By on May 7, 2014

01 - 1993 Ford Festiva L Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Ford Festiva aka Kia Pride aka Mazda 121 spent much of the last decade being a fairly common sight in American self-serve wrecking yards, but lately I’ve been seeing many fewer examples of this little gas-sipper. You can buy this car new in Iran, where it is badged as the Saipa 132, and some outlaw factory is probably still building the things in China. We’ve seen this ’90 Festiva in this series, and now I’ve found a decal-enhanced example of the final model year of the US-market Festiva (the next generation Pride was called the Aspire in the United States) in a Denver yard.
03 - 1993 Ford Festiva L Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin63 horsepower from this Mazda B3.
05 - 1993 Ford Festiva L Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSwooshy graphics were all the rage in the late 1980s and early 1990s, though I’m not sure if these are factory-installed or provided later by Manny, Moe, and Jack.
18 - 1993 Ford Festiva L Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhat more do you need in a car?

Let’s take a look at some ads for the Pride from around the world. Here’s Iran.

Korean car commercials tend to be full of video-game noises and macho voiceovers. Here’s a nice collection.

The early Pride got some very pastel 80s-ness in its Australian-market ads.


Call it big. Call it small. Call it yours.

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55 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Ford Festiva L...”

  • avatar

    L is for LUXURY, clearly.

    You still see old Kia Pride’s all over South Korea, even today. Along with the Hyundai Tico. They’re the little roach cars time can’t kill. I believe I saw 4-door and 5-door hatch Prides as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Same thing in Iran, specially the 4/5 door. For some reason (weight distribution and snap oversteer after massive understeer?) they tend to spin and roll over quite easily, often with grisly results.

      • 0 avatar

        It could be that they have standard 12″ wheels and a suspension from the Ford administration. Having owned a ’93 L I can attest to it’s lovely method of trying to kill me in 30~50 wind gusts.

    • 0 avatar

      The Tico was marketed by Daewoo, it’s an early 80s Suzuki Alto.

  • avatar

    The L was the bare bones model. I believe that the high end one was the LX. Visually marked with the red stripe extending all around the car as part of the rub strips on the sides and continuing around the tops of the bumpers.

    I had one from ’89-91 and it was a decent car for the money. Only complaint I can remember is that it came equipped with Yokohama tyres that I swear were made of bakelite. They had absolutely no grip in the wet, and I had the car spin out on me on 5-6 occasions during the three years I had it.

    You can have fun with a little car like that. At the time I bought it (traded in my late mother’s bordello of a Buick Century Estate Wagon) I had gotten into 17th century (Jamestown-English Civil War) reenactment. Visualize carrying a half dozen 18′ pikes on the roof. I mounted them with the butts even with the back bumper, which had the pike heads extending about three feet past the front bumper.

    Found it a wonderful method for subtle hinting to the blue-hair in front of me doing 40 in a 55 zone. Even granny can get a bit of lead into her right foot with the proper motivation.

    And the side strip is not factory. If anything, Ford seemed to be very reluctant to try anything that wild on the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      My wife had one of these back when we were dating. Hers had a 5-speed manual and air conditioning!

      Those tires weren’t just hard, they were 12″ wheels. On whim, I looked to see what a set of those would run today and it seems they can only be obtained from specialty retailers these days.

      • 0 avatar

        At the time, the tires were cartoonishly small, like it was driven out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They barely lasted 20k miles until you had to replace them; however, they were uber cheap to replace. A full set plus balancing and alignment cost me $250 in ’96. Alignments were also another fun thing you had to do about every 5k miles. Those little tires weren’t very wide. Potholes, runoff drains, pebbles, dead worms, all could cause the alignment to go off kilter.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I remember graphics like that back when these were new. I suspect they were dealer installed, especially late in the run they needed to do something to make them seem enticing, by ’92 there was no secret that these cars were no longer modern.
    I definitely remember uttering “Festiva” when talking about terrible cars with my friends back then.

  • avatar

    I come from the school of thought that reasons the end of the 1978-1980 importation of the the original Fiesta marked the end for a while of serious Ford entry-level rides. To me, these later automotive gnats were the BIC lighter of cars. I was so glad that Ford chose to offer real Fiesta’s again by making them locally(Mexico).

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know why Ford chose to sell the Festiva instead of the Fiesta in the American market. The Fiesta has always been a solid little car, even in some generations a fun car. I wonder if Ford had kept the Fiesta on offer in the US if small cars would be more acceptable to Americans.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe, but I’d say that in the U.S., small cars are looked on as a sort of necessary evil. They’re what you drive when you can’t do better.

      • 0 avatar

        Korean built Festivas were cheaper than European built Fiestas. In the US small car market of the 90’s, price counted for a lot.

        • 0 avatar

          Sounds like a plausible explanation, but one that ultimately was penny wise and pound foolish. If they had done like in Europe where the Fiesta was usually not the cheapest of the cheap, but in spite of it had (lots of) takers because it was a good car and drive, the may have eventually built something up.

          Or not. Because like others pointed out, the public in America always bought cars on the pound. Shame cause though an econobox, the Fiesta was rarely a penalty-box.

  • avatar

    I always thought it would be fun to drop a huge motor in this thing.

    Then I learned about Jay Leno’s “Shogun”, which is a Festiva powered by an SHO motor, which I imagine would be insanely fast (Jay’s has the 3.0L, IIRC).

    I’ve came across these little stinkers on Ebay. Most of them are in well used condition. The strange thing is… the examples I’ve seen were commanding a premium.

    What’s the world coming to?

    And yes I still remember the swooshy pastel-colored graphics gracing many a car back in the early 90’s. Rad.

    • 0 avatar

      The price premium on eBay is probably due to the fact that it gets good gas milage. These and the Geo Metro got a bit of a cult following during the last gas price runup, and since prices have been creeping up again prices probably are as well.

      • 0 avatar

        Does the Suzuki Swift get the same treatment? And the Chevy Metro?

        • 0 avatar

          Nah, people still love to hate the Metro. No premium price status for it (at least not that I’ve seen).

          Haven’t seen enough Swifts to state if it too has enjoyed a boost in pricing.

          You just made me remember the Metro convertible. Must purge that thought. Now. Damnit.

          • 0 avatar

            A high school classmate of mine drove a yellow Geo Metro convertible. He also developed a skullet prior to graduation. I don’t know what became of him, but any conclusions drawn from that data are probably close enough to the truth, or as close to the truth as I’d care to get.

  • avatar

    The best hod-rod mod is to swap in a bigger Mazda engine (the 1.6?). I hear lots of people have fun with these as project racers.

    • 0 avatar

      There are a few running around with the 323/Protege/Miata engines and a healthy helping of boost. The main motive seems to be embarrassing drivers of sporty cars by outrunning them in a Festiva.

      Can’t say I don’t see the appeal.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, the B6T twin cam turbo 1.6 from the 323 GT drops in, making it the “Fastiva”. I used to own a 323 GT and have a hard time imagining that death trap 500lbs lighter.

      Was an absolute blast to drive, but I had no illusions of what would happen in a crash, Tin worm claimed it in the end.

  • avatar

    I still see these on occasion, but oddly enough, no Aspires.

    Guess the Aspire just sucked too much.

  • avatar

    Two years back we hired a driver for a day tour in Iran. He toured us around in this cockroach of a car. Funny thing was that he didn’t allow us to close the doors by ourselves, because he was afraid we’d slam it shut: ‘You know sir, this is Iranian car. Not well made’.

    After closing our doors with his velvet touch however he would race it through potholes and gravel like there was no tomorrow…

  • avatar

    Two years back we hired a driver for a day trip in Iran. He toured us around in this cockroach of a car. Funny thing was that he didn’t allow us to close the doors by ourselves, because he was afraid we’d slam it shut: ‘You know sir, this is Iranian car. Not well made’.

    After closing our doors with his velvet touch however he would race it through potholes and gravel like there was no tomorrow…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    We have a friend who still drives a red Festiva every day – amazing.

  • avatar

    My dad had one of these after my mom made him get a new car. She didn’t care what it was, but she wouldn’t allow me to ride in the 1978 Skyhawk he’d had after it tried to kill me. Since she couldn’t drive a manual, and since my dad was vindictive that way, he bought a green one with a manual. Apparently it didn’t even have a radio. This was 22 years ago so I can’t quite recall.

    He also had an Aspire at one point. He loved the mileage that he could get out of them. Never really complained about either one.

  • avatar

    I remember these cars everywhere growing up. Mostly driven by poor college kids and first-time buyers. We had one Hyundai dealership about 40 miles outside of town so the Excel and the like just weren’t available. Still they were fairly solid cars from what I can remember of them, seemed to get the job done if not in style atleast in sheer willpower.

  • avatar

    The Pride is back, baby!

  • avatar

    They are both ironic and efficient, and you could probably shove a fixie in the hatch with the seats down. I’m surprised some Gen Y hipster didn’t save this one.

  • avatar

    I had an ’88 LX with A/C and the very rare aluminum wheels. The LX models had a 5-speed manual, versus only a 4-speed in the L models. That fifth gear was a really tall overdrive, and on the highway, fuel economy was routinely in the 50s.
    I was stopped once on I-80 in Wyoming, and given a warning, since I don’t think the state trooper believed what his radar was telling him. He asked if I knew how fast I was going, and I truthfully said no, as the speedometer stopped at 85 and went no higher.
    I drove it while I was in school and poor, sold it 9 years and 140K miles later for about half what I paid for it. I got to the point where I could adjust the valve lash in about 30 minutes, and without burning my fingers (it had to be done hot). Other than basic wear items, the car required no repairs in 140K miles. Even the A/C worked.
    It had power mirrors, which I found strange for a bottom of the line car, and a rear defroster, both not available on the L model. It also had a pull-out storage drawer under the passenger seat. It was the only car I have ever owned that allowed me to blow cool air on my face, and warm air on my feet, it was a great winter car.
    The 12″ wheels and tires were a challenge, as no local tire shop was interested in getting them for me, I always had to mail order them.
    Later, when I was less poor, it had the first Sony in-dash CD player in the neighborhood.
    LOVED that car. I wish I had kept it.
    I sold it to a coworker who gave it to his 16 year old daughter. She wrecked it a week later.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    It’s a Forrrrrrrrrrd! It’s a Festiva!

  • avatar

    A friend of mine’s ex-wife got taken on the purchase of one of these. it was loaded w/ a/c, power windows/etc. She paid an EXORBITANT amount (12.5K, IIRC) for it. Funny thing was, with my arms extended, both of my hands were OUTSIDE of the car! :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Wow for that price you could have gotten a pretty nice GM A-body sedan which was superior in every way except fuel economy. (Although the As were pretty decently efficient.)

    • 0 avatar

      My first new car purchase was a Festiva with A/C. I didn’t know what I was doing, got taken advantage of, and paid almost $7,000 cash. Power windows weren’t available, but power windows were part of the LX trim level.

      I’ve driven more than enough A-bodies to say that they weren’t superior in any way other than scrap value.

      BTW, an elderly lady made a left turn directly in front of my Festiva. I hit her Chevy Cavalier 4-door hard enough to spin it around and throw it into a church parking lot while I kept going straight down the road. I was completely uninjured, as was my un-belted passenger.

    • 0 avatar

      I paid $5k for my ’93 Electric Aquamarine L in ’95. It had the 5spd, a rear defroster, the four-pot 1.3L and those annoying motorized seatbelts Ford loved for a while. That was it’s full list of amenities. A/C consisted of me rolling both windows down by hand and reaching back and popping out the rear windows on their little hinges. 75/4

      I got tired of steering that thing around in SE Colorado where I worked and went to school and began to root around the junkyards,. I began to Frankenstein the beastie into an LX. Tossing the original speedo binacle with one that had a tach and mileage counter, the steering controls from an Escort for the Cruise, replacememt A/C from a recently rear-ended Aspire, and factory Mach4000 stereo from a Mustang LX. It was incredibly easy to work on and very forgiving. I learned how to replace the front disc brakes which were hillariously tiny and the dollhouse sized rear shoes.

  • avatar

    I clearly remember seeing the aftermath of an accident on the freeway in the early ’90s that involved a Festiva and a semi truck. Not pretty!

  • avatar

    I know a guy who in spite of having much nicer cars, chooses to drive his clean ’90 Festiva most days. I don’t get it, but he really likes it.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t Penny from “The Big Bang Theory” drive one of these? They never show the car from the outside but the interior sure looks like this.

  • avatar

    I learned how to drive stick in one of these things.

  • avatar

    In ’98 and ’99 I worked with a guy who had a 50 mile commute (so 100+ miles each day) and had two of these at any given time. One for driving and one for parts. As soon as he’d strip one bare, he buy another one for cheap that was broken in some way and start the process over. On cold mornings he’d start it 30 minutes before leaving (we worked nights) and you never wanted to be parked next to him because the exhaust would make you sick if you had to scrape your own car. It didn’t sound healthy at idle either. Lots of clanging and such, but they never seemed to let him down.

    I’ve always liked these though. Something about the proportions I find amusing.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I was an infant in ’93, so I couldn’t tell you about the general attitude of cars during that year, but it seems like they were uninspired-looking leftovers from the ’80s, and this car epitomizes that notion.

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