Junkyard Find: 1990 Ford Escort Pony

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1990 ford escort pony

In 1990, budget-conscious car shoppers who wanted to buy American-built (if not American-designed) could pick up a Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon America for $6,995, a Pontiac Sunbird coupe for $7,858, or a Ford Escort Pony for $7,423. The Escort had penal-colony-grade amenities and was on the final model year of a very elderly platform (though not as outdated as the Omnirizon), but its simplicity and gas-sipping ways made it a fairly good seller, especially after things got crazy in Kuwait.

The 1981-90 North American Escort (based on— but nowhere near identical to— its European namesake) was the replacement for the Pinto and was very successful in that role (cue hate mail from the Pinto Jihad). By 1990, even the most diehard blue-oval zealots had to admit that the dated-looking Escort reminded them of Jimmy Carter and Live At Budokan.

But so what? Most of the maddening build-quality bugs had been worked out of the not-exactly-known-for-reliability Escort by 1990, and this 1.9 liter four was good for 40+ MPG on the highway. Power steering? Air conditioning? Who needs that stuff?

I’ve never heard of a “Pony Sport,” and the very idea of such a thing seems so implausible— even by the standards of Detroit marketing gurus— that I must assume that Manny, Moe, and/or Jack provided these decals.

Ford was still using 5-digit odometers in 1990, which suggests either a lack of confidence in the Escort’s ability to hit 100 grand or a lifetime supply of 5-digit odos purchased in 1978. Or both. Note the simple two-gauge instrument panel. What else do you need?

Back to the ’90 Escort Pony’s $7,423 MSRP: In 1990, car shoppers could get a base Honda Civic hatchback for $6,635, a Nissan Sentra two-door for $7,299, a Mazda 323 hatchback for $6,599, a Geo Metro XFi for $5,995, a Toyota Tercel EZ for $6,488, or a Subaru Justy DL for $6,295. Masochistic car shoppers could opt for the $5,499 Hyundai Excel. Of course, rebates and discounts made the real-world price of the Ford was much more competitive with the imports, but the Civic and 323 sure looked like good deals.

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2 of 38 comments
  • GS650G GS650G on May 02, 2012

    Escorts are some of the best cars Ford doesn't make any more.

  • Hgrunt Hgrunt on May 02, 2012

    I always thought compact cars from that era had a somewhat industrial and very depressing aesthetic to them, as if to constantly remind you that you'd made a value purchase. Regarding the 5-digit odometer, was there ever any legislation forced car companies to switch to 6-digit?

  • Gemcitytm Why does it seem every EV seems to have ridiculous amounts of power? Yes, I know they're heavier than ICE models but who on earth needs 708 HP? How about a nice, compact EV with, say, 250 HP and 350-400 mile range? Is that impossible with today's tech? (I currently drive a 148 HP Mazda 3 ICE and it has all the get-up-and-go I need.)
  • CEastwood I could have bought one of these if I had the cash in 76 for $1000 white , red interior , 3 speed stick with whitewalls/ wire hubcaps - it was mint and gone a day after I saw it . But the real catch that got away was an all original 69 green Camaro RS convertible 327 4 speed with 46K on the clock for 1800 that I saw a few months earlier . Young and poor was not a fun place to be !
  • KOKing I'm in an emissions check only state, and I'd trade that away for a safety check all day.
  • Bd2 The hybrid powertrain in the Sportage and Tucson are the ones to get.H/K should discontinue the base NA 2.5L powertrain and just build more of the hybrid.In the future, maybe offer a 2nd, more powerful hybrid (the hybrid 2.5) which will first arrive with the next Telluride/Palisade.Kia also needs to redo the front fascia for the Sportage's refresh.
  • The Oracle I say let the clunkers stay on the roads.