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.
01 - 1991 Ford Escort Pony in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee Martin

Ford used the Pony name on their cut-priced Pintos in the 1970s, and it made sense to recycle it for the Escort.

15 - 1991 Ford Escort Pony in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee Martin

This one wins the Cryptic Sticker of the Week award.

04 - 1991 Ford Escort Pony in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee Martin

Remember super-simple climate-control panels like this in cars? Replace the plastic knobs with cheaply plated pot-metal and you’d have the controls from a 1963 Ford truck here.

05 - 1991 Ford Escort Pony in Colorado wrecking yard - photo by Murilee Martin

These 1.9 engines have proven to be fairly reliable in the 24 Hours of LeMons, which is a good indicator of resistance to horrific levels of driver abuse.

The new styling on the ’91 Escort turned Mr. Import into Mr. Escort. Of course, this ad is for the much snazzier Escort GT. If the Escort Pony had TV ads, they were broadcast on high-numbered UHF stations between 2:00 and 5:00 AM.

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112 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1991 Ford Escort Pony...”


  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    I had two different Escort LXs in college, and one of my housemates had a Pony. They were great, reliable and tossable cars that embodied the ethic of driving a slow car fast. I miss that kind of car (though a loaner Fiesta I drove a couple years ago was a reasonable facsimile)

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Now listening to this, imagining the Pony’s sunburnt steel wheels revolving around town.
    https://www.facebook.com/LastPlaceFinishers

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Typical 1990’s brittle-as-eggshells Ford bumper.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      This. And that the bumper-body seams are still tight astonishes me.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      What did they make those things with, Faberge eggs? Rice paper? Dry pasta?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I will buy all the $7,976 Ford Escorts they can make out of Faberge eggs.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        PVC plastic. It is rigid instead of flexible; and grows brittle with age and exposure to sunlight.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I wanted it to be something fun…

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            90s Fords with intact bumpers either never tapped something or were tapped; or the owners cared enough to source another one; either of which is a miracle in most cases. Someone who attended our church was still driving a red Tempo with the wooden bumper treatment.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The dull grey factory paint on my ’87 Taurus front bumper was peeling off when I got the car, less than four years after it was made. I painted both bumpers and the plastic rocker panels with rattlecan silver metallic after minimal prep (basically stripping the old paint and cleaning with alcohol) and that paint job lasted without issue for the rest of the time I owned the car. It’s bad when rattlecan applied by a teenager beats factory paint.

  • avatar
    heliotropic

    Did this have the hatch that looked like a regular trunk that some Escorts have, or just a regular trunk?

    I wish more coupes/hatches had pop-out rear windows like this one. Aside from the E46 and RX-8 I can’t think of any others that have had them recently.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      Hatch, all 2-doors of this generation. You could only get a trunk with the sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        An awesome body style IMO, eclipsed only by the 4 door variant. Better than a ‘true’ hatchback in that you maintain the sedan’s length thus keeping good every-day trunk space, and it is better for longer cargo than a “chopped butt” hatchback.

        I think that these are the best domestic compacts of the 90s. Get a Tracer LTZ with the DOHC Mazda mill and you’ve got yourself a very nice driving, classy little commuter.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          “Eclipsed only by the 4 door variant.”

          You’re forgetting these came in rather nice wagons.

          My father picked one of these (a ’91 Tracer) as his first Ford management lease car, and followed it with a ’92. As a preteen I was deeply disappointed with his choice, but they were good cars for their day.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    IIRC, these (and the next, jellybean generation) were pretty decent little crapwagons, being based on the Mazda 323/Protege. Beat a Cavalier by a mile anyway.

  • avatar
    OzSRV

    Had one for a while in the local Australian Laser form of 1.6L (carb) 5-speed 5- door hatch, pretty basic for the time I guess but I didn’t mind, kind of made it more pleasing to drive, was fun to thrash the guts out of it, (just like Dirk Stigler says above).
    I don’t think many other car’s sold here in 1994 could still come with a carb and 3 speed auto. Basically being a Mazda with a Ford skin meant they were pretty reliable but the fit and finish wasn’t as good as other Japanese cars.
    I think they sold ok here up to 94 but the onslaught of cheaper Hyundais must have killed sales off along with local assembly.

  • avatar
    Fred

    http://lastplacefinishers.bandcamp.com/

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Why did it make sense to recycle the Pony name on the Escort? Is Escort a type of horse? The horses that serve escort duty at race tracks don’t have any physical characteristics that distinguish them from other horses, and I don’t think the Ford Escort was named for them.

  • avatar

    These actually felt bigger on the inside than the size bigger Tempo/Topaz of the day. The wagon variant seemed to outlast the coupe/sedan. Maybe they were assembled at a different plant? Check out the 1990 Protege this was based on. Kinda looks like a micro machines Mercedes. In my opinion Ford went to great lengths to make the Escort much uglier than its source material.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      They largely reused the wagon body aft of the B pillar for the “next” generation (jellybean/Ford Oval) Escort.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Ford was also going to do the same thing with the ’96 Taurus/Sable wagon (slap a new nose on the 85-95 wagon.) But when someone inside of Ford remarked that the clay model “looked like a refridgerator”; they did a rush redesign into the jellybean/oval wagon that actually was sold.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    You still see many of these driving around the MO Ozarks. In fact, my one friend is very proud of his ragged, beat-up and fender dragging red one that now has over 250K.

    Then again, what ever car you think has disappeared, just go over to the hills of MO and you will find them putting around with all sorts of unmatched fenders and hoods gotten from the junk yards.

    I saw an old, old small car with 2 bleach bottles roped to the front in front of the radiator. I still wish I had stopped it to ask what they were for…..

  • avatar

    The wagons still chug around here in the poorer parts of Pasco Countym usually with the bumpers supplanted with planks of wood. I hate to think that after a total nuclear war, these and Cutlass Cieras will the be last means of transportation.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    I haeda Poenea.

    /Seinfeld

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Good grief, imagine buying a new car without AC in it. Don’t you need AC in places like Colorado, if only for sometimes-humidity?

    I always liked this version of the Escort, if only for the Euro type styling and the flat rear wheel arch (like the SVX, 5000, and the new Honda Clarity). The Tracer got it as well, and it had the bonus of LIGHT BAR!

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Mercury-Tracer-sedan.jpg

    But now, I’m a little confused – Mercury was selling the Tracer and the Topaz at the same time. Both so similar in size, both related essentially to a Mazda underneath, both available in sedan and coupe (with the Tracer also in wagon format.) Some trims of the Topaz even got the light bar as well.

    Weren’t those two a little close in size to be simultaneous?

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      I’m not aware of any Mazda connection on the Topaz/Tempo beyond the optional diesel engine.

      Ford’s original plan was to sell both cars under the Escort/Tracer badges, with 4 body styles sold split between two platforms; 3 & 5 door hatchbacks and wagons would have been based on the escort platform, while 2 & 4 door sedans and coupes would have been based on the tempo platform. For some reason that plan was scrapped, and they were sold as different models.

      The 1st generation versions of both had a slightly bigger size difference. The 1991 refresh for the Escort enlarged it, while the Tempo stayed the same size.

      But you could get the Tempo with full bench seats, front and rear, like the K-cars, and they did try to market it as a larger car, a direct FWD replacement for the Fairmont, largely on the basis of “six passenger seating.” The Tempo sold like mad in it’s early years, over 400k units in 1984. I feel sorry for all of those poor saps.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Ah thanks.

        The Tempo and Topaz both had the AWD option! Boy if those aren’t rare today. I’ve heard before the earlier Tempo models are garbage.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I still see 2nd gen Tempos roaching around. They were terrible creatures though. My buddy in high school had a blue one with a giant 4×4 sticker. It replaced a 300K mile Taurus, which replaced a 200K Escort. Such is life in a Ford family with two older brothers.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You know, I think the original Topaz had a nice large car look about it, and very European.

            http://www.favcars.com/mercury-topaz-sedan-1984-pictures-64739.htm

            Especially with the way the C-pillar descended and the rear end light treatment. It looked like a 929 or a Vauxhall Carlton.

            http://www.percivalmotorco.co.uk/images/960/VauxhallCarltonE714YKErear.jpg

            Or even a 9000.
            http://www.carlustblog.com/images/2008/12/30/90001.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I remember helping my brother fix a friend’s tempo back in high school, he was stumped by an overheating/low power condition. I happened to look at the muffler and saw it got pinched shut by backing up into something. Took a pipe and bent it back out, problem solved! Incredibly odd, never seen anything like it since.

            An overall fairly horrible car but I have this weird sympathy for them. I wouldn’t mind having one as a winter beater.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Reading about Mercury got me thinking about the little Capri in the 90s that looked so Lotus-y. Were those any good? I’m assuming they’ve got Mazda bits.

            Could probably find one for $1500.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’d rather have a late 90s/early 00s Escort as a winter beater. They are basically Mazda Proteges. The ZX2 with the 5 Speed has decent engine transmission combo, especially for the time.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            @CoreyDL

            The reborn FWD Capri of the 90’s was s steaming pile. Australian built, terribly marketed (presented as a chick’s car) the 1.6L NA engine was woefully under powered and the turbo power plant suffered from quality issues. The car was typical big three grade for the time with panel gaps and rattles.

            There was zero redeeming quality for the Capri.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh dear, didn’t realize the Capri was Australian. I’m sure there was a markup in price because of build and shipping costs for that one.

            I’ll have a Del Sol instead!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            True story: I once knew a man who was “connected” who owned a silver one and used its chick car status to talk up girls. Granted it was a Mark VIII most of the time, but on weekends the “Silver Aussie” came out. I will never forget: “Remember no doesn’t mean no, it means not now”.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Hey somebody talk me out of buying this:

            ebay.com/itm/151829080466?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Das boot clock?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Correct but not only does it have that custom dial and dates from the First World War its also an Omega Grand Prix 1900 pocket-watch, which is its own thing.

            I have problems.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This is what I picked up last week:

            http://www.ebay.com/itm/291570020903?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Corey, check these out:

          A “GS” low mile survivor, with an eyewatering price:
          linkhttp://indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/5252106134.html

          A low-trim but likewise clean variant, priced to sell:
          linkhttp://terrehaute.craigslist.org/cto/5211016343.html

          A more typical example for $600:
          linkhttp://indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/5217368232.html

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Maybe you can pay in Monopoly dollars for that first one?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m going for the $400 one. Lol that $5k one, I can have an I35 for that money.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’m not wasting Monopoly money on that. Maybe some tickets I won playing Skee-Ball.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m saving mine for Marvin Gardens, they can keep the Tempo.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The $400 one is super tempting just for street-parked winter beater duty. Bonus: it already has a gaping hole in the dash so no “urban entrepreneur” will be smashing in the window to grab anything. And just about zero theft appeal unless it was for the purpose of a getaway/drive-by car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think the owner should pay me $400 to take it from them.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I dunno, I think you guys are pretty spoiled to poo-poo a car with less than 100k miles, in excellent cosmetic condition, that seems to be in perfect running order, for $400. I mean that’s almost scrap value for a running/driving vehicle! Hell I’d buy it just to flip it for $1500 or so after cleaning it up and putting in a $50 MP3 head unit.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I like the $400 one. Cheap motoring at the cheapest possible price! And it’s not even disgusting inside.

            My dad bought a truck to flip this weekend. My mom sent me a couple pics, and I’m like what? 20 year old Ram 1500 with rust? I replied “I hope that was like $200.”

            It was $200. LOL. Apparently it runs just fine. Needs power washed or something.

            http://tinypic.com/r/20f8d94/8
            http://tinypic.com/r/24yr4g0/8

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @gtemnykh

            I’m familiar with the Tempo from both my youth and from working with them in used car biz circa 2005. Like most automobiles it can be kept going past the sell date but the designed lifespan was probably at most ten years/100K. F*** the Tempo.

            @Corey

            Your dad bought a truck to flip for $200?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I am not poo pooing the $400 car. It’s a $400 car. If it drives, that’s just about everything. If I don’t have to throw money at it for a couple months, I win.

            The $5000 one….yeah. Since it is a ’92 coupe, it’s actually just a refreshed first gen Topaz (same car as in 1984). At least it has the nicer, second facelift.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @28 Lol, yep he did. So far he’s only done that with lawnmowers, this is his first car-flip purchase.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            A $200 truck that comes with a motor, transmission, and *runs* its quite a feat these days.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m assuming it’s from someone he was doing work for, who asked him if he wanted it (he’s a contractor).

            He will come by the odd appliance now and again that way as well. People remodeling and dumping whatever was in the room they’re redoing.

            He’s so partial to Ram, that I’m not at all surprised he bought it.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            A Topaz. With pinstripes. And completely purplized tint. For money, that applied to an ’80s economy car, would get me a survivor thrid-gen Accord. All the crack pipes.

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            I see plenty of 91-95 Capri’s reasonably priced. I’m always tempted to buy one for a summer roadster. The one to buy is the XR2 Turbo which was only available with a manual. The automatics were troublesome.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        ” But you could get the Tempo with full bench seats, front and rear, like the K-cars”

        Um, no. All Tempo/Topaz had floor shift. There was never a front bench option.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          Yes indeed. Luxury with the ex-Pinto floor shift lever. And that 2.3l pushrod engine created by attacking a Ford inline six with an industrial Sawzall was a great back massager at all rpms. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car with an engine that was so unhappy to actually run. Of course, millions were sold to people missing their aural and tactile senses. I preferred the K Car myself, but that is like trying to classify which fast food hamburger is marginally more edible than the other.

          The Escort was a much better car in my opinion. It showed signs of being a whole rather than a bunch of parts slapped together.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            The HSC was far smoother than the 2.0 SPI version of the CVH, for example, and quiter and smoother than the thrashy K car engines. And it was extremely reliable. Bad engine mounts will produce a harsh vibration, but they are incredibly cheap and easy to replace. The last one I bought was for a 93 Tempo and it was the transaxle mount (casued a noticable “thunk” when accelerating in reverse). It cost me like $9 and took 10-15 minutes to replace.

      • 0 avatar
        namesakeone

        I don’t remember ever seeing a Tempo or Topaz with a front bench seat–or, for that matter, with a column shift. (I do know you could get the Fairmont/Zephyr with a bench.) What years were these available?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      1) Tempo and Topaz were not Mazda related. They had a platform that was pretty much a stretched 1st gen (FWD) Escort platform. Ford intended to market the hatchback as the Escort and the sedan/coupe as the Tempo, sorta how VW sells the Golf and Jetta, but it didnt work out that way for Ford as Escort eventually grew a sedan version. Aside from the early Mazda/Perkins diesel models, they were Ford cars. Now, an argument could be made that their transaxles were at least Mazda-related if not Mazda-produced.

      2) There was no Tracer coupe. Only sedan and wagons from 91-on, 3- and 5- door hatch and a wagon before that (and far closer to it’s Mazda cousin at that time, though it was built in Mexico in the same plant that the Fusion is assembled in today). The earlier Lynx was sold as a 3- and 5- door hatch and wagon. Until 1991 when Tracer gained a sedan bodystlye, there was no overlap with Topaz.

      3) Topaz’s light bar was not trim-level dependant. It was standard on all 1986-1987 and 1992-1994 cars. The 88-91 had a waterfall grille, while the 84-85 was pre-Sable so it wasnt even thought of until Sable introduced it in 1986.

      I dont get all the hate for the Tempo. Ive spent a lot of time in them and found them to be quite reliable and basically a good car to drive. They felt less stodgy than my 80s Camry and were about a zillion times cheaper and easier to repair. Lack of overdrive with the automatic is one reason I drive a Taurus today. Tempo was comfortable and long-lasting, especially compared to GM and Chrysler products of the era, and very quick with the 3.0L V-6 (92-4 only).

      Go drive a Tempo back to back with Dodge Aries. The Tempo’s interior was far better designed and more refined. The HSC is quicker and more reliable, and the car looks and feels like its from the decade it came from, not the one before (as with the K). For a lot of the 1980s, Tempo was third in sales only behind the Escort and Taurus, it was not a bad car for its time and I know people who still daily drive them without issue.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Tempo got you all worked up, John! Soothe yourself, with Grand Marquis coupe.

        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/1983_Mercury_Grand_Marquis_LS_2-Door.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Icy to dull the pain, Hot to relax it away.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Im not upset, Corey, I mean people are entitled to their opinion and that includes me. Ive just been around them and in and out of them for 15-20 years and have a higher opinion of them as a result. Theyve proven themselves to me over and over, and I felt like sharing that.

          I remember this one 1989 model I bought soley for its pristine interior. It was high mileage and had a blown head gasket, I think I paid less than $100 for it. Rather than pay to have it towed to my shop, I drove it the 45 miles. The temp gauge was way past the red, and finally the engine just quit. I pulled over, got out and smoked a cigarette (a habit Ive since abandoned), and got back in. It cranked right up and drove another 10 miles until it quit again. Same story, let it cool down and it cranked right back up. I made it to the shop without it being towed.

          Try that in a Honda or Toyota or the 1.9L/2.0L Escort. The first time it overheated that badly, it wouldve cracked the head and that wouldve been the end of it, no compression. Time to call Bubba’s “you break it, then we make it worse” Towing and pay out the @$$ for him to rip the bumpers off and hit every curb along the way.

          Make fun of the chopped Inline 6 that became the Tempo’s 2.3L, but it is incredibly durable. What it lacks in power it makes up for in low-end torque, so its quick off the line. Has come in handy when I needed to get by someone to make a turn or something in town. I also had no acceleration issues with an I-4/auto Tempo over the passes, which is more than I can say for my 95 Accord LX/auto.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Comparing something to the Dodge Aries is only going to that something look good.

        Ford Tempo > Dodge Aires
        Chevy Cavalier > Dodge Aires
        Soap Box Racer > Dodge Aires
        Yearly Physical > Dodge Aires
        Syphilis > Dodge Aires
        Ebola > Dodge Aires

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I have to disagree there as the true mid 80s K-car (Aries/Reliant) was equal if not superior to the equivalent I4 Cavalier or I4 Tempo in overall ownership experience.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            All terrible. Buy a truck instead!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ll take that $200 truck off of Corey’s dad because otherwise its 4 figures for stuff two steps from the junkyard.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I have to disagree there as the true mid 80s K-car (Aries/Reliant) was equal if not superior to the equivalent I4 Cavalier or I4 Tempo in overall ownership experience.

            I totally agree. Having put a quarter million miles on an 87 Reliant, it is a much better car than any equal year J body. Certainly far more reliable; mine wore like an anvil, MAP sensors aside….

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I don’t know about that. I think I’d rather put up with the Tempo’s disintegrating interior plastic than the K-car’s stumbly hard-starty Mitsu 2.6 (or marginally less troublesome but asthmatic 2.2). That 2.6 may be the worst engine offered from the factory in the 1980s by a U.S. brand. After less than 100k of hard starts and stumbling it would usually fail.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          The K car was a direct compeditor and is often hailed as the car that prolonged Chrysler. I have had one, it was truly an awful car with no redeming qualities.

          My point was that the Tempo does not deserve that same classification/reputation as you and others insinuated. I really liked my Tempos. So much so that I bought them at auctions, cleaned them up and resold them for profit. I usually drove the flip cars for 6 months or so, so I have experience with every year, bodystyle and engine aside from the diesel.

          I have had friends tell me that they had a poor opinion of Tempos before spending time in my 92 LX V-6. They were impressed enough to tell me the car was actually pretty good for what it was and how much it cost. Remember that my fully loaded model barely cracked $12k new, which was far cheaper than Camry, Accord, etc. If you consider that, it was a pretty good car.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          My favorite aunt had an Aries wagon with a 4spd stick – and front bench seat! I thought it was kind of fun when I was 17. I’d rather have that than a Tempo or a Cavalier, it was crap, but it was big.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        How many V6 Tempos were actually produced? I think I’ve only ever seen one or two in my life.

        The four was a horrible engine, which isn’t changed by the fact that both NA K-car engines were even worse. Noisy, no low-end torque, no high-end power. The three-speed transmission was antiquated by 1986. The rest of the car might have been OK if it weren’t for the ’80s Ford build quality. It’s a good thing parts were so cheap, because they broke very often.

      • 0 avatar
        greaseyknight

        I have to ask, are you FTF aka FordTempoFanatic from the good ole days over at Jalopnick with Ms. Martin?

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        Drive them where? Every single Tempo that I’ve ever seen since my childhood has had an ass that drags so low the muffler scrapes going down the road.

        Not sure how the K felt a decade behind when they came with digital gauges and turbo motors. And who’s putting turbos on cars now? Ford. Nice way to copy the K car there.

      • 0 avatar
        Gedrven

        No Perkins here. The Mazda RF, used in the 626 and various FoMoCo such as the Tempo/Topaz and Escort/Lynx, has nothing to do with the Mazda S2/Perkins 4.135 (aka 200 Series, though other than the FSM nobody seems to call it that), which was used in 82-84 Mazda B2200 and 83-84 Ford Ranger diesels. The latter is an iron head, iron block OHV with gear timing. The former has an alu head and is SOHC with a belt, for starters. Never seen an RF in person, but a couple of Perkins and they’re noisy, but very robustly designed and well made. Some parts are hard to source these days.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    So did the Ford CVH engine suck, or didn’t it? I’ve heard all sorts of stories about how they blow head gaskets and have problems with dropping valve seats…but Murilee says they have been reliable in LeMons, and they have been the powerplant in the Spec Racer Ford series forever. What’s the truth?

    They don’t have a pleasant exhaust note. That much I can say with certainty.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      The 1.9L versions of this engine, with output of 88 HP @ 4400 RPM, last forever and achieve amazing fuel economy.

      The final, 2.0L version of the CVH used from 1997 on sucked. With the increased displacement and variable-length intake setup adding 25% more horsepower, the heads started to experience all kinds of heat-related failures, dropped valve seats being the most common. The design wasn’t intended to handle that kind of power.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      We got over 200K miles out of a 1.9. Bulletproof motor. The manual called for replacing the timing belt at 60K, my buddy who was a Ford service manager said that was way too conservative, we replaced it at 90K and 200K…which was pushing it, but it held.

      The car could get 35 mpg easy on the highway and was pretty fun to hoon.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        The 1.9L was non-interferance (at least in 91-96 form), so when the belt breaks, you just replace it and go on with your life. The 2.0 version from 97-on was interferance and not nearly as good as the older ones as far as reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Our 1993 Escort made 451k miles (We drive over 80 miles to work every day). It served us faithfully from new until 2007. But, ours loved to eat timing belts. About every 50-75k we would snap one. That’s really the only fault it had.

        I never liked that car, but as econoboxes go, it did it’s job very, very well.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      The valve seats would be a concern. If it doesn’t drop valve seats then it is a pretty durable car.

      I’m not a fan of those crumbling rubber hoses and plastic elbows however, but they are not deal breakers.

  • avatar
    nationalminer84

    why would someone buy this over a civic in 1991? easy. Foreign cars were still not fully accepted then, Plus you wouldn’t still be driving the civic now here it would have rusted away long ago. the old escorts outlasted hondas by quite a bit as far as rust goes.

    • 0 avatar
      Wscott97

      I see 90’s Honda Civic and Corolla and Tercel’s all the time. There’s even a Geo Metro with a Honda badge that drives the same route to work as me. I cant recall the last time I saw an Escort driving down the street.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Also perceptions. Hondas, in the minds of many Americans, were seen as a bit too small. They were larger than their early predecessors, both inside and out, but it takes a while for people to notice.
      Dealer experience didn’t help. Many (most?) Honda dealers tended act like they were doing potential customers a favor by allowing them to own one of their cars. They became notorious for unrequested add ons and mystery markups.

    • 0 avatar
      rmwill

      Also, real transaction prices for the Escort were lower because of generous incentives.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I find it funny that the author mentions head gaskets on the Honda but not timing belts. If a timing belt snaps on a Civic, your best bet is replacing the engine (Ive seen major issues if only the head is replaced on a Honda with more than 100k), whereas in the Escort, you just replace the belt and be on your way. The way people abuse economy cars (lack of maintinance), its very likely to happen to either car.

      The only advantage to having it happen to the Honda is you can probably sell it to some 17 year old who has all of the Fast and Furious movies memorized and thinks he can turn a Civic DX with an automatic into a Chevelle SS crusher on his dishwasher job budget. Then youll have yourself $500 to spend on another beater.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You would have bought the Escort because the Honda dealer would want full MSRP plus some added dealer greed on top, whereas the Ford dealer would give you $1500 off the Escort before you even asked. Then there was indeed the rust factor for those of us in the annual salt brine bath states. Later Escorts actually held up quite well to Maine winters, Hondas did not. At all. They still don’t as recently as 10 years old, judging by what I see around me.

      I do give the Detroit three a lot of credit. They made cheap, crappy cars that would slog along for a good long time for very little money. I just can’t imagine putting up with that level of misery for that long.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I would bet a cracked PVC bumper that OTD price for this was quite a bit lower than for a stripper Civic. Also you wouldn’t have had to deal with the attitude of a Honda dealer in 1991 (“our products are so good I can jerk you around just to watch you twitch and you’ll still buy”).

  • avatar
    Balto

    There are probably 5-10 early or mid 90’s Escort wagons (1 is a Merc I believe) within a 10 block radius of my house. All wagons, and all in strangely good shape. I have a Taurus wagon of the same era (’95), so it looks like my car laid eggs and its spawn hatched all over the neighborhood. Several are even the same color.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I just “crushed” a 93 Escort LX to “save the air”. Bay Area Air Quality Management District paid me $1000 to crush it despite a broken AC and blower fan, nonexistence dampening, bald tires, and “starting to” slip transmission.

    A junk yard visitor told me he’d pay me $200, and wish me good luck when he heard $1000 from the government.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Did it need a current SMOG certificate to earn the graft?

      • 0 avatar
        PandaBear

        If it failed smog and is 1994 or older, you can get $1000 ($1500 if you are low income) to crush it.

        If it pass smog and is 1994 or older, you can get $1000 to crush it if it is registered for 2 years or more in the district. It has to drive itself to the yard and do a 25 ft test, idle for 10 mins without overheating, have most of its exterior parts intact (no accident total), etc.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Time to put together a Top 10 list, David Letterman style. (Your contributions are encouraged!)
    How is a ’91 Ford Escort like an real escort?

    10) Filled a need and really seemed like a good idea at the time.
    9) You would be embarrassed to be seen running around all over town with ‘er.
    8) If you took ‘er home, your wife would probably kill you.
    7) After about 3 hours with ‘er, you realize it was an awful lot of money to spend, and you’re already ready to never see ‘er again.
    6) You realize you could have had a more interesting imported model for less money.
    5) 24 years and 120,000 miles after being at ‘er best, now she’s tired, wrinkled, and really showing her age.

    There must be plenty of escort/Escort jokes out there. So now it’s up to the B&B to suggest the top 4 positions!

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I can attest to the durability of the 1.9 CVH. Our 95 Escort ate 2 transaxles but the 1.9 ran flawlessly (for a Ford CVH) except for spitting the rubber insert out of the crank pulley every 60,000 miles.
    The Mazda 323 based 93-96 models were probably the best of the Escorts, especially the Mazda 16V powered ones.

  • avatar
    AKHusky

    ” 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?”

    Well, I looked at both in the fall of ’90 when starting my first job out of college and chose the escort. The Seattle area Honda dealers all wanted full MSRP, whereas I paid $5899 at Sound Ford for my loss leader escort Pony. The Honda had Vinyl seats and a four speed manual. The Ford had cloth seats and a five speed. I had not a single problem in nine years of ownership. There are still several early nineties escorts driving around town here in Juneau.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    In 1991 this base Escort went for $7,976. In 1991 my folks bought a nicely equipped Saturn SL1 for around $11k.

  • avatar
    jjf

    My first car was a 1991 ford escort pony in refrigerator white. Its only options were AC and power steering. It served me well and I kept it for 8 years. The 1.9 engine was reliable and worked well with the 5 speed. The car also handled well enough on those tiny steel wheels to be fun. The only issue I had was because I let idiots (being not so car savvy myself at the time) at Jiffy Lube change the transmission fluid with the wrong fluid. It died 3K miles later and was replaced with a junk yard tranny for $400 including labor. Cars don’t get much more economical than that. I still miss it and would proudly drive and Escort pony today. I still really dig the Mazda Protege it was based on.

    My other interesting memory of an Escort was when I decide to tour Alaska sans car. The cheapo “bus” I was taking to Fairbanks had its hood fly up into the windshield in the middle the Alaskan bush. The driver called his sister’s friend’s brother who drove four of us the rest of the way in a well battered early nineties Escort. I very distinctly remember the sitting crammed into the red velour backseat for 100+ miles. Escort to the rescue.

    If there is such thing as an enthusiast for these vehicles it would be me.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    My 94 Escort LX was a good car. Sure it had a few problems but got 40 mpg to the day I sold it with 209 on it. CR went from not recommending them new to recommending them used because they were pretty darn reliable.

  • avatar
    lemko

    My wife had this car’s sister – a 1991 Mercury Tracer. Her car was a maroon four-door sedan. Unfortunately, the paint peeled on every top surface and the rubber door sill trim dry-rotted. She replaced the car at 107K miles with a new 2001 Chevrolet Impala.

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