When Volkswagen announced their Touareg luxo-SUV back in 2002, one of the big questions that came up was What the hell is a Touareg? It turns out a Touareg (or Tuareg) is a nomadic group of Berber-speaking people. But this was actually the second car to be named after the tribe. The first was this amazing Ford Fiesta concept car.

Yes, the first car to be named Tuareg was a little 1.1-liter FWD econobox that had been toughened up and kitted out with enough push bars and lights and knobby tires and stripes and vents to be transformed into a plucky little desert rat that looked to be ready for anything.

The Fiesta Tuareg was a 1979 concept car based on the first-generation Fiesta. According to the press release of the time, Ford wanted to create

... a practical, off-road, desert Fiesta - has been a joint design exercise between Ghia in Turin and the Ford Design Centre in Dearborn.

Without changing the Fiesta floor pan but by extending the roof line at the rear, the design teams have created a stylish and compact three-door estate car which has an overall length of only 147”, an overall width of 65.4” and overall height of 59” compared with the normal Fiesta S, Tuareg is 6.7” longer, 3.7” wider and 7.3” higher.

So, by extending the roof further back, they turned the little hatchback into a shooting brake (even adding a protective roll hoop in the process), and added big-ass knobby tires, metal tube bumpers, fender flares and lower aero bits, four nice big extra lights, a roof rack, and some awesome browntastic stripes. Oh, and a pretty fantastic sawtooth-profile set of air extractors in the center of the hood. The suspension was raised and re-inforced, but the car remained steadfastly FWD. It was a pretty great looking package when it was all done.

The little desert-driver also had some interesting interior materials and layout, too:

Inside the Tuareg, a fold-down rear seat provides extra cargo-carrying capacity. A split tailgate allows room for extra long loads.

Tuareg’s seats are upholstered in a practical, hard-wearing tweed fabric which is also used for headlining. The same fabric and contrasting vinyl are used for door trim. The floor and load spaces are protected by a thick, brown cord matting.

Thick brown cord matting? Hell yeah. Practical, hard-wearing tweed? This car’s dressed like some British equivalent of Indiana Jones — probably named Islington Smythe or something.

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The Tuareg was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1979, but, sadly, balls must have been embargoed that year since the tough little Fiesta never made it into production.

Of course, 23 years later, another Touareg came on the scene, but, if you ask me, it doesn’t matter how much more powerful or luxurious or capable it is, it can’t hold a candle to this little guy. If I ever have to own a car named after a nomadic tribe via some monkey’s paw or genie-type situation, you bet your ass this is the one I’m picking.


Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.

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