Ford Fiesta

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Ford Fiesta Mark 1

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Ford Fiesta Mark 1

1976 - 1983
49 DIN kW (1300)
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
100 mph / 160 km/h
Number Built:
0 star
Ford Fiesta Mark 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1

Project Bobcat

The Ford Fiesta was originally developed under the project name "Bobcat" (later to be used on a badge engineered version of the Ford Pinto called the Mercury Bobcat) and approved for development by Henry Ford II in September 1972. Development targets indicated a production cost US$100 less than the then current Ford Escort. The car was to have a wheelbase longer than that of the Fiat 127, but with overall length shorter than that of Ford's Escort. The final proposal was developed by Tom Tjaarda at Ghia. The project was approved for production in autumn 1973, with Ford's engineering centres in Cologne and Dunton (Essex) collaborating.

Ford estimated that 500,000 Fiestas a year would be produced, and built an all-new factory near Valencia, Spain; a transaxle factory near Bordeaux, France; factory extensions for the assembly plants in Dagenham, UK, and Saarlouis, Germany. Final assembly also took place in Valencia. When Ford of Europe began to design the car, the design proposals were named Iris, Beta, The Deutschlander (from Ford's Cologne studios), Mini-Mite, and the Blue Car (from Ghia).

Codenames for the Fiesta prototype included Torino, but it became Project Bobcat. The shortlisted names for the new car designed by the project Bobcat team (headed by Trevor Erskine) were Amigo, Bambi, Bebe, Bravo, Bolero, Cherie, Tempo, Chico, Fiesta, Forito, Metro, Pony and Sierra. Despite more board votes for "Bravo", Henry Ford II personally overruled them and named the car "Fiesta". Several of the shortlisted names were later used on other cars, including "Sierra", which was introduced on the Cortina replacement in 1982, and Tempo which was used on a Ford small car in the United States market.

Ironically the "Metro" nameplate was introduced by rival manufacturer British Leyland for the similar-sized Austin Metro in 1980. The name Fiesta belonged to General Motors at the time; however, it was freely given for Ford to use on their new B-class car. After years of speculation by the motoring press about Ford's new car, it was subject to a succession of carefully crafted press leaks from the end of 1975. A Fiesta was on display at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in June 1976, and the car was launched and on sale in France and Germany in September 1976: to the frustration of UK dealerships righthand drive versions only began to appear in the UK in January 1977.

Mechanically, the Ford Fiesta followed tradition, with an end-on four-speed manual transmission mounted to a new version of the Ford Kent OHV engine, dubbed "Valencia" after the brand new Spanish factory in Almussafes, Valencia, developed especially to produce the new car. Ford's plants in Dagenham, England, and Saarlouis and Cologne (from 1979) in Germany, also manufactured Fiestas. To cut costs and speed up the research and development, many modified Kent engines destined for the Fiesta were tested in Fiat 127s – at the time considered the benchmark car in the class, with which the Fiesta shares styling similarities. This also allowed covert road testing across Europe.

Although not the first Ford vehicle to feature front-wheel drive (the 1960s Taunus produced by Ford of Germany laid claim to that title), the Fiesta is widely credited as being Ford's first globally successful front-wheel-drive model. UK sales began in January 1977, where it was available from £1,856 for the basic 950cc-engined model. It was only the second hatchback mini-car to have been built in the UK at this stage, being launched a year after the Vauxhall Chevette, but a year before the Chrysler Sunbeam and four years before the Austin Metro. The millionth Fiesta was produced on 9 January 1979.

The car was available in Europe with a 957cc (58.4 cu in) L4 (high compression and low compression options), either a 1.1 and 1.3 OHV petrol engines and in Base, Popular, L, GL (1978 onward), Ghia and S trim, as well as a van.

The U.S. Mark I Fiesta was built in Cologne, Germany but to slightly different specifications; U.S. models were Base, Decor, Sport, and Ghia, the Ghia having the highest level of trim. These trim levels changed very little in the Fiesta's three-year run in the USA, from 1978 to 1980. All U.S. models featured the more powerful 1.6 litre (98 cu in) Kent inline-four engine (fitted with a catalytic converter and air pump for lower emissions), energy-absorbing bumpers, side-marker lamps, round sealed-beam headlamps, improved crash dynamics and fuel system integrity as well as optional air-conditioning (air-conditioning was not available in Europe). In the U.S. market, the Ford Escort replaced both the Fiesta and the compact Pinto in 1981. At the beginning of the British government's Motability scheme for disabled motorists in 1978, the Fiesta was one of the key cars to be available on the scheme.

The "Hot" Fiesta

By 1978 the Fiesta had proven extremely popular, and it seemed a good time for Ford to release a 'hot' version. This came in the form of a 1300, available in 'S' or Ghia versions, powered by a special five-bearing transverse pushrod OHV engine derived from the Escort Sport/Ghia. Some road testers were disappointed with the larger engined car, finding it difficult to differentiate from the 1100 version. But the 1300 was better, and maybe the testers were fooled by the quietness of the engine itself. Truth was, the 1300 was a refined little motor, with an extra silencer (two instead of the single one on the normal Fiestas), and that fact plus the flexibility of the engine, and the comfort within tended to play-down the performance.

The engine, with its twin-choke Weber and maximum output of 49 DIN kW, was very quiet and smooth cruising at 4850 rpm (137 km/h) in its indirect top gear, and there nearly reached the magie 100 miles per hour / 160 km/h. Acceleration was good enough to attain that figure through the gears in 24 seconds. The Fiesta 1300, whether in S or Ghia form, had 25 per cent more power than the '1100' models, and peak torque was up 15 percent (3478 Nm at 3250 rpm). The car would hang-on to top gear like a limo, but the gear-change, typically Ford, was a delight to use. Blasting through the gears it was possible to record a 0-100 kmh in under 11 seconds, and in top the neat little S would surge from 60-100 km/h in 16.2 sec. It would trickle along at 25 km/h in top, accelerating cleanly without complaint, and behave similarly from 16 km/h in third.

Interior appointments were much the same as the smaller S models and Ghias, but the S versions had special body side-flashes - if you were in to that sort of thing. The engine had a larger clutch (19 cm) to cope with the extra power, and the cooling system had a larger radiator, bigger fan, and more powerful electric motor to drive it. Some of the early cars had a minor issue where the water temperature would quickly go up to the top, which in turn would engage the noisy cooling fan. The Ford engineers were on top of the problem, and early cars had this sorted during thier first service - apparently it was a case of re-phasing the switch-on area. In fairness, although the fan may have buzzed away, the engine was cool enough for a hand to be rested on it.

Prototype testing revealed the greater torque introduced powerful steering reactions through the front-drive. Ford eliminated the trouble by equalising the drive-shaft length, which meant an extra centre bearing added to the right-hand shaft. The new layout was supported by a casting attached to the rear of the crankcase. The car handled beautifully, and there was little doubt the 1300 Fiesta, which returned (a claimed) 7.82 litres/100 km at touring speeds was a much better proposition than the 1100 version, particularly in Australia with long highways and large distances to be covered.

News Release - Ford Fiesta Bravo

Ford's programme of special edition models continues in 1981 with the two-tone Fiesta Bravo announced today. 

The Bravo, which is based on the Fiesta L, offers a choice of the llOOcc or 1300 cc engines. Two alternative colour schemes combine Ford Strato Silver with Cobalt Blue or Graphite Grey; the model is further distinguished by "Bravo" identification decals. 

Designed as a special value package, the Bravo not only incorporates a number of items at lower cost than their optional price but also incorporates features which are not normally available. 

These include a glass sun-roof, tinted window glass, halogen headlights, 4.5in. rim wheels, gradient-band tinted windscreen, full instrumentation, passenger vanity mirror, four-spoke steering wheel, cigar lighter and front and rear grab handles. 

With the exception of a vinyl roof and all other colour schemes, the full range of optional equipment normally quoted for the Fiesta will be available. 

Fiesta Bravo prices, including car tax and VAT are as follows: With llOOcc engine, £4215.00; with 1300cc engine, £4395.00. 


It would take until 1980 before this sporting derivative, there known as the 1.3 litre Supersport, would be offered in Europe. It was always the case that Europe would have the smaller engined variety, but Ford decided to release the 1300 to test the market for the similar XR2 introduced one year later, which featured a 1.6 litre version of the same engine. Black plastic trim was added to the exterior and interior. The small square headlights were replaced with larger circular ones resulting in the front indicators being moved into the bumper to accommodate the change.

With a quoted performance of 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 9.3 seconds and 105 mph (169 km/h) top speed, the XR2 hot hatch became a cult car beloved of boy racers throughout the 1980s. Minor revisions appeared across the range in late 1981, with larger bumpers to meet crash worthiness regulations and other small improvements in a bid to maintain showroom appeal ahead of the forthcoming Mk 2. In 1978, the Fiesta overtook the Vauxhall Chevette as Britain's best-selling supermini, but in 1981 it was knocked off the top spot by British Leyland's Austin Metro and was still in second place at the end of 1982.


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