By on October 13, 2009

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In the depths of the gloomy automotive winter of the late seventies, the Fiesta made a brief appearance that brought a ray of sunshine into our deprived existence. She was like that cute, skinny little German exchange student who appeared one day at High School, and dazzled us with her algebra, physics, gymnastics and fencing. The jocks didn’t know what to make of her, and their girl friends cast disdainful glances at her. But those of us who favored taut agility over big hips and padded vinyl tops fell hard for her. And when she suddenly disappeared just as mysteriously as she’d arrived, she left behind the kind of memories that last a lifetime.

Ford had the same problem in 1978 as it does today. Its compact car has been in production almost a decade. The market is shifting to ever smaller cars. CAFE standards are tightening. The Asian brands are cleaning up in the segment. What to do? Well, its Fiesta is going gang-busters in Europe. So bring it here, stat. Sound familiar? Well, history has an annoying habit of repeating itself, especially in the car biz.

CC 26 011 800So if history does repeat, what does the 1978 Fiesta tell us about the 2011 Fiesta? Shall we start with the good news? The Fiesta was a ball to drive. In fact, it was flat-out the most bang-for-the-buck fun on four wheels available in the US at the time. Thank VW’s repeated bone-headedness for that.

The Rabbit/Golf Mk.1 had arrived three years earlier with exactly the same description as above: light, zippy, toss-able; the early Rabbit delivered an unparalleled package of Euro-spec delight. But in 1978, VW opened its first US factory (history is about to repeat again), and hired an ex-GM exec James McLernon to run it…into the ground. He knew what Americans wanted in a VW: a “Malibuized” Rabbit with a softer suspension and cheaper interior, and reduced the engine size from the zippy 1.6 in 1977, to a substantially weaker 1.45 liter.

Willkommen Fiesta! It came straight from the Cologne factory in undiluted and unadulterated form. Actually, it was better than what the Europeans got, with a bigger engine than was offered there, until 1981’s XR2 came along, anyway. Europeans had a choice of 900cc, 1.1, and 1.3 liter engines, the US version had a 1.6; all were revised versions of the old Kent OHV engine. Not as smooth and zippy as the VW EA827 OHC unit, it nevertheless got the job done. Especially since the Fiesta was a whole size smaller than the Rabbit/Golf, and weighed only some 1700 pounds.

The Fiesta’s roots origins go back to a stillborn Ford world car concept of 1963. But the idea sprang back to life in the beginning of the seventies, in response to the popular new Euro hatchbacks like the Fiat 127 and Renault R5. The European Escort back then was still RWD, and destined to get bigger, so Ford put out the call for a contemporary FWD design, and Tom Tjaarda at Ghia answered. CC 26 007 800

Project “Bobcat” was approved in ’73, and Ford set up assembly lines in Spain, England and Germany to build up to 500k units per year. And ever since, Fiesta has been a mainstay of Ford’s European ops. It was never planned for the US, but the energy crisis, VW’s Rabbit, and the madly successful new Civic forced Ford’s hand. A quick modification to meet US crash, safety and emission standards got it here; but the Fiesta ended up just being a three-year stop-gap until the all-new FWD Escort arrived in 1981. That’s the bad news, presumably not to be repeated.

Ford followed VW’s Rabbit footsteps and drastically dumbed down its new FWD global-platform 1981 Escort for the US. So the Fiesta ended up being an automotive-enthusiast mayfly: here today, gone tomorrow. I don’t know the numbers, but I suspect that Ford didn’t import nearly as many as they might have, because they were probably losing money on each one, due to the weak dollar at the time (think Astra). That’s also why the new Fiesta will be hecho en Mexico.

The Fiesta was one of the few rays of sunshine during the bleak late-seventies Malaise Era. Especially so in bright yellow, like this one, just like the one my twenty-year old sister-in-law bought used and sight unseen, without knowing how to drive a stick. I got the honors of bringing it home from Pasadena, and then teaching her how to drive it. Fun times.

CC 26 014 800She was a pretty quick learner, despite the un-ambivalent clutch. And the Fiesta was pretty quick too. Zero to sixty came in about eleven or so seconds. That was enough to worry some of the strangled V8s coming out of Detroit, like the 110 hp Chevy small blocks. With sixty-six perky ponies on tap, street light drags were harmless fun. But tight traffic and edgy canyons were Fiesta time. It was one eager little puppy. No wonder some Fiestas are still hard at work autocrossing.

The owner of this Fiesta has a bright green “S” model that he uses for that purpose. The Fiesta’s Kent engine is eminently tunable, the English equivalent of the Chevy small block. And Euro Ford’s long-running rep for good handling was already established. Attention to detail pays off.

I think the owner told me he has or had a third one too. They’re probably the last roadworthy Fiestas in Eugene. How about in your town? Parts are getting iffy, he told me; having to reach out to Europe, for things like a throttle cable. That’s how it is, when it gets to the end of the line for some of the imported cars that were once so plentiful. There comes a time where it just gets too hard, at least for a daily driver like this example.

That’s why I feel a sense of urgency about Curbside Classics. Once-common cars are disappearing quickly; where are all the gen1 Coronas? Mazda 626s? GM H-bodies? I’m making myself anxious; better grab the camera and go on the hunt. Too bad I don’t have a Fiesta to hop into for the task. That would really inspire me, especially if it was sunshine yellow. Oh well. But I do know where a bright yellow Ford Festiva is parked. Is that CC worthy, or not?

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Thank you for all of your comments and suggestions yesterday. The one that I most took to heart was the suggestion to have a broader international scope for those cars produced and/or sold abroad. In hindsight, I realize now that this Fiesta CC is very US-centric, even though the Fiesta was one of the first truly global cars, and its impact in Europe was much more significant and lasting than in the US. If you look at the series of flags affixed below the Fiesta’s rear logo, they’re all European; the stars and stripes are noticeably absent. Did Ford do that on purpose, or were they too cheap to change it for what they knew was going to be a short three-year “study abroad” program?

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78 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1978 Ford Fiesta...”

  • avatar

    On my first ever trip to the UK – early ’80s – I needed to hire a car for a short trip to Oxford (from Heathrow) – I was told it was to be a Fiesta much like the one in the photo here. The counter chap asked if I wanted the small engine or the large engine version. Amazed that there was a choice, I asked what the difference was. 900 cc or 1100cc I was told. I chuckled.

    Hardly imagining what 900cc would be like, I took the 1100. Soon I was on the M25 at 80mph with room to spare on the pedal. After my trip to Oxford, I decided to do some more touring so I went to Dover. Then back to Heathrow. This was certainly a Zoom zoom moment – well before Mazda took the term.

    I loved every minute in that car – wondered why we couldn’t get this back home.

    Let’s hope the new Fiesta has the genes of the past.

    • 0 avatar

      I purchased a one year old fiesta in 78 or 79. It was orange. I needed an economical vehicle and I was a Ford person. I paid a little over $3000.00 for the Fiesta and I drove the car for 10 years. It was the best car for the money I have ever spent. I gave the car to a friend of mine who was in much need of a vehicle. She drove the car for another 6 years before it gave out. Since the cost of gas has pasted $3 per gallon I have been on the look out for a used Fiesta to purchase and restore and have not found one that has factory air. I often wonder why Ford does not bring back this car to the US. Thjey would be able to sell them by the boatload. This car was fun to drive and had virtually no issues. Great article. Duane

  • avatar

    Festivas are definitely CC worthy. You did it again Paul, putting the Fiesta in context like nobody else can.

  • avatar

    The Festiva was certainly better than the Aspire that replaced it. I’m too young to have any Fiesta memories, but I’m looking forward to the new one that’s coming! Hatchbacks rock – I miss the Focus ZX3 and ZX5.

    Also, I never see older cars around my area (Hudson Valley NY) everyone drives (presumedly leased) new BMW, Mercedes, Audis, and a smattering of S and CUVS. It’s a shame.

  • avatar

    It boggles the mind to think that after the Fiesta, Ford managed to excrete the Escort, a car that had none of the charming traits of its predecessor. I haven’t seen one of these in at least a decade. Great writeup, Paul!

  • avatar

    I’m been dying for someone to recapture the handling of the lightweight hatchbacks of the late 1970s and early 1980s. People think of my Mazda Protege5 as a very small car, but it’s over 1,000 pounds heavier than this Fiesta. Ditto the not-so-mini MINI.

    Yes, I know, modern safety standards and refinement expectations.

  • avatar

    My very first new car was a gold 1980 Fiesta. It was not “Malibuized” at all. Not only was there no factory A/C, but not even a radio space in the dash. Both were only available in dealer kit form.

    As I recall it sold for almost a grand less than the Rabbit, and that was one of the main reasons I bought it, having been a long time VW owner.

    I modded it with a bigger Weber carb, Koni lowering struts to replace the awful Motorcraft OE ones, and Panasport rims, just like on the Fiesta pictured, with Yokohama tires. Stock 145×12 Michelins were not only tiny, but short-lived, along with the miserable stock brake pads. Repco Metalmasters fixed that.

    The car was fun, but overheated easily in the Southwest. Oregon is probably a lot more like Europe. Fortunately, the all cast iron Kent didnt seem to mind.

    I’m anxious to drive the new Fiesta. The current Toyota has over 200,000 faithful but boring miles and its due for replacement soon. Ford is trying to market Fiesta like Scion did. I hope it does better than that, or the Mk I Fiesta did over here back then.

  • avatar

    Wonderful job again, Paul. The Saturn Astra will prove to be even more rare in the long run than this Fiesta was…a true Euro-import that was never given a real chance. At least with making them in Mexico and trying some actual marketing for once, the upcoming Fiesta seems to have some corporate support.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The woman who is now Mrs. Panhard had a Fiesta when I met her in college. Oddly enough, a friend at the time had a ’78 Rabbit with fuel injection.

    The future Mrs. Panhard and I took plenty of short road trips in the Fiesta. And other times, I was frequently pressed into service as “designated driver” of the Rabbit fuelie.

    The Rabbit had less torque steer than the Fiesta. It’s front seatbacks could be reclined, unlike the Fiesta’s.

    But for some reason that I never quite figured out, the Fiesta was more fun to drive, even though it was a little less refined, and by no stretch of the imagination can one call a 1970s European econobox “refined.”

    Perhaps the closest car available today of the 1970s econobox is the Honda Fit. But even then, it’s still got about 350 to 400 pounds of curb weight on the late 70s econobox.

    Mr. Karesh is correct. Today’s cars are heavy. The first Honda Civics, with 2 doors and a back seat, weighed 1820 pounds, which is about the same as a Smart today.

  • avatar

    Heck, if you want an Astra, the Saturn dealer in Riverside, California has a brand new 2008 model for sale (there might have been two, now that I think about it) sitting out in front. Of course, the Cadillac-Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer down the street has a brand new 2007 Cadillac STS…

  • avatar

    I had chance to drive 1980 Fiesta L, 1100cc, 4-speed stick, chocolate brown with hounds tooth on brown seats, when I used to live in Eastern Europe. A friend of mine got it for his sister, but guy who brought it from Europe, got drunk and crushed it tailgate first into the tree. So, we fixed it, repainted it and she drove fine for many years. We couldn’t get a glass for the tailgate, so we put Plexiglas window instead. It was fun to drive car, but Lada from 1984 had better brakes.

  • avatar

    The Rabbit had less torque steer than the Fiesta.

    Torque steer? It had 71bhp.

  • avatar

    I wanted one of these bad as a kid. There was a company called “bat” performance, or sometihng like that importing all the european speed stuff for this. I did manage to get an Escort GT, which flew apart as I autocrossed it.

  • avatar

    A friend had an orange Fiesta back in the mid-80’s right out of high school…it was fun but felt like an absolute tin can compared to the used ’79 fox Mustang I drove (which today, I’m sure would feel like a tin can). The new Fiesta will probably feel like a Mercedes S-class in comparison.

    The Fiesta went thru clutches and brakes like crazy (maybe he just couldn’t drive) and then it went up up in flames at 3am on Chicago’s Kennedy expressway after a night out partying…good times.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure the flag logo under the “Fiesta” emblem are from a mid-nineties Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera fender. Couldn’t find a picture of one, though.

  • avatar

    The 1978-1980 Fiesta, the Mk I and Mk II Golf (aka VW Rabbit), and original Honda Civic and Accord are EXACTLY what this country needs today.

    I was too young to drive in the 1970s, but loved cars and devoured car articles, from Car & Driver to Consumer Reports, and enjoyed checking out the local showrooms on my bicycle. The Fiesta was FUN to drive, delivered 30 MPG or better in suburban driving, and I easily fit in the back seat. It was a 9/10 Golf, which set the standard of the era, it’s “Americanization” notwithstanding.

    It was unfortunate that Ford replaced it with the American Escort, an overweight, anemic POS in 1981, which contributed to the poor reputation of US small cars. Adding power-sapping accessories like A/C and auto, which were also more prone to fail, didn’t help.

    Some have commented the Fiesta was ‘unrefined’. Perhaps by todays standards. By the standards of its era, it was more refined than most small cars, even with it’s busy ride and short wheelbase. The small cars of 1970s America ranged from solid-axle Datsun B-210s and Corollas to rough-engined Vegas (when they ran) and cheaply finished Pintos. Only Accords and Rabbits were more refined than the Fiesta.

    And, as far as refinement, the US Spec Mark II Golf, which replaced the Rabbit in 1984, was, and remains quite refined. It added a few inches in wheelbase and length, approx 100-150 pounds for the base car (though it did offer Power steering, more weight), a 1781cc engine vs 1459 to 1715, yet it was much more refined, and gave up little if any of it’s fun-to-drive, especially in GTI trim. In 1999, I had no trouble driving my 1986 GTI, weight less than 2200 lbs with P/S and (inop) A/C, with 140k miles, 300 miles each way.

    Todays cars are porkers–a Mini weighs as much as a 1980 Ford Fairmont or a 1976 5-series, and a Fit is about the same. “Small” cross-overs weigh over 4,000 lbs, as much as a 1976 Old Cutlass V8! MASS IS THE ENEMY! Besides burning more fuel, especially in urban/suburban driving, it costs more to make, and all these frivolous features cost a lot to fix…air bag sensors, power windows & seats, electronic throttles… The Fiesta, Rabbit/Golf, Civic and Accord, the best of their era, were all LIGHT cars that were easy to build and maintain, and could cruise at 70-80 mph.

    And that’s exactly what America needs RIGHT NOW! As more Americans slide backwards from middle-class to working class or working poor, with no end in sight, people need honest, reliable, economical basic transportation. The govt should roll back safety standards to 1976, and tailpipe standards to 1999, and give people the oppoortunity to buy reliable, honest cars.

    Someone who bought a 2000-plus square foot house in exurbia and cannot sell it, lost their ‘real’ job, and needs to drive 30 miles to their restaurant job cannot afford the luxury of 20 air-bags and OBD 2 and crashworthiness. Their life is hanging by a thread..they need to be able to go to work, supermarket, and Wal-Mart, and a new 1978 Fiesta or 1985 Golf that weighs 1900-2200 lbs will do quite nicely.

    The overzealous safety standards we are stuck with might be tolerable in an affluent society. Ours no longer is–we are broke and getting poorer, our public and private sectors have made commitments that cannot be fulfilled with the resources we have. Giving middle Americans a false choice between a new car they cannot afford to buy, and an overweight, thirsty, complex used car they will barely be able to keep on the road is no choice. Our excessive govt regulation, now mandating stability control and tire pressure sensors (ever get your tires replaced and have problems with the sensors–it is a royal, and pricey, pain!) is deluded and most be ended ASAP…so we can bring back the Fiesta, which really was a better idea!

  • avatar

    My first car was a 1980 Fiesta – and I still long for its spiritual replacement (I recently settled for an Astra). At 1700 pounds, the car had a back end which was light enough for two people to pick up and throw back on to the road if you happened to skid into a ditch. It was so basic that the windshield washer fluid was activated by pumping a button on the floor. The only problem I ever had was a recurring clogging of the gas filter – but I quickly gained the skill necessary to replace it in about 2 minutes.

    The latest Fiesta seems likely to be a good car – I recently saw a dozen (european made) Fiestas at some sort of test drive event Ford had in Toronto. I certainly hope Ford retains the euro-nature of the cars, and additionally hope that people buy the thing – even if Ford does have to add a (stupid) sedan model to improve its popularity.

  • avatar

    My first car was a silver 1980 Fiesta with beautiful 13″ telephone dial (or Porsche 928-style) alloy wheels. I loved that car. Even did a run at Englishtown dragstrip just for kicks. I think I took me a leisurely 19 seconds but it was my first time ever at a dragstrip. I dreamt of pimping my Fiesta with high performance parts but alas, it never happened. If I drove one now I might think it incredibly crude but at the time it was the best car in the world for me.

  • avatar

    My grandfather had one. He is a frugal man, and a safety first man. He painted it bright safety orange just like everything he owns.

    He earned it. Being a tail gunner in WW2, i always respected his quirky ways. I’m glad hes still around today. He now drives a menacing orange Dodge Caravan.

  • avatar

    Great article. I remember thinking that these cars were very handsome back in the day.

    Interestingly, while leaving the big Hershey Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) fall meet this past Saturday, I saw three new Ford Fiestas – one in lime green, one in red and one in white – whiz by, all in a row. They really do look very small, but managed to stand out in traffic.

    krazykarguy: While Oldsmobile used a row of flags underneath the Cutlass Salon nameplate starting with the 1973 models, the Fiesta had a version, too. I believe that the Olds version included the American flag.

  • avatar
    Dave Skinner

    As always, thanks to Paul for “memories from my youth”. I picked up a used base orange Fiesta in the early eighties. Note- Do NOT confuse this car with the Festiva, which was a Mazda 121-via-Korea model from the mid to late eighties. My strongest Fiesta memory stems from the fun driving experience.

    Yes, it was 71 bhp, and had equal length drivesahfts, but with the suspension technology of the time, torque steer was extreme. The short final drive gearing (probably about 4:11 to 1), combined with its extremely light weight, made it a handful on ice or snow. Suddenly closing the throttle provided front wheel braking, and the rear wheels would immediately try to walk around the front of the car. More than once a Denver snowstorm led to me performed a 360 degree pirouette on I-25.

    The downside? Abysmal build quality and poor engineering. Ford took a front wheel drive package and shoehorned it into a sidewinder engine bay. Engine and transaxle mounting prevented easy maintenance, while vehicle components included designed in self-destruction. The pinnacle of my ownership experience? The day the starter motor fell off the engine (high in the Colorado Mountains). After eight months of ownership, I was bemused, but not surprised.

    Still, I enjoyed the experience enough to spend the last several months watching Craiglist for a replacement. Paul is also correct that these cars are disappearing at a ferocious rate. It’s a shame, but these cars were never more than a disposal econobox.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    40,549 Fiestas were sold in the U.S. in 1977, 76,145 in 1978, 78,109 in 1979 and 68,595 in 1980, according to the book I have at hand.

  • avatar

    I had a buddy who had a Fiesta in the early 80’s. He got 90k miles out of the OEM Michelin tires before having to replace them – and then only because the rubber had started to decay on the sidewalls, they still had a ton of tread left. Incredible. No doubt due to the car’s feather weight. I drove the thing several times, it was fun as hell to drive.. and that comes from a Rabbit GTI owner at the time.

  • avatar

    My only memories of these was watching 3 and 4 year old versions litterally rusting to death in the salt belt. After 10 years very few of them survived. Also remember how sparsely equipped they were. Few had A/C or even a radio. They were very noisy and slow and build quality varied drastically from car to car. But that was pretty much par for the course in 70’s automobiles. Still those 70’s vehicles including this one offered something that todays overweight technology laden blandmobiles lack- personality.

  • avatar

    I drove one for a winter in Germany in the mid 90’s, courtesy of a gf I had there. On the autobahn that little square box with 12″ wheels and a liter of engine took some getting used to.

    It would max at 160 km/hr on a long straight or with a downhill. Grip the wheel and ignore the vibrations. Wound out at warp speed, I’d shoulder check, see some car in the far distance, then just as I was about to pull out I’d shoulder check again and ‘whoooom’ some big BMW or Mercedes would pass me at 100 km/hr faster than I was going.

    You got used to it, and we loaded it with camping gear and took it on trips to Switzerland and all the way to Ireland.

  • avatar

    The big problem with this car is the name. Anyone I mention this to who’s in the market for this kind of car immediately thinks of the made-by-Kia Ford Festiva, which doesn’t engender positive memories.

    I think automotive enthusiasts fail to understand that no one in North America remembers the Fiesta, but they do recall the singularly nasty Festiva that came after. The nameplate should not have come back because it’s not a wholly positive one for most people in this market.

  • avatar

    A friend had one of these he bought used in about 1980–Ford Grabber Orange in a bright, European sort of way. It was a blast to drive. The only cars in our group that could leave it behind in the canyons of southern California were the Fiat X19 and the Porsche 914–both of which cost much more. Another reasonable alternative was the original Honda Accord hatchback. If you don’t remember those, glancing at a new Accord won’t help you.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Mr Carpenter, What book do you have at hand?

  • avatar

    I think automotive enthusiasts fail to understand that no one in North America remembers the Fiesta, but they do recall the singularly nasty Festiva that came after. The nameplate should not have come back because it’s not a wholly positive one for most people in this market.

    It is very sad that their names are so similar. The Festiva, btw, wasn’t even really a Ford, but a re-badged captive import Kia. It was *still* better than its main competitor, the Hyundai Excel, as sad as that is.

  • avatar

    I once owned a well-used and dearly loved ’80 Fiesta. It screamed, “I will do your bidding, even if you abuse me!” It was fast, handled like a go-kart, and laughed at gas stations. The rear brakes locked up once, so I waited for a snow day and dragged it with only the front wheels turning to the mechanic. He laughed. Then he tried to buy it.

    If you trusted the hatch cylinders, you got a head-ache. I drove one cold day from Marquette Michigan to Hibbing Minnesota with no radiator. I ran it off-road and on. My wife hit a dog and ripped nearly the whole front fender off, but the car never complained.

    I would buy another in a heartbeat, but I would not let my son drive it – same reason I got rid of my ’67 Chevy van last year. Growing up sucks.

  • avatar

    Paul: I don’t agree with you on practically everything else but man, you find the right car and weave the right story for it each and every time here in CC.

    I remember seeing a crapload of these in Colorado when I was in school there (79-85). As mentioned above, they were deathtraps in snow but lasted a lot longer in a dry, no-salt-on-the-roads environment. One of the best econoboxes made.

    Too bad Ford couldn’t build a car worth crap as Dave S points out above. They didn’t really start to turn that around until the early 90s.

  • avatar

    You know, until I started reading this site, I had forgotten how many totally crappy cars I have owned in my lifetime – and I loved them all!

    I can’t wait until the article about my ’73 Plymouth Cricket!

  • avatar

    I’ve been hit enough that I wouldn’t be willing to drive that in modern traffic, but it is a cool car.

    Dave Skinner : Suddenly closing the throttle provided front wheel braking, and the rear wheels would immediately try to walk around the front of the car.

    You probably had better tires on the front than on the back.

  • avatar

    I never drove a Fiesta. I was a land barge guy in those days, and the Fiesta never made it onto my radar. However, I did drive my sister’s 77 Rabbit on an 80 mile trip on 2 lane highways, and it was an absolute blast. The Fiesta must have been a heckuva fun car.

    I did drive an 81 Escort (or was it a Lynx) however. It was NOT a fun car, you are right about that. My mechanic always referred to Escorts as being like a beer can – throw away when empty.

  • avatar

    @Robert.Walter :
    (from the CC Clue post)

    Monty: If you had done the ol’ “cardboard in front of the radiator” trick, the windscreen would have been clear, and the whole iterior would have been toasty warm…

    Robert: I’m a veteran of 40 years of driving on the Canadian Prairies – you had better believe that back in the 60’s/70’s/80’s the “cardboard sheet in front of the radiator” was standard equipment for just about every single import car, and a lot of domestic small engined vehicles. It was MINUS 46 AT NOON(celcius or fahrenheit, doesn’t matter it’s still freakin cold)we were wearing mittens, toques, winter coats and boots, and my wife was wrapped in a blanket. It didn’t make much difference; it was so cold on the highway by nightfall that I’m sure the temperature outside was below -60 with the windchill. That poor little Fiesta’s heater couldn’t possibly contend with the cold.

    @love2drive :

    My first car, a 79 Ghia I got going in to my senior year of high school. The car was so light you could light up the tires and not move, and even chirp the tires in 2nd…

    If the pavement was hot enough on a hot August night, my Fiesta would leave rubber going into third.

    Other than the alarming wear of the brake pads and the CV joints, plus replacing the waterpump, it was almost maintenance free little car. Cost me next to nothing for gas and insurance too.

    The best thing about the car was the almost sleeperish modest appearance. Many times I would pull up to a red light in the hole-shooter lane, and blow the doors off of some american V-8 muscle car, because the Fiesta looked a little like the VW Rabbit or the Honda, and nobody suspected what a straight line rocket it was.

    If Ford sold this car today, I would own one. Stripped out, lightweight, just put some decent shocks struts and tires on it and you could have all the fun you ever wanted in an econobox.

  • avatar

    “The Fiesta’s Kent engine is eminently tunable, the English equivalent of the Chevy small block”

    I have to take exception to the above statement in an otherwise excellent article. That title would have to be granted to the Austin/BMC A series, or perhaps the Jaguar XK engines, as a far greater variety of machines have been powered from these than the Kent. The A series engine drove virtually every small car, from family sedans to sports racers out of Britain from it’s inception until a very short time ago. The XK powered all manner of world-beating race cars from D-types to Listers, as well as driving everything from E-types, Saloons, Limos, and even British Army tanks.

    I had a college professor in the early/mid 80s that drove one of these Fiesta’s and loved it. He had been a staff illustrator at Sports Car Graphic in the 50s/60s and had a strong appreciation for tossable machines. I never had a chance to drive one, but trust his judgement.

    I did have a chance to drive the execrable Escort that replaced it. It was a rental car and self-immolated at a traffic light 2 hours after I drove away from the airport. What a POS.


  • avatar

    A blast from the past:

    That catchy jingle alone probably sold dozens of em!

  • avatar


    I loved that jingle. I loved my Cricket. I need a shrink. Dan

  • avatar
    Dave Skinner

    You probably had better tires on the front than on the back.

    Trust me, at that point of my life (early twenties, no income) all my tires were of equal (nearly bald) quality.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Chuck Goolsbee, I meant to say Ford small block, but somehow the word Chevy seems to jump in front of that phrase “small block”.

  • avatar

    That’s a scary car. It looks as though it could fall apart if you sneeze while touching it.

  • avatar

    Oh, ZoomZomm, that hurts. My little Fiesta was practically disassembled by hitting a dog. But it still was lovable for some crazy reason. Mechanically it was nearly indestructable.

    Now, if I am going to meet up head-on with a semi truck…what would I want to be in while kissing a Kenworth!!!

  • avatar

    Ford had a tent set up on the side of Guadalupe near UT here in Austin last week, demoing the Fiesta (presumably it would have to be the 2011?). Was driving on other side of street so only caught a quick glimpse and no time to stop, but students were looking fairly interested.

  • avatar

    ZoomZoom: “That’s a scary car. It looks as though it could fall apart if you sneeze while touching it.”While it’s true the Fiesta wasn’t exactly ‘rugged’, given it’s cheapness throughout, they held together remarkably well.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Fiesta was a distant precursor to the smart, only a lot more fun and practical – one of the best examples of the storied four-wheeled motorcycle disguised as an econobox. Fiestas were just about as tossable and throwaway a car as was ever built.

    IIRC, the main reason the Fiesta wasn’t imported after 1980 was because it wouldn’t meet US side impact requirements. If you ever saw how thin and lightweight the doors were, you’d definitely understand. Another was likely that Fiestas didn’t have laminated glass, i.e., when broken, they would shatter into lots of tiny bits.

    One of the worst things about it was it was built back when Ford thought putting the horn on the turn signal stalk was a good idea. OTOH, the Fiesta was one of the last (and cheapest) cars on which you could still get manual front vent windows.

  • avatar

    I remember these as a kid but haven’t seen one in years as rust would come pretty fast for them in the Great White North.
    Having never driven one I can’t comment on that either, but I can on the so called “World Car” 1981-1989 Ford Escort.
    To me the 80’s Escorts are what you bought when you couldn’t afford a Honda Civic or a Mazda 323 due to their Sebring like depreciation.
    Built during the “Quality is Job One” era, so of course they were poorly built, slow, and had the handling characteristics of an Ox Cart (GT version notwithstanding).
    Interior pieces in particular broke or fell apart with alarming regularity – door handles, seat frames, window cranks,regulators etc.
    The 1.6 litre was notorious for timing belt failures, head gasket leaks and ate computer modules, the 1.9 was a little more refined but not by much.
    Having said that they ( I owned 2 of them) were fairly reliable, dirt cheap to buy and acres of them at the junkyards, so parts were limitless.
    Another upside is the constant repairs required taught me to tinker in order to fix them, or else they would have nickel and dimed me to insolvency.
    Throw away cars indeed, most of them at the scrap yard had 200000 km’s and under and I hardly (n)ever see them today.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the memories…………..

    This is why I read every CC installment.

  • avatar

    Fantastic find!

    My Grandmother had one of these MkIs in England. Almost perfect little hatch. I haven’t seen one of these in probably a decade.

  • avatar

    This was my first ever car, brand new back in 1982, Yellow and with the 957cc engine.
    It was a very good car, I mean, this car was passed on in my family for almost 20 years with 5 different owners, refusing to die, it was so simple in terms of components, no AC, manual box.
    One thing I did not like is power, it was really slow, back then I had the opportunity to drive other small cars with same size engine like the Fiat 127 that felt better in terms of spirit but it was also coming apart as you drive it like all other Italian cars.
    After that I got myself an Alfasud, 1.3 liter that was a real charm to drive but again, the maintenance was simply too much, endless tuneups, brakes, rust, you name it.

  • avatar

    I had an orange 78 on its way out my last two years of college. A fantastic car to learn auto mechanics on, as everything was on the verge of failing or in need of upgrading: brakes, water pump, clutch cable, carb, CV joints, seats, wheels. Good thing it didn’t have a single accessory or power assist of any kind. But fun to drive, and man, could it hold a lot of milk crates!
    The night after I rebuilt the carb, I was with my GF accelerating onto the highway. In fourth gear at full throttle I felt the cable get trapped by something and not release. I didn’t panic and figured it was something I hadn’t fastened on the carb and showed my GF, who thought I was goofing off as usual: Look, here’s my foot and we’re just going faster! So at what I guess was not even 100 MPH I turned off the key and rolled to a stop. She was kinda mad and wouldn’t even hold the flashlight as I fastened the three screws for the electric choke thingy that had come loose. Good times!

  • avatar

    ’80 Red Ghia bought w/80K on odo; 50K on engine. Traded in after 50K.

    I had the same exact prob w/the fuel filter! The thing would either clog or ‘hydrolock’…I got good @ replacing ’em too….it was easier w/the replacement carb…didn’t have to pull the air filter.

    I put on a ‘performance’ intake and carb (Solex?) from BAT, which didn’t make much difference…I really wanted their turbo kit, but couldn’t afford it.

    A little underwhelmed by its MPG..only about 32 on the highway…but it was only a 4-speed.

    The USDM model had a 1.6 w/ a timing chain, not a belt, IIRC.

    The other issue I had was the rack and pinion went out…was my 1st repair job on a car.

    Also, the car’s 12″ tires wore quickly..of course it didn’t help that I bought el cheapo ones.

    And I just remembered that I owned this car longer than any since – 4 years!

    Finally, wore out 2nd gear synchros and traded it in.

  • avatar

    Great memories!

    manual pump windshield washers…
    Horn on the turn signal stalk…
    hatch cover held up with little more than a string…
    Manual vent windows…
    Rough cloth interior stiched by what seemed to be a blind Sherpa…

    Anyone have the dual knob radio with the 5 manual/mechanical preset buttons? Pull back to set…push to select.

    I do remember replacing one of those web carbs. It was $180 in 1983!!!!

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    The USDM model had a 1.6

    It was a German-built car, so there was no such thing as the “USDM” model. The “D” means “domestic”, i.e., any given car’s home market. There was a US-market model, a Canadian-market model, a German domestic (or European domestic) market model, and there were many other variants for different markets.

    IIRC, the main reason the Fiesta wasn’t imported after 1980 was because it wouldn’t meet US side impact requirements.

    They didn’t change between ’79 and ’81, so…that’s probably not it.

    Fiestas didn’t have laminated glass, i.e., when broken, they would shatter into lots of tiny bits.

    Mmmnope, that’s not true either. AS-1 Laminated windshields have long been mandatory. Side and rear glass can be laminated or AS-2 tempered; virtually all cars have tempered side and rear glass — this has been the case for many decades.

    Try again?

    • 0 avatar

      Respectfully disagree about the ‘DM’. All the cars from Japan and Europe that are built FOR the USA market are USDM. Subarus built in and for Japan market are JDM; BMW built for Germany are EDM, etc.

  • avatar

    My first car was a hand me down from my Dad, a ’78 Fiesta in pumpkin orange with the following options: vent windows, cargo cover, and an AM radio with a single 4″ speaker.

    At least I had the optional radio pod into which I could mount a stereo. I fit a 40-watt Sparkomatic EQ/amplifier under it and some no-name farmers market 6×9 speakers onto the cargo cover. In the tiny Fiesta, this was a deafening experience.

    It came from the factory with a two-barrel Weber carb. It was quick enough to surprise a lot of cars, and was miserly with fuel. It indeed “rode like it was on rails”, and the ride was punishing on rough roads.

    I recall the speedometer would loop back around when asked to, the car was capable of Autobahn speeds given enough runway (and New Jersey has plenty of long stretches of roads).

    The car was reliable, incredibly so considering that it regularly went offroad in the pine barrens of south Jersey and that I drove it to within an inch of it’s life.

    It began to do weird electrical things around the 5-year mark, which I mostly solved by removing each and every one of the open ceramic fuses and cleaning the contacts on the fuses and their holders. What got me was the *hidden* fuses in the drivers side footwell, which led to an overheat condition. I had the head checked and there was a cracked valve seat and a little warp – so for $25 I got a rebuilt head from the same machine shop/junkyard. When replacing the head, I removed the ridge of carbon in the cylinders with a vacuum cleaner and a pocket knife, which gave the car a whole new lease on all it’s possible HP and torque again. The difference was remarkable (and bumped the fuel economy up as well).

    When it had begun to show signs of rust through, I thought about getting rid of it. When the blend door control cable snapped off a retainer, it was time. I traded it for a brand new ’84 Escort L 5-speed (no air conditioning), which was more comfortable – and quite boring. Say what you will, but I got 11 years out of that Escort with only normal maintenance stuff into it (clutch, water pump, brakes, hoses).

    I look forward to seeing the new Fiesta on the road, it certainly seems to be competitive for the class.

  • avatar

    Festiva? No.

  • avatar


    In terms of ubiquity, I’d say the Rover V8, Rover K-Series and Rover/Austin/BMC A-series are your top three British Engines – which perhaps was as much to do with Rover’s eagerness to sell small quantities of engines to others – but they were all in their own way good motors.

  • avatar

    My dad’s caught on fire at a stop light on his way home from work. He bought it new. It was very frightening and upsetting to the family at the time.

    Dad wanted a new car and this is what they could afford. Didn’t even have a radio or A/C. Door cranks were always stripping. Heater control broke easily. Carb would get stuck “open” – racing the engine uncontrollably.

    My grandparents bought the “luxury” model. LMAO. Kept it only a few months as I recall.

    The Fiesta was cheap, fragile, craptastic POS. It, like its successor Escort, were total rust magnets as well.

    My horrid memories of cars like this are why I do not buy Ford today, 30 years later.

  • avatar

    Back about the time I learned to drive, my mom had one of these. The car was an absolute blast to drive. I recall getting to take it to get new tires, and nearly driving off the road once the new tires were fitted; I’d been compensating for the old, tired treads and so steered far more than I needed to for new, sticky rubber. Whee!

  • avatar

    You have warmed my heart.

    This is the car I learned to drive in – a 78 Fiesta, silver, that my dad bought new on Valentine’s Day of that year. His purchase of that car was astonishing because he was a steelworker (machinist) in Pittsburgh’s dying steel industry at the time, although he had no time for the UAW. I remember he took some abuse for buying a German car from the partisans in the union, but insisted it was a “Ford”. [He drove a Datsun after he was laid off…].

    This car transported our family of 4 across the United States, achieving 44 mpg with the A/C on. [It pays to go the speed limit]. Today’s cars can’t do that because they’ve gained 1000 lbs in safety equipment, amenities, volume, and performance – all things we didn’t miss in 1978.

    I even took my date to the prom in this car, and we ended up having the smallest car there, particularly among the rented limos.

    My friends and I would regularly go “Rabbit hunting” in the Fiesta, which basically meant looking for trouble among VW Rabbit drivers on a Saturday night. I’ve always thought the sharp lines and proportions of the Fiesta made it a better-looking car than the other econoboxes at the time.

    Sadly, ours only lasted 4 years, when I carelessly totalled it on a sunny day. That was its fifth and final wreck, the others shared by me, my brother, and even my dad. The Fiesta, being lightly built, didn’t suffer impacts very well.

    Incidentally, my own first car – a 71 Pinto – had the same 1.6L Kent engine supplied in the Fiesta years later, but Ford wisely made no mention of the lineage, as the Pinto was under seige when the Fiesta was introduced.

    I miss that car. My 05 xB approximates the Fiesta’s driving character, economy, and value, but is a much better car in so many ways. Most of today’s offerings in the US are so bloated that selling a tidy little car like the Fiesta is nearly impossible. Incredibly, the Tato Nano might be the next one to be near the mark.

    Thanks for an excellent article that brought back a lot of great memories.

  • avatar

    I had a blue one! 1985-86, I bought a used one. Mine even had Air conditioning! I loved it. That kent engine and a decent suspension, plus tons of go fast parts were available from Europe.

    It’s too bad we don’t see these around anymore. I am hoping that the new one will fill the niche properly.

  • avatar

    Paul, you nailed it again. I owned 4 of these, and they were fantastic cars. My favorite was an abandoned car on a wholesale line of a 3rd string used car dealer. I paid $65 for it because it had no battery. I drove that car for years, and sold it for exactly what I had in it…including every service! It did over 200,000 before succumbing to rust.

    I too long for another car such as the Fiesta. Basic, fun, no frills transportation. I’ve since bought a classic British Mini that fits the bill, but it is a tad less practical (and horrifically worse in build quality) than the Fiesta. XR2’s are legal for US import now. Sometimes I think about it…

  • avatar

    Friend in college bought a ’80 Fiesta. We had planned a ski trip to Vermont and he has asked if we could go in my ’72 Fury, as it would be way more comfortable. I said no; I was not going to subject my car to that much salt and careless partying . He bought my reasoning, but that is not why I didn’t want to take my car. I had visions of being in the back seat with Heather, being cramped in a small space, cocktailed and enjoying life. Worked that way too. I really dug her and the first half of the trip was great. However, soon the car began to lose power and we were going slower and slower. With four people in the car, power was the last thing this car could afford to lose. We died on the side of the road and had to push the damn thing for 2 miles to get it off the highway. Heather only weighed 105 pounds so she was of little use in pushing. The car restarted and the exhaust pipe under the hood began to glow dull, than bright red. The high heat killed the cat, which caused a ton of backpressure and we died three times on the way home.

  • avatar

    I love these kinds of cars! I vaguely remember one of these in my town growing up. I was strangely attracted to it and couldn’t quite figure out why (I was probably 11, so there was alot of that to come). I do remember thinking that the flag logo looked exotic!
    My daily driver now is an 84 Civic (yellow, like that old Fiesta) with a 5-speed and power-nothing except brakes. Was this the last of the lightweight, well-built hatches? It seems like cars started their climb up the lard ladder shortly thereafter and all of the lightweight cars were junk like the Justy and Festiva.
    Good article, Paul!

  • avatar
    1979 mk1

    I also was captured by the Fiesta when it came to our shores. I got my first one, a 1978, in 1979. Over the years I kept on having the need to get another. I had owned three with my last one being sold to buy a 1972 240z a car I always loved. That was in 1988, only had the Z about a year and sold it. I never knew what it was but Rx7s a nice Mustang, a few odd turbo cars never replaced the fun I had in the Fiesta.
    My second Fiesta was pretty modified thanks to bat, my other two were just stock. Well about 10 yrs ago I had to find another! After many years of searching I am happy to say I currently have a mint 1979 Ghia! I found it aboout three years ago on the west coast and had it shipped to Michigan.
    I drive it all summer long, I can do the brakes in about ten minutes, water pump about twenty. Getting all the go fast parts I can find, just has a header and a weber carb upgrade as of now but one day I will have her like I want her.
    I have been in the auto field for over twenty years and probably have driven a few hundred different cars in that time, but nothing has ever made me smile like a Fiesta!

  • avatar

    I’m finding that I’ve owned a few Curbside Classics … I bought a ’78 standard model Fiesta in 1079, from a Budget or Avis in Oakland, California (yes, they used to rent stickshift cars here, and I almost 20 years later I  drove a couple of  rental Fiesta’s in the UK). I raced the car in SCCA showroom stock for a couple of years. The brakes wouldn’t really hold up to track use, we had to bleed them after every session, and the outside front wheel would last about two or three sessions at Sears Point or Laguna Seca. I learned the hard way when my left front wheel broke in Turn 2 at Sears. Believe it or not, most local dealers stocked new rims – I think they cost about $17. I drove that car everywhere, and as another poster mentioned, it was awful in the snow.  But it was fast for the time, got great gas mileage, and was very roomy with the back seat folded down.  Locally, there were quite a few of us racing Fiestas, though in other SCCA regions the front-wheel drive twin-stick Dodge Colt, VW Rabbit, the Fiat X1/9 and even AMC Gremlin were more competitive.  All those miles of racing added up, though, and the head cracked at some point; I had it welded up, but I think it cracked again and power was never the same after that. I hadn’t see a Fiesta for at least 10 years until I saw a very clean, salmon-colored “S” model in my town last year, and I’ve seen it once or twice since. If I recall correctly, the FWD Escort was available in Europe starting in 1980, and when the CVH Escort was launched in the US I eagerly went to the Ford dealer for test drive, thinking it would be all that the Fiesta was, and more, with OHC, 13″ wheels, etc. What a POS!

  • avatar

    I just bought one yesterday in Salem. drove up from oregon city

    this thing is a gem, pretty much stock, just a tiny bit of rust. starts right up and runs like a charm, i’m so excited about this car.

    bought it from a dude, totally un-knowing for $600.

  • avatar

    My first new car was a 1978 Fiesta Sport.   I actually kept it until 1992 although it was later delegated to spare car status.  Yes the floor rusted out, I learned about sheet metal repair.  No A/C.  Added a huge stereo.  It was a blast to drive, especially after I learned about BAT Ltd. a company that imported performance parts from Britain!  I think they still support other Euro-Fords including Merkur etc.  Lower springs and struts, bigger rear sway bar, bigger wheels with 13 inch Vredestein tires!  Then the 1985 engine rebuild at 100,000 miles!  Higher compression pistons, Eurospec big valve head, high pressure oil pump, headers, high flow exhaust, Weber carb, air pump and cat removal surgery.  It became a real performance car in sheeps clothing.  A blast on the track school days at Summit Point.  Torque steer was almost out of control!   It still averaged 30 mpg! Sold to a Porsche owner for his daughter for $1200 in 1992.  It was still a rocket, with handling like nothing I have driven since, although my Mini Cooper S comes close. 

  • avatar

    My first car was a 79 Fiesta that my dad bought new in 79 to replace a used VW 412 wagon. I got the car in 89 when they replaced it with an 89 Festiva, which I should say was not as bad as some of the previous posts indicate. I actually took my driver test in the Festiva while the Fiesta sat in the back yard under a cover for two years. I used to start the Fiesta every few days and drive it straight back and forth for a few car lengths. In 91 after I got my license, I rebuilt the engine in the Fiesta with nothing more than Hot Rod magazine and the FSM to guide me. My dad was a psychologist, not a mechanic. I used the aforementioned B.A.T. (British Automotive Transfer) catalog to order parts by phone. I added an XR2 cylinder head, XR2 camshaft, 9.2:1 comp pistons (from 8.5:1), solid spacer rocker shaft, and tubular header. I hand port matched the intake manifold using the air die grinder at my job at the bike shop. Due to being a HS student working part time at a bike shop, I couldn’t afford to upgrade the carb and retained the stock Weber 32. Nevertheless, the car ran stronger than stock and beat a couple unsuspecting 80’s V-8 cars on the street. I had read in a magazine about the Fiesta’s early successes in rally racing and used to try to drive really fast on dirt roads in the Pine Barrens of south NJ. I once overcorrected a slide and spun off the road into the woods. A couple friends following me easily pushed the car back over the dirt berm while I shot dirt on them spinning tires in reverse. I had a piece of cardboard zip-tied to the grille in the winter with the phrase “Mark 1 radiator jamming frammis” written on it, not knowing (before the internet) that the car was a Mark 1 Fiesta. It had 136,362.5 miles on it I rebuilt it. I probably only put 10 to 15k on it before my dad sold it for $400 while I was away at college, far less than I had invested. By then (94) I was driving an 84 Ford Club Wagon that they had bequeathed to me. With easily removed bench seats, it was more useful in college. I miss the Fiesta and now that I have four cars and two motorcycles, I would love to find one in good shape to commute in. I doubt I ever will though.

  • avatar

    All I can say is this is the car!  My first girlfriend (now my wife of 19 years) and I drove this all over the place.  I remeber the damn butterfly valve sticking, and my wife would  jump out at the stop light, and turn the screw with a tiny screwdriver that kept the butterfly valve open, as I kept the clutch pushed in and the engine reving.  Then she jump in, the light turb green, and the little gold fiesta would peel out, and fly down the road.LOL  I remember conning the police cruiser to push me to the side of the road, but instead popped the clutch, and speed away down the road.!   And forget about radar detectors,  when the Fiesta got to 60 it would shake the door panels so damn bad, you have to be drunk to go any faster.  Mentioning that.  I have heard that if you removed the spare tire from the trunk, you would find the read window seals had caused water to leak in, and pool under the spare tire, and rust a huge hole to the outside, perfect for the occasional can toss to the back. (I only heard of that)  I remeber pulling out the JcWhitney catalog. I wanted this beast all pimped out, but the only thing I coould buy was a cherry bomb muffler. So I chopped off the 1yrf old muffler that my father got with a lifetime warranty, and had a friend weld the Cherry Bomb on. OMG it sounded like a snail with diarrhea. Well at least I got the free cigarette lighter coffee cup, and free 6″ plastic tool box that came with every order from JcWhitney.hehe

    I also would not recommend any extra curricular activities in the Fiesta, many a time I had to reglue the rear view mirror on the window before church with the family on sunday morning, Not to mention that the back seat fabic, if it sits in the sun too long will turn to dust. Best to use a blanket.  Also don’t forget the Pine tree air freshners! Oh the memories of this sleek, studdly dream machine.  Not many in this world will ever see a Classic Fiesta, many will never sit or even drive a Ford Fiesta. Only an elite few will own a Ford Fiesta.  I am one of those few that saw,rode,drove,owned,loved, and more….in a Gold Ford Fiesta Ghia. If anyone can find me another.  I MUST HAVE.

  • avatar

    I bought a 1978 ford fiesta in early 1979. It was barely used. The girl who originally bought it did not like the handling. It was a two door hatchback, manual transmission, no air, no radio. The color was a bright orange. Thus, we named her “Little Orange”. I drove this car for 10 years and gave it to a close friend who could not afford a car. She drove it for almost 9 more years. This car was great on gas. I averaged 57 miles per gallon (verified). I had to have the transmission replace. That cost was $400. The only other thing I did to the car was basic service and tires. I paid $3000.00 for the car and so not counting fuel,oil and tires it cost me $340.00 per year. “Little Orange” was fun to drive and was like a big go cart in handling. The only reason I gave her away was the summer of 1989 was very hot and my car did not hace AC. I purchased a Chevy S10 and gave her to my friend. Since gas prices went on the rise several years ago I started looking for one of the cars. I figure if I can find one, I can fix it up, put in AC, maybe convert it to natural gas and kiss off the Arab Oil Cartel for good. I have not had any luck finding one, but I keep looking.

  • avatar

    I have a 78 Fiesta. Got it from owner with title and keys for $100 when she drove it into a scrap yard whose owner I knew well. Started up great and looked perfect. I switch plates and drove it a little and eventually took the choke off to clean up the carb then later after enjoying it in the STL summer I put a toggle-switch on the cooling fan and removed the thermostat but still had to wonder about the head gasket. It’ll get around except that it’s sat so long two tires popped when I aired them up to bring it out and clean it off for pictures. I’m too old to keep all the cars I’ve got and I’ll let it go to an Affectionado and drive my Geo Metro 3-bangers for a while. But I will always look back on the fine lines, quick steering, and German guts of this early Fiesta. Good beige body. Hey, the 90’s Festiva was solid and had that automatic seat belt. I’m dumping my ugly Aspire. 314-602-4549

  • avatar

    I have totally customized (tastefully) road-going 1980 MK1 Fiesta Decor in red for sale. It’s been babied, but has been stored on jackstands in a barn in MA for 6 years. Someone please rescue my baby before it’s ebayed.

    [email protected] dot com

  • avatar

    Believe it or not there is an online club for these cars (the US-spec 1978-1980 Ford Fiesta (known to Fiestaphiles in the hobby as the Fiesta “Mk1”). If you’re into Fiestas, or are in the market for one, check out our group, “US_Fiesta_Enthusiasts”.

  • avatar

    I bought a tan, 1978 Fiesta brand new and drove it for over two years, putting about 60K on it, all with the original 12″ Michelin XZX tires. It WAS a blast to drive, even more so after my mechanic got ahold of it. I dropped it off to get the valves adjusted, and when I went to pick it up, I noticed a paper bag in the back seat with the air pump, air injection tubes, and hoses in it. He said take for a spin. I noticed right away that you could upshift 20mph higher in each gear, compared to stock, and then found that my mileage increased to the low to mid 40’s. He did recalibrate the carb(new jets) and the car ran fine. I could really smoke the front tires and practically “torque steer” right off the road. You don’t see many(any)today, but I just noticed a lime green one a few days ago on a property about 15 miles from my house.

  • avatar

    My first experience with the original Fiesta was as rentals during my brief period living and working in downtown Boston when I didn’t own a car. Invariably, I managed to get one as the Decor model with the fab factory manual sunroof with interchangeable glass and steel panels. Great fun for weekend trips. Driving them forced me to vow to own one.

    That occurred when I moved to Portland, Oregon and had to commute 50 miles from the hills above downtown to wine country 50 miles south. I found a used 1978 ‘S’ model in radar red, and that made my commute much more fun. I later sold it in order to trade up to a 1980 Ghia trim level model. When I later transferred back to Boston, I eventually ended up with three more(a blue ’80 Ghia, white ’80 Decor, and a red ’78 Decor), two of which I sold to friends. For that time period (1982-1986) they were super cars to own, so well designed and built.

  • avatar

    A late read… Great write-up. I actually still have my 1980 (Base version), but have added several accessories. Used to be part of a Fiesta Club located in Washington… Lots of fun for many a years. I remember I won an award for longest distance traveled all the way from SoCal. And yes, they are fun to drive. Mine never miss a beat, although it did have its overheating issue like many, but most of us just pulled the thermostat out and it helped a lot.

    Have had mine garaged since the late 80’s. due to leaky valve seals. I did some customizing, R/R the US Bumpers, converted door locks and windows to electric and added several accessories. A previous poster mention BAT (British American Transport they were called)… can see that there still around (as BAT Inc). There was also another group west coast that sold all the trim/fender flare and misc accessories (no longer in business… can recall their name off hand), but acquired some nifty add-on’s from them as well.

    In-deed a great car and never regretted buying it. There’s still a few early Fiesta Groups around… one on Yahoo that I (somewhat) keep in touch with.

    In due time, I’ll revive the engine and get it back out on the road.

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