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Stocking Stuffer: 1988 Ford Festiva

Bear with me: this is the perfect project car for the holidays. It will fit almost anywhere, if not literally in the proverbial stocking. This 1988 Ford Festiva is thankfully equipped with a manual transmission and under 100,000 original miles. The seller claims it has been stored in a garage since 1992 when it was last registerd. Interesting? Yes, given how few are left. Find it here on craigslist in Brooklyn, New York for $500; go here if it disappears.

As a 1988 model, this is a “pre-facelift” example, which came later with the introduction of the 1989 edition. These were extremely simple and utilitarian cars, capable of impressive miles per gallon with either a 1.1 or 1.3L engine. Mazda had a heavy hand in its design and construction, thanks to the close relationship between the two companies at the time. The Festiva could turn in MPGs ranging to upwards of 40 MPGs, a healthy number even today.

The solitary interior shot above makes the cabin appear quite clean for the age and mileage. Gauges look far more Japanese than American, which isn’t a surprise considering Mazda’s hand in the design. The Festiva lived on in multiple forms across different international markets, including the Mazda 121 and Kia Pride. Of course, our favorite will always be the hot-rodded Festiva Shogun that resides in Jay Leno’s collection.

Looking like it’s sitting on a lift in a crowded, dark garage, it’s hard to decipher from the listing why the Festiva was retired so early in its fuel-sipping life. It will need a new battery and starter to run, but given its compact size, perhaps Santa can store it in the back of his sleigh for easy delivery. It may not be the car you hoped for, but with a name like Festiva, you can’t deny it has the perfect name of the holiday season.


  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    I love (and want) it! My red Honda Motocompo would probably fit in the back and I wouldn’t have to find a Honda City R. This is a great find, Jeff!

    • Rx7turboII


      My 83 Civic 1500s needs your motocompo in its hatch…ever thought about selling it?


  2. tyler

    if it was closer to wisconsin i would buy it.

    • On and On On and On Member

      Where in Wisconsin are you. I’m in Lodi and Hayward.

  3. Coventrycat

    That’s where that lump of coal went…

  4. DB

    I bet it needs the timing belt done because it’s broken. Only logical reason to be parked, since gas was still really high in 92.

  5. Superdessucke

    A buddy of mine bought one brand new off the lot in 1989. It was his first new car. He went to college in Chicago and around 1993 it got towed due to being illegally parked with several outstanding parking tickets. Anyone who’s lived in Chicago will understand how tough they are about parking tickets.

    Unfortunately, he was going through a financial and emotional rough patch at the time so he didn’t notice it right away, and took some time after that to address it. By the time he came to, he could not find the car to get it back. Apparently, it got removed to a wrecking yard in his intervening haze and it was never seen again.

    He was extremely upset and still talks about the tragic loss to this very day…of his high school yearbooks that were still inside. Thank God for internet photos, which let us gradually pinpoint what kind of car he believes it was!

  6. Oilyhands

    2 options for this car: make mid engine car with Ford SHO drivetrain, just like Jay Lenno’s, or do like a neigbor did, narrowed solid rear axle, big engine up front and get personalized plates “FASTIVA”

  7. Adam T45 Staff

    My parents had one of these at one stage. It was the 1.3 auto with air con. It was a comfortable little car that handled quite well (right up until the day that one of their grandsons rolled it!). However, being a 1.3 auto with air con, with four adults aboard you measured the 0-60 time with a calendar. It was a fun little car to drive though.

  8. Will Owen Member

    I once followed one of these for about thirty miles on I-24 through middle Tennessee. Reason was that it had been beautifully and skillfully made over into a baby Mercedes, grille, badges and all. Even the paint and pin striping were perfectly rendered. The guy obviously knew I was scoping the car out and went along as I changed lanes, passed to look at it in the mirror, of course being careful. It’s too bad we were on a dreary stretch with no good pullovers, but this was back before we all had cell phones and I didn’t have a camera with me anyway. I always thought these were a much better successor to the old Fiesta than either the Escort or the awful later one we called the UnderAchieva, and I was happy to see someone make such a great toy out of it.

  9. David Miraglia

    Its right here in my home town of Brooklyn. But it really isn’t worth my effort to check her out even at 500 dollars. almost bought one of those brand new.
    Changed my mind and avoided further embarrassment.

  10. DayDreamBeliever Alan (Michigan)

    Fun Ice Racing cars!

  11. Brian M Member

    Ford brought these to the US as a captive import to balance the CAFE ratings of their other captive, the Crown Victoria all of which, I believe, were made in Canada. I got one of these for free while working in Spain as one of our other contractor employees had “abandoned” it when she went home to care for her ailing hubby. The company was holding her last two paychecks hostage until she either exported the car or found someone with the proper customs permission to take it over. It had originally been brought to Spain by a GI and sold several times after he got out of the AF. He was still there as a contract employee but as a Spanish resident so he couldn’t own it. She signed it over to me, got her paychecks and all was good. Had to replace the rear wheel bearings as these things ate them up for some reason. It was the 1.3 with AC and a 5 speed, quite peppy and a nice fit for my wife in Sevilla traffic. For longer trips we used my 190E, euro spec Mercedes ($1000 car). Saw several 4 door versions as Kia Prides; too bad we never got that version stateside. Biggest problem was finding the 12″ tires for it as they were very uncommon in Espana.

  12. Mark S.

    If I got this car for a Christmas present I’d regift it.

  13. Guy Gilmore

    Hey hasn’t anyone noticed it got 92,000 in only a short 4 years on the road??? Strange to me??? Just saying

  14. Mercuryman

    As a side note, these are super easy to hop up. A 1.6 Twin Cam from a Miata, Capri xr2 or an MX3 line up and bolt in. A 1.8 from an Escort GT or a Protege LX will fit with a little bit of work. I built one for a customer with a stout na 1.8 and a G type trans. I ran ITB’s because firewall clearance is tight but it fit with slightly modified Protege mounts. I had to get custom axles made but as they were all common parts it wasn’t much. I ran 15″ BBS RX7 wheels and modified 323/RX7 brakes/hubs. It was a complete Mazda parts bin car. With slicks it would break into the 14’s all day and still pull amazing gas mileage. All good things come to an end though, it got hit on a track day and spun into a wall. My customer still has the build sheet somewhere. Car was parted out but the memories live on.

  15. Mark Evans

    Back in 88 Festiva was the only ‘Ford’ Model that Consumer Reports considered reliable enough to recommend. I also believe that they were made for Ford as well as Mazda by KIA.

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