Capsule Review: 1995 Ford Aspire

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
capsule review 1995 ford aspire

As a Ford salesman during the Year Of Our Lord 1995, I had very few scruples and fewer dreams. I did, however, have a few personal goals. One of them was to sell as many pink cars as possible. I convinced a woman shopping without her husband to order a pink Windstar. I checked “Rose Mist” by default on every 1996 Taurus order form that passed through my hands, relying on the customer to see the “mistake” and correct it. I even convinced a color-blind man to order the pinkish interior on a black 1996 Taurus station wagon, describing it to him as “a very vintage red, luxurious in tone and strongly reminiscent of a Sixties Rolls-Royce.” When his son came to pick up the car with him, he looked at me in a fashion I can only describe as “murderous”.

Another goal, known only to me: to never sell a Ford Aspire. At the time, I believed that Ford made a few good cars and a very good truck. I also believed that Kia had made a good car, and it was called the Ford Festiva. The Aspire, which succeeded the Festiva, was no successor at all, and certainly no success. Built on the bones of the perfectly-packaged little Korean “Ford” Festiva, it was heavier, slower, no more spacious, and strongly resembled a suppository when viewed in profile. It was also expensive when equipped with air conditioning and an automatic transmission. The dealer margin on the Aspire was about five hundred bucks between sticker and invoice, meaning that I could usually get customers into a far superior Escort LX, priced at invoice, for less than an additional grand.

After driving both cars, and seeing the vast difference between the competence of the Mazda-based ’95 Scort and the Kia-built ’95 Aspire, customers always chose the Escort. When I gave my two weeks’ notice at the dealership, I knew that I would leave the business with my Aspirations cheerfully unfulfilled. Less than ten days later, my dream crashed into the ground… with a tinny “clink”.

Anyone who has grown up in a wealthy suburb is familiar with the phenomenon of the “man-child at home.” These are young men who return home from college, often at the insistent request of the Dean of Students, and never again leave the nest. Faced with the prospect of living on their own means in some eight-hundred-square-foot apartment, eating Ramen noodles and sleeping restlessly on a bare mattress, they make the sane choice to stay at home, borrow money from their millionaire mommy or daddy, and spend the evenings drinking.

Sometimes they spend the nights driving after they drink in those evenings, and they crash their cars.

When that happens, they require new cars to crash. And so it was that a friend of the dealership principal arrived at 9:01 AM on my third-to-last day at the shop. He was a grizzled, sixtysh, vital-looking man, football-framed and solidly fat beneath his Scioto Country Club golf shirt. His son was thin, wispy, downcast, early thirties, standing apart and obviously displeased to be up this early.

“Pops” shook my hand in a manner designed to ensure I couldn’t play “Eruption” on the electric guitar for at least a week. “Brian here, (jerks thumb over shoulder) is a fuckup. Crashed his car. Drunk. Lives with me and his mother. Needs a car. For a job. Like that will happen. Don’t suppose you’d hire him here.” Hearty laugh, shared with me as a man in the world of men who work at nine in the morning. “Get him a car. Cheapest you got. Color? Don’t care. Cheap is the word, young man.”

“Sir, you are in luck. I have an Escort LX for $10,995, well-equipped with cassette player and comfort-tinted glass.” Pops squinted at me.

“Don’t you fuck with me, young man. Paper says you got one for $8995. You won’t get rich off me. I know your boss. But,” and he thumped my back with sufficient force to rattle my lungs around in their frequently-cracked ribcage, “I like your spirit!” Damn. He’d seen our Sunday ad, which featured the lone Korean suppository on the lot.

“Well, Sir, that’s an Aspire, but the Escort…” Thump on the back again.

“Don’t fuck with me, kid. Told you already. Show me the cheapie.” I went to the keyboard and jogged out to the lot. Oh, dear God. My conflicting emotions fought tooth and nail in my heaving chest. Our sole Aspire in stock… was pink. I didn’t know what to do. On one hand, I had sworn to no one in particular to sell every pink car I could. On the other, it was an Aspire. I considered simply running to my demo and driving away, and then I realized I needed the $50 commission we received for selling cars at the newspaper-advertised price.

I pulled up to Pops and son in the pink Aspire. The son looked as if he would vomit at any moment. Pops grinned. “OH HO! I see why you have to give this one away! But beggars can’t be choosers, eh, Brian! Don’t suppose you’ll bring any tail home in this faggot-wagon!” I ushered Pops in to sign the papers before sneaking back out to meet Brian, who was standing mute before the pink Aspire.

“He’s right,” Brian told me, before I could say anything. “Beggars can’t be choosers. I made some mistakes. I still live at home. I don’t know what to do.” He was older than I was, had partied his entire worthless life, and would, most likely, be a millionaire through inheritance. Standing in my worn-out shoes, thinking about how I desperately needed to find enough money to pay my dentist for a cavity I was nursing, I put my arm around him.

“It’s a good car. They don’t break, really. Won’t spend much for gas. The color looks different when the sun’s not so bright.” He said nothing. I went inside and earned my fifty dollars.

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  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jul 10, 2010

    "I also believed that Kia had made a good car, and it was called the Ford Festiva". That's hilarious! In a sad kind of way. I forwarded this story to a friend of mine, who had suffered through several dud used cars and at 21, decided to go to the Ford dealership his grandfather worked at years before, and buy a NEW car. Well, with his almost worthless trade in, he could only afford one car. Yes, a Festiva. It was way too small for him, but it was NEW, so he bought it. He hated it, but he suffered through the discomfort, and was happy as it had no issues. But it did have a hidden issue, and he and his brother would find out the hard way what that was, it was an unsafe tin box. He and his brother were headed home one night, and a woman in a 1979 Olds Cutlass ran a red light, and hit the Festiva at about 30-35 MPH centered at the junction of the passenger door and front quarter panel. The Cutlass had only minor damage, but the Festiva was pulverized, way past the total wreck stage. My friend actually was able to walk, or stagger away from it, with a broken arm and shoulder. He was severely banged up, but his brother was trapped in the car, with life threatening injuries, including (I may have forgotten some some of them)multiple skull and facial fractures, a broken pelvis, right hip, foot bones, right arm, a bunch of ribs, and severely bruised lungs. He nearly died at the scene while being extracted and was in the ICU for almost two weeks with a life threatening infection from his broken ribs that had pierced his intestine in the wreck, and brain swelling from the hit his head took. That was a long time ago, and he doesn't walk, talk, or even look like he did before the wreck. Needless to say, the replacement for the Festiva was a little bigger, a Chevy 1/2 ton pickup! Cars like the Festiva have no real place on the same roads that larger cars are on, they are deathtraps, no other word is more appropriate to use here. Great story though. I know a live at home guy in his late 40's who is currently driving his mom's old beige Caravan. He had a 2002 Vette, but he had to give it to the loan shark he borrowed money from to take his long time suffering girlfriend on a cruise, after his parents told him to forget about it. When he didn't pay, even the vig, the collector came calling. Mom and dad had enough and refused to bail him out, so he gave him the only thing he had worth anything, his Vette, an inheritance from his uncle. His dad is vicious with the insults, giving him crap every chance he gets, "When I was 45, I had a grandson, and had my 25th anniversary at work already! You're lucky to see your 25th day's anniversary!!" Last job he had was in a bowling alley, running the desk. He quit after two weeks.

  • Flilguy Flilguy on Dec 31, 2011

    I owned a 1995 Ford Aspire, Iris Metallic was the color. I had 1978 Monte Carlo, I never concluded if my Chevy had 173,000 miles on it or 273,000. I bought the Aspire at an end of the year clearance sale in October 1995. My sister was living with me, and my niece was still just a baby. My sister started working too, we need a reliable car and that it was. My little niece liked that car, she called it a "Barney Car". People always debated if the car was pink or purple. Even I made jokes about it, I used to say "It's the little car that makes you look gay." It was sort of inspired by an SNL skit "It's the little car made out of clay." A few years later I bought my dream car a White 1996 Ford T-Bird V8 loaded, I always wanted a new Cougar in high school and this pretty close, so it had a happy ending. The other day ago I had someone ask what the mileage was on the Aspire, I don't recall. I always thought it was around 32 Hwy, and they said that was too low. That is what brought me here, the story was funny. Something I made payments on, was a rich person's punishment. Oddly when I traded the Aspire I thought a lady would buy it, instead some really butch, straight guy with a wife and kids, he bought as a work car and he drove it everyday.

  • Luke42 I'm only buying EVs from here on out (when I have the option), so whoever backs off on their EV plans loses a shot at my business.
  • Dusterdude When there is a strike the union leadership talk about “brothers and sisters “ . They should give up that charade . Bottom line is they are trying to wring out every last penny they can and could care less ( putting it politely) about the future of the industry 5 - 10 years+ down the road
  • Ronin They all will back off, because the consumer demand is not there. Even now the market is being artificially propped up by gov subsidies.
  • Keith Some of us appreciate sharing these finds. Thank you. I always have liked these. It would a fun work car or just to bomb around in. Easy to keep running. Just get an ignition kill switch and you would have no worries leaving it somewhere. Those OEM size wheels and tires are comical. A Juke has bigger wheels!
  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.