Monday, September 5, 2016

Oakland Street Sighting - 1978 Ford Fiesta

I have a friend who owns a 2015 Ford Fiesta hatchback. He loves all things Fiesta. This is is the ancestor to his car, the first year the Fiesta was offered in the United States. His mother had one of these as her first car. The 1978 Fiesta served as a stopgap model for buyers who wanted something smaller and more European than the aging Pinto, until the 1981 Escort "world car" arrived. It was a captive import that competed with the likes of the Honda Civic, VW Rabbit and Beetle, Toyota Corolla and Tercel, and Datsun B210 or 510.

American Fiestas featured a 1.6 liter four-cylinder with California-spec emissions controls, 5-mph spring bumpers, side reflectors and sealed beam headlights. The brochure advertised the little car's quick acceleration and braking (0-60 was not listed, nor was the actual braking distance). The biggest selling point was arguably the car's fuel economy, rated at up to 43 miles per gallon in California. Everything else about the car was sold pretty hard, right down to the cast-iron engine block (for more weight on the drive wheels and therefore better traction, of course) and the Weber carburetor (the same brand Ferrari used, doncha know). Also, the base wheels are 12-inchers with 4" width. But for all its cheapness and basic economy, the Fiesta was a cute little car. It's what some would call "cheap and cheerful".

Today the early Ford Fiestas are pretty rare on account of rust and general use. I have seen very few in good condition in recent years. There used to be two of them in the small town of Bodega Bay five years ago, both yellow, parked outside an art gallery right along Highway 1 on the coast. I was very rarely in the area and both were gone by the time I had a chance to stop by long enough to photograph them. I assume the salt air ate them up.

This one was spotted in Oakland while returning from the Laney Flea Market. It has its share of rust, but the original Code 8 Beige paint is still shiny. Those orange and brown tape stripes could be factory, but I don't know for sure. They at least look like period additions. Somewhere along the line the factory rub strips have been removed, leaving just the black adhesive. Curiously the bumpers have been taken off, which I suspect is a weight-saving measure by a young owner judging by the Hoonigan window sticker. For those who don't know, Hoonigan is a car culture brand founded by rally driver and gymkhana star Ken Block, who races a modern Fiesta rally car. On the subject of bumper removal, it might not have been the best idea. Yeah, they're bulky, but they also contain the car's front turn signals and backup lights... note the wiring tucked up into the mounting holes in the rear panel.

I'm curious what the owner's plans are for this little car. Perhaps a repaint and Euro bumper swap? With the steel wheels and black window trim it's likely a base model, and these cars only make 66 horsepower stock. Maybe they just want a quirky little urban runabout that you can keep floored all around town? I just think it's cool seeing a '70s Fiesta at all.

Photographed February 2016

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