By on March 21, 2012

The early-90s Escort GT was a decently fast car for its day, but Escorts were always such disposable cars that you seldom see any of these semi-goofy-looking GTs these days, on the street or in the junkyard. Here’s an example that I found in a Denver self-service yard last week.
Weighing just 2,458 pounds and equipped with 127 horsepower under the hood, the Escort GT wasn’t quite as quick as the Nissan Sentra SE-R or Honda Civic Si. However, the Civic Si cost $11,900, the SE-R cost $11,850, and the Escort GT cost… $11,871? Huh?
OK, so the Escort GT wasn’t a great deal compared to the Japanese competition. Still, it’s sad to think that almost all of them are gone.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1992 Ford Escort GT...”


  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    I bought one of these (manual, ZX2 lowering kit) for $150 once. It was possibly the best car I ever had, despite being the worst car I ever had. Any time I’d drive it anywhere, I’d be thinking, “$150! Less than a bicycle!”

    The BP engine pulled strongly for 8 months, it cornered decently, I sold it for $500.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    ” However, the Civic Si cost $11,900, the SE-R cost $11,850, and the Escort GT cost… $11,871? Huh?”

    Escort probably had about 20% off its price in rebates, incentives, and whatnot…on the other two, most customers probably paid full sticker at least.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      Right. I actually owned one of these, and it wasn’t bad. Paid $9,200 out the door IIRC….

      It was fast enough for me to get two speeding tickets, or maybe it was because I bought it in the TICKET ME RED electric raspberry color. And the only reason I bought the GT was because it was the ONLY package that offered an center arm rest….

      Drove it for 3 years, never had a quality issue.

      So there, Escort haters….

  • avatar
    skor

    There’s an Escort GT with the first gen body style for sale around the corner from where I live. The car has current inspection and appears to be driven regularly. Had the For Sale in the rear window for quite some time.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    I remember a friend pulling up to Mom’s house in a new White 1990 Mustang GT. First thing she said was, “Oh did he get a new Escort?” :) To the untrained eye they do have a similarity as they both are hatchbacks and have a similar body kit.

    • 0 avatar
      NateR

      I had a 1987 Escort GT “White Shadow” for a couple years after high school. It looked like a miniature 5.0 Mustang, and I drove it like one. Good times.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Hard to tell why this car is in the junkyard. Its demise was too early.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      These, like most Fords of that time don’t have a 6 digit odometer so it’s hard to tell if it indeed has 93K or 193K, I’m guessing the latter due to age and the obviously weathered paint and perhaps the pedals show it too, but we don’t have a good shot of them so.

      If this gen Escorts were like my Ranger, it looked very good for its age inside, save for the pedal wear, even though the truck had 188K on it when I bought it.

  • avatar
    shawa1221

    I owned a 1991 Escort GT 5spd for about 6 months it was my second car and I was 19. My first car was a 1995 Escort auto. The GT felt like a whole new car, so much nicer, you could definitely tell that despite Ford’s name being on the valve cover it had no business being on it. This car is more Mazda 323 (GTX versions were quite the rally cars in their day)

    The drivetrain also used equal length cv shafts (one side did have an intermediate shaft) that and a rear sway bar (which the Civic Si lack) made for great throttle lift controllable oversteer.

    These cars also had a dual runner intake manifold where vacuum operated butterflies opened past a certain RPM

    I also owned 2 Honda Si hatchbacks in those years and would honestly say that the Escort GT on the butt dyno felt faster.

  • avatar
    priapism

    These were great handling cars. This Escort was more Mazda than Ford, and Steve Millen had a hand in it IIRC. He made a hop-up kit with a turbo that would push power up nicely.

    I did my SCCA school in one of these and surprisingly beat everyone in my class.

  • avatar
    Toad

    I forgot that twenty years ago these things were EVERYWHERE. Amazing that the Escort model name and the GT package both disappeared, completely, while the Civic and Sentra are still produced (and sell well) today.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      IMO, it was wrong to kill off the Escort nameplate in the U.S. and replace it with the Focus. The Focus should have been called the Escort, because it was the spiritual successor to that car and the Escort had more stock with the public than the Focus name.

      • 0 avatar
        SimonAlberta

        @pintofan

        I would respectfully disagree with you. In my opinion the Escort name should never have even been carried forward onto this model in the first place.

        I was a Ford salesman when these came out and it was very difficult to persuade people that they were not the shit-boxes that had previously worn the Escort label.

        Also, as Ford was imminently replacing the Tempo with the bigger, more expensive Contour, many former Tempo owners would, theoretically, be Escort buyers but they couldn’t be convinced that the new Escort could be as good (yeah, yeah, I know) as their good ‘ole Tempo.

        So, as I say, a new name would have helped 1992 onwards Escort sales dramatically in my opinion.

        On a different note, I can’t believe people think this Escort GT was a good performing or handling car. It can only be a symptom of appallingly low standards in North America.

        As a new immigrant from UK at the time I was expecting this GT to be a “hot hatch” a la Escort XR3i, Cavalier SRi, Astra GTE, Peugeot 205 GTi or Golf GTi that I had been used to in Britain in the late 1980s. All of the aforementioned were very fast, for the day, and “chuckable” machines.

        The “American” Escort GT was, by comparison, a dull, soft, slug of a machine with an engine that was extremely reluctant to rev. To me the whole thing seemed “dampened” in some way. I suspect it was a combination of extra weight, higher gearing and, possibly, tighter emissions requirements but, to reiterate, 127 horse power seemed very impotent compared to Euro cars with similar or, in fact, quite a bit less on tap.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        The Escort was also killed off in Europe at the same time and the Focus replaced it in 2003, just like in the US.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Looks like it was driven to the lot. Spotty cancer everywhere, passenger door hinges starting to fail, but certainly appears serviceable. The cloth seats look new, impressive.

    I’m going to guess there the is a “1” in front of those 93K miles that we don’t know about.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      I’m guessing clutch went south. These were pretty solid cars mechanically, so it’s probably some typical $300-400 wear item that the old owner didn’t feel like fixing.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Fair guess. I’ve seen similar era Escorts on the road around here in far worse exterior condition than this one.

        As others have noted the Mazda engine was pretty solid. The tranny was reliable, but certainly would not be described as “crisp shifting.”

  • avatar

    I used to have a ’93 (purchased new in Dec. ’92), which was very fun and pretty reliable. I owned an ’87 Escort GT in high school (this was 1990) and it was a lemon. The ’93 Escort GT was the replacement, after a semester at college without a car. The difference was night and day in reliability and the Mazda sourced engine probably had some to do with it. In fact, the Mazda engine was the only reason I was willing to own another Ford after the ’87. I sold it in late ’98 to a co-worker, who donated it to charity at 127K miles after it died on him with some problem. I don’t think he even looked into it what it cost to fix. It was just a cheap commuter for him. You definitely don’t see these on the road very often.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    If you see one of these in the junkyard- take the valve cover – it makes for a nifty open-cam-gear upgrade for a Miata 1.8 engine once you sand the Ford emblem off. Take the throttle body too- this TB has a variable throttle position sensor, and is a useful upgrade for a 1.6 Miata if you want to run an aftermarket ECU.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Only 93k miles, no sign of any collision, interior in ok condition, why is this car junked? engine failure? at 100k my Mazda Protege was just getting good! Well maybe it was improper maintenance.

  • avatar

    There is no comparison between the 81-90 Escorts, which were truly disposable cars, and the 91-96 Mazda clones. The Mazda sourced cars were far better,and I can say that after owning three first gen Escorts (Don’t ask) an 86 323 and a 93 Protege, it was no contest.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    A family member has one of these with over 200K on it. I’ve done a fair amount of upkeep on it but it still runs and drives nice. Cornering is amazing, although compared to today it doesn’t have all that much power. Top speed is 122, no more. I can wring a 15.9 quarter out of it but it’s not happy with the shifts.
    The engine takes off above 5K when the butterfly valve in the plenum opens. Low end torque is less than the 1.9.
    The rear brakes are problematic, the emergency brake never worked despite replacing all parts, poorly designed rear disk brake caliper.
    The seats are better than LX models with bolsters and adjustments. The GT has a 3 gallon larger fuel tank which fits nicely into the LX and wagons for more cruising range.
    The transmissions are different on the GT, much higher RPMs at highway speed and the clutch feels very different from the LX.
    And the non precise shifting problem can be solved with 3 dollars worth of bushings on the control rod, it’s almost a maintenance task replacing them regularly.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Funny about the rear brakes. We had a 93 LX with rear drums, sold it with 208K miles and it still had the original rear brakes. Solid little car, unfortunately the paint job did not hold up.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    From the way the numbers on the odometer don’t line up, I suspect that ir was rolled back – badly.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      I doubt it was rolled back as this car has no 6th digit and my truck did that too when it rolled over from 199K to 200K and it took me at least a couple of days before I noticed that one, the first 2 digits were 00, and 2, the numbers didn’t line up for a while.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I JUST saw one of these the other day, same color too. And I realized at the time it was the first time I have seen any variety of Escort in AGES – they are all just gone around here.

  • avatar
    JMII

    A friend of mine had the previous generation – the one that was blocky and square, kind of like the chunky 8-bit video games of the same era. The Escort pictured here is the 16-bit version with the softer edges. Call me old skool but I don’t like it. And yes these were everywhere in the mid 90s along with the Mercury’s version the Tracer! I remember almost all of them having badly flaking teal colored paint too.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I fondly recall the peppy and eager acceleration of even the base Escorts from this period.

    Cars felt very light and even though the acceleration was not blazing, something about the way the car did it, it never felt sluggish. Just very pleasant feedback coming from the chassis thru the body.

    As far as toss ability was concerned, it was the spiritual successor to my 1980 Fiesta (although the Fiesta was probably quicker, and felt a bit more solid.)

    IIRC, thie program code was CT120, C = segment size, T = mazda developed the platform, 120 = boxcar numbering from the Ford program numbering scheme.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I still see this generation of Escorts here in Seattle since we are an area where rust forgot so 20 YO Escorts will be largely rust free if a native of the area or of the west coast in general.

    That said, they are not in as large abundance than they once were and I hardly see any of the first gen Escorts and some point last fall I think, I saw a very nice white 3 door hatchback Escort, I think an 83 or so still being driven around and yes, it hunched down on its hind quarters, the front rose, causing negative camber as it started from a dead stop. It was looking for a place to park on the street. Even more so, I see the post 96 Escorts too and of course, the Focus is on the street in abundance still, especially the first generation.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I bought one of these in 92 in that dark teal color they had. I really loved that car and it was trouble-free til 4 years later when me and a friend were heading on a ski trip and he lost control in the snow and sent us sideways into a tree totaling it.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    It’s not well known but these cars make good donor engines for Miatas. The BP engine in it is essentially identical to the ’94 to ’97 Miata engines in spite of being mounted sideways in the Escort GT.

    Since no one goes to the trouble to swap an engine in an Escort, they can be had cheaply for a Miata that needs one. And the Escort engine is just as durable as the Miata is known for being.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    That generation Escort can still be seen with some frequency down here. The thing is that its called “Laser” and all of them have DOHC motors.

    There’s even a turbo AWD version of it.

    The Geo Storm/Isuzu Impulse of that time still looks heaps better than Civic/Sentra/Escort.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    1st gen Escorts 81-89 had their share of issues. My sister had an 81 2dr 4 spd she bought in 1983. Ran fine for a while till the problems cropped up. Head gasket, clutch throwout bearing, drive axles etc. Later 1st gen and 2nd gen Mazda based were far superior. GT W/ 16V were the best of the lot. Ford also based the Aussie Capri off of the 323. I had once considered a late 99-02 ZX2 coupe. These came with the 2.0 Duratec, same as the Contour but went for another T-Bird.

  • avatar
    1st_one

    I must admit that out of all the Escorts, this one seems to have aged the best. My Aunt bought my oldest cousin one for a high school graduation back in 91; I remember it was a fully load black GT 5 speed similar to this. It appeared to be a very nice car at the time. I remember my younger cousin including myself raving about it.

  • avatar
    droman1972

    I owned this identical one, it was a 1991, white with the 5 speed. It was my third one. I owned an 88GT thru high school, that was a fun car, but the valve seals were shot within 30k. Luckily it was under warranty and Ford rebuilt the top end. I traded it in on new a 93GT and that was the best car I ever owned. After the lease was up I managed to find a 91 GT with only 70K on it for $2400. That that was in 1997, I sold the car last year at 150K to a kid going into the military for $950. It never once broke down, sure I had to replace things as it got older like timing belts, struts, bushings, clutch and body work to keep the rust away (northeast weather), but the car never once let me down. If I thought I could find a mint condition one today I would buy it just cause I miss driving it so much. One of the best cheap rides Ford ever built that didn’t break down or cost a ton to maintain. (Thanks Mazda!)


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