By on April 23, 2010

The original 1960 Corvair Monza coupe (1966 shown) introduced and pioneered a European category to the US: the sporty compact coupe. The formula: a new roof line, maybe some other body changes like the Monza’s enlarged rear wheel openings, bucket seats and tasty interior trimmings, upgraded engine performance. Most of all, it had to have style, at least more than the donor sedan it sprang from, otherwise it defeated the whole purpose. The formula has been applied endlessly, to greater and lesser effect. But sometimes it’s just abused; probably never more horribly so than with Fords EXP and its stablemate, the Mercury LN7.

But this little EXP is more clever than I gave it credit for. Instead of my piling right in about its styling and performance shortcomings, it presents me with a problem: why is this gen1 (1982-1985) EXP wearing the bubbleback tailgate from the LN7? I know that the gen2 restyle (1986.5-1988.5) used it, along with a majorly revised front end.

Wikipedia makes somewhat cryptic references to a 1985.5 model. Is this what this is? I need your help, all you Blue Oval historians. Or was this car just built on a Monday, and someone grabbed the wrong hatchback on the line?

Well, your diversionary tactics are not going to work, EXP. This car is just plain ugly as sin. Where to begin? The front end isn’t worth wasting words on. Moving on. The real problem is the same issue that bedevils so many cars of this genre: too high of a cowl line. Obviously, Ford wasn’t going to spring for a whole new inner body structure, and the tendency for small FWD cars was already moving towards being taller rather than shorter, for packaging reasons.

Obviously, the one major exception to that was Honda, which made a trademark of low cowl lines that adapted themselves perfectly to its sporty coupe, the CRX. That little gem made life miserable for everyone else in this category, but none more so than the EXP. I really should have put it in the picture at the top with the EXP.

Ford undoubtedly had good intentions for the EXP, trying to get away from the bloated excess of their notoriously overwrought and overweight 1970s cars. And the timing was spot on, with the EXP arriving just at the height of the early eighties “small is good” era. It was also a bit of a trailblazer, arriving two years ahead of the CRX. Ford wanted a small sporty car that could get by with only two seats for obviously childless households. And Ford had gone down that road once before, with the original 1955-1957 Thunderbird.

From wiki: “Comparing the EXP to the original Thunderbird, Ford Division General Manager Louis E. Latalf said: “We’re introducing another two-seater with the same flair, but the EXP will be a very affordable, very fuel efficient car matched to the lifestyles of the eighties.” Anyone who who would be willing to compare the EXP to the low and stylish T-Bird was obviously deranged or a career salesperson. And given that the T-Bird quickly morphed into a four seater, it’s all the more odd. But then the EXP just was odd.

Even though it was of course based on the world car Escort, which was very successful in Europe, there was no suggestion of the Europeans showing the slightest interest in the EXP. It would have bombed equally from its ugliness and the lack of a back seat; the whole European coupe concept based on a sedan inevitably left a back seat, at least of some sort. And it had to look more stylish than its donor.

Two seaters need to either be genuinely sporty (CRX), or at least look that way (Fiero). The EXP was neither. In fact, it was less sporty than its Escort donor, due to gaining 200 lbs in the transformation. And that’s without a rear seat. How did they manage that? All that rear glass?

Given the asthmatic little 70hp 1.6 CVH four that powered the initial version, it was anything but zippy. An 80hp version was soon thrown at the problem without solving it. Eventually, an EXP Turbo Coupe, emulating its big brother, came along in 1984, with 120 hp. Good luck finding one of those now!

We’re going to plumb the depths of the early Escort’s dynamic qualities when it appears here before long. But lets just say that it was not sporty. Later versions started to get there, but what was sold here in 1981-1984 had little similarity to what the Europeans where getting. It’s as if they forgot to install the shocks or something critical like that. And the 1.6 CVH was a whiny little brat, endlessly complaining about its lot in life. Almost a perfect polar opposite to a Honda engine of the times.

It’s fair to say that the EXP’s pathetic sales performance was as much because of its questionable styling and packaging, as well as the blistering competition from Japan. Who would possibly have wanted to spend the extra bucks for an EXP when a Civic hatchback did it all so much better, and hadn’t been beaten with the proverbial ugly stick?

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63 Comments on “Curbside Classic: Ford’s Ugly Little Sin: The EXP...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    Ugly?! Surely you jest!! I still have fond memories of my first car – a 1982 Mercury LN7, yellow on black.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick12

      I have very fond memories of my ’82 two tone (red and black) EXP too, purchased new in the summer of ’81. It was a blast to drive with gas mileage comparable to hybrid of today.

      I sold it in ’84 to fund my university studies.

      May be someday, I’ll find one to restore!

      Cheers,
      Rick

  • avatar
    tced2

    It followed the Mustang formula: take an economy car, put a “sexy” body on it, and sell it. Except the EXP didn’t set the world on fire like the Mustang. Ford is the king of re-using and using old cars nearly forever – their accountants must really smile – amortization of the Crown Vic over 30 years (1970′s to 2000′s). Same for the Mustang.
    Diametrically opposed to the Corvair – specific body – specific engine.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    The Corvair you picture above is the second generation – maybe a 1965 or 66, – but certainly not a 1960. No doubt it is also one of the prettiest cars of its time (perhaps one of the best-looking ever) and a perfect place to let one’s eye fall after the visual assault of the EXP. But it is not the car that inspired so many Europeans. That WAS the 1960-1964 series, which showed its influence on a host of small cars, including the seminal BMW 1600 (and 2002).

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I heard that when the original concepts of the EXP were presented to the Ford Suits, they asked to have it changed so it looked more like a Ford. Those weird sleepy eyebrow headlights were the result.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Those headlamp “doors” were the solution to the height of the “shotgun” being determined by the MacP. strut set-up and no money in the budget for pop-up headlights.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    The first CC you’ve had that my grandmother owned. My grandfather was a life long GM foundry worker, but a dedicated Ford buyer. Ten years after cancer took his life my grandmother bought one of the last of the Escort EXPs, two seat, automatic. It was the third in a line of cars purchased after the old man’s demise starting with a 1979 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight sedan (my fave as a tot), 1984 Chevy Celebrity coupe (front plate: “Foxy Grandma”), and then her EXP. She eventually came to hate the impracticality of the no back seat and the fact that she was charged “sports car” insurance premiums cause of the two seat configuration. I got my license in 1993 and got to drive it once before she sold it to my temporarily car-less aunt.

    Total POS, I couldn’t even get the key to turn in the ignition till I realized I needed to wiggle the wheel to get it to “unlock.” The acceleration made my Iron Duke equipped Celebrity look good.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    Ahhh…..memories. I think 90% of these were first cars for collage girls, at least several I dated and others I tried to date unsuccessfully. I remember a review back in the day that described its styling as a Pinto with a hangover.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I thought the EXP/LN7 twins were very good-looking in their day. They made the Escort/Lynx look downright stodgy.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      I’m sad to say that what you’ve stated was indeed the case, gslippy… given the state of the automotive world for the average prospective customer.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    Cleverer? That’s the worstest!

  • avatar

    This is yet another Eugene/Car flashback for me. In my freshman year at UO, one of my dorm-mates had one of these. It didn’t have the LN7 hatch, which honestly doesn’t help that much.

    I remember asking him about the car when I first saw it: “nice sports coupe – do you like driving it in the mountains?” Answer: “Dude, this car handles like shit. It’s terrible. My mom bought it and didn’t like it so she gave it to me for college.”

    After riding with him a few times, I agreed. It was 100% Escort inside, at least from the front seats forward. But it was able to hold a phenomenal amount of beer in the rear hatch. Cases and cases…

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    The reason that Europe didn’t show the slightest interest in the EXP is because Europe had the Escort XR3 – which was awesome!
    http://www.performance-car-guide.co.uk/images/L-Ford-Escort-Xr3i-mk3.jpg
    You could abuse it thoroughly all day long and it wouldn’t break – and just look at the pepperpot alloys – sheer class.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Eventually Ford turned the Escort into a pretty decent little car, but this was one painful detour on that journey. I’m assuming they talked to focus groups before they went into production with this, I’d love to see some of that footage.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      The Escort only became decent after it became mostly Mazda. BTW, I thought the original EXP wasn’t half bad looking. You have to remember, this was the early 1980′s, an era of general automotive crap-itude. Unfortunately, the inside was bargain bin Escort, as were the greasy bits. The second gen was just plain hideous.

  • avatar
    detlump

    When these came out the styling was a big issue – looks like a frog, etc. I seem to recall many with the wheels canted at severe angles, fronts the top of the wheel way out, rears the opposite. I can only imagine how glacially slow these were with the auto and AC. They seem to look a little sad in the front – I can’t help it, they made me this way…

  • avatar

    I think you need a new category: curbside beaters. Among American cars at least, classic cars are postwar to 1969-70 or so, maybe through ’72 for the Valiant. Curbside beaters would be anything American after that as well as most but not all foreign. Anything that predates WWII is a Curbside Antique.

    This thing is definitely a curbside beater, although the face is definitely cute.

  • avatar
    nevets248

    just seeing one of these POS’ reminds me of the old jingle,
    “geepers, creepers, where’d you get those peepers?”

  • avatar

    ;’)

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Another reason these cars did not do well was the Horizon TC3 and the Omni 024. The ChryCos drove at least as well, were more powerful (the 1.7 was not bad, and the 2.2 was kinda quick, for the day), were much better proportioned, and had a back seat too.

    Add in the Celicas, Preludes, Mitsu Challengers and all the other Japaneese sporty coupes, and there was just no good reason to own an EXP.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @jpcavanaugh: Additionally, these were never competitive in price with their bigger siblings, namely the Fox body Mustang and Capri. I had a chance to buy one of these new in 1981, but compared to a 4 cylinder Mustang, it was no deal. Even with ye olde Pinto motor, the ‘Stang still had 15-20 more horsepower in a body that didn’t weigh much more. Plus, the back seat wasn’t a costly OPTION!

      If you waited until the 1982 model year, you could get a 2.2 Charger that WAS much quicker than the EXP (or the base Mustang) for less money. No to mention a whole slew of other cars, even the despicably bad Renault Fuego was quicker/cheaper. Although, that car would almost certainly die a miserable death.

      Back in that day in 1981 I bought a Mercury Capri Turbo RS, a car that I really liked, but didn’t like me. I had no idea it would be the first of many domestic Ford products that would totally disappoint me.

      My cousins in Germany would occasionally mail me ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ and I would read about the European Fords, particularly the Escort. I was originally thrilled when we would get the ‘world car’ Escort, only end up with what we got on this side of the pond. The EXP was just salt in the wound. Bummer.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The car was developed with a back seat … this was immediately replaced with the extended package tray and chrome bar after, so the story goes, a rather tallish Ford engineer was sitting in the rear seat when a colleague slammed the rear hatch waacking the sitting engineer in the noggin … after that, for liability reasons, the rear seat was pulled … after launch, Ford claimed sevear times that the rear seat would be offered as an option … to my knowledge, this option never happened….

    BTW, with respect to my guess yesterday, I don’t remember the EXP/LN7 lamps having a chrome strip as shown in the CC clue-photo … could it be that there was a black overfinish that has disappeared (or is the length of my memory limited to 25 years)?

    • 0 avatar

      Ford never offered a rear seat option to the best of my knowledge. However you could buy aftermarket kit and have installed. The floor pan when you removed the interior pieces had the indentation for the rear seat to go there – even in the 1985 model pictured.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    I wanted one of these really badly when I was in college. I liked the concept of a large hatch utility for hauling my stuff to and from school and the two seat intimacy for dating. I still don’t think the styling is that bad, it’s pleasingly quirky and a definite standout from the cars of today.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re correct! It was a great college hauler for carrying my stuff back and forth, and otherwise sipping gasoline and being rather easy to care for. As another posted noted above, keeping it in alignment was near impossible, it ate those crappy Goodyear tires up constantly and spent a lot of time on the alignment rack. It wasn’t “awful” to drive but no one would mistaken it for a performance car. It was very nose heavy 68/32 IIRC. It would under steer like no other car I’ve ever driven – horrific under steer. Fifth gear was crazy deep and the car would turn at very low RPM at 55/60 MPH – I could get 40 MPG without trying, I could get 45+ MPG if I babied it on flat highway.

      Mine was identical to the one in the pics (sans the donor Escort seats in the interior shots) and mine was silver. Otherwise it was the exact same car. 1985 Ford EXP Sport 5-speed.

  • avatar
    LennyZ

    Sorry to say I owned a 1983 EXP. It was the biggest POS I ever owned and I am chagrined and embarrassed to tell people I owned one. It had barely enough power to get out of its own way. I thought it handled decently and was good on the highway. I drove it halfway across the country twice and it ran good then when it was fairly news but after ~30K miles things started to go wrong and the car never ran decently after that. I dumped it at 70K miles and was glad to see the last of its faded, primer showing, paint job. (When I took the car to the dealer and complained about the paint they said it was sun damaged. I did drive it during the day. Maybe they were into the whole vampire thing back then.) That car turned me away from Domestic manufacturers to Japanese cars and I been happy with them ever since. I refuse to ever, EVER, buy another Ford until they return my money for that car. What an embarrassing excuse for a car.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      “It was the biggest POS I ever owned and I am chagrined and embarrassed to tell people I owned one.”

      I can assume you never owned a Chevy Cavalier or a Ford Pinto, right, Lenny?

  • avatar
    stuart

    IIRC, the poster EXP Ford used in magazine ads was painted “Kermit Green.” Dunno if that color made it any prettier.

    stuart

  • avatar

    The car pictured above is a 1985 EXP Sport (or base model if you will). The give away that this is a base model is the single wing mirror, all other trims came with driver/passenger mirrors. Also, that big piece of back glass has no rear defroster, this is also the only trim that came without a defroster. On the interior picture there isn’t any gauges in the lower center console which I believe were removed in the 1984 model year.

    The Ford EXP got the LN-7 bubble back hatch from 1984 forward, a year after the LN-7 was killed in 1983. This would have a 1.6L 4-banger interference engine under the hood (infamous for self-destruction due to water pump and/or timing belt failures) that produced IIRC an earth shattering 82 HP in 1985. The 5-speed model gets a sport-tuned exhaust. Yipee!

    This one pictured, if these are recent pics is in very good condition given it is a 25 year old car and the paint from the mid-80s, especially on flexible surfaces like the front clip and rear bumper cover tends to fade and peel away. The front seats appear to have been replaced by a donor Ford Escort or Ford Tempo some time along the way – from the late 80′s or early 90′s it appears. The original seats would have been dark gray/black, with a sort of line pattern on them, with vinyl sides. The color would be more similar to the doors or the armrest. I seem to remember the quality of the cloth not being good, and UV and ass time would have worn them out years ago. Here is a shock – if this one doesn’t have AC, then it has no tint on the glass AT ALL. No UV protection for the interior, or the driver/passenger – ya – it got hot inside.

    The 13″ steel rims are missing their chrome trim rings – but are the original wheels. The rear suspension needs shims bad, a very common problem on the EXP.

    It was a very flawed car in many ways, but you could get 40+ MPG all day long, and not with gentle driving, and given the squirrel cage under the hood, gentle driving wasn’t all that possible. The absence of a back seat allowed the front seats to be set further back, but two inches IIRC, providing more leg room than its Escort donor platform. The rear hatch was a massive cavern that had SUV grade cargo carrying ability. The skinny tires and low horsepower and if I remember my weight ratio correctly 68/32 F/R made it outstanding in the snow, but an under steering nightmare if driven with any kind of spirit. There was very little under the hood (except that demonic timing belt) that couldn’t be fixed with a hammer, duct tape, and bailing wire.

    • 0 avatar
      rcdickey

      I had an 84 EXP bought new and lasted me for 10 years. It wasn’t a great car. I say 10 because I sold it at that time. I didn’t have much trouble with mine but I was a mechanic at a Ford dealership at the time. I bought it because I wanted something that was really different. Employee pricing kept me from considering other cars outside of Ford. What I want to address here is my car had the LN7 bubble back glass. So yes it started in 84. Starting in 84 also the engine became non interference. I wouldn’t have bought it if that change had not been made. Working in the shop I knew of the change ahead of time. At about the 100k mile mark the water pump locked up and snapped the timing belt. I put a new pump and belt on and was back on the road. The stock rims and tires sucked pretty bad. A set of Escort GT 15″ alloy wheels fixed that a few years after I bought it. I ended up fitting an Escort GT radiator to mine also to stop it from running hot in traffic with the air on. Only had the problem on 90 degree plus days. The GT radiator was wider and had 2 fans. The later GTs had a 1.9L engine with 110hp, hence the larger radiator. That fixed my problem. I didn’t know the turbo option was coming out till I had already bought one or I would have waited. I bought a 1.9 with the intentions of installing in place of the 1.6. My sister blew the engine in her Escort so I gave my 1.9 to her and moved on. Speaking of knowing when a turbo option is coming goes for my current 02 Dodge Neon R/T. If I had only known the SRT 4 was coming! The one thing my Dodge does well that my old EXP didn’t is handle. My Neon R/T handles extremly well for what it is. Way better than the 90 Probe GT turbo car I had. The Probe was quicker in a straight line though. The EXP wasn’t a reliable car but that 90 Probe, my 93 Ranger, and my current 02 Neon have been the most trouble free cars I have had. I have the parts for another engine for my Neon but it is still going strong at 162k.

    • 0 avatar

      I was wondering if anyone would mention the weight distribution. If memory serves, this car set a record for imbalance. Very light rear end.

      The 1985.5 was the first year for the revised Escort, with the 1.9-liter engine.

      I don’t know if anyone else noted this, but a small number of these were sold with a 1.6 turbo. I test drove this engine in an Escort–so don’t believe rumors that the car never actually made it to dealerships.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    So who decided that black taillights look good? That’s a fad that I’m glad died. Now if only we could kill the clear “altezza” taillight fad the world would be a better place.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I’m thinking those hood panel gaps are original. Left the factory like that.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    D*mn, that Corvair is good looking.

    Now, if they can 1) give the finger to the Obamaloon and actually become a real capitalistic company again, 2) Hire their second engineer, 3) Fire EVERY MBA idiot in the company, 4) tell the unions to stick it up their Obamas, and 5) make the Corvair Corsa again (albeit with the latest electronics), I’ll buy two.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Should have mentioned Ford….I’ve just purchased a 2010 4WD Ranger. It’s improved greatly from my ’06 which was a bit dated, but a fine vehicle that never had any problems (the new one has traction control 4 wheel disc brakes, quieter, etc. In short, I love it. Ford’s doing fine and it’s the only American manufacturer I’ll purchase from until the two welfare queens get off Obamadrugs and actually do some real engineering.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    IIRC, the car in the photo is a 1985.5 model. I remember them making a big deal about the 5 speed tranny back in the day. It seems to me that the LN7′s hatch showed up on these last of the 1st gen cars at that time. It was the 1986 models that had the blunt front end similar to the contemporary Escorts.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Back in the late 70′s/early 80′s, good looking cars were few and far between.

    But check out this exception:

    http://www.netcarshow.com/lancia/1978-beta_hpe/1024×768/wallpaper_01.htm

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I love how everyone just loved the Honda CRX in hindsight. But no one bought it besides sorority girls and few asian guys. That’s not to say the EXP didn’t suck. But let’s just say that they both went away, and deserved to. The EXP design is especially tragic. The only purpose that I see with that headlamp design is for air-brakes, which this car certainly didn’t need!

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      Not just in hindsight, I drove a CRX for 11 years. Speaking of hindsight, considering what I sold that 11 year old, 150K mile CRX for, one of the most cost effective rides I’ve had.

    • 0 avatar

      A test drive in the original CRX Si remains among the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in a car. Possibly the most chuckable car ever sold in the U.S. The second-generation car was much more attractive, but the more steeply raked windshield and additional size made it much less fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Not sure how anyone didn’t have fun in a late-model Gen I CRX SI.

      In context, they were a boatload-o-goodtimes.

    • 0 avatar
      undrgnd40

      the CRX was a fantastic car. tight, light and unreal fuel economy. and at the time it was one of the best cars to load up with aftermarket stereo goods.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I had just gotten out of a Trans Am and into a new 5.0 L Mercury Capri RS in the mid 80′s when a buddy of mine shows up with a CRX Si. Five speed, sunroof, a neat little car. We lined up on a stretch of freeway and damn if that little thing didn’t keep up with me… until I hit third gear. I can still hear him winding that little buzz bomb out…

      Those fuel injected 5.0′s were stout, right off the showroom floor. But that little CRX definitely impressed me.

  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    ah the memories… at least I traded my LN7 in on a trans am. Unfortunately the trans am was by a long shot the worst car I ever owned. Back to the LN7 and the famous seat recliner bolt failure, luckily mine happened on a side street, in retrospect, should have hit a parked car, might have been worth some money.

    Hill in pennsylvania, started at the bottom of the hill doing 80mph, got to the top doing 50, WOT. Following year, did the same hill in my g/f’s 944, started at 50, accelerated up the hill to near 100 :). Although, 5th gear on the LN7 was in the same place as reverse on the 944. 125 mph, and I shift into reverse. Transmission clicked, Porsche transmissions do not “click” luckily the noise made keep the clutch pressed in while I cyphered the source of the noise, whew!

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    As a proof that I’m way off the bell curve, I’ll offer that I didn’t find them all that hideous.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I think this is one of those hindsight being 20-20 things. I don’t remember these being all that hideous. We were still coming out of the dark ages that were the 70′s and we were still a few years away from Ford’s “aero” look. I remember as a kid being excited when the 3rd generation Camaro/Firebird came out, when the Mustang got 225 horsepower and Chrysler was putting out Shelby Chargers and GLH’s alongside the new at the time Daytona. In hindsight were those cars all that great, especially by today’s standards? No, but at the time they were fine.

    [img]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2661/4094144901_f0bdba44c9_b.jpg[/img]

  • avatar

    They were ugly compared to the original VW Scirocco (beautiful car in my opinion) and the Dodge 024. VW and Chrysler could make a good looking sporty car based off of their econo boxs, but the Ford effort is hideous in comparison.

  • avatar
    catbert430

    I drove one of these on only one occasion.

    A friend of mine had the first Fox platform Mustang in 1978 and, when the EXP was released in the Spring of 1981, she had to have one so she traded the Mustang on a first-generation EXP.

    I actually thought it was a nice-looking car through early 1980′s eyes but, certainly no trade-up for a Mustang.

    All I can remember from driving it is a low seat and high cowl that made me seriously uncomfortable with my view of the road and that it had virtually no power. All you got from pressing the loud pedal was more noise.

    It made my 1981 Olds Omega V6 feel totally awesome.

    The owner of the car got a lot of tickets from the Chicago Police for no front plate. She didn’t want to spoil the beautiful front-end styling.

    I don’t think she ever got any speeding tickets.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    One of the girl sailors I was stationed with in Imperial Beach had one of these. Blue with an automatic tranny. More than once, leaving or entering the base, I would invariably catch her with her finger up her nose at the light. Come to think of it, she was always picking her nose. I had to carpool with her once, I was mortified how often she picked her nose. Her name was Annette.

    This has NOTHING to do with the topic, except as soon as I saw the pic of the EXP, I started thinking about Annette and her quest for gold LOL.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    If I’m not mistaken, the EXP was supposed to be Jack Telnack’s version of the original Mustang success story. While things didn’t quite work out that way, the EXP wasn’t really that bad looking, certainly nowhere near the level of some of the monstrosities that have come out of Detroit like the Edsel, early sixties’ Mopars, most of AMC’s last efforts and, of course, the Aztek.

    In fact, I always thought the 2nd-gen EXP/LN7 with the ‘improved’ generic Escort front-end didn’t look nearly as good as the original, frog-eye version.

  • avatar
    91dodgespiritrt

    The EXP was an odd looking car – but it was pleasantly odd. It was indeed different looking – intended for individuals that didn’t have a need to have the whole world to validate their taste.
    But, I don’t understand how anyone could be surprised at a lack of performance from a car powered by only 1.6 liters. What are you missing here? Still, Ford offered a 120hp turbo version that probably was a pretty exciting little car to drive.
    Personally, I think the (scarcest) last generation of the EXP – the 1985-87 Excort EXP are the best looking of the EXPs.

    Why didn’t it sell? The domestics had plenty of other cars in the econo class not to mention the sport econo class: AMC AMX, Chevrolet Cavalier Z24, Ponitac Sunbird GT (turbo), Dodge Shelby Charger, (my)Dodge Omni GLH and Omni GLH Turbo. Some of these cars are becoming novelty cars – if not possible future collectibles. In particular the 1986 Shelby (Omni) GLHS and 1987 (Charger) GLHS, Fiero GT and “convertible” Z24s may be collectible, as a nostalgic view often has an influence in the car hobby.

    A note on the (revered at least on here)Honda CRXs – weren’t they RUST buckets? Honda? In fact, which Japanese cars aren’t RUST buckets? Among collectibles – the Datsun 240, 260,280Z series are notariously rusty.

    By the way, any Toyota owners on here? Are you able to stop your vehicles? Hmmm, just wondering if you should be driving behind me..
    Next time you can’t stop, pretend you are on an amusement park ride and grip the steering as if your life depend on it (it really does!), while pushing the brake pedal with all your might while screaming “I love what you do for me Toy-o-ta” as you pray that God spares your life and then aim for a tall tree – hopefully a redwood. lotsa luck!

    Mike

  • avatar
    agneaux

    I bought a red 1982 Ford EXP brand new in late 1981 in Baton Rouge, LA at Audubon Ford. It was definitely underpowered, but handled reasonably well for my needs (short commuting and occasional work trips to SW Louisiana oil fields). The interest rate at that time was 17.99%. I added an aftermarket matching rear seat with seat belts. The main problems I had with the car were: 1) broken timing belt at about 76,000 miles, costing me $936 to repair the smashed valves & pistons, plus an extra week’s vacation time as I was out of town when it happened; 2) numerous electrical glitches, causing it to be towed 4 times in one week, which turned out to be a distributor problem; and 3) broken driver seat-back which I had to hold up with a 2×4. I did manage to get 144,000 miles out of it before trading it for a new ’88 Hyundai Excel GLS, not exactly a barn-burner either, but better-made than the EXP. The EXP had Michelin TRX radials, which are pretty hard to find now except at Coker Tire. Ironically, my other possible choice in 1981 was a Delorean. The EXP put me off of Fords for about 20 years, but I now drive a Mustang GT which is a much better constructed car.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Ugly! LOL if you want ugly look no further than what Toyota, Honda and AMC were dishing out at the same time period. Some of those early Toyotas were some of the most odd looking piles ever to blight the roadways, especially the ones with silver dollar sized rust holes in the fenders. Agree about the original engine being a dog. Honda did have better 4 bangers for sure, even if they were pure slugs with automatic. The lack of sales were due to being only a 2 seater and the underpowered engine from what people at the time told me. Nothing was said about poor styling.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I was partying out in the Cache La Poudre canyon west of Ft. Collins and as usual, got totally wasted. Being out in the middle of nowhere in the Rockies with a roaring bonfire and half naked mountain co-eds getting one with nature, was always a whole lot of fun. The only sleeping done on those nights were usually chemically induced. The next day I discovered that I was laying in what could have been mistaken for a debris of corpses from an airplane crash. People were stirring, peeing and vomiting in the nearby creek and staggering around like zombies.

    I always hitched a ride with dorm buddies, but couldn’t find any of them. Most everyone would head on back to campus, so I looked for a return ride. I saw a group of regulars I recognized campus and asked for a ride. They told me that “Chris” probably could. Chris was off and would return after a morning hike. They pointed out a car, an old Ford EXP, a rusting black car with lots of decals covering the back and sides. It’s license plate read, “EOR 9″. So I waited.

    After a while, I looked inside to see if perhaps the keys were in it. The interior of the EXP was customized with lavender and purple seat covers, had an Eeyore steering wheel cover, and an Eeyore car deodorizer hanging on the rear view mirror. That seemed very strange to me because the car didn’t look like it belong to a girl from the outside.

    I tried to sit on the EXP, but there was no place to sit on it. The front end with those goofy frog headlights was too sloped to use as a seat, and the little hatch was too small and high. The car groaned when I tried to sit on it. The wheels were rusted and the tires looked bald.

    I saw a big guy walking out of the forest. He had long greasy hair, a stocking cap like mine and wearing jeans and a flannel shirt just like me. He came up to me, and asked my why I was there. I told him that I was hanging with his friends and they told me that I could get a ride back to campus.

    “Yeah, OK”, he said and he opened the hatch which squeaked with rust and groaned as he filled the little EXP’s trunk with hiking gear. He told me he was Chris. I got into the car after he unlocked it. I thanked him for the ride.

    I nestled into the lavender interior of this car with Chris and was too tired, had too much of a hangover, and too happy to be headed home to chit-chat. The EXP sounded like it had a hole in it’s manifold and it puttered loudly. It sounded just as it looked.

    The Winnie The Pooh air freshner fluttered and spun in the wind, and the mountain road was making me sick. The EXP hit the curves like it was trying to slough-off it’s bald tires. The car pitched and leaned as centrifugal force dictated and Chris and I grabbed onto both the window ledges and stomachs.

    After a half hour I asked Chris about the EXP. He said he bought it for $1000 and had it for two months. I asked about the interior. He told me that girls like Pooh stuff and he and his current girlfriend favorite Pooh character was Eeyore the donkey. I thought that was strange. We hit a patch of straight road and Chris took his hand and put it on my left leg. He smiled at me and told me that he noticed we were wearing matching flannels. I told him I wore a size large, and he obviously wore an extra large. He told me that he needed to wear an extra large to cover up his breasts.

    I told Chris that my brother was overweight and was frustrated with his moobs too. Then Chris told me that I was riding with a Christine, not a Christopher, and with that sent her left hand higher up into my lap, and squeezed. My voice went into falsetto and I was too shocked to respond. Chris saw my discomfort, laughed, then honked the EXP’s car horn laughing at me. She told me she loved it when she passed as a guy. After about five minutes, I was laughing along. We celebrated by lighting up and sharing a smoke.

    The rest of the ride was just as surprising. The EXP was falling apart around us, the Winnie The Pooh interior seemed appropriate, and Chris turned out to be one hell of a guy.

    So, I kinda like this car.


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