born out of a trip to Italy… it will be Ford’s biggest project

In the late 1960s, the “Big Three”, a name given to the top 3 American auto groups (General Motors, Chrysler and Ford) were specialists in large cars. Enter the collective imagination, the “big Americans” with shiny chrome are far from the image we have of the Ford Fiesta.

Furthermore, in Dearborn, headquarters of the Ford Motors Company near Detroit, any small car project is systematically excluded. It is true that there are many reasons to abstain. Small cars generate less turnover, release fewer margins and, seen from the United States, nobody cares.

On the surface, the European subsidiaries are doing well. Britain assembled 383,220 cars in 1976, while Germany delivered 486,607 units. However, European Ford officials are concerned. The Escort is selling well but the fashion is for city cars, and customers are leaving to compete. Worse, European families are getting a second car and the manufacturer has nothing to offer them.

It all starts with a normal weekend in Rome…

It was a stay in Italy that changed the story of the citizens. Henry Ford II rests there with his wife on vacation. Upon his arrival at the airport he went to the rental company, who lent him a Fiat 127. Ford appreciated the driveability and practicality of this Italian car and returned to Detroit with the firm intention of studying the matter.

The largest market study in the brand’s history was then launched. Clinical tests are carried out for months to probe the slightest wishes of customers.

Those who live in the city want a small, practical car with a tailgate, easy to handle and economical. Surveys show that it will absolutely have to be front-wheel drive.


The Bobcat project will bring the Fiesta to life. Ford photo

The Fiesta has no factory

Front-wheel drive at Ford is absolutely not part of the culture of the house. Of course, a Taunus was already produced in the 60s, driven by the front wheels. But it wasn’t a great success and above all it was a big car.

Imagining a small front-wheel drive would only be profitable if hundreds of thousands were produced every year. The production capacities of the Dagenham, Saarlouis and Cologne plants will not be sufficient.

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

The Fiesta is the result of a collaboration of all Ford subsidiaries around the world.  Ford photo

The Fiesta is the result of a collaboration of all Ford subsidiaries around the world. Ford photo

The Fiat 127 to the rescue

Ford’s staff set up a commando team made up of Americans, British, Germans, French or Australians. Procedures need to be reinvented in the face of different industrial cultures. To save time, the Fiat 127s are used.

A first team is developing the mechanics of the future Ford on a Fiat 127 bodywork. the second invents a chassis and bodywork using Fiat engines and transmissions. The Ford Fiesta is therefore studied by two “half Fiats”.

In order to keep costs as low as possible, competitor cars are completely disassembled to assess their true cost price. Peugeot 104, Honda Civic or even Renault 5 are completely boned.

The cost of each item is listed in huge tables. If the cheapest steering wheel is the Honda one and costs $3, the Ford one will have to be cheaper for equivalent quality.

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

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

A worldwide success

It remains to come up with a name for this Bobcat project. A few days after the release of the city car, the name Bravo holds the string. But Henry Ford II decides and decides to negotiate Fiesta name which belongs to General Motors.

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

A success that continues until the arrival of the Puma SUV. Fiesta was a global car, but the world has changed. Consumers want SUVs. Ford therefore announces that it will be fully dedicated to this type of vehicle in Europe in the future.

Rates in 1977…

Versions of the Festival:

Fiesta 1.0 Special: F18,490

Fiesta 1.0 Ghia: 24.590F

Fiesta 1.1L: 21,360 F

Fiesta 1.1 Ghia: 25,160 F

The competitors:

Renault 5GTL: 23,300F

Peugeot 104GL: 22.650F

Volkswagen Polo L: 24.950F

Fiat 127 1050CL: 20,900F

Data sheet :

Motor : 4 cylinders in line

Displacement : 957 cm3

Power : 40 hp at 5500 rpm

Diet : 1 single body carburettor

Transmission : 4-speed gearbox

Length : 356cm

Length : 157cm

Height : 131cm

Weight : 700kg

Full speed : 130 kilometers per hour

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