point. The guys over at Corvette are getting suspicious. If they catch wind of what we are trying to do, we will be DEAD tomorrow."
".........if Losh even suspects we are continuing with this project he will have a cow. DO NOT call me at the office anymore - things are getting mighty strange around here with a lot of infighting over the whole Fiero project, not just the new stuff."
"........Entech loves the car, and the new engine. The prototype 4.4L, 24 valve, quad cam V-6 is putting out in excess of 360 HP with the supercharger".
"....... Sawruk says doing it in 4.0 seconds is too damn fast. We would have to require professional driving school for each buyer of the car. Cut the power back to 250-300 and slow the car down to about 5.5."
".......the 1991 Fiero will finally tell the world America can make a sports car that surpasses the best of all Italian, German and Japanese models!"
All of a sudden David gasped, "look at this". He was standing in front of an enlarged opening to the silo, covered with a sheet of heavy canvas. We pulled back the canvas and as we entered the silo my heart literally stopped. There in the center of the silo floor was the most beautiful car I have ever seen. Even in the darkness and dust you could detect an iridescent glow from the car's paint. The lines were flawless, and rivaled anything designed by exotic Italian car makers. The mid placed engine appeared to be overly large, and long, with massive magnesium valve covers wrapping over both sides of the engine. I strongly suspected that I was looking at a completed, fully functional model of the previously mentioned 1991 Fiero.
Dave's flashlight was fading fast. The once white beam was now a faint yellow glow and the outside world had slipped into twilight. My little pocket mag-lite had also grown dim. As much as we hated to retreat, it was necessary to find our way back to the Bronco before we were left in total gloom inside the cave-dark barn. Just as we reached the outer door, I remembered the red notebook and blueprints. I wanted to go back for it, but the flashlights were completely dead and it was impossible to see your hand in front of your face.
Once outside, Dave and I agreed to return the next day with additional lights and a video camera. On the way home, we chatted about what all this stuff was, wondering what the owner's motives were and what we might do with the collection. Dave's feeling was that I could have anything there if I would haul it off. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a bunch of old cars and some unknown chemicals. If the EPA caught wind of this, they would surely mandate days of paperwork and soil testing, perhaps slowing his development project for a year or more..
I got into bed a little after midnight. Four hours later I was awakened by the sound of thunder, driving rain and howling wind. The power in the house was off and it was totally dark, except for the brilliant flashes of lightening. As I watched out the bedroom window, huge bolts flashed as brightly as the sun, lighting up the night sky and lacing the horizon into one continuous landscape. It was one of the worst electrical storm I had witnessed in years.
The storm finally abated, and David arrived at the promised 9 a.m. The sun was shining brightly. Both of us were excited about our find and talked about how to share all of this new information, as well as the prototype Fiero, with the rest of the world.
When we arrived at the barn, we were greeted by a smoldering pile of ashes and a lone brush truck from the local volunteer fire department. As David began to ask what happened, the fireman responded, "don't really know - the whole thing went up like a rocket. Must have been full of old, dry hay and gawd knows what else. That huge silo acted like a chimney on a blast furnace. Had to be a bolt of lightn'. That was one hell of a storm last night".
As David and I turned to walk away, something I quickly scanned over in the red notebook came to mind. If my memory serves me right, there was a letter signed by "Terry" acknowledging a hurried secret shipment of a twin to the car we saw in the silo to someone named Jim in the back of a U-Haul van. I believe the destination was Maryland, but I'm not positive. I also remember the name "IRMA", or something like that, in the letter. Perhaps the twin still survives? Perhaps someone will eventually find it, or reveal it's existence? I hope so.
Randy T. Agee
Copyright October 1996