Step one: remove the distributor cap and clean the contacts with a brass wire wheel affixed to my extremely crappy rotary tool. It's one of those cheapo 12v kinds you can get from Harbor Freight for about $8, and it has absolutely no torque whatsoever. But it was fine for this and the brass wire wheel got the distributor cap terminals shiny clean.
(Yes, the inner contacts, not the external ones. The external ones were fine.)
The car ran slightly better, so:
Step two: pull plugs and note condition thereof.
Rear bank:I sat down and thought about this a bit, and then thought, I wonder if I'm not having a problem with the cold start injector?
3) Black and sooty
5) Black and sooty
2) A bit wet, blackish side of normal
4) Black and sooty
6) Black, sooty, wet
See, when GM designed this engine, rather than just leave the main fuel injectors on for a little bit longer at cold startup--thereby providing cold-start enrichment in a sensible and controllable fashion--they instead have a separate fuel injector on the flywheel side of the lower intake manifold, which opens when the engine is cold and the engine is cranking and first starting up, and that provides cold-start enrichment. It doesn't exactly get all the cylinders, though.
If the CSI was stuck open, that would account for the symptoms I'm seeing. #6 isn't firing because it's too rich; #1 is fine because it's farthest from the CSI; #2 and #3 are getting too
much fuel but not so much that they can't fire.
So what did I do? I tore into the thing and yanked the plenum off the upper intake manifold, thus exposing the fuel rail for further repair. It's not a complicated job; but I'm going to need a noid light and another pair of hands to help me with further diagnosis of the issue.
On the plus side, I've got a complete spare fuel rail with good injectors sitting in a box in the garage. If I've got a bad injector or two I can replace 'em.
So I'm going to have to dig into the factory service manual and go to the Fiero forum and ask some questions, and fix the engine, before I even think about fixing the brakes.
* * *
Aggravations department: I just got started and the old gut said, "Hey, I need to poop!" I swear, physical activity is the best f-ing laxative for me. I hit the can right out of bed and, well, "very little" took place; but man, the instant I get started on a project, look out nelly!
...and then after I'd finished with the distributor I started getting hypoglycemic, so I ended up taking a run out to Culver's for a DD. *Sigh*.
* * *
But man, what a great day to be outside! The temperature is perfect, and there's a nice breeze, and it's sunny and pleasant.
And since I can't get any further right now, I'm going to go ride the motorcycle.