When Ford introduced the current-generation Fiesta in the United States about two years ago, many shoppers thought that they were looking at a brand new nameplate aimed at young and budget-conscious buyers. That assessment was not that far off from reality but there was one exception: not only was the Fiesta nameplate not new, Ford had already tried to sell the first generation of the car in the United States the late 1970s.
Offered between 1978 and 1981, the U.S.-market Fiestas were built in Cologne, Germany, and equipped with the relatively big 66-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that spun the front wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. The car hit 60 miles per hour from a stop in 10.4 seconds, enough to earn it several first place finishes in the SCCA-sponsored Showroom Stock C class.
In the United States, the Fiesta was offered in four trim levels: Standard, Décor, Sport and Ghia, the range topper. It went head-to-head against well-established sub-compacts like the Pennsylvania-built Volkswagen Rabbit, the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon duo and the Honda Civic.
The Fiesta’s most successful year in the United States was 1979, when Ford sold no less than 81,273 examples across the United States. That was a decent statistic but it fell a little short of the American automaker’s expectations. Part of the problem was that back in the day Ford was largely synonymous with large cars and trucks and a lot of people had a hard time taking the European-sized Fiesta seriously. Discouraged by dropping sales, Ford phased the Fiesta out of its lineup in 1981 and replaced it with the bigger Escort. It is worth noting that the 47,707 Fiestas sold during 1981 were all titled as 1980 models.
We spotted this example on the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah, and immediately turned back to photograph it because it is the first and only Fiesta we have ever seen in this city. It is remarkably clean and does not appear to have been restored, just well-preserved and lovingly maintained.