Home » This 1988 Ford Festiva Costs Almost As Much As It Did When New. Here’s Why It’s Still A Great Deal

This 1988 Ford Festiva Costs Almost As Much As It Did When New. Here’s Why It’s Still A Great Deal

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Look at that car in the photo above. It’s tiny, it would probably crush like an aluminum can if it got into a crash, and it’s being sold for an asking price very close to its original MSRP back in 1988. “What a ripoff!” the average person might think. But actually, this machine — if it’s in as good a shape as it appears — is a smoking hot deal, and I’ll tell you why.

The Ford Festiva is one of the most lovable machines ever made, not just because of its diminutive size, but because it accomplishes its intended function almost perfectly. And anytime an automaker says ‘This car is going to be the very best at XYZ,” and the car actually is the best — well, that’s something to celebrate given the hyperbole in automotive marketing.

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“Festiva is dedicated to the proposition that all small cars aren’t created equal,” begins the 1988 Festiva’s brochure. (Yes, Ford quoted the Gettysburg Address in an ad). The brochure goes on to talk about “unmistakable Ford styling,” and a “solid, wide stance” that gives it stability. But above all, the car’s hallmark is: “interior space efficiency.” And actually, if you ask Festiva owners, they’ll tell you they agree. The car is tiny on the outside, not that small on the inside. It’s a little front-wheel drive machine designed by Mazda and built by Kia, who exported it to the U.S., where it was sold for only $5,490. That’s about $15,000 in today’s weaker dollars. That’s legitimately cheap!

“Comfort is very much part of the formula. So is fun. Festiva’s power front disc brakes, agile suspension, 1.3-liter overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine and manual overdrive transaxle make it a lot of fun to drive.,” the brochure continues. “Festiva also provides the small-car benefits that are expected. EPA estimated fuel economy for the LX model is an impressive 39 mpg City for around-town efficiency. 43 mpg highway,” it reads, before discussing just how maneuverable this little one-box Ford is.

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All of this is true. The Festiva is elite in the areas of maneuverability, fuel economy, and space utilization. The entire drivetrain is under the short front hood. Everything aft of the front axle is interior space, and there’s plenty of it, even if that seems impossible given that the car is 16.5 inches shorter than my little BMW i3.

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What’s more, it’s fun. Festivas have for years been icons of the low-budget racing scene.

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So it’s maneuverable, space-efficient, fuel efficient, and fun. But if that’s not enough to convince you to drive this tiny classic deathtrap, consider this: These cars do not die. Just look around the internet, and you’ll see posts like this one from Reddit’s “r/Justrolledintotheshop”:

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Seriously, the number of “I’ve put 200,000 miles on this car and it’s needed pretty much nothing” stories about the Festiva is shocking. It probably helped that the Mazda-sourced 1.3-liter four-cylinder only made 58 horsepower, but the vehicle weighs under 1,800 pounds! So no matter how hard you drive it, the stresses on the components really aren’t that high. So to find one with only 61,000 (allegedly) original miles is just absurd:

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What’s more, the interior looks simply incredible:

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It’s yet another example of how California’s Craigslist/Facebook Marketplace is the best on earth. You’d think this machine would be exorbitantly expensive, but $5,000 isn’t bad for what looks like a minty example of one of America’s greatest city cars of all time.

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It’s not that uncommon to see old cars with low mileage and in excellent shape, but it is uncommon when those vehicles aren’t sports cars or otherwise collector cars. Daily drivers like this Ford Festiva are rarely ever maintained in this nice of shape for this long; these cheap vehicles were not waxed every week and stored away in a climate controlled garage — they were workhorses. They were beat on during the week, and put away wet under maybe a carport, if anything.

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So to see such an inexpensive, normal car all these years later in such nice shape is just awesome. And the fact that it’s available for just $5,000? I mean, that’s tempting to me, and I’m actively trying to reduce my fleet.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with these Festiva ads, because they’re fun:

Images: Photos of this car: Joana Gallarzo/Facebook Marketplace; brochure photos: Ford

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Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
21 days ago

I used to own a 1990 Festiva L. It was my first car.

Most people would consider that car a ‘deathtrap’ these days and had a lack of features that most people say they “need”

Things my Festiva did not have that are standard in most/all vehicles today… power steering, ABS, a passenger-side exterior mirror (added an aftermarket one), A/C, Air bags, a center console, USB ports, a decent stereo (I had one installed), power windows (it had manual cranks), oversized aluminum wheels (mine had 12″ steelies), intermittent wipers or a tachometer (I added an aftermarket one).

In my memory of that car, I found it was pretty peppy. It only had 63hp, but it was light and the manual transmission/clutch were good.

It was also very roomy for it’s footprint. And that was due to a combo of it basically being a box on wheels, a compact torsion bar suspension design AND those wheels weren’t the stupid way oversized shit that is commonly done today which requires big honking wheel wells which eat into interior space.

However, that torsion bar rear suspension also contributed to the handling being mediocre even compared to non-special cars like the 1991 Ford Escort LX with the base 13″ wheels. And that was partly due to bigger wheels, but also partly due to a better suspension.

Also the car had an aerodynamic issue where you couldn’t drive much faster than 100km/h in the rain because the wind would cause the windshield wipers to lift off the windscreen… and thus, if you went too fast, rain would stop getting wiped from the windshield.

Also I once locked my keys in the car, but it was no big deal as these cars are REALLY easy to break into with a coat hangar.

I also recall that parts were expensive for it (due to it not being that big of a seller in Canada) and for some reason, they tended to eat CV joints/shafts. And the only places to get CV shafts was either at the dealer or from the auto recycler. Nobody else seemed to have the parts.

Also I recall that I never got worse than 6L/100km even when driving the thing hard.

And I also recall that the “official” top speed was something like 90mph/145km/h… but I got it up to 160km/h once.

Strangek
Strangek
22 days ago

I had a roommate that had one in the late nineties. I’d borrow it on the regular, and can confirm they were pretty dang fun to drive! Even back then though, it could be a bit terrifying out on the highway surrounded by big rigs and full size pickups.

Tim Farrell
Tim Farrell
22 days ago

So I bought one in1989 during a 10 inch snow storm while living in Pittsburgh PA. They had to de-ice and shovel the car out so I could test drive it. It was great in the snow. I bought it and expected it to last maybe 3 years. I was doing a 70 mile round trip commute everyday to work. That car lasted until 1999, it got struck by lightening at some point but always ran great and was cheap to run and maintain. I hardly used the clutch at all, it was like driving a go kart. Anyway, it’s life came to an end due to advanced rust and was donated to the kidney folks after 10 years of running hard. I always loved driving that car. it wasn’t fast but it was fun.

BexleySpeed
BexleySpeed
22 days ago

My dad had 2 of these and taught me how to drive manual in one. Agree with everyone about how they handle. Dad was a menace in them and may have influenced my driving style.
I think it’d be interesting to a Honda crx against this in the shitbox showdown.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
22 days ago

I had a friend in high school that was obsessed with 1.8 swapping them and feeding them nitrous until they exploded. He was doing some pretty respectable times at the strip (until they grenaded). The cars and replacement engines were so cheap, he didn’t care.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
22 days ago

I love this generation Festiva – They look so dull but drive so playfully!

I worked for a rental car company in early 1990s that bought about 20 of these as a rider on a contract to get a fleet of very desirable (for a rental agency) Lincoln Town Cars. They were so small and floggable! We used to set up cones and race them in the parking lot 🙂 The 5 speed versions were dramatically better cars, I feel like there must have been other upgrades that occurred when you ordered that transmission.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
22 days ago

The best part is that it’s not a real Ford 😀

It was so good, the next gen used the name Aspire because real Fords aspired to be as good as a cheap-ass Kia 😛

The Probe was the best car you could buy new at a US Ford dealer back then. The Festiva/Aspire was the second best.

MP81
MP81
22 days ago

My buddy had one that he 1.8-swapped and was absolutely terrifyingly hilarious.

He sold that one eventually, but don’t worry, he has two currently (one with a 1.6 swap that he tracks).

Also, fun fact, if you get one of the carb’d/4-speed ones, you can miss the 2-3 shift because the gate for fifth still exists.

Last edited 22 days ago by MP81
Church
Church
22 days ago

When I was in the Army, a buddy had one of these that got did the wonderful job of getting us off post and to the bars. It dogged down hard with four enlisted men in it. Would not recommend.

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
22 days ago

The cheapest 80s box flared car you can buy. It’s beyond me why these aren’t trading like crazy on Cars and Bids.

Last edited 22 days ago by Noahwayout
WaitWaitOkNow
WaitWaitOkNow
22 days ago

Greg? Is that you rollin’ on 10’s?

Last edited 22 days ago by WaitWaitOkNow
Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
22 days ago

An old GF of mine had one in the early 90’s. 5-speed, F.I., Red. Surprisingly spacious inside. As unlikely as it may seem, that car was absolutely Hoonable if U kept the Go pedal buried. Would lift the inside-rear wheel thru turns easier than my GTI. Was really good at taking jumps too !!

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
22 days ago

I have a friend with one in this color, he loved it and called it Pepe.
I think we need more cars that are just transportation and nothing more. Just a cheap water-resistant box on wheels that gets you where you need to go and back.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
22 days ago

Friend of mine bought one of these new – he gave it the nickname of “the skate” (as in “roller”). As it stands, it’s refreshing to see one now in this kind of condition as a testament to what “basic transportation” used to mean.

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
22 days ago

If I had a multimillion life insurance policy, MAYBE, if there was no other choice.

Last edited 22 days ago by Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Angry Bob
Angry Bob
22 days ago

It gets better mileage than my motorcycle. But the bike is safer, since I have the option of jumping off in a crash.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
22 days ago

If you want to see more Festivas than you thought possible in one place and meet some really fascinating people, check out Festiva Madness held on the first Saturday of every October in Louisburg, NC.

Rain
Rain
22 days ago

In case anyone is tempted: the blue Festiva appears to have the factory wheels. Tires in that size are very difficult to find in the US and have been for a quite some time. Budget for new wheels and tires.

Tom Herman
Tom Herman
23 days ago

I seem to remember someone sold a Festiva with an SHO v6 in the back seat.

Smoke&Mears
Smoke&Mears
23 days ago
Reply to  Tom Herman

The SHOgun! 8 were made. More were planned, but it was too bonkers for Ford proper.https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/articles/sho-time-original-festiva-shogun/

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
23 days ago

No dice.

The Dude
The Dude
23 days ago

I love how the advertisement says “Dealer may sell for less.”

If that ad were made today it would say “Dealer will sell for more.”

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