didn’t convince the manufacturer… but three million customers!

In the late 1960s, the Big Three (General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford), the name given to America’s top 3 automobile groups, were specialists in large automobiles. The gleaming chrome “big Americans” entering the collective imagination are far from our image of the Ford Fiesta.

Moreover, any small car project in Dearborn, the headquarters of Ford Motors near Detroit, is systematically excluded. True, there are many reasons to abstain. Small cars generate fewer turnovers, leave smaller margins and, as the US has shown, no one cares.

On the surface, the subsidiaries in Europe are doing well. Great Britain assembled 383,220 cars in 1976, while Germany delivered 486,607. Still, European Ford officials are worried. The Escort is selling well, but the trend is for city cars, and customers are flocking to the competition. To make matters worse, European households buy second-hand cars and the manufacturer has nothing to offer them.

It all starts with an ordinary weekend in Rome…

It was the stay in Italy that changed the history of the townspeople. Henry Ford II relaxes there with his wife during vacations. After arriving at the airport, he went to a rental company that rented him a Fiat 127. Ford appreciated the ride and practicality of this Italian car and returned to Detroit determined to find out.

After that, the biggest market research in the history of the brand was launched. For months, clinical tests are carried out to test the smallest requests of customers.

City dwellers want a small, practical, hatchback, comfortable and economical car. Research shows that it should definitely be front-wheel drive.

The Bobcat project will spawn the Fiesta. Ford photo

Fiesta has no factory

At Ford, the front wheel is not entirely part of the home culture. Admittedly, the Taunus car was already produced in the 1960s, and was driven by front wheels. But it wasn’t a huge success, and above all it was a great car.

Imagining a small front-wheel drive would only be profitable if hundreds of thousands were produced each year. The production capacity of the factories in Dagenham, Saarlouis and Cologne will not be enough.

Henry Ford II decides: the “Bobcat” project (the code name given to the Fiesta) will only see the light of day if a new factory is built in Spain. Then began an endless series of trips across the Atlantic for the company’s executives.

The Fiesta is the result of the collaboration of Ford's subsidiaries around the world.  Ford photo

The Fiesta is the result of the collaboration of Ford’s subsidiaries around the world. Ford photo

Fiat 127 to the rescue

Ford’s crew formed a commando team of Americans, English, Germans, French or Australians. Procedures must be reinvented in the face of different industrial cultures. Fiat 127s are used to save time.

The first team is developing the mechanics of the future Ford in the Fiat 127 body. the latter invents chassis and bodywork using Fiat engines and transmissions. Therefore, the Ford Fiesta learns from two “half-Fiats”.

To keep costs down as much as possible, the competition’s cars are completely stripped down to check their true cost. A Peugeot 104, a Honda Civic or even a Renault 5 is absolutely bony.

The cost of each item is listed in large tables. If the cheapest steering wheel is a Honda steering wheel and costs $3, then a Ford steering wheel for equivalent quality must be more economical.

In the late 1970s, the millionth Fiesta left the factory.  Ford photo

In the late 1970s, the millionth Fiesta left the factory. Ford photo

Worldwide success

It remains to find a name for this Bobcat project. A few days before the launch of the city car, the Bravo name is holding the rope. But Henry Ford II made up his mind and decided to discuss the name of the Fiesta owned by General Motors.

Launched in Europe and the United States, the Fiesta was the first car designed to appeal to global markets. Thirty-two months after its launch, the millionth Fiesta rolls off the production line.

A success that continued until the arrival of the Puma SUV. The Fiesta was a global car, but the world has changed. Consumers want SUVs. Then Ford announces that it is completely dedicated to this type of cars in Europe in the future.

In 1977, tariffs…

Festa Versions:

Fiesta 1.0 Special: F18,490

Fiesta 1.0 Ghia: 24,590 F

Fiesta 1.1L: 21,360F

Fiesta 1.1 Ghia: 25,160 F


Renault 5 GTL: 23,300F

Peugeot 104GL: 22,650 F

Volkswagen Polo L: 24,950 F

Fiat 127 1050CL: 20,900F

Technical sheet:

Engine : 4 cylinders in a row

displacement : 957 cm3

Strong : 40 hp at 5500 rpm

Feed : 1 single barrel carburetor

Transmission : 4-speed gearbox

Length : 356 cm

Length : 157 cm

Height : 131 cm

Weight : 700 kg

Maximum speed : 130 km/h

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