By on January 29, 2018

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSIn 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.

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSThe 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.

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSNot 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.

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSUnique (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.

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSRecaro 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!

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSTen 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?

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSNot 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.

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSDespite 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.

Image: 1991 Ford Fiesta RSThe 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]

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18 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1991 Ford Fiesta RS Turbo – Slightly Better Than Our Festiva...”

  • avatar

    Funnily enough, while Ford in the US were busy rebadging Mazdas, in Europe this generation of Fiesta (in slightly later format, 1996-2002) saw the reverse happen as it was actually rebadged as a Mazda, the 121. Not in RS Turbo form of course, just the terminally dull standard hatchbacks that were well past their sell-by date by this time.

  • avatar

    The ebay listing says this car is “blindingly quick” at 7.9 seconds. Not Quite. That shifter looks like the optional joystick on my old 1987 Sega Master System. Good luck with parts.

    • 0 avatar

      7.9 seconds is just .2 to 1.0 faster than the current batch of econoboxes in non-sporting trim. Even by the standards of the era, 7.9 seconds to 60 wasn’t fast in 1991. In a car of this size, close to the top of the pile, but if you want late 80s or early 90s and 0 to 60 in less than 8 seconds you can find an i-Mark RS, Ford Probe GT, Ford Probe LX with the Vulcan V6, or a turbo charged JR Impulse for far less money. The Impulse is going to have weirdo 80s car street cred too, and if you can find one with waffle wheels…

    • 0 avatar

      Place this car’s performance in the time it was released, 7.9 sec was quick.

  • avatar

    Man do I love 3 spoke wheels.

    Those wheels are certainly very Saab-esque.

  • avatar

    A clean attractive style.

    Stunningly overpriced here but all it takes is one avid buyer.

  • avatar

    I thought these had the 1.6 CVH engine? Quite a desirable vehicle back in the day but insurance was horrendous and there was a lot of car theft back then!

  • avatar

    There can’t be many of these left

    • 0 avatar

      They have all disappeared from the roads here. And when you do see a rare survivor it is generally in poor shape and has a lot of rust. It won’t go on for long.

      These were cheap and disposable cars and I will boldly claim that most owners did not plan on keeping them for long. I drove one in the early 1990s (I cannot remember what engine it had but it was petrol-powered) and it was underwhelming and boring, as expected.

  • avatar
    The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

    Does it come with the original suspension spares, just in case anything happens to the lowering bits on this one?

  • avatar

    Numb steering in a car that (likely) has no power assist? That’s an achievement.

    (Unless, of course, I’m wrong about the steering being power-assisted.)

    • 0 avatar

      If I remember correctly some early base models did not have power steering. Or it was at least an expensive (for this class of car) option.

      This high-trim Fiesta would most certainly have power steering.

  • avatar

    Those larger tires are still too small for the fender openings, and the broken suspension only amplifies the effect.

    Cool car once those problems are addressed.

    • 0 avatar

      I think those tires are even smaller than factory. Maybe he wanted to shorten the gearing. I did that with an old Grand Am in my youth. The performance tire selection in 195/70R14 was non-existent and I wanted shorter gearing anyway, so it got a silly little set of 195/60R14s.

      Much better with proper tires and a functional suspension:

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

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

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