By on April 27, 2016

1988 Ford Escort GT in California Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The first-generation North American Ford Escort looked a lot like its European namesake, but was a very different machine under the skin. For the 1991 model year, the Escort moved to the same platform as the Mazda 323, so the late-’80s models are the last of the all-Ford American Escorts.

Here’s one that I spotted in a Northern California yard. (Read More…)

By on February 11, 2016

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Jon writes:

Hello Bark,

It will soon be time to replace my wife’s car: a ’94 Ford Escort wagon. We’re considering spending somewhere between $4,000 and $10,000 on its replacement. We have no kids and, thanks to a little snip-snip, we will continue to have no kids.

(Read More…)

By on February 8, 2016

00 - 1984 Ford Escort wagon in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The first North American Ford Escort went on sale for the 1981 model year; it was related to its Mark III Escort European counterpart but was more of a cousin than a sibling. It wasn’t a great car, but was such an improvement over its miserable Pinto predecessor that it flew off the showroom floors in great quantities. These cars were cheap and disposable, so nearly all of them disappeared during the 1990s.

I see quite a few of the Mazda 323/Kia Sephia-related second-gen Escorts in junkyards these days, but a genuine, early Escort wagon is nearly as rare as a numbers-matching Geo Prizm GSi today. Here’s a solid-looking ’84 wagon that I shot in Denver earlier this winter. (Read More…)

By on January 8, 2016

1992 TVR Griffith

Earlier this week, we celebrated the new year by looking at a couple cars that are eligible for private import under the NHTSA’s “25 Year Rule” and I figured there were many more possibilities out there warranting a mention. Some of these have become eligible over the last couple years, where some won’t be ready for a year or so.

I’m sure I’ll miss some, either via simple forgetfulness or willful ignorance. (I doubt there are many people chopping at the bit to import a Zastava Florida.)

(Read More…)

By on January 7, 2016


Last week, I told you the tale of my friend Rodney’s grandmother who got taken to the cleaners recently by a Cleveland-area Buick dealer. That story’s not quite finished — apparently there have been a few conversations and trips back and forth to dealer, and at one point the “lost paperwork” excuse came into play — so I’ll update all of you once everything shudders to a final halt.

As can be expected from the always-contrarian B&B, not all of you were on the side of the elderly lady in the case. One particularly interesting comment went something like this: “It’s ironic that Jack and Rodney are complaining about the dealer making money off Grandma while at the same time smirking to themselves knowing how often they did that back in the day.”

Well, I cannot say that I ever charged anyone over sticker price for any new car, ever. Not even during the week that the first Ford Expeditions started arriving at dealerships and customers were doing everything but using lethal force to get their hands on one.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t see some people get “grossed” in the most hardcore method imaginable. So, without further ado, here are a few tales of outrageous dealer-profit fortune, including one in which your humble author played the villain.

(Read More…)

By on December 8, 2015

1998 Chevrolet Cavalier

David writes:


I have never written into an advice column, but have always wanted to. I hope you respond!

I think it’s important to separate your “wants” from your “needs”. Living this way and growing up in an urban area (Chicago), I never owned a car. Instead, I borrowed cars from friends or rode my bicycle. I have since moved to New Orleans, another urban center, but one with worse public transportation and access to grocery stores. Other things have changed in my life: I went from scraping by somewhere below the poverty line to making money somewhat above the poverty line.

(Read More…)

By on October 5, 2015

09 - 1991 Ford Escort Pony in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee Martin

Back in the early 1990s, the elite members of the Detroit Big Three were trying hard to compete on price with dirt-cheap imported Misery Boxes such as the Subaru Justy, Hyundai Excel, and Toyota Tercel EZ. They came up with stripper versions of their low-end subcompacts (e.g., the Plymouth Sundance America), which few bought. Why buy an Escort Pony for $7,976 when you could have a zero-option ’91 Civic for $7,095, and still be driving the Civic (very slowly, and maybe on its third head gasket) today? This makes the Escort Pony a very rare Junkyard Find today, so I grabbed my camera when I saw this one at a Denver yard. (Read More…)

By on December 8, 2014


With Holden set to lay off hundreds of engineers as it shuts the doors of its Australian factories, Ford is looking to grow its ranks. The Blue Oval is set to hire 150 ex-Holden engineers to help develop cars for the Chinese market.

(Read More…)

By on July 25, 2014

04 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost of the Escort GTs you see these days are the Mazda-based cars that came out starting in the 1991 model year. The first-gen North American Escort, loosely based on its European counterpart, was built from 1981 through 1990, and examples are becoming very rare in wrecking yards. We saw this first-half-of-1988 Escort GT last month, and now I’ve found this “1988.5” model in a Southern California yard. (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2014

13 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFord’s first American-built front-wheel-drive compact car was so much better than the miserable Pinto it replaced that it sold in huge quantities. The first-generation GT wasn’t especially quick, but it looked cool (by 1980s standards) and probably swiped a few sales away from the Civic Si and Volkswagen GTI. Nearly all of the pre-Mazda Escort GTs wore out, depreciated to oblivion, and got crushed during the 1990s, but I still see the occasional example in wrecking yards these days. Here’s one that I spotted in Northern California in December. (Read More…)

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