Welcome to Old School vs New School, the series where we pick out the cars from the good old days, and pair them with their spiritual successors. Last week it was the Vauxhall Nova vs the Corsa VXR, this week it’s the Mk3 Ford Fiesta RS1800 VS Mk8 Ford Fiesta ST…
Cast your mind back to the modifying scene of the late-1980s and the go-go nineties. Was it all TSW Venoms, asymmetric Delta bodykits and badly smoothed tailgates with number plates cabletied back on to please the rozzers? It’s easy to be cynical, but the bare bones of what we used to do in those days were pretty similar to what we’re up to today.
Sure, back then it was all about outrageous bodykits, big rims, neon lights, and massive audio installs… but doesn’t that sound familiar? Yep, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, there are some things that were massively popular which have since totally gone out of fashion – everyone used to rock Lexus lights, headlights swaps from random different cars were popular, every other Saxo had four 6-inch exhausts… but a lot of the things that went out of fashion have come back around.
Like what? Well, three-spoke wheels, big aluminium spoilers, wide-arch kits – the difference is that people are focusing more on quality. It’s all in the details, from your obsessively smoothed engine bay to your impeccably retrimmed interior, and there’s a lot more awareness of rare parts; if you spend a year tracking down an obscure OEM+ spoiler that was only available in Austria for six months in 1994, the chances are that people will recognise it when you roll into a show.
The internet has broadened everyone’s horizons, and it’s also inspired a oneupmanship that keeps so many builds truly world-class. The days of building something over the winter and debuting it at a springtime show are largely over, as people are documenting their builds on Instagram, everyone’s open and aware, and it’s all about being the person who’s using the most original ideas to win the most peer approval.
With all that being said, some things really don’t change. At the heart of the tuning scene, now as it was then, we all want to run a car that goes fast, looks cool, and makes rowdy noises. The technology’s moved on, and the bar of quality gets raised time and time again, but we’re fundamentally still doing what we’ve always done. Long may it continue.
That’s enough of the chat, let battle commence!
THEN: FORD FIESTA RS1800 (MK3)
The word ‘turbo’ was a really big deal back then. Whereas nowadays pretty much everything’s turbocharged for the sake of efficiency, it used to be a real statement to have a turbo.
The Escort RS Turbo, Renault 5 GT Turbo, Fiat Uno Turbo, MG Metro Turbo, these were cars owned by people who loved to turn the boost up, melt the engine, rebuild it and start all over again. The values of these cars have gone insane these days, because they’re what everyone grew up wanting, and now there aren’t many left.
The Fiesta we’ve chosen here, however, isn’t the RS Turbo. It’s the RS1800, which is the car the Fiesta RST always should have been. It was never as popular because it didn’t have that iconic turbo badge, motor than the old boosted CVH) and, with its quad-spotlights and RS2000-alike wheels, it looked properly cool.
The RS Turbo kids may have had their shouty dump valves, but the RS1800 drivers always knew their hot hatch would get them home again.
FORD FIESTA RS1800 (MK3) STATS
Performance: 130bhp, 0-62mph – 8.3s
Top mods: RS 3-spokes, Kent cams, Jenvey throttle bodies, Mongoose exhaust, Escort Cosworth Hex Recaros.
Price then: £12,712 (in 1992; equivalent 2018 price adjusted for inflation: £25,010)
Price now: £7,000+
NOW: FORD FIESTA ST (MK8)
Hot Fiestas have always been popular, for two key reasons: one, they’re quite affordable, and two, they’re always really good.
Going way back to the original Mk1 SuperSport, the idea of shoving more power into a Fiesta has always been a strong one, with the XR2, XR2i, RS Turbo, RS1800, and various generations of ST each being massive sellers.
The Mk7 Fiesta ST won pretty much every award going for being a generally brilliant hot hatch, and now that the boxfresh Mk8 ST is with us, the merry-go-round starts anew.
It’s telling that tuning companies like SCC and Scorpion took delivery of new Mk8 STs as soon as they became available – they know they’ll be tunable as hell, and the aftermarket parts will be big business!
MK8 FORD FIESTA ST STATS
Performance: 197bhp, 0-62mph – 6.5s
Top mods: Scorpion exhaust, Mountune remap, KW coilovers, Fifteen52 Tarmac wheels.
What would you choose?
Words Dan Bevis