Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

Readers’ restoration: Lifelong Fiesta fan, Rob Colton always had the desire to one day own a rare convertible Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1. Tracking one down would be no easy task — and then the hard work really began.

Words and Photos Jon Cass


Fiesta Fly gets a new lease of life.

Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

The name Rob Colton should be familiar to regular readers as just last year we featured his stunning, white Fiesta Mk1 Supersport. A rare car in itself, it took Rob a long time to find a suitable unmolested candidate on which to base a sympathetic restoration, but finally in 2021 that project became complete.

Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

“I’d had a great response with the Supersport, but I was eager to get back in my garage and begin work on another project,” Rob smiles, “fortunately there was one inside already waiting for me!” We briefly mentioned Rob’s Fiesta Fly previously and just as promised, once the Supersport was finished, all his focus returned to the XR2 convertible patiently awaiting its turn for attention.

Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

“I’ve always liked the styling of the Mk1 Fiesta, especially the XR2,” Rob explains, “I’ve owned many examples over the years including an XR2 for the last 30 of those, but the elusive Fly had always intrigued me.” After purchasing a rare sales brochure, Rob was hooked on the idea of one day owning an example of the unusual convertible built by the Bournemouth-based English brothers. “I was always on the lookout for a Fly in the classifieds on the highly unlikely chance one came up for sale,” Rob remembers, “it was an almost impossible search as not many were made and even few still exist.”

Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

Then much to Rob’s astonishment, a Fiesta Fly eventually came up for sale: “Unfortunately, it wasn’t an XR2 based conversion, this was a 1.1 but I counted myself lucky that I suddenly had the chance to buy a genuine Fly,” Rob recalls. The 1.1 was located at the opposite end of the country, but the Kent engine never missed a beat on its return trip. “I really liked this car, but I still had my heart set on an XR2 Fly,” Rob remembers, “I even swapped the headlights of the 1100 to those from a Mk1 XR2, in an attempt for it to resemble the more desirable model.”

Routine search

By now, Rob was routinely searching for Fiesta Flys among the classifieds by force of habit and low and behold, an XR2-based Fly finally came up for grabs. “By chance, it was offered by the same vendor I’d bought the 1100cc Fly from,” Rob laughs, “it turned out it was slightly modified and a little too fast for him” Another road trip beckoned, but at least Rob knew the way! Aside from another long trip, there was one major issue in that this XR2 Fly had sustained light fire damage within the engine bay. “The insurance company were intending to write the car off as it was still of a low value at the time, but luckily they agreed it could be repaired,” Rob says, “but the vendor was struggling to find replacement parts such as the wiring loom, header bottle, fan motor and master cylinder, but I knew I had all these at home.”

Rare convertible 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly Mk1

A slightly complex deal was struck which involved Rob supplying the parts to ensure the XR2 Fly was mobile again along with his 1100 Fly and some cash as part of the deal. “When it came time to collect the now roadworthy XR2, I took the opportunity to photograph my part exchange 1100 next to its more powerful twin as it would probably be the only chance I had,” Rob smiles.

Tentative start

Finally, Rob now had the Fly he’d always wanted, though as expected, it was far from perfect. “I made a start by stripping and powdercoating a lot of the running gear then fitted poly bushes all round,” Rob points out, “I’d also noticed the rear windows were scratched and had begun to turn yellow too.” These were easily rectified, Rob purchasing fresh polycarbonate and using the old windows as templates, he cut new replacements to the correct size. “The roof had been kept down for a long period of time and had to be stretched to fi t back into place,” Rob explains, “this caused most of the stitching to come apart.” Fortunately, Rob tracked down a local hood repair specialists who were able to sew in extra strengthening patches in the required areas and replace all the original stitching, returning the Crayford devised hood to its original condition.

For the next few years, Rob continued to make the most of his long-awaited XR2 Fly and drove it as often as he could, but it was still far from the showstopper he’d always envisaged. “The bodywork had been previously patched up in places while the shut lines around the bonnet and front wings didn’t line up properly, “ Rob recalls, “I then decided to store the car in my garage planning a full rebuild.”

Over time — six years to be more precise — Rob collected the necessary parts to make progress which included new wings and a new bonnet. “I half stripped the car down and took it to my local bodywork specialist as panel alignment is not one of my finest skills, “Rob smiles, “it turned out the car had probably suffered a light bump at some point in the past and the fi re hadn’t helped either.”

Once resprayed in Sunburst Red the bodyshell looked like new once again, Rob also choosing to have the rear axle fully rebuilt and powdercoated at the same time. “The paintwork looked great, but that only made the engine bay appear worse,” Rob laughs, “all that had to be sorted next.” The fuel tank also had a large dent which meant a replacement tank was in order along with new flexi hoses, “the old fuel lines almost fell apart in my hand,” Rob adds.

Fortunately, the underside was found to be in remarkably good condition, only requiring a fresh coat of paint with no welding required at all.

“I had to be especially careful when refitting the roof as many of these parts are coachbuilt and obsolete,” Rob points out. “Once the bodykit was on, I had new XR2 and Fly graphics printed and supplied by DMB Graphics to finish the exterior off.” New plastic covers, footwell cards and door cards along with rear seat belts brought the interior back up to scratch and once those trademark 13 inch Pepperpot alloys had been refurbed, Rob’s Fiesta now resembled an XR2 once again, only one with a canvas roof!

Location location

As Rob is lucky enough to live in a very picturesque part of the Yorkshire with no shortage of twisty B-roads on his doorstep, a strut brace sourced from Outlaw Motorsport seems like a logical addition while new brake callipers and hoses have been fitted too. Unusually, our shoot happened to coincide with a bright, sunny day and with the hood down and those inviting country lanes melting into the distance, we can’t think of a car more suited to such an occasion than a Mk1 Fiesta XR2 Fly.


Rob knew he was taking a gamble buying a project that had suffered previous fire damage (right) even though it drove OK. Fortunately, with the right connections, he was able to amass the necessary spare parts to bring it back to show standard. These included a stock XR2 radiator to replace the incorrectly-sized alloy one, new hoses, a fuel cut-off switch, new E10 petrol dedicated fuel pipes along with a fresh master cylinder. Rob believes the Kent engine had been rebored to 1700cc at some point previously and he couldn’t resist refitting new twin 40 Weber carbs along with a four-into-one exhaust to add some extra poke. It all adds up to a stunning and very rare example of the Fiesta XR2’s history which also happens to be a hoot to drive too — especially when the sun is shining!


  • Engine: 1700 Kent, twin 40 Weber carbs, four-into-one exhaust manifold
  • Transmission: four-speed manual
  • Suspension: standard polybushed
  • Brakes: vented discs/standard drums
  • Wheels and tyres: 6x13 inch Pepperpots, 185/60R13 tyres
  • Top speed: 105 mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph: 9.3 seconds
  • Price when new: £5500 plus options


DMB Graphics 07887 802726, dmb.uk.com

Fiesta Mk1 Forum fiesta-mk1.co.uk

Outlaw Motorsport outlawmotorsport.co.uk

Interior is stock XR2, and all the better for it. Frequent Flyer: now the XR2 is finished, Rob and his family enjoy the car as often as possible.



Already a Fly owner, it was the XR2 version Rob desperately wanted, and eventually one came up. Rob’s ‘new’ XR2 Fly with his previous 1.1 version — he bought both cars from the same vendor. The hood had clearly seen better days, but luckily a specialist was later able to expertly repair it. Stripping the car down revealed the body to be in tired but basically solid and unmessed with shape. The underside was in great shape, so was painted in body colour and the suspension powdercoated. Rob then worked his way through the remainder of the car to bring it all up to show-stand condition. The fire-damaged engine bay was the last area for Rob to tackle but it now looks as good as new. Polycarbonate side windows were replaced with new ones that Rob carefully cut to size. Badly dented fuel tank needed replacing. Underside now looks superb.


The XR2’s engine had already been bored out to 1700 so Rob added a pair of sidedraughts for good measure.

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