Two For One! 1978 Ford Fiesta Sport

A Ford Fiesta on Barn Finds? Yup, that’s what we have today, a 1978 MK-1 “Sport” model that the seller refers to as a “rare car sport model US-spec”.  OK, I’m not sure what that means but let’s investigate and see what’s here. Oh, and the seller even has a 1980 model that he’ll include for free, such a deal! These Fiestas are located in Crestwood, Kentucky and are available here on craigslist for $3,500. Thanks to Corey R for this tip!

Introduced in Europe in 1976 and assembled in Colone, Germany, the Fiesta MK-1 found its way to U.S. shores for model year 1978 and was considered a “super-mini” by Ford. The MK-1 Fiesta, produced through the 1982 model year, was positioned against the Chevrolet Chevette and VW Rabbit. According to Oldmotors, the Fiesta sold well, with 263K copies being sold in the U.S. for model years ’78, ’79, and ’80. With the ’83 model year, the Fiesta was redesigned (MK-II)  and disappeared from the U.S. market but it continued on in Europe and other international markets. Making a domestic reappearance in model year 2010, the Fiesta would leave the U.S. for the second (and final?) time in 2019.

The seller states that his Fiesta is powered by a 1.7-liter engine but research indicates that U.S. Fiestas relied on a 66 net HP (sounds more like a Siesta) 1.6 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine. The seller describes this car’s running attributes by stating, “Car fires right up and runs good (front calipers are kinda sticking so yard drives only, brakes and clutch good)“. Unfortunately, he’s provided no underhood image. The engine is connected to a FWD, four-speed manual transaxle.

Since this Fiesta is a Nevada car, we are told, “Nevada car so min to no rust, one small area on rear hatch exterior”. as well as, “Completely stock original paint and sport decals, only piece missing is driver door card” It’s brownish/tan shade is definitely a ’70s color. It actually presents pretty well with minor contusions and a slight dent in the passenger side fender and missing side marker lights, front right and rear left. There is some minor surface rust in places and Oldmotors did state that this generation of the Fiesta is rust-prone. This Fiesta definitely has the lines of a late ’70s econobox, it looks like a lot of other cars from that era.

The interior is really a surprise because it looks like there is nothing wrong with it! The multi-tone upholstery pattern brightens up an orderly and simple, but drab, environment. There appears to be some cowling missing from the steering column and there are exposed wires as a result – not certain what that may mean. Beyond that, it possesses the hard-edged and angular design that was popular in this era.

This Fiesta is car #2, it’s a 1980 model and that’s all there is according to the listing. It’s listed as “complete” but there’s no detail beyond that. Considering the short-shrift that it’s getting, it’s likely a problematic car.

So, a good buy at $3,500? Hard to say, it’s not like the values of this generation are largely tracked. The mileage recording is 55K miles, though there is no claim to that number, but if it’s accurate, then this Fiesta would be an OK deal for basic transportation. So, a show of hands please, has anyone owned a MK-1 Fiesta, and if so, how was it?

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Comments

  1. 8banger 8banger Member

    HA! I had two of these back in the early 90s. One was a Sport like this gold one – same color. Fun as hell for a 17-yr old to drive. Responsive, zippy, and handled well.

    Like 16
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    This sounded like a really good deal –
    until I got to part of the missing title.
    Why would you buy a Nevada car registered in
    California without one?And just why was it registered in CA?

    Like 6
  3. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Yeah, I bought a white 80 model in 86 for $200.00 and a yellow 78 model in 86 for $75.00 it needed a clutch which I installed in my driveway with no problem. The 80 model had a/c but it didn’t work. I sold them both the same year for $350.00 each. They drove okay and got decent gas mileage.
    God bless America

    Like 5
  4. Hall-z Member

    I loved mine. Mine was a red base model. I don’t remember the year, but it was a blast to drive. I grew up drooling over the original minis, and a Fiesta was the closest I could get to one at 19. I found an old sport model that was wrecked and swiped what I could to upgrade mine. I did something wrong when I switched out the gauge cluster, though, and whenever I switched on the brights, everything went dark. Nothing scary about that.
    I had plans to turbocharge mine and even found a European company specializing in making go-fast parts for Fiestas. I was short on money. I was big on unrealistic youthful fantasies, though.
    It was a simple car to work on and handled like a go-cart. Unfortunately, it was no fun on long interstate trips. It went sixty, but the racket from the high revving motor was grating.
    Today I would be downright terrified to drive it on most roads. Closing the door made me think of crushing a tin can. An accident with one of today’s behemoths would surely activate my survivor benefits.

    Like 11
    • JoeNYWF64

      Imagine how much better it would handle if it was rear wheel drive with better balance. The roof could be lower on Fiesta & similar cars.
      Were opening vent windows optional?
      You’d probably be ok with this car on highways these days in my area with lights & 2 lanes with speed limits of 50 mph – good luck being able to go that fast with all the traffic.
      Actually in my neck of the “woods”, even on route 80 last SUNDAY afternoon at noon there was a HECK of a lot of traffic & it was tough to do more than 50 mph! & there was no accident or construction.
      In the ’70s, there was a lot less traffic on 80 here – closer to rush hour!

  5. Cattoo Cattoo Member

    I had one of these. A 1980’s model in white. Indeed these were zippy little cars. Quick off the line and handling like a go cart they really stuck to the road during some tight turns on the road and around town. Drove it pretty hard and sold it for a hundred bucks after a small fire from an apparently leaky fuel line at the carb. No damage and was moving soon so sold it. It got 20mpg same as my 429 Fairlane. Both were fun too drive but only the ‘67 Ford I’d take back.

    Like 3
  6. Bick Banter

    These were a cut above the Chevette, Omnirizon, and Pintos of the day. More comparable to the Rabbit. You used to see them around all the time and they were known as fun the drive. But they all but disappeared by the dawn of the ’90s due to rust. Definitely a Radwood winner today.

    Like 7
  7. grant

    I feel like anyone looking for a “basic transportation car” is going to be better served buying a used Camry with their $3500. Someone shopping for transportation at that range is not going to buy this. Is it worth $3500 to a collector? I have no idea. It’s not worth $3500 to me.

    Like 10
    • JoeNYWF64

      Good luck finding a Camry recently for that price even with sky high mileage on it.
      The 2 door ONLY Fiesta is sporty & tells others you are single. Unless you can find the one yr only 1994 TWO door Camry(let alone one with a 5 speed – & that’s still not very sporty), you might as well be a married person, with kids, driving today’s 4 door appliances.
      & the nimbleness of the Fiesta makes it a lot more fun to drive.

      Like 3
  8. Joel Patton

    I had a 1980. Bought it new. I remember the only option it had was an AM radio but rear defrost was standard. I had a 1970 GTO convertible so needed a car for the winter. Being FWD it did well in the snow and was a lot of fun to drive. Never a problem and kept it for five years.

    Like 4
  9. Raymond

    IIRC, didn’t some maniacs actually rally these things?

    Like 1
    • Derek

      Yes; there were competitive 1300 and 1600 versions.

  10. ace10

    I’d be much more interested in the 40th Anniversary Edition Land Cruiser in the background of the first photo.

  11. Chris

    No Title a big problem

    Like 2
  12. Kelly g

    A friend in the neighborhood had one of these, a ’78 manual. It had a crank sunroof and was a blast to drive. Tremendous understeer! We beat on it unmercifully and hung in there pretty well, i think the motor finally blew due to negative reverse maintenance. Good little cars.

    Like 3
  13. DrMink

    Tough little car. I was clipped by an 18 wheeler, which ended up hitting me sideways at 65 mph and spun me into the jersey barrier in the median. Drove it home.

    Like 2
    • ADM

      I met someone who’s wife was in a head on collision with hers. It was so severe, it pushed the engine down towards the floorboards, as it was designed to do. She was severely injured, but survived. Maybe she wore her seat belt, maybe not. Most people didn’t.

  14. Dave Member

    I bought a 1980 S model brand new. Great car and if emission testing where you live isn’t an issue getting 100 reliable horsepower out of that engine is not a big issue. Ford did the same thing to the Fiesta that they did to the Cortina and the Capri. They abandoned them making parts availability difficult at best. These are a good buy.

  15. ADM

    I bought a new ’78, same color as this one. It was a blast to drive, especially after an acquaintance mechanic did some shade tree modifications. Stock, the shift points were 15, 35, and 55 mph. The emission controls were taken off, and he did some other tuning. Now, the shift points were 35, 55, and 75 mph. The little 1.6 could now breathe a whole lot better, and was obviously a lot faster. Mileage went into the 40’s…and I broke the 85 MPH speedometer. Torque steer, of course, became more severe, but nothing ever broke, and the Michelin XZX 12″ tires still had tread when I sold it, at 60K.

    Like 1
  16. Rob Bauer

    I had a bright green sport in 1980 new. My first new car in my name and first manual. I LOVED that car. So much fun to drive. Mine had all options, stereo alloy wheels etc. Seemed like there was so much room in it too.

  17. GBA47

    Identical to the one I had down to color and having AC, California car too. Mine had almost 80,000 miles on it when I sold it in 1983. Great fun drive and economical too. Let down but really cheap interior pieces.

  18. Troy

    I had a 79 with the GHIA package (what ever that meant) crank sunroof it was a fun little car mine the steering wheel was turned at about 11:o’clock and it had a weird noise like your tiers were gears or something when you straighten the wheel the noise would go away. I sold it for $1000 bucks back in about 1989

  19. fran

    Ahh a memory and time I would like to go back to….I have one on the mid 90’s that I drove to college, back when I was so poor. I remember my Generator went out, I removed it, (I had to have it rebuilt as it was too costly to replace for me, it took a week, meanwhile I charged it every night and drove it to school and home with out a generator attached to it), reinstalled it a week later, and continued on, like nothing happened!!! Later painted LeMans stripes on it.

    Like 1
  20. Gloin

    That license plate is a trailer only plate from 63-69

    Like 3
  21. Graham Line

    Bought an ’78 S model new in early 1979. Dealer in Idaho Falls had trouble moving them. It racked up 104K by 1986, when it was sold for a Jetta that was more convenient for strapping a child in back.
    Performed well, but hard acceleration lifted the nose and cambered the suspension so you were trying to accelerate with about two inches of tire width on the road. Yellow Konis helped quite a bit.
    Thoroughly entertaining, cheap to run, and far more reliable than a friend’s VW Rabbit.
    It was not a great long-distance touring car, but fun around town or over to the next county. It seemed to be assembled pretty well.

    Like 1
  22. Eldon M

    I bought a used ‘78 Sport and drove it from PA to Mexico with a carrier on top and my wife and a 1 year old and a 3 year old. Lived in Mexico City for a year and drove it to many parts of the country. Mexicans loved it because there were no Fiestas there, and many, including a police officer, wanted to buy it. It was great fun to drive, but leaked oil like a sieve. Drove it back to PA after a year and had it for several more years. A fun little car, sort of like driving a large go cart.

    Like 2
    • Neal in Boston

      Fun and daring adventures!

  23. Tony B.

    Loved mine! Orange, so we called it “The Flying Pumpkin”! Like driving a go-cart. Hard to find tires for now days though. I would upgrade to a larger size. Used to get parts from a racing company called “BAT”. A quick check of the interwebs, shows they are indeed still in business. https://batford.net/ There is a red one hidden behind a garage around the corner from me. I’ve been tempted to stop and ask…but, even from the road I can see how much rust has attacked this example…

    Like 1
    • Nick M.

      Right!! They had 12″ wheels!!

  24. David Emerson

    Had a 79 sport ordered Factory Rally wheels from Europe along with body flares and a interesting soft rear spoiler all through a dealer in England from another one in Germany before the internet fun car with fat Goodyear’s on the rally wider Wheels

  25. Steve Clinton

    Proof that Barn Finds will post ANYTHING!

    Like 1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Yes they will.
      And these types of posts always get the most comments.

      Variety is the spice of life!

      Like 7
  26. Nick M.

    Had two of these in the ’80s, both were S models, which was pretty much just a stripe and nicer wheels. One was a white ’78 and the other was an powder blue ’80. I bought the ’78 used because it was cheap and I missed my two VW Sciroccos, a ’76 and an ’80, which had proved dreadfully unreliable….the ’76 threw a rod at 26,000 miles. I later learned that there was a recall on the ’76 for oil delivery problems but it was long after I had gotten rid of the car. Just my luck. When the ’80 started having engine problems at 20K miles I immediately got rid of it. But the Sciroccos had been such an absolute blast to drive. I thought maybe a Ford, even one made in Germany, might be more reliable. I was right–almost as much fun as the Scirocco (not as light and not quite as crisp in the turns but still a ton of fun to drive…and they never gave me trouble. And it’s no fun when your car isn’t running which was very often the case with all three VW products that I owned –I had a ’77 Audi between the two Sciroccos.) I replaced the original carb on the ’78 with a Weber and had to bolt off the emissions controls to do it. It ran 100% better after I did that, if somewhat illegally. The first generation Fiesta was powered by the Ford 1.6 L Kent engine, which was the basis for Formula Ford in Europe, so there were lots of aftermarket performance mods available. I absolutely loved my Fiestas and kept both until they died. My daughter today has a 2011, in fact.

    Like 2
  27. Al Tubinas

    I still miss mine so I bought an overpriced model of it

    https://imgur.com/a/X2F2sT0

    Like 1
    • fran

      You page is wrong on a lot of “things”

  28. Jasper

    This dude always has something interesting, but incomplete, compromised and or overpriced on FB market. He also keeps a pretty cryptic profile.

  29. gyates

    My Dad had one of these, a ’78 in a maroon color. It had a sunroof, both metal and glass, a rear defroster, and that’s about it. I learned to drive with it. Fun little car actually. He finally let it go. Summers in TN scream for a/c. :)

  30. nlpnt

    Comments here seem to match what I’ve heard about these over the years, every owner liked the car.

    Look to the Brits before the swap list if you want one that goes faster, they’ve been souping these up since before they existed (since the 1.6 Kent was already familiar there in the RWD Escorts).

  31. Christopher Gentry

    Never had one but would love to. Not seen one in many years. I remember the ford dealer trying to sale a new one to my father instead if a used LTD. He bought the LTD , I liked the Fiesta. Heck I liked the new ones too. So sad to me ford stoped importing them and the focus. No offense to any one. But I don’t want a f-150 or explorer etc. I want my small cars.

    Like 1
  32. Wayne

    A customer and an employee each had one of these cars. The customer was a Skip Barber instructor. He was tired of the understeer and ordered up a set of lower control arm pivot adjustable cams to take out most of the positive camber (from the factory setting) and we also installed a set of Koni shocks. THEN, the car handled like a go cart! Virtually no understeer, and what little there was could be dialed out with some front/rear tire pressure adjustments. I later heard that he then upgraded the carb. and cam. It was a little pocket rocket then! We later were blessed with several other customer who wanted the same mods. Great little cars, but like early Honda Civics, they were allergic to the tin worm!

  33. Steve

    Funny that for such a tinny little car these get a lot of love. I had a ’78 Sport I bought new when I was 19. I can’t say enough good things about it. It sure stood up to a lot of hard use. They were throwaway cars here in the USA but there’s quite a following over in Great Britain to this day.

  34. JohnSSC

    I loved my Fiesta! ’79 base model, red. Ran it in Showroom Stock in 1980 then ran out of money. It handled great, ran like the dickens and was just a blast to drive. Autocrossed it a few times afterward and enjoyed 3 wheeling it around corners. One thing not mentioned is the cargo room. Fold down the rear seat and there was a lot of useful space. I didn’t trailer it to races so the set of race tires (same size only shaved tread), tools, clothes, dining canopy, etc all fit in the back easily. For all the comments about the 1.6 Kent engine here, bone stock it was the quickest car Ford made in the 1/4 million ’79.

    • ADM

      Who was the company that made racing parts for the Fiesta, that had small ads in the car magazines, like R & T? Ii showed a split Fiesta, half stock, and half race prepped.

      Like 1
      • JohnSSC

        Was it BAT Racing? I did Showroom Stock with mine and at the time everything had to be OEM. There was also a company that did a lot of things with Pintos and maybe the Fiesta as well.

  35. kenB

    Rented a Fiesta in Germany, cica 1981. Was used to the US 1600cc version. The rental I got was , I think, 998 cc…..a whole different thing ! I hadn’t been to Germany for several years so I was out of tune with German driving. Leaving the rental lot at the airport put me on the Autobahn in short order…..I wasn’t ready for the Autobahn and 998cc. Pulled out to pass a slower truck…..suddenly, blinking headlights breathing down my neck as a faster car was closing in on me at a huge rate of speed. I pulled back into the right, no chance to slow to the truck’s speed…..rocketed past the truck on the right shoulder. He was pissed! It all came flooding back! Did much better driving there after those first three miles.

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