A Twitter message. With that, Ford announced the retirement of a name. A name that put a smile on the face of millions of people. The party is over in a year. The Ford Fiesta will soon be a thing of the past, because Ford is fully committed to building electric cars for Europe. And need space for it. This is also why the Fiesta, the most successful car from the B segment, is disappearing. We describe the first generation, which was sold in two companies from 1976 to mid-1983.
In the late 1960s, a long-standing idea at Ford became more concrete. And that idea was: to build a small car for a wide audience. A team led by Trevor Erskine worked on the Bobcat project. Meanwhile, the popularity of small front-wheel drive cars grew. And after the launch of the Renault 5 and the Fiat 127, Henry Ford II was sure: continue. It happened. The new little Ford became a front-wheel drive Supermini, making it the third European product from Ford to get this drivetrain. The Taunus P4 and Ford P6 models preceded him.
Not only bobcat was in scaffolding. Among other things, Ford wanted to build the car at the new factory in Spain. In 1973, Ford bought a large plot of land (2.7 million square meters) near Valencia, and in 1974 the foundation stone for the new factory was laid. Many parties later rolled off the line there. Ford also assembled the Fiesta in Cologne, Saarlouis and Dagenham, UK.
Because that’s what Ford’s new asset was called: Fiesta. The name was also due to Spanish connection– chosen by Henry Ford II. The new Ford had an elegant body. Tom Tjaarda (Ghia) designed a sleek and modern car, Uwe Bahnsen got the i. And Ford approved a design in 1973 that could easily compete with several small front-wheel drive hatchbacks. The Bobcat appeared youthful and harmonious and was very pleasant on the retina. In 1975 came the Ford Fiesta discreet mundane. In the spring of 1976, Ford built the first examples in Almussafes.
There was much that was new about the little Ford, which among other things developed new engines for the entry-level Ford. The 1.0 and 1.1 engines (with triple-bearing crankshaft) were different in design to the 1.0 and 1.1 copies in the Escorts. The technicians adapted the engines due to the use in combination with front-wheel drive, in addition, the stroke of the Valencia engines was longer. The new engines offered excellent performance. The chain-driven camshaft remained where it traditionally was: in the block. Incidentally, a low and a high compression variant of 1.0 appeared.
The Fiesta chassis weren’t revolutionary, but they were well engineered. These ensured excellent grip and pleasant driving dynamics. Among other things, Ford installed McPherson struts at the front and a rigid axle with a Panhard bar, trailing arms and coil springs at the rear. The braking system consisted of a separate circuit, discs at the front and drums at the rear.
The Fiesta was well thought out, the overall package very well balanced. The car also had good aerodynamics, and the front was designed in such a way that the effect of the air currents in the interior was optimal. The large glass surface was also an advantage. And the long wheelbase allowed you to fit four medium-sized adults in the Fiesta. Of course there was the increasingly fashionable large hinged tailgate and the folding bench. The cargo space was not only variable in that respect. Extra practical was the storage space under the liftable load floor in the boot. So the youthful Ford was also practical, even if it didn’t have the biggest trunk in its class. But the developers and designers had done a good job. And the Henry Ford II compliment was the icing on the cake. He made a trial run on the banks of the Rhine. His conclusion was clear: good work.
Critics believed that the Ford Fiesta would play a modest role in the crowded small front-wheel drive field, also due to its late launch compared to the competition. It turned out to be an advantage. Ford had been able to observe the competition well and took advantage of it. The launch moment was also favorable: the oil crisis was over. And not unimportant: the Fiesta carried the Ford brand, in addition, the hatchback scored well on many points. And as said before: the Ford brand was already a flywheel for sales success. A new little Ford was big news, you would be there. He created expectations. These came mainly in Europe. On 11 May 1976, the first Fiesta rolled off the production line. 31 months later, in January 1979, Ford built the millionth Fiesta.
In Spain, the Fiesta supplanted marca del mercada doméstico and license builder SEAT after many years of first place. And it was not least because the Fiesta in Spain also became the best-selling car among women. Male or female, single or family: Ford has built a suitable Fiesta for every buyer. Especially the S and Ghia versions were very comfortable. The Ghia was a very luxurious variant, the S was more of a version with optically sporty accents. It fulfilled the sporting aspirations (certainly with the 1.3 Kent engine) with its stronger chassis. But those who just wanted a practical and modern designed car could also go for the other delivery variants (Custom, L, GL).
Ford also built the Fiesta Supersport. This version was equipped with, among other things, spoilers, fender flares, larger alloy wheels and spotlights. With this version (available with 1.1 and 1.3 engine) it wasn’t just the sportiness that beat the clock; The Supersport version also received a number of high-quality Ghia details, which were mainly reflected in the interior. Ford also had the necessary action models depending on the market. We were familiar with Bravo, the first action version that later became a permanent part of a number of model programs. Ford (or body shops) also produced one-offs and considered series production of a convertible with roll bars.
The first Fiesta was modified for the 1982 model year. New interior and new, larger bumpers were some of these changes. And Ford also used these innovations to add the sporty top version to the program: the XR2. In addition to various sporty accents, this also got the 1.6 Kent engine, which was good for an output of 84 DIN hp. The first Fiesta generation (including the changes for 1982) continued until the summer of 1983. Several generations followed, the Fiesta becoming and remaining a highly sought after concept. In Europe, the Fiesta certainly couldn’t be ignored within its playing field. Even in terms of driving characteristics, especially the last generations are without parallel in their class in that respect. Anyone who drove or drives it knows what we mean.
In 1976, Ford hit the first Fiesta. Now, in the European sense, it responds at a very early stage to the electrical needs of politics. In terms of time, there would certainly have been room for a next Fiesta generation. For now this is not in Ford’s pipeline, hope also lives against better knowledge. Fortunately, Ford produced more than 20 million units of the model within several generations, which became Europe’s best-selling B-segment car. And it could have been different if the first, lidy and simply delicious Fiesta had not been such a great success. Well done, Fiesta!