Sunday 25 September 2016

Ford Fiesta Mark I (1976)

Available September 1976

Forty years ago little hatchback cars were still in their infancy. Still very much the era of the saloon car, the market had been shaken up by the introduction of the Fiat 127 in 1971 followed by the Renault 5 in 1972. These two very European cars started to steal market share from traditional automobile designs, and it soon became clear to car giant Ford that this was a type of product that could not be ignored.

First shipping in Europe in September 1976 after four years of development, the Ford Fiesta was the Blue Oval's answer to those funny little cars, heralding the point when the small hatchback evolved from something quirky and continental to something very mainstream.

Unlike almost all previous Ford Europe models, the Fiesta was front wheel drive and cleanly designed with all the practicality that a hatchback could offer. Most importantly, the badge on the front was an indicator of quality and reliability shared by its bigger siblings, the Escort and Cortina.

The Fiesta was a huge sales success, and of course every other car manufacturer followed suit. These little hatchbacks proved to be inexpensive to buy, cheap to run, relatively easy to drive and had a versatile load space that was handy if you wanted to move your 8-bit micro and portable TV or something. If you've ever tried to move something bulky in the back of a saloon such as BMW 3-series you will be all too aware of the limitations of a boot, even today.

It is perhaps worth noting that a contemporary phone system that you could have installed into your Fiesta would have cost far more than the car itself, and unless you wanted to lug lead acid batteries around then the car was the best option.

The Fiesta Mark I continued in production until 1983, replaced by the lightly revised Mark II which was sold until 1989. The same basic vehicle had an impressive production run of 13 years, and of course the Fiesta is still in production today with the Mark VI.

Back in 1976 a basic 950cc Fiesta cost £1856 in the UK. Today a car from the same era with the same specification will cost between £2000 to £4000, with the rarer and much more desirable sporty XR2 version typically selling for £8000 onwards.

Image credits: davocano, nakhon100 and Niels de Wit via Flickr

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