By on June 15, 2012

By 1990, it just wasn’t done for Detroit to build its own really small subcompacts. Instead, badge-engineered cars designed and/or built by overseas subsidiaries or partners got the job done. GM had the Suzuki-based Metro, Chrysler still had the Simca-based Omnirizon, and Ford had the Mazda-based Festiva. You still see the occasional Festiva on the street, what with gas prices being what they are, but most of them were crushed long ago. Here’s one in Denver, sitting in the limbo between the street and The Crusher.
Imagine putting in 238,001 miles behind the wheel of a Festiva!
The Festivas will march unmourned into the shredder… until the day there are no Festivas left.

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64 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Ford Festiva...”


  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    These things were unapologetically cheap for their day. Fond memories of car pooling with five people to college

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Hi Murilee, I think you might have chopped off something here:

    “GM had the Suzuki-based Metro, Chrysler still had the Simca-based Festiva. ”

    Maybe you meant to say something along the lines of “GM had the Suzuki-based Metro, Chrysler still had the Simca-based Omni/Horizon and Ford had the Kia-based Festiva”?

  • avatar
    toplessFC3Sman

    “Chrysler Still had the simca-based Festiva”? The Horizon & Omni, while ford had the Festiva. It looks like a line got deleted here

  • avatar
    TokyoPlumber

    I’m guessing this is a stealth sobriety test. The FORD Festiva pictured is based on the Mazda 121. The Simca-based Dodge Omni / Plymouth Horizon were still being sold in 1990. Am I free to go on my way, officer?

    P.S. The Festiva was a really good little car.

  • avatar
    Syke

    I had one back in the late 80’s. Very nice car for the money, except for the standard issue Yokahama tyres which I swear were made out of bakelite. I had the car break loose on me on wet roads (definitely not hooning) and spin out on a couple of occasions. Fortunately never hit anything.

    The fun part of this ownership was my doing English Civil War reenacting at the time. Made a light duty roof rack out of 2×2’s, and strapped a couple of 18 foot pikes (long spears to those not into Renaissance weaponry) to the roof. As the pikes were about four feet longer than the car, it made for an interesting sight.

    And I never had a problem with some blue hair doing 35 in a 55 zone when so equipped. A pike head tap on her back window usually got some cobwebs removed from the accelerator.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Pictures of long pikes on a Festive would be epic… sounds Mad Max-ish.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A 1988 Festiva L was my first new car. I got 3,500 miles out of the front Yokahamas, 6,500 miles out of the back ones. I drove it pretty hard though, and commuted to my after-school job through a road called 21-Curves. Mine had a rough existence. When it was 3 months old, an elderly woman drove down the middle of the road head on towards me only to swerve into her own lane when I was almost to her. It turns out the reason she pulled to her side of the road was to make a wide left turn, removing any residual newness from the Festiva. It was in the shop for the next three months, as Ford incompetence sent Ford Ranger parts in response to most body shop requests for Festiva part numbers. When I got it back, I hit a deer hard enough to pull in the frame rails around it about three weeks later. Two years later I finally rolled the thing and finished it off. It had 44,000 miles, a slipping clutch, a grinding 2nd gear, and an engine that had ceased to be smooth or peppy. I liked the packaging and probably bought it because of the fun I’d had driving an MG Metro at Zandvoort when I was 14.

  • avatar
    John

    An economical 2,645 pound compact hatch you can actually see out of, and the only thing that looks likely to break is the stereo, that went 238,000 miles? Ford would sell a million of them if they could make them today.

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    Unless I’m mistaken, the standard wheels on this car were 12-inchers. That’s one inch larger than the piece of paper sitting in front of you on your desk.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I wonder how something like this would sell in today’s market. Plastic tarp-like interior, crank windows, a main electrical harness with just 10 wires in it, just a basic CAR. If I were ordering something for commercial service for my dunderheaded employees to use, and these were priced below a Sonic, I would be game.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I think these cars were a product of the times. Today, most people would decide they could get a slightly used car several classes above for the same price instead but back then the brutally short expected useful life and high expected level of unreliability of a used car combined with the sleaziness of used car lots and obscene interest rates for second hand cars made stripper penalty boxes an attractive option if you only had so much to spend on wheels and you needed reliable transportation. Maybe not an attractive option – perhaps “least distasteful” option is a better way of phrasing it.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      “I wonder how something like this would sell in today’s market?”

      It wouldn’t since it would fail all current safety regualtions!

  • avatar
    cwallace

    I’ll bet it was that bullseye shot to the headlamp that finally sealed its fate– wouldn’t pass inspection, and a replacement was just that little bit too expensive.

  • avatar
    patman

    My high school jazz band director had one of these. It was cheap, reliable and got good mileage but good grief was it cramped and miserable when he’d load up with 4 HS kids and a bunch of horns to head off to sectionals – the poor little motor couldn’t handle the extra mass nor could the A/C handle the extra thermal mass.

    As a commuter for him though it was perfect and he could fit his small PA in the back with the seats folded down for his jazz combo gigs.

    • 0 avatar

      “As a commuter for him though it was perfect and he could fit his small PA in the back with the seats folded down for his jazz combo gigs.”

      PA=
      Personal Assistant?
      Public Address system?
      Prince Albert?

      Enquiring minds…

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      This reminds me of that Matthew Broderick movie “Election”, where he plays a high school teacher and drives a Festiva. There’s a scene where he fantasizes slicking back his hair, putting on some shades and cruising down the highway in a Italian convertible. Then as he pulls into the school’s parking lot, the music stops and the little red Festiva pulls into the spot abruptly. Switching to the director’s commentary on the DVD will enlighten the viewer that the director considers the Festiva an “impotent man’s car,” which correlates with the plot point of the movie where he fails to get his wife pregnant.

      • 0 avatar
        patman

        I haven’t seen that movie but that’s exactly the image I picture – fantasizing about cruising top down in an Alfa-Romeo Spider along the Mediterranean coast on his way to some prestigious European jazz festival…

      • 0 avatar
        DaveDFW

        In “Election,” the teacher’s fantasy car was a Jaguar XK-E, not something Italian.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I came close to buying a Festiva in the late 90s. It was either that or a Chevy Sprint/Pontiac Firefly. Back then I was in college and was driving my parent’s 1991 Dodge RAM 50 with a thirsty 2.4 litre engine. And that was back when gas was about 58 cents/litre, which was pricy at the time. I instead ended up with my room-mate’s 1985 Jetta diesel when he went off to teach in the UAE. And thus my (love) affair with VW diesels began.

    I’d still love to rescue this Fajita (that’s what my wife calls them). I don’t think the wife would approve though even if I could get it home.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    You’re going to get the L-car Jihad sending your flaming bags of poo now for confusing their clearly superior, European designed and Autobahn approved Horizon to some Korean thing.

  • avatar
    erik_t

    A friend of mine had one of these in high school. Red, like this. He kept bringing it into the auto shop class to work on it. The teacher referred to it as his hemorrhoid.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    I love that the odo is 238,001… ha did someone push it just a little to get it over 238,000?

  • avatar
    NN

    If I recall, this was actually the first Kia built car ever sold in the US. It was a Mazda platform but manufactured in Korea by Kia. In hindsight, it seems most people found these somewhat durable, especially compared to other domestic offerings at the time. But Kia didn’t learn much of a lesson from them, as they went on to sell Sephias and similar garbage for at least a decade or so until, well, just a couple years ago.

    This habit of having foreign subsidiary’s develop cars has only grown for GM/Ford/Chrysler…to the point where now there is hardly anything they actually develop in the US outside of pickup trucks and a few large/luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “This habit of having foreign subsidiary’s develop cars has only grown for GM/Ford/Chrysler…to the point where now there is hardly anything they actually develop in the US outside of pickup trucks and a few large/luxury cars.”

      This I lament, if I wanted to go the Asian or Euro route I would purchase an automobile from a company based there. Now it seems even if you choose to ‘buy American’ you still end up with an Asian (Cruze) or Euro (Regal) designed ride without the added bonus of being built by workers of said Asian or Euro based firm. Maybe this is why I scratch my head at Toyonda-philes, unless it’s built in Japan, or 100% of Japanese parts at the least, what point is there to buying a ‘Japanese’ car?

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Maybe the point is to buy a car, not its origin?

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        But that’s just it though, a car’s parts and assembly point are its origin. If a Camry is built in Georgetown, Kentucky using an engine sourced from the same facility, ask yourself what part of it is really Japanese?

        Defeats the purpose of buying a Japanese/German/Swedish/British/Korean/American car, and in this case all profits ultimately go overseas after all taxes are paid. This may sound great, but its really not economically speaking. Today it brings jobs, but what happens tomorrow when the foreign owners take their factory to China, Brazil, or the next cheap-labor-du-jour? All with the training and know-how necessary to set up shop there provided from experience gained in building US plants…

        So why does Toyota move 400K of these units a year? Do American buyers really hate Detroit that much, or are they just so hypnotized they don’t see the product they are buying is no more foreign or elitist than the Chevy down the street?

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        28:
        I think most buyers of Toyondas buy them because they are reliable and hold their value. I certainly didn’t buy any of mine for reasons of elitism or anti-Americanism. In fact, I’m glad most of them have been US-made. And I am pretty sure they are built by Toyonda employees. Not so concerned about what race they happen to be. It’s about design, execution, and value.

  • avatar
    righteousball

    I remember riding in one back in 1993, and somehow the car impressed me at highway speed. Felt like it had more aplomb than a B13 Nissan Sentra (obviously not an SE-R). Could be noise, seating height or my subsequent Mazda fandom frakking with my head. :)

  • avatar
    dwight

    The best Kia-built car until they went into bankruptcy. I bought the updated Ford Aspire, stupidly, of course. A heavier car with the same 8-valve 4 cylinder engine. Horrible car to drive especially in cross winds — but cheap to purchase and service. Still see the odd one around.

  • avatar
    freeman_xii

    Funny 20 years later best-selling car in IRAN

  • avatar
    mcs

    There’s a Festiva almost identical (same color) to this one still running around Boston’s northern suburbs. I saw it again yesterday. Too bad it’s in Denver, otherwise it would make a great parts car.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I have a friend who still drives one just like this.

  • avatar
    Feds

    My dad test drove one of these. He was all set to buy until he had to climb the the Hwy 20 hill coming out of Hamilton. I guess he figured 4 minutes of WOT every day would be too much of a reminder of his intense cheapness.

    That said: Probably one of the best advertizing campaigns ever. To this day whenever a new subcompact is launched, I imagine the hood/doors/hatch opening and closing while a mariachi band sings its name over 3 sylables:

    FES-TEE-VAH!!!

    AH-VEE-OOOOO!!!

    FIVE-HUN-DREAD!!!

    IIIII-CUE-OOOO!!!

    etc…

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal1

    I feel like this car should be nicknamed the Festivus.

    Ford Festivus: The automobile for the rest of us!

    Now it’s time for the feats of strength and the airing of grievances…

  • avatar
    philadlj

    145/S/R/12 tires. So tiny!

  • avatar
    Steve65

    I’ve always liked these, and would probably have owned one at some point but for one detail: the crawling-mouse seatbelts. That’s an instant dealbreaker. Won’t own or drive a car with them.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Great cars, especially once they went to FI in ’92. Best TCO ever, plus the joy of karting on the highway! Wish I still had mine.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    I wouldn’t mind having this as a cheap punt around….. then again I’m the kind of phsycopath would shove in a 4 cylinder EcoBoost into the thing.

  • avatar
    Glen.H

    These were good little cars in their day! I believe that particular day was a Tuesday in July 1989.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    When Ford announced that the Fiesta was coming back in 2011, many thought of the Festiva and posted ‘eww I hated those!’

    Many too young to remember the 70’s Fiesta, and just assumed same name as this thing here.

  • avatar
    rnc

    Traded and 8 for one of these in 91′ (no idea what year it was) didn’t have a windshield, best go-cart I ever owned.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Not long after these came out some company made mid-engine ones with the Taurus SHO Yamaha V6. Wonder how many are left?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Weren’t these Kias or Mazdas or something?

    I know that they go for 1200 on craigslist in okay shape, I dunno why.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    238k! I think i’d rather walk.

    FWIW, a guy I went to Jr. High with, his old man swore by these, had like 3 or 4 in running order at any given time. If one broke, he’d just hop in another one…lol

  • avatar
    DisTurbo

    Glen Edward Rogers: A serial killer who was arrested while driving his latest victim’s Festiva. Whenever I see one of these, it reminds me of that creepy dude.

  • avatar
    CarGal

    Ugh. One of my girlfriends had one of these in college. To be fair, it held up extremely well but dear Lord you do not want to cross-country in one of them.

    ….which we did.

    Never, ever again. First and last time I drove a car with no power steering.


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