Stunning 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

Stunning 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

Original or modified? Budget build or show-stopping finish?As Paul Stott’s Jaffa Cake Fiesta proves, you don’t always have to make these decisions. Sometimes you can have both. Words Daniel Bevis. Photos Adrian Brannan.


Rebuilt, improved and stunning Mk1

This is my mid-life crisis car,” Paul Stott admits, and you can’t deny that it’s an outstanding choice. Sidestepping the usual route of oozing into some soft and wallowy Lexus or Jaguar, Paul has instead opted to relive his boy-racer days; a misspent (or, more accurately, very well-spent) youth haring around in Mk1 and Mk2 Fiestas. “Although I’m 40 now, I feel like I’m 20 when I drive this car,” he beams. “I’d recommend it to anyone, restoring a car you were fond of back in the day. I’m so glad I’ve got another Mk1 back in my life!”

1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

Stunning 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1


Stunning 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

Back in his youth, Paul was picking up these runabouts for 50 quid a pop, and it’s that spirit of thriftiness that’s helped to inform this Sandpiper build. Frugality has always been the watchword with the ever-economical Fiestas, and with a strong cast of characters to help where necessary, Paul’s been hands-on in spiriting this special-edition back to life and turning it into the sort of spec his 20-year-old self would approve of.


Stunning 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

“The project began when, after a few drinks one night, I texted a pal saying ‘Sell me your Fiesta, I want to save it’. I woke up the next morning to a text saying yes, so I immediately thought: what have I done?” Paul laughs. “I stuck to my word and bought it, but didn’t really realise what I was taking on until I went to properly look over it… it had been sat outside for many years, and let’s just say the weather had taken its toll! But me and my good friends, Mikey Reid and Lewis Walker, towed it into C&D Autos (Mikey and his dad Graeme’s garage) and got it on the ramp to assess the situation.”

Not floored

What the fellas found was that it was a bit of a mixed bag. The car needed rear sections of the outer sills, the front valance, wing corners and sides on the scuttle; the shocks and springs were shot, as were the brakes – but amazingly the boot floor, floorpan and doors were all in great condition. The tailgate needed some fabrication, although that would be far less complex than trying to find a new one. And bizarrely, one of the front arches had been rolled but not the other; helpfully it was originally done by the guy in the unit next door, so the shell was wheeled in there to have the other side rolled to match – bodywork artistry in action.

Stunning 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

“We quickly fell into a routine,” Paul recalls. “Mikey let me use the ramp every Saturday, which helped loads, and whenever Lewis was free he could help me out with bits of welding. Mikey and Graeme pitched in too and it all started coming together – Graeme’s old-school mechanical knowledge of Fords was particularly handy.”

When it came to the running gear, it had always been Paul’s plan to refresh the Fiesta’s original 1.1-litre Valencia unit – until opportunity came a-knocking, and a chance to further rekindle those boy-racer memories was just too good to pass up. “An XR2 Kent motor and transmission popped up on the Mk1/Mk2 Fiesta group on Facebook,” he explains. “I couldn’t resist, and bought it from Dave Carpenter, a good contact in the Fiesta world.” Stripping the engine and reasoning that a rebuild would be the best thing to enliven it, Paul carefully cherry-picked the specs to create something properly entertaining. What we’re looking at today is a Stage 3-spec 1640 with a ported and polished big-valve head, lightened and balanced flywheel, all mated to the XR2 four-speed.

“The engine has the standard XR2 carb with a K&N filter at the moment,” he says, “but I do have a new big-jet Weber 34/36 to go on. It’s being temperamental so I fitted the standard carburettor back on to get it running for now; I’ll suss out the other carb in the summer!” Fair enough – with the car complete, Paul’s more than earned the right to enjoy it, there’s no rush to get everything optimised. This is about long-held memories, after all. “The exhaust and manifold are stock XR2,” he continues. “I’m planning on fitting a four-branch manifold but keeping the stock XR2 middle and back section — it gives the car a retro look and sounds nice.”

Sensible solutions

This spirit of ongoing evolution and finding the best-quality and most affordable solutions continues throughout the spec sheet. The brakes are all standard-spec 1.1 (albeit thoroughly refreshed), as XR2 carriers are akin to hen’s teeth, but Paul’s strongly considering a set of Wilwoods when funds allow. The shocks are new OE items working with 30 mm springs from Outlaw Motorsport, and Paul’s fitted an XR2-type Panhard rod as the factory-fit 1.1 items are like chocolate. In terms of wheels, this is an element that he feels really sets off the aesthetic: while the Sandpiper was originally offered an upgraded wheel design over the everyday 1.1, those 4.5 inch steels with trim rings were never going to cut it here. Paul’s wisely opted to fit the RS four-spoke reps from JBW, their 185-section tyres serving up markedly more grip for all that extra power. The Sandpiper’s interior is largely original, as it was all good enough to be saved – that magnificent two-tone brown and cream trim is oh-so-period, and the factory push-button radio is still in place… even if it can’t pick up anything beyond the odd random cricket broadcast these days.

Bronze and gold

What’s most notable about the project is the exterior treatment – but possibly only if you’re a seriously hardcore-spec nerd. You see, there were two generations of Sandpiper (see boxout on page), and Paul’s kinda remixed the formula to create his own dream fusion of the two.

“It’s meant to be metallic Roman Bronze over flat Cordoba Beige, but I just thought the beige was a bit bland,” he says. “So I set up a vote on Facebook to see whether I should do it to original spec, or instead paint the lower half in the metallic Solar Gold of the Sandpiper II — and the gold won! I wanted a pinstripe too, and the painters – Kenny and Alison at Kenny’s Kolours – suggested orange. I wasn’t sold on the idea but again I put it to the vote and that was the popular choice.”

“Once it was done I was so impressed! And now everyone knows the car as the Jaffa Cake, because of the colours.”

The results of the project speak for themselves, as it’s been really beautifully done – but it’s the emotional connection that’s strongest for Paul. “It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty proud of how it’s turned out,” he smiles. “I’m a long-distance lorry driver and free time is very short; sometimes I wanted to give up, but my pals kept me going to get it finished. The help I got will always be appreciated.”

That’s what it’s all about, really. It’s not just a mid-life crisis. It’s a bunch of good mates and a Jaffa Cake!

Tech Spec1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1

  • Body 1979 Ford Fiesta Sandpiper Mk1, restored shell. Paint: two-tone Roman Bronze and metallic Solar Gold with orange pinstripe
  • Engine 1640cc Stage 3 Crossflow, 771M block, ported and polished big-valve unleaded head, electronic distributor, stock XR2 carburettor with K&N air filter, XR2 manifold and exhaust system
  • Transmission XR2 four-speed manual, lightened and balanced flywheel, XR2 driveshafts and hubs, XR2 lower cradle
  • Suspension Front: Outlaw Motorsport 30 mm lowering springs, new OE dampers. Rear: Outlaw Motorsport 30 mm lowering springs, new OE dampers, adjustable XR2-type Panhard rod
  • Brakes Rebuilt 1.1-spec discs and drums
  • Wheels and tyres 6x13 inch JBW RS four-spoke replicas,with 185/50R13 tyres
  • Interior Original-spec Sandpiper interior in brown and cream velour, original Ford pushbutton radio
  • Thanks Mikey Reid and Graeme Reid at C&D Autos (01330 820008), Lewis Walker, Kenny and Andrew Bruce, and everyone who played a part helping… and all the people on the online forums and groups for all the help and advice to find parts


  • One drunken text to a mate later, and Paul was now the owner of a Sandpiper in need of some work
  • The Mk1 had been parked up for some time and was looking somewhat the worse for wear.
  • With the engine out, at weekends Paul and his mates were able to crack on with the repairs.
  • The 1.1 Valencia was never going to cut it, so Paul tracked down an XR2-spec 1600 Crossflow.
  • One rebuild (and rebore) later and with the head modified to Stage 3, it was looking much healthier.
  • The Mk1 had been parked up for some time and was looking somewhat the worse for wear.
  • Conversion decal is a throwback to when pumps changed from gallons to litres in the mid 1980s.
  • Paul’s wisely left the interior largely standard — even down to the radio.
  • When it came to laying on fresh colour, the twotone was staying, only with some subtle tweaks.



Ford had a bit of a thing for birds in the late-1970s. You could order yourself a Mk2 Escort Linnet, which was a fancied-up base model with GL seats and two-tone side-stripes, or an Escort Goldcrest — a Ghia-style offering resplendent in brown and gold. Over in the Fiesta range, the Sandpiper arrived in 1979 — a limited run of 2500 cars, based on the 1.1 L and painted in two-tone Roman Bronze over Cordoba Beige. The interior had Ghia-style seats in unique two-tone velour trim, plus a push-button radio. Such was its popularity that a Sandpiper II was released in 1981, of which 4000 were built in Roman Bronze over Solar Gold. And what is a sandpiper? Why, it’s a wading bird with a long bill for plucking invertebrates out of the mud.

Updating the two-tone colours and adding the orange pinstripe was an inspired decision. RS four-spoke reps work a treat on Paul’s refreshed Sandpiper. The Sandpiper’s velour trim was all present and correct, with Paul just needing to give the seats a good clean.

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