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Fiesty Ford: 1980 Ford Fiesta

1980 Ford Fiesta

UPDATE 9/22/15 – This one is still one the market and is now listed here on Hemmings with the same asking price. Thanks goes to Jim S. for the update!

FROM 3/27/15 – I’ll bet there are a lot of you wondering what a small Ford econobox is doing here. The fact is, the Ford Fiesta offers a level of performance no one would expect out of such an unassuming package. This one is located in Pratt, Kansas and was found by Barn Finds reader Jeff K. It’s listed here on craigslist for $4,200 or best offer. While initially that may seem expensive, the car is a New Mexico rust-free car and has a beautiful interior, outstanding underhood appearance, and even a clean underside. I vividly remember a regional autocross I went to in the early ‘90s where a Fiesta took overall fastest time of day. It was very well-driven and on a tight course, but wow, that car was quick! Remember, a good paint job can cost more than this car—do you want it?


  1. Larry

    Great color combo, very low miles, pristine condition. Flat out amazing considering the way these utilitarian cars were typically treated. Is it worth $4K? To the right buyer, definitely. Probably someone who had one “back in the day.”

    Hopefully the price is high enough to ensure that it will be properly cared for, and kept in original condition. Maybe even keep it out of the rust belt states – one of my college house mates in upstate New York had one, and it wasn’t pretty.

  2. John

    Fascinating to see a USA spec Fiesta. I drove my first one of many in 1977 and loved it. An 1100 cc “L”. The Fiesta was a number 1 seller in Uk for many years and was very popular in Europe too. Fiesta prices for early ones are gently rising, depending on originality and condition here in Europe. As to performance versions the original ones came only as striped up ordinary cars, the “S” until the hard to find Supersport a 1300cc came out. Then came the XR2 which was 1600cc crossflow and pretty serious about what it was doing. Early versions of that are very hard to find. Mk 2 is a little easier. For me the best of the bunch was always the more ordinary cars like the “L” or the Ghia versions. If you wanted performance there were better things around to buy. Like Peugeot GTI, Golf Gti or the later incarnations of Renault 5 turbo.Ford absolutely made a big mistake about an automatic version, crucial to US market I would have thought. The CVT transmission was one of the worst they ever made early versions would not go uphill in reverse. The gearbox usually failed around 35,000 miles too. The legacy of that debacle haunts Ford even today. Enjoy this little legend I would say, it looks to be in fab condition.

  3. Jeff Lavery Staff

    Worth every penny of the asking price. I actually let out an audible “Jesus!” when I saw the undersides. Beautiful car, nice find Jamie!

  4. Tim

    > I vividly remember a regional autocross I went to in the
    > early ‘90s where a Fiesta took overall fastest time of day.

    That’s autocross for you. In a race around the living room, a Chihuahua will beat a Thoroughbred every time.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Haha, that was a good one Tim!

  5. phoneman91

    Oh my! This is close enough and nice enough and inexpensive enough–for me to be very interested. And yes-I had one back in 1979 and loved it! Most fun at 33MPG someone could have back then! 2/3 scale VW Rabbit is many people thought it was back then!

  6. phoneman91

    I believe that this same Fiesta was listed in Ebay about a year ago. The seller wanted around 6k back then. Very nice condition it would seem.

  7. phoneman91

    And it still has that funky UNDER the rear axle factory exhaust pipe. And the undercarriage is in very good condition. But no radio and no AC. Just like the one I bought new back in 1979. It is a Ghia model-with the “fancy” interior and adjustable seat backs . Top of the line back then!

  8. Metoo

    I have never owned on, but would love to. I am a paraplegic and use hand controls PLUS I have to be able to get my wheelchair into the car as well. Years ago I checked one out and discovered that with its unusually good headroom and its unusually wide door, it is near perfect for me and much much more user friendly for a wheelchair user than many other much larger cars. They are really quite roomy.

  9. J>W>

    My sister drove one of these in the 80’s, great on gas but not my type of vehicle. At that time I was in to big trucks and I would tease her that when it broke I would just throw it in the bed of my truck and haul it to her house, it never broke, was a very dependable car I just don’t like small cars.

  10. jkc

    I’m the owner of this Fiesta. It is the decor model and not the ghia. There are 4 models – base, decor, sport, and ghia. Yes, this is the one that was on eBay around 18 months ago. I bought it in January, 2014. Selling it because I’ve had my fun with it and want the garage space back. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer one. Currently 60,800 actual miles.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Well, it looks like a great car. In fact, if it were closer, I’d be tempted to pick it up myself! Good luck with the sale.

    • phoneman91

      I believe you are correct–the Ghia had factory aluminum wheels as part of the package. And fancy interior.36 years plays with one’s memory. I had a base model and had to get a tach from a wrecked Fiesta because the base model had no tachometer.

    • jim s

      are you saying all the photos are from when you bought the car 18 months ago?

  11. Bruce Turk

    My father had one when I was 16. If he knew how hard I drove that car he would have my head on a stick. Dad is 85 now and he would still kill me (so don’t tell him)… The car handled great and it would accelerate like no tomorrow.

  12. Neil

    I cannot imagine you could have more classic fun for $4k than this little thing. It’s a shame about the US-spec bumpers but perhaps the new owner might want to source some Euro ones from the UK?

    Whilst I am a big fan of 60s/70s USA land yachts, the Fiesta was an attempt to be an up-to-date Mini – the lack of power doesn’t matter on skinny tyres and a good driving position. 30mph feels like 50.

    Still, you could get an actual Mini for this price, or an MX5 (sorry, Miata!), but if this was for sale here in the UK it would have been sold the minute it was listed.

  13. grant

    um….no. 4k for a Fiesta? I think people have lost their minds. This is an $800 car all day long. I will admit that my friend Rick and I thrashed on his back in the day and it just wouldn’t die. But still. It has hand cranks to adjust the seats!!!! And no one puts a 4k paint job on an econo box. Maaco……

    • dj

      I totally agree with you.

  14. Ian Roberts

    … As I said with the previous Fiesta a few weeks ago this would be snapped up here in the UK. Seat covers a tad bright but never seen such a clean one. 4k in pounds let alone dollars is a steal. In the USA would be a cheap and fun car. Hope it stays as is. Btw. Here the Fiesta has and still is the top seller. Has been literally for decades here.

  15. Tom S.

    I had the Ghia version for a company car for a short time. I think it was a ’79. It had fancier upholstery and trim, and a flip-up sunroof. It was a neat car.

  16. JKC

    Well, check out They had one recently sell for $6800 and it doesn’t appear to be as nice as this one. Just try to find one that isn’t a rust bucket. I would agree $800 if this was sold for scrap but this is definitely no scrapper. “Hand cranks to adjust the seats” – remember this car was build in 1980, 35 years ago so we are dealing with 35 year old technology. That’s like pooh-poohing a 1940 Ford coupe because the radio isn’t FM.

    Like 1
  17. Brian

    These are the Richard Nixons of cardom – history will be far kinder to them than were their contemporaries. Looking at it now, it has a cute, quant, econbox box look to it – a boxy style that was once everywhere but has long since passed away. If it were only a convertible!

    In it’s day, it was considered sub-par transportation, bearly fast enough, bearly safe enough. It was a “Hopefully, it will hold together long enough so I can save up the down payment for a real car – a K-car” kind of a car.

    It funny what nostalgia does!

    • jksee

      So, Brian. Did you ever own a 78-80 Fiesta? I bought a 78 base model new and liked it so much I traded it for a 79 sport model the next year. Commuted 50 miles round trip to work every day in them, even in Iowa winters. I found both to be dependable, economical transportation not to mention a blast to drive. As far as “save up for a real car” the Fiesta was our second car. Our primary car was a new Olds Cutlass Supreme Holiday Coupe. We weren’t exactly destitute at that time and still aren’t.

      • Brian

        Jk – I’m glad that your experiences with these cars were positive. However my memories of them were that they just another cheap econo-box. I recall them running around in the early 1980s, many with swiss cheese exhaust systems and lots of rust. A cousin received one as a high school graduation gift. It gave excellent fuel economy but often wouldn’t start in cold weather. The seat covers began to split at the seams after only a few years and the paint failed, and – yes – she did trade it on a Plymouth Horizon in the early 80s – which is another story!

        We all have cars that we love, if this one is yours, I’m glad. I think seeing one today in great condition is a treat, especially since I haven’t seen one on the highway in decades.

        I have never owned one and likely never would – just not my thing. While I’m sure they are alot of fun to zip around in, driving one in any sort of competition sounds insane to me. In a front or side collision, it would fair as well as an empty Pepsi can – not that any of it contemporaries would have done any better.

    • Larry

      While time and nostalgia can certainly change our perceptions, and yes, it was in fact an economy car, in many respects it just wasn’t in the same class as the few real competitors it had in the US market.

      Created by Ford of Europe, designed by Ghia in Italy, and for US model at least, built in Germany, you got a lot of decent quality car for your money – particularly compared to cars like GM’s Chevette. (I’m sorry, but I still cringe when I think about my Chevette driving experiences.)

      As noted above, and similar to the later CRX, the light wight, compact shape and flickable nature, of the US Fiestas provided significant advantages on tight autocross courses.

      For a college student, it was pretty much the perfect runabout. Economical to operate, fun to drive, and much easier to park that the more common larger hand-me-down cars most people seemed to have at the time.

      • phoneman91

        Well put,Larry.

        The Fiesta was a way to experience non Japanese front wheel drive back in the 70’s. It’s parts were sourced from many different countries (German body,English Kent engine,French transmission, ect.) I always thought that the grouping of international flags on the back of these Fiesta’s were appropriate ! It was amazing when working on these-to find out where each part was made in Europe.

        What new vehicle could one have bought back in 1978 that was affordable, weighed 1700 pounds with four seats ,FWD, 30MPG HWY,and lightening quick responses-and at the same time could be serviced in any small town by one of the major 3 manufacturers? (The Ford Escort only appeared in 1981.)

        The styling may now looked dated–but made for more interior usable space. And even with the aluminum protruding USA spec bumpers-was and is attractive in it’s own right.

        The Fiesta was my first chance to buy a new ,German made, affordable vehicle,and my first chance to buy a FWD that could be warranted and worked on by any small town dealer anywhere in the States.

        And this delightful vehicle taught me about front wheel drive throttle understeer and trailing throttle oversteer in a modest matter that didn’t get me killed or hurt.

        The boat trailer size wheels and tires and sewing machine sized engine never failed to start a conversation with an absolute stranger down in Texas . I even got out of some speeding tickets because the Texan DPS/Highway patrol couldn’t believe that this mico car could actually cruise so fast on the Texan highways in the Panhandle!

        And as a former owner of a 1985 CRX Si–I agree that low mass vehicles have their own appeal .

        Like 1
  18. jim s

    interesting car for sure. i think it is close in price to what i paid new for my base model back then. mine was a very good car for the 50k mile i put on it. i bought 1 new tire and used the fullsize spare to replace the fronts. the back tires were still good. ford gave me a new set of front brake pads and the vacumm valve on the air cleaner. i replaced the water pump. they do rust in the wiper area so that will need to be checked. other than that a great daily driver and fun autocross car. still for sale! great find .

  19. Marc Montoni

    Anyone interested in these vehicles should hook up with the US Fiesta Club.

    Like 1
  20. Steve

    A buddy had one of these in college. The sheet metal was so thin if you farted while sitting in the hood it would leave a dent.

  21. Pete W.

    I had a leased 78 Ghia back when my DD Toyota was tied up in the body shop for a couple of months. I thought it was amazing.

    I remember being impressed with the fit and finish ( a jewel like metallic burgundy paint job) as well as the acceleration and handling. It was tiny, though. Much smaller than my Mom’s Rabbit.

    A total hoot to drive, I hated to give it back.

  22. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Wow! The little Ford has brought a ton of comments! You would think it was a Barn Find split window for sale.

  23. bill

    Mid 80’s i worked as a independant contractor small package (mostly letters) radio dispatch courier in and around metro st louis. I got turned on to the fiesta thru a consumer reports ‘best low budget used cars’ article. I ended up owning 3 or 4 of them paid under 1G for all but my last one – cherry ’80 white sport 50,000 mi $1200. I was running 1000 mi/WEEK(!) in metro 8am-6pm traffic. Did that for 5 years and those fiesta’s OWNED ’round-town traffic (as long as you stayed out of the idiots’ ways!). They were incredibly dependable and WAY fun to drive … no problem getting off the line at lights and staying out in front of or ‘manuevering’ thru the general pack. One of THE coolest things about them however was actually those stick-out bumpers that have been maligned here. Fact is they were mounted on shocks rated, if i remember right, at 15 mph collisions. I had to pull up short in morning rush once coming to a light and guy behind me was trailing to close (I think road was wet) and he tagged me pretty good. We get out and his aerodynamically ‘pretty’ plastic front piece was all cracked and mangled but my sweet little goofy bumper was merely pushed in on left side with no damage to actual bumper and as we stood there looking that shock pushed it’s way back all the way out and I was totally good to go, no need for his numbers – nada! I said adios and he was still standing there scratching his head trying to make sense of his damage compared to mine. true story. Look on his face was a ‘polaroid’ moment donchaknow … now had it been the suv everyone drives today or the big truck ….he’d have come right over the top of that bumper sittin on those 12″ wheels ;)

  24. Chuck Damian

    Bill, you reminded me of something. Once after a typical Pittsburgh ice and snow-storm, as usual we were drifting and hand brake turning in a local parking lot. I screwed up and got it locked up in a terminal understeer slide, heading towards a dumpster at probably 30 mph! Nothing I could do but wait! It seemed like time had stopped……WHAM! I hit that dumpster a TON! The lucky thing was I hit it exactly at 90 degrees. We were amazed to see the dumpster fly across the lot like it was launched from an aircraft carrier catapult! I got out of my beloved Fiesta dreading what I would find…….NOTHING! No damage! We couldn’t believe it! Well, there goes one of my stories….I’m sure I have 50 more.

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