Concepts and prototypes : Ford Fiesta Tuareg

The Ford Fiesta Tuareg Concept was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1979 – and, in many ways, it’s the grandfather of the modern small SUV…

The current car market is sagging under the weight of jacked up hatchbacks, sporting cladding under the pretense of being an SUV. Cars such as the new Kia Stonic and the Renault Captur are aimed at young adventurous individuals, who want to be seen as active types – you might think this a new phenomena, but Ford had a crack at it back in 1979.

The Fiesta Tuareg was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1979, and was a joint design exercise between Ghia in Turin and the Ford Design Centre in Dearborn. It was conceived as ‘a practical, off-road, desert Fiesta’, and was built on an unmodified Ford Fiesta floorpan.

In terms of engineering, little was changed over the car it was based upon – so it retained the original car’s 1117cc Kent engine and, despite its rugged styling, front-wheel drive. The suspension was raised and stiffened, while the track was widened – the look was completed by the fitment of Goodyear Terra 26in off-road tyres mounted on 7J steel rims.

Styling – changes where it mattered

This is where Ghia made the difference. The Tuareg’s roofline was extended, which gave the car more of an estate-car vibe. Its wheelbase remained unchanged over the standard Fiesta, but it was 6.7 inches longer, 3.7 inches wider and 7.3 inches higher.

The Tuareg also had a Range Rover-style split tailgate, which increased loading practicality. The interior was finished in an appealing-looking tweed fabric – it was liberally used from the seat facings to the door cards. Any other surface was treated to a thick brown cord matting. Nice…

The bonnet received louvres and, instead of bumpers, the Tuareg received black tubular steel nudge bars. On top, a heavy-duty roof rack and roof-mounted halogen spotlights, gave this a Matra-Simca Rancho feel, while the huge front spoiler and wide arches and skirts were more than a nod to motor sport. So, in a way, a slightly confused looking car.

What happened to the Tuareg?

Sadly, it disappeared without a trace. It’s a cool-looking thing, and is surely the grandfather of the generation of small ‘SUVs’ that litter the car market. Ford has even produced its own version – the Ford Fiesta Active, which is due for launch in 2018…

Keith Adams


  1. Not one of Ford’s better concepts,The Matra-Simca Rancho had been released a couple of years earlier to dismissive reviews and disinterest by the UK car buying public who regarded the Rancho as a French joke that had not traveled well. I think that it’s more than likely that had it made production the Tuareg would have attracted a similar reaction with it’s cheap and nasty flared wheel arches and spoilers plus the fibre glass rear end doesn’t do much for the car either. And to cap it off the vehicle was powered by the standard 1-1 litre Kent engine which hardly had enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding.all in all not a very good idea at all

    • The Rancho received dismissive reviews, for sure…

      But it was still a commercial success. They sold as quickly as Matra could build them. It’s a big mis-representation of history saying that the Rancho didn’t sell. It did.

      It turned a handsome profit, too!

  2. Tweed fabric and split tailgate? Cool.

    As others have said, lots of Matra Rancho styling elements, and it also reminds me of the Mk2 “breadvan” Polo.

  3. A production version of the Ford Fiesta Tuareg would have needed engines of at least 1.3-1.6 instead of the 1.1 unit used in the concept (plus 1.6 LT diesel), along with requiring a longer platform derived from the abandoned 2/4-door Fiesta saloon prototypes to be more of a direct challenger to the Matra Rancho.

  4. It looks like a crude lash-up now, but back in the day it had quite a lot of style. It would have competed a rung below the Rancho on the market. I imagine it would be little more practical than the ordinary Fiesta, which would be one reason why it never came to market. Ford were good at show cars in those days: the Probes 1,2 and 3 followed swiftly afterwards, gaining a lot of attention

    • In some ways Probe 1-3 were preparing the public for the Sierra – 1 showing that Ford was thinking of aerodynamic styling, 2 was aero hatchback applied to something like a Cortina, 3 was basically a Sierra.

      Probe 4 and 5 were bringing the idea to a conclusion, though 4 with the wraparound rear screen gave some hints to the 1985 Granada/Scorpio (albeit the production car wasn’t wraparound but used a darkened D pillar), 5 was a real flight of fancy on the theme.

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