Developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering team at Dunton, the Supersport was a toe-in-the-water exercise to test demand for a sporty small hatchback and as history has since shown, the idea proved to be a very good one indeed.
Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980, UK Supersports were based on the 1300S model with the Kent crossflow motor running a twin-choke Weber and putting out a handy 65bhp, although European buyers could also opt for an 1100 version. The black plastic spoilers, front and rear, together with wheelarch extensions and bold striping – plus those 13-inch RS wheels, of course – transformed the humble Fiesta into an aggressively sporty-looking car. The spoilers and arch extensions would also appear a year later on the XR2, as would the driving lamps and bumper overriders.
The Supersport was more than a spoilers-and-stripes job though, since it received lowered and uprated suspension with wider track, plus a rear anti-roll bar, and that 185/60 rubber was considered low-profile back in the day. On the inside buyers could choose from either black or red for the boldly-checked sports seats and options included the ‘Executive’ pack with a lift-out glass sunroof, cassette deck and headlight washers or the ‘Climate Control’ pack, which added tinted glass and opening quarterlights.
If the early XR2 is a sought-after rarity, it looks positively common next to the Supersport, which had such a short lifespan that there are very few examples left – especially in the UK.
MkI Fiestas did like to rust but this one has received extensive restoration work including floorpans, wings, rear quarters and more, apparently using original Ford panels where possible, which as any Ford enthusiast will tell you are hard work to source these days.
In Sunburst Red sitting on its refurbished RS alloys the Supersport looks simply superb and as they pointed out at Cotswold Classic Car, the underneath is as shiny as the top. The attention to detail extends under the bonnet too and the interior is similarly impressive. The original sports seats have been replaced by a pair of genuine Recaros in similar style, but they’ve been retrimmed in the red ‘Carla’ checked cloth to match the original rear seat.
ON THE ROAD
The rasp of the Ford Crossflow bursting into life took me right back to the ’Eighties when I and all my mates could recognise the sound of any XR Ford – or Supersport, of course – long before it appeared. We didn’t have the chance to take the car for a long test drive but the engine ran sweetly and sounded nice and quiet even from cold, while the gearbox – it’s a four-speeder on all MkI Fiestas – was similarly spot-on.
If you think £10,995 for a MkI Fiesta is stretching things then check online and be amazed when you discover just how few Supersports are still on the road. As they point out at Cotswold Classic Car, when Ford models start to get rare and the values rise, there’s no stopping them – as witnessed by the rapid climb of the MkI and MkII Escorts in recent years. Roll up to the annual Ford Fair event in this Supersport and you’ll attract more attention than any of those top-dollar RS2000s.
Top speed: 99mph
0-62 mph: 11.8 secs
Fuel consumption: 35mpg
Gearbox: 4-sp man