Copy of Article Text Below
on sale at last
The British public must have been wondering what on earth had become of Ford's interesting new front-wheel-drive small car, the Fiesta, which was announced last summer (MOTOR SPORT, August), yet missed the London Motor Show and has not materialised in the showrooms. I hope potential customers have not lost interest in the meantime, for Fiesta goes on sale in Britain on February 2nd after a delay which must have been welcomed by manufacturers of Fiesta's British and foreign-import rivals. Since the re-equipped Dagenham factory has belatedly gone into full swing it has produced 10,000 Fiestas ready for the showrooms on release date, a volume which must surely be a record. Those 10,000 ought to be free of the usual new car teething troubles for, as our more travelled readers will have noticed over the last three months, Fiesta has been on sale in Europe since October and 100,000 examples have been produced at factories in Saarluis, Germany and Valencia, Spain.
Hopeful of better winter weather than pertained at home, Ford recently took several parties of journalists to Monte Carlo for pre-release driving experience of the Dagen-ham-produced right-hand-drive cars. However good Ford may be at engineering other things, they can't engineer the weather and the Principality was swimming in a constant downpour.
Giving one of his usual, admirably articulate speeches in the Hotel de Paris, Ford GB's Chairman and Managing Director, Terry Beckett revealed that a market research programme had discovered that 55% of Fiesta owners would be women, 47% would go to multiple-car households, primarily for use by the wife and offspring and 86% of those questioned listed shopping as their most frequent use of the car. Prompted by such significant figures, Ford invited journalists' wives to Monte Carlo too, a rare and very welcome privilege for these ladies who usually see so little of their much-travelled husbands; they had to work for this unexpected experience by driving the cars and answering detailed questionnaires on them, which could be an influence upon some of the British models' detail design.
Since August, most readers have probably forgotten what the Fiesta is all about, so first a re-cap. It is a three-door, transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive super-Mini in the same idiom as the VW Polo, Renault 5, Fiat 127, etc. Power comes from two versions of a development of the push-rod, crossflow, straight-four Kent engine, one of 957 c.c. capacity, the other of 1,117 c.c. It drives through a sealed-for-life transaxle in a light-alloy housing, with an all indirect gearbox mounted in line with the engine and a spur-gear final drive behind. Solid, unequal-length driveshafts have constant velocity joints at each end. The suspension is comprised of Mc-Pherson struts, coil-springs and negative scrub geometry at the front and a tubular beam axle with trailing arms, braced shock-absorbers, coil springs and a Panhard rod at the rear. The steering is rack and pinion and brakes are disc at the front, drum rear.
Because this is being written some time in advance of the release date, it is not possible to give a true price comparison with Fiesta's rivals, most of which are going up in price in February, as is the price of the Ford range, including the Escort Popular, which would otherwise undersell the basic Fiesta. Prices start at £1,856 for the basic 957 c.c. car (all these prices including seat belts but not delivery), which can be had with a 40 b.h.p. low compression engine in place of the 45 b.h.p. standard unit as a no cost option, a specification Ford expect only fleet owners to be interested in. The 957 c.c. L is £2,079, the 1,117 c.c. I. £2,179, the 1,117 c.c. S (not available with 957 c.c. engine) £2,360, the 957 c.c. Ghia £2,657 and the 1,117 c.c. Ghia £2,757. As a matter of interest, the Polo sells for £1,995 and the Fiat 127 3-door £1,821 at this time.
Unfortunately I was unable to try the complete range in Monte Carlo and the French coastal region down to St. Paul de Vence. The schedule prevented my sampling.....