Drive It Home For $1,900: 1979 Ford Fiesta

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At 12-feet in length, this 1979 Ford Fiesta is longer than a lot of cars on my master wish list, but they were big in the fun-to-drive department if not in the actual size department. This example can be found here on Craigslist in Denver, Colorado. The seller is asking a mere $1,900 for this good-looking Fiesta and they say that you can drive it home!

Ouch, ok, not every part of the car looks good. That dent in the RF fender drops the value. Getting that fixed in a body shop is probably out of the question, price-wise, but maybe a replacement fender and bumper end could be found overseas. Overseas? Isn’t this a Ford? Most of you know that this was Ford’s attempt to meet the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards in the mid-1970s and it had the added benefit of being a tight, tossable, fun-to-drive car at the same time. The Fiesta was popular in Europe and in a global move that would hardly raise an eyebrow today, they brought it over to the U.S.

I love these cars, they’re so crisp and clean, almost VW Rabbit-like. They were made in Spain and France, with some engineering help from Germany, and assembled in the UK and Spain. A true world car. Wasn’t the Model T also a world car? The seller of this Fiesta is a car dealer and this example has just over 79,000 miles. It doesn’t appear to have any rust at all and they have uploaded 17 photos which is nice.

The seat covers are interesting, I would probably want to change those, but again, thinking back to the dented fender, how much money would I want to have into a ’79 Fiesta? The back seat looks similar and in similar condition which is nice. You can see in the back seat photos that this was a white car. Or, I’m assuming that it was white and repainted blue at some point since the interior metal color is white.

U.S. Fiestas received a bigger engine than the European-bound cars did. This should be Ford’s 1.6L Kent inline-four with 66 hp. That doesn’t sound like a lot and it isn’t, but given the tight handling and somewhat crisp shifting, this was a fun car to drive. Now that it’s winter in the Rockies, it would be a heck of an adventure to fly to Denver and drive this Fiesta home, but for $1,900 it could be a lot of fun to try.

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  1. JerryDeeWrench

    The last one I had we drove it 300K with normal maintance. Absolutely great cars.

    Like 6
  2. Warnie

    Yes, these were great cars, had a 78. Front fenders welded on, so there’s that….

    Like 2
  3. Miguel

    I have driven them and fun to drive never entered my mind.

    Like 4
  4. Laurent Herjean

    AFAIK, Ford only built gearboxes in France.

    Like 0
    • Laurent Herjean

      …I should add: at the time of the Fiesta. Ford did produce cars in France a few years after WWII. Their best known models were the Vedette and Comète.

      Like 0
  5. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    My only first-hand experience with a Fiesta was brief but memorable:

    Growing up, I was a well-known visitor at my very-small-town Ford dealer. This continued into my high school and even college years. One Friday afternoon in late 1977 or 1978 I was coming home from college for the weekend, to see my girlfriend (now wife of almost 40 years). As I drove by the dealer, I saw they had a new orange Fiesta in stock. So I stopped to take a look. The dealership owner, who knew me well, came out with the keys and said “take it for a spin, and let me know what you think.”

    So I proceeded to take it to my girlfriend’s house. I’m sure she was surprised to see me pull up in something other than my 1973 Pinto. We drove around town for a few minutes then I took the car back to the dealer.

    Can you imagine this happening today, a salesperson throwing the keys to a new car at a college kid and telling him to take it, unaccompanied, for a drive? Only in a small town, I guess. The owner obviously knew I was a potential customer. Aside: Two years later I bought a new 1979 Mustang from him.

    As for the car itself, my comments parallel others I have read about Fiestas: small, simple, crudely finished….. but with a peppy engine and easy-shifting transmission and good handling. For both being cheap economy cars, it drove completely different than the Pinto.

    Like 8
    • Miguel

      Bob, I am also a Pinto man. It was my cheap car of choice from the time I was 16.

      It is hard to compare the driving feel of the rear wheel drive car to the front wheel drive car.

      I still prefer the Pinto over the Fiesta but a whole lot.

      Like 2
      • Pat Lamb

        Like this…..

        Like 15
      • Miguel

        Pat, of course you hang the paper so the first sheet comes out on the bottom, if you have cats in the house.

        Like 6
    • JoeNYWF64

      Well, if there was a perfect used Fiesta like this 1 on a lot, today’s younger drivers would give the keys right back because it’s not a 4 door, it doesnt have power windows, & it’s not automatic – the younger driver’s right hand is for the smartphone, not the shifter, today. Right?

      Like 6
  6. gtyates

    My dad had one of these. I learned to drive with it actually. It was a fun little car to drive. Dads had a sunroof (both a glass panel and a metal panel) and a rear defroster. That’s about it as far as “options”. Even with the sunroof it was not a good car for summer driving in Middle TN since it did not have a/c. His was a very reliable car though, but the no a/c thing finally got to him and he let it go for a 1982 Mercury Lynx, which I took over when I graduated high school. When he let it go the car had somewhere around 60k miles on it.

    Like 3
  7. Michael Eisenmenger

    I used to ride the NJ turnpike in one of these and watch the road pass by through the floor. Had to operate the wipers with a string for awhile (needed a companion for rain driving). Other than that, the car got me where I needed to go and didn’t kill me.

    Like 3
    • strawboy

      Michael, I can’t begin to imagine that. The Missus and I run down the NJ Turnpike to Philly to visit the daughter. I run 75-80 in the slow lane getting passed by everyone, including those coming down the entrance ramps on the right.

      Like 0
  8. Bob

    I had one back in the day. so did one of my brothers. His was a sport and mine was a Ghia they both had A/C. they were great cars and took a lot of abuse.

    This car appears to have been originally white. I say this because of the underwood shots. Originally the entire body was one color.

    Like 1
  9. Mark

    Our family had two. We list track of one when it was sold with 280k miles. The other only did 160kdue to my brother’s limited understanding of maintenance and life parked on the streets of NYC. Great, fun cars.

    Like 3
  10. Mike Hawke

    These cars were definitely fun to drive…by those with driving skill.

    Like 2
  11. Will Owen

    C&D’s original road test on these pointed out that the dashboard could be taken apart by a kid with a screwdriver. As I was deep in mortal combat with an Alfa Romeo’s dashboard innards at the time, I was ready to go get me a Fiesta! That is one thing that lingers in my memory about these. Of course the big thing to me is how I love the looks and the car’s character, and how much I regret never having had one. Only the clear inevitability of domestic turmoil (or worse) keeps me from sending this guy my card info, and this time I really mean it.

    Like 1
  12. Maestro1

    Terrific cars. If I had the room I’d jump on it.

    Like 1
  13. UK Paul

    Not seen one these for years! The ugly bumper treatment that side of the pond doesn’t help it :)

    Like 2
    • downforce

      Considering those tacked on bumpers and the damage to the front one, how practical would it be to simply remove both? This would lighten the car and greatly improve its looks. I’ve seen this treatment on other cars.

      Like 0
      • Laurent Herjean

        Or replace them with the European ones?

        Like 0
  14. Jeff Schutter

    I would buy these cars as “winter beaters” when I drove a Mustang. They were amazing little cars and I remember somehow fitting four people inside without anyone complaining. Super easy to fix and keep running. I used to park them sideways in the back of the garage for the summer!

    Like 3
  15. angliagt angliagtMember

    Actually,Ford couldn’t count these for CAFE,but they had to include
    them when adding up vehicles sold.
    My first one was a ’79 Sport model (the best one!),that I bought
    to race in SCCA Showroom Stock C class.I got more trophies with that
    car than any other I owned.
    I also drove up Highway 99,form Visalia to Sacramento,at 60 mph.
    I got an honest 53 mpg out of it.You could easily get 25 City/35 Highway,
    without even trying.

    Like 1
  16. Jim

    Had an “S” model in the early 80s. Fun car when fitted with bigger wheels and tires. Go-fast goodies came from BAT catalog. A/C compressor was driven via a double pulley on the water pump. Every 10k miles the poor bearing in the pot-metal pump housing would take a dump… instant overheat… instant cracked head. Took a hail damage “total loss” insurance settlement and sent mine off with 3 heads and 1 block in the hatch.

    Like 1
  17. the one

    Slam it put in a 331 Hemi make it a street strip sleeper

    Like 1
  18. Manuel Broyer

    All these US-Specs MKI Fiesta were made in Germany, at Cologne and Saarlouis, and not in the UK or Spain.

    Like 1
  19. hatofpork

    Loved mine.

    Like 0
  20. strawboy

    Put the Taurus SHO engine from above in it. Didn’t Donald Healey do something like that?

    Like 0
  21. Rust Pig
  22. Maryland, USA

    If I recall correctly, the Mk I weighed just 1900 pounds. Today’s Fiesta SE weighs over 600 pounds more. Of course, it;s 16 inches longer abd includes modwen amenities and safety features.

    Like 0
  23. Rande Bell

    The 1978-80 Ford Fiestas sold in North America were assembled in Saarlouis, Germany – not the UK, France, or Spain, though Ford had plants in those countries, too.

    Like 0

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