Found in the Mountains: 1976 Ford Fiesta

Ford’s compact Fiesta graced our shores for just a short while, bringing with it some much-needed European flair to the US lineup. Nowadays, they are rare to see on American roads but represent good smiles-per-dollar value. This one here on craigslist is said to have just been dragged down from the mountain top and surprisingly still runs. 

“Was parked under a tree in the mountains” for years reads the description, and amazingly, the original dealer plate frame is still attached! We’d love to know the backstory on this Fiesta and how the seller even knew it was there. The body may actually just be a power-washing away from cleaning up and revealing what looks like a dark red or ruby paint code.

The seller goes on to claim they “…put a battery in and it fired right up.” Interesting claim and may indicate this Fiesta was running and driving not too long ago, but then again, check out the passenger rear tire – this thing did sit for a while. Sills look good, glass is intact and aside from some missing chrome trim on the door, the Fiesta looks very complete.

The seller will trade for a motorcycle and also mentions the best offer will take it home. At only $550, I’m not sure it was worth his while to haul a trailer up the mountainside and drag this out, but we’re glad the little Fiesta was rescued either way. If it’s already confirmed as running, five hundred Benjamins seems more than fair, but we’d still try and snag it for $300.


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  1. jw454

    Title Status: Lien ????

    Point one… who would borrow money on this car? Wait!! More over, WHO’D LOAN MONEY ON THIS CAR!!!

    • Miguel

      That is not what lien means in this case.

      A lien would be something filed like at a mechanics shop to cover a bill.

      In this case I would expect the lien to be filed against the tree for storage.

      That was sarcasm.

      I would be very careful with this car as far as paperwork is concerned.

      If anybody has had one of these, they are probably thinking the same thing as I am.

      Why did they bring that thing out of the mountains?

  2. Steve

    I had a ’78 Ford Fiesta Sport I bought new when I was 19 years old. It was a great little car and other than a leaky rear brake cylinder and a water pump, never gave me any problems in the 10 years and 100,000 miles that I had it. It was light, nimble and peppy in it’s day. I can’t remember that last time I saw one on the road. I think they were considered disposable.

    • Chuck Damian

      A Fiesta was my first new car! I bought a 1980 S model, I think the paint was called Bright Red but it looked orange to me! I started autocrossing and running time trials almost immediately and had good success, winning the ’80 Tri States Autocross Club SSC class championship. I owned several others and built one into an SCCA ITC car with my friend, Bob Pecan. I also earned my road racing license with it and did OK considering my limited funds. I flat towed it from Richmond to Nelson Ledges with my ’88 Merkur Scorpio, running 80 mph and getting 20 mpg! I spun them out hooked together on a wet corner one day but didn’t damage anything! My father ended up with my first Fiesta and drove it for years until the rust bug got it. It had well over 200k mi on it and many auto-x and time trial events and still had the original clutch. The engine and transmission were never apart. The pic is me racing at Nelson Ledges. I loved those cars!

      Like 1
  3. MrBZ

    Friends had one in Arkansas in 77-78. That little car would scoot! FWD took us through hundreds of miles of dirt roads in all kinds of weather. Better than average quality for the day and fun to drive. There are a lot worse cars out there to put money into.

  4. Paul

    I’m pretty sure the Fiesta didn’t get to the States until ‘78. My Dad bought a ‘78 brand new, I think it was the Decor package, and then traded that in on an ‘80 Sport that we put a couple hundred thousand miles on. Loved that car.

    • graham line

      First US model year was ’78, so they would have been around in the fall of ’77. Mine was a leftover ’78 bought in early ’79. Ran 104K before it was replaced by an ’86 Jetta GLI.

      • Bruce

        I only remember them from 1978 to 1980. I had two of them, a 78 and an 80. They were great little cars. They were relatively quick and handled relatively well. I really liked them, but wouldn’t take this one if it were free.

  5. gyates

    My Dad had one, and I got to learn to drive in it. His was Ruby Red, and had a glass or metal sunroof and a rear defroster. It was a fun car to drive actually. Living in TN, a/c is a must in a car, and after 5 summers of no a/c he sold it and bought a Mercury Lynx with a/c and the “HO” engine (which ended up as mine). It is rare to see a Fiesta now. Most rusted out.

  6. Rx7turboII

    Fun fact, the 1980 Ford Fiesta alternator was a perfect fit upgrade for the Triumph TR6…..

  7. glen

    The story behind this car is probably more interesting than the car itself!

  8. JW

    Back in the late 80’s early 90’s my oldest sister had 2, she lived a long ways from her job and bought them for commuter cars and she loved them. Me being at the time a big 4×4 guy rode with her once and it ran well and great gas mileage but I felt like I was in a Campbell soup can with wheels and a Briggs motor. Not a collector car but I guess there’s a seat for every butt depending on your budget and needs.

    • Steve65

      If I had the money to be a car “collector”, this is precisely the sort of car I’d collect. Charismatic, but cheap, never seen as special, and discarded until few or none are left.

      My collection would include things like this, a Le Car (R5), that Ford EXP that just popped up. Pretty much a warehouse full of unusual and slightly to intensely non-mainstream entry level cars, which can be had (when you find one) for under $10k. And I’d want them well preserved but driver quality, so I could take them out and drive them without being paranoid about rock chips and puddles.

      • Miguel

        Can I ask how old you are?

        I ask because you mention a figure of $10,000 for cars that have never been worth more than $200.00.

        For those of us from this era, it is very hard to put out 5 digits for throw away cars.

      • Steve65

        Old enough to remember when this was just a (slightly unusual) car.

        The rest of your questions only serve reveal your personal biases and your apparent belief that they are universally held. Also, poor reading comprehension.

  9. GearHead Engineer

    I love Fiestas! I had a ’78 for a few years in the ’80s. My girlfriend at the time had one too. Mine was white with red interior. Reliable, peppy, handled reasonably well, could haul stuff in back, great mpg. It was a tin can but that was part of the charm.

    I love Fiestas! But this is a parts car. Dents, parts missing, needs tires (can you even buy a 12″ tire anymore?), and who knows what the interior needs.

    If I remember right, this can’t be a ’76. I think they were offered in the US from ’78-’80 only.

    – John

    • BiggYinn

      First year of production was late 1976 european left hand drive with UK right hand drive in early 1977

    • Leon

      In 90s a local tire dealer tv ad said tires new as low as $9.99 I think. Fine print size 145R10. Lol. I think the first Hondas used 10s. 12s aren’t too difficult to find as you might be able to substitute trailer tires as last resort

  10. Warren

    I had a 78 “S” with rare factory air, it was slow as molasses with the compressor dragging the engine down. Needless to say did not use the air much. Fun to drive and yes the tin can description is so accurate……

  11. grant

    much-needed European flair? These things were the cheapest looking stamped out generic econo cars ever. A buddy had one in high school and I have a lot of great memories of it, but European flair? More like Eastern Bloc drudgery.

  12. Mark S

    What a turd should have left it on the mountain with a Buick sized rock on top of it.JMHO.

  13. BiggYinn

    These where actually decent cars .OK some of them not all…well before they got fugly US spec bumpers and grills lol

  14. misterlou Member

    Solid 1.6L Kent motor. Indestructible. Ford still selling parts for that engine.

  15. Kenny

    Loved the mk1 xr2 fiesta not many made or still left

    • Jody

      Sick ride…I would give my left nut for that…kudos Mate!

  16. John

    Definition of “econobox.” 500 Benjamins too much. Try 500 Washingtons or less!

    • Miguel

      He is only asking $550.00 Washingtons.

  17. Pete

    I had a 78 with an orange and black houndstooth interior. Very German. A fun car to drive and flog on back roads. Paid $725 in 1983.

    • Jody

      Because it’s a German car….made in Germany and the coolest car ford ever made period

  18. gyates

    My Dad had one of these. I learned to drive with it. Fun little car actually. His had a sunroof and rear defroster, but no a/c. He kept it about 5 years, but 5 summers in the South US with no a/c was enough. He sold it and bought a Mercury Lynx, which ended up being mine. The Fiesta was a fun car, especially on the backroads. Not overly comfortable, especially with no a/c, but it got the job done as a commuter.


    I think the “PARTY” has long passed this one, lol

  20. Mike

    Great little cars. My friend in high school had one in the early eighties.We took it off-road and had a great time auto-crossing it. His dad worked at the parts counter of the local Ford dealer and gave my friend a high-end 8-track out of some Ford of the period that was mounted below the dash. We would drive for hours listening to a never ending DEVO 8 track.

    • Steve

      That’s funny stuff. I blasted a lot of DEVO in mine too back in the day. But I had a cassette player ;-)

  21. AF

    “Chomp Chomp Chomp” The crusher is getting hungry!

  22. Jubjub

    I’d be interested to see it put thru a DIY car wash too.

    These were cool little cars. My sister bought a ’79 Ghia new. Drove it to Alaska and back and sold it in Philly a decade later.

    Lots of performance possibilities with the little Kent motor if you wanted to go that way. Could it be set up for vintage racing? Seems these had some decent success in various SCCA events.

  23. SamM

    Anyone else worried over it sitting under a tree for ‘years’. Putting a battery in it and started right up. No oil or fuel change,,, circulate years of sludge in the pan thru-out the motor? I had a friend with one years ago, and she LOVED it. Truth be told, I kinda liked it too. Lots of MPGs on this one, I think she fueled it up once a month, lol.

    • connbackroads

      I was concerned that somebody would start an engine that had sat for years without “pre-lubing” it. Those bearings were dry . . .


    i worked on a lot of them when they were new. Great engine, pretty quick, reliable, extremely light. I could pick the whole rear of the car up with the back bumper. Do not think I could do it now. Far superior car to the first Escorts.

  25. Daymo

    Over here in Europe we had a Fiesta for everyone; sub-1 litre to 1.6 injection engines, basic to luxury to sports specification and everything inbetween. There were even a few aftermarket convertibles too, known as the Fiesta Fly.
    A firm favourite of driving schools everywhere, millions learned to drive in them, myself included.
    Mk 1’s are becoming thin on the ground, but spares supply is excellent and values, even for basketcases, are on the way up.

  26. Chebby

    All that work to go get it, and you couldn’t be bothered to take the car off the trailer for pics or wash it first. Were you expecting it to be sold by the time you got home?

  27. Wayne

    Install an eccentric lower control arm bushing kit to give it just a touch of negative camber. (original factory setting was like 1.5 degrees positive) and the thing handled great! It also gave it better acceleration as you would now have the full tread of the tire touching the pavement. (Instead of getting a very narrow black strip as the positive camber got worse with rear weight transfer!)
    Great cars!

  28. Paulo M

    I don’t know how much they worth, but they are a quite fun to drive. And scarse too. Here’s a picture of mine!

  29. George Soffa

    I rented one in Paris, in April 1979 and drove it to Bordeaux and then across the bottom of France through Carcassone, Montpelier, on into Marseille , stopping a couple days in Saint Tropez!! Drove the hell out of it for two weeks , it performed well ! On the toll roads we ran 80 to 90 mph with the truckers and it took it fine ! After a final week on the Riviera, made an overbite run for Paris, through Dijon and Lyon , then on into Paris in the early morning , so ran it hard to the last minute ! No complaints with the little car !!

  30. Will Owen Member

    The first thing that impressed me about these, aside from how damn pretty it is, was C&D’s saying that a kid with a screwdriver could dismantle the dashboard in abt ten minutes. Having spent untold hours dealing with stuff under or inside too many dashboards, this impressed the hell out of me. Never did get the chance to try that myself, though. Too bad – this is a car that always eluded me, and now I’m totally out of room

    • GearHead Engineer

      Will, I actually had to do a very similar task, and in a hurry, once.

      The multi-purpose (turn signal, high beams, and horn) switch on my Fiesta shorted out one evening. I was in a not so great section of a small city. Smoke started coming out of the steering column. I first tried to disconnect the battery – didn’t have a wrench with me, but I frantically opened the hood and tried to pull the terminal off anyway. Despite my super-human strength I failed miserably. At this point my very non-mechanically inclined friend was looking a little panicked.

      I then pulled out my swiss army knife and started taking apart the column/dash area. I was able to get in fairly quickly and disconnect the switch before things got really bad. By now the car was a little smoky inside but at least it wasn’t on fire.

      Just as I was starting to calm down and breathe again, I noticed a police car had parked behind me. My friend was now looking A LOT panicked. His manner confused me, since I had successfully averted the meltdown and had saved my beloved Fiesta. Then I saw the police officers with hands on their guns and very serious facial expressions.

      I guess tearing apart a steering column on the city street gave them the wrong impression…

      – John

      • Little_Cars Alexander Member

        Nah…it was probably the smoke coming from inside the car, GearHead!!!

  31. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    The bass player in my band drove one of these…not sure how he wedged the instrument in for gigs. There is a yellow Fiesta sitting on a paved lot next to a major road leading into my hometown of Columbia, Tennessee right now. In the ubiquitous color of bright yellow. Been meaning to stop and take a look.

  32. Nevis Beeman

    A great friend of mine owned two Ford Fiestas. One he kept and drove on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis, where he worked. The other he kept at his home by the Finger lakes, N Y, and broke for spares to keep his Nevis Fiesta running !

    Incidently if you stroll along Bruntsfield Gardens,Edinburgh,Scotland you’ll be treated to the fine sight of a well kept Mk1 Ford Fiesta, that lives on that street !

  33. chad

    Road trip frm WV to NYC’n back in a new 1 in ’78 or 9, w/4 200 lb guys.
    Pretty interesting ride…

  34. Jody

    Little cars are cool. All my great memories where in little cars with my buddies….always the guy not driving macho cars in HS, and not giving a crap, when the beer runs needed to be run at 11pm to the New York State line, guess who got the call, the guy with the whip that gets 40 mph….not the football stud with the the new mustang gt…lmao

  35. NJsteve

    My first new car bought in the fall of 77 at 19 years old. I worked for my dad in LA County and we lived in OC. 45 mile each way. I still have one (not that one) and love the thing for it’s fun and simplicity. There’s nothing on It’s that isn’t necessary. It gets as many looks as my 930. Not sure if for the same reasons. I’d buy a new one today if I could.

    • Steve

      Bought one too at the same time and when I was 19. I still think about that car quite a bit. Have some great memories attached to it.

  36. Puckster

    I had a friend that wrung every last hp & ft-lb possible out of the stock engine in his little brown fiesta. He then thoroughly embarrassed a lot of gearheads with it. I think he drag raced it all over Michigan from 1984-7 from what I remember.

  37. Nevis Beeman

    How amazing and special that such a humble, basic, simple, yet useful little car that was apparently only sold in the USA for 2 or 3 years, more than 30 years ago, has generated more than 50 comments (so far !) here in 2017!

  38. Geoff

    These are worth a fortune in UK. They were very popular here and are really rare now. Although ours didn’t have those crazy federal law bumpers

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