Junkyard Find: 1978 Ford Fiesta Sport

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

We saw a junked first-year Plymouth Horizon last week, but Chrysler’s Simca-based econobox wasn’t the only Euro-Detroito subcompact to make its North American debut in 1978. The first-gen Ford Fiesta, which had been a tremendous sales success in Europe, showed up in American Ford showrooms… where it was met by puzzled stares from car shoppers who couldn’t quite get their heads around the tiny size of the latest car to bear the blue oval.

Still, the Fiesta was very cheap ($300 less than even the bare-bones Horizon), it held four passengers, and its excellent fuel economy gave drivers a measure of freedom from the whims of sheikh and ayatollahs.

66 horsepower in a car scaling in at 1,780 pounds made the Fiesta quicker than the ’78 MGB (2,338 pounds, 62.5 horsepower). Actually, that’s not a fair comparison; just about every car in 1978 was quicker than the black-bumper MGB.

The “Sport” option package added $556 to the Fiesta’s price tag. I can’t figure out what you got for that money beyond the “S” decals and tape stripes; it appears that all the US Fiestas got the same engine in ’78.

Even back in the day, you didn’t see many Fiestas on American streets. Before this one, I hadn’t even seen one in the junkyard for a few years.

If you’re interested in the history of the Fiesta, I recommend this Ford-backed (yet still fascinating) book.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Jun 21, 2015

    I rode in a silver one once, seem to recall black and white houndstooth upholstery...but that was in the early 80s and my memory is foggy. I'd love to have one, but the only one I have seen in decades is the peanut butter color one on Hamilton Avenue in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati. Every time I see it, I smile. Come to think of it, I haven't seen it this year. I wonder what became of the little beastie.

  • Gayneu Gayneu on Feb 16, 2017

    Wow, this brings back great memories for me. I did not realize this website existed until I Googled "1978-1980 Ford Fiesta for sale". As was stated earlier, I am surprised by how few of these I see. I bought a 78 while in college. It was definitely the Base model - yellow, tan vinyl, AM radio. Threw an AM/FM/8-track in the dash plus a broomstick to hold up the hatchback door and was ready to go. Very fun car and always reliable. I remember drooling over a stranger's silver Ghia version later - tach, passenger-side mirrow, AC and sunroof - what luxury!

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.