Rare Rides: A 1991 Ford Fiesta RS Turbo - Slightly Better Than Our Festiva

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

In 1991, customers had a couple of hatchback options from the Blue Oval in the United States, in either the compact or subcompact segments. At the bottom of the barrel (in all ways) was the Mazda-designed Festiva, and positioned above it was the Mazda-based Escort.

Across the pond, Europeans received a Ford which was actually a Ford — the Fiesta.

The Fiesta was in its third generation in global markets, its lifespan running from 1989 through 1997. Fiesta models included three- or five-door hatchbacks and a three-door panel van in two different heights. Our example today is the hottest of the hot, the RS Turbo three-door.

Not available immediately, the RS Turbo variant appeared at dealers between 1990 and 1992. The trim was a step up from the XR2i, and featured subtle styling differences to differentiate it as the most sporty.

Unique (killer) wheels sat inside larger tires, and green-colored trim and a color-keyed rear spoiler alerted passers-by to this vehicle’s specialness. The RS Turbo also received green-tinted glass and gills on the hood.

Recaro provided the seats for the RS Turbo, and the driver’s hands gripped a special three-spoke steering wheel (there were only two spokes in other trims). It all appears very clean (see below) and in original condition, if a bit spartan. Then again, it’s a lightweight hot hatch, so spartan should be the intent. Ford aficionado Sajeev Mehta wanted me to tell you about the cheesy aftermarket steering wheel and pedals, and how the white painted vents should be mocked mercilessly. The Fiesta RS would also be much cooler if it were a Ghia. You hear me? A Ghia!

Ten different engines powered various Fiesta models, and under hood here we find a 1.5-liter inline-four with a Garrett T2 turbocharger. Limited space prevented Ford from implementing a larger T3 turbo as on the (Euro market) Escort RS Turbo. Horsepower reached 131 in this configuration, tackling 0-60 runs in 7.9 seconds via a five-speed manual. Sounds promising, right?

Not really. The press panned this Fiesta for its poor handling, unaided by numb steering. Owners had a couple of additional worries: insurance and theft. European markets experienced a spike in insurance rates around the beginning of the ’90s, and it was especially bad for hot hatches, which often became targets for thieving youths.

Despite those things, an enterprising owner has imported this particular Fiesta from Italy. Now under the 25-year rule, Americans can experience the things that disappointed Europeans in the 1990s.

The RS Turbo is for sale in Virginia via eBay, and a prior listing of the vehicle reached over $12,000 without meeting the reserve. Has this Fiesta guy got the big eye?

[Images via seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 18 comments
  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Jan 29, 2018

    I like it, I bet its fun to drive. But, for this money? Nahh. I'd sooner try to find the engine used and put it in a 1st gen Escort 3 door. Paired with the 3.73 geared 5 speed from the GT, I bet it'd be 90% as fun for 30% of the money, if that.

  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Jan 30, 2018

    Sadly not a brown Ghia. But hats off to our intrepid reporter for finding this excellent Euro-Ford.