Junkyard Find: 1981 Ford Escort GL Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 ford escort gl sedan
By the early 1980s, Ford needed a replacement for both the image-challenged and obsolete rear-wheel-drive Pinto and the minuscule, German-built Fiesta, and so a Detroitified distant cousin of the European Ford Escort came into being for the 1981 model year.Here’s a rare ’81 sedan, photographed in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard.
I have seen quite a few first-generation Escorts in the Ford sections of junkyards during my travels, including this 1981 EXP, this 1984 wagon, this 1986 wagon, this 1988 GT, this 1988 GT, this 1988 GT, this 1988 EXP, and this 1990 Pony. In 1991, the Escort went to a Mazda chassis.
This car has the 1.6-liter SOHC four-cylinder, rated at 65 mighty horses in 1981. Curb weight was just about a ton, so acceleration wasn’t as poor as you might think (though it still required a great deal of patience on the part of the driver).
Most affordable econoboxes came with a four-on-the-floor manual transmission in 1981, though plenty of Toyota Corolla Tercels had five-speeds by this time.
The original purchaser of this car wasn’t pinching all the pennies, in spite of the lack of an automatic transmission (still considered a luxurious option during the Late Malaise Era); this car boasts both air conditioning and cruise control.
Plenty of LTD and Granada buyers skipped the cruise control in 1981, but this Escort has it.
The telltale moss and rust around the windows indicate that this car sat for years, maybe decades, before arriving at this place.
Friendly Ford in Fresno no longer exists, but at least this car will die within 150 miles of where it was sold.
Before there was social media, the American ideal of a “United People” seemed possible. This junkyard is in San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, so there’s some sort of message here for the nearby employees of Google and Facebook.
Even though the North American Escort didn’t have much in common with its European counterpart, Ford played up the “world car” schtick in 1981.
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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on May 29, 2018

    The next-door neighbor (retired guy) bought an '81 Escort L four-door, with the four-speed and a/c like this one. It was my first attempt at driving a manual, and after numerous attempts to start off, and instead stalling, he, and I, gave up. It would be two more years before I'd learn how to drive a manual, this time my then-girlfriend's '77 Datsun B-210 hatchback with five-speed. A year later, he traded the Escort for a Chevy Cavalier four-door, this time with an automatic.

  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Jun 06, 2018

    Seats look fantastic for a near 40 year old car.

  • Theflyersfan One positive: doesn't appear to have a sunroof. So you won't need to keep paper towels in the car.But there's a serious question to ask this seller - he has less than 40,000 miles on some major engine work, and the transmission and clutch work and mods are less than 2 months old...why are you selling? That's some serious money in upgrades and repairs, knowing that the odds of getting it back at the time of sale is going to be close to nil. This applies to most cars and it needs to be broadcasted - these kinds of upgrades and mods are really just for the current owner. At the time of sale, a lot of buyers will hit pause or just won't pay for the work you've done. Something just doesn't sit well with me and this car. It could be a snowbelt beast and help save the manuals and all that, but a six year old VW with over 100,000 miles normally equals gremlins and electrical issues too numerous to list. Plus rust in New England. I like it, but I'd have to look for a crack pipe somewhere if the seller thinks he's selling at that price.
  • 2ACL I can't help feeling that baby is a gross misnomer for a vehicle which the owner's use necessitated a (manual!) transmission rebuild at 80,000 miles. An expensive lesson in diminishing returns I wouldn't recommend to anyone I know.
  • El scotto Rumbling through my pantry and looking for the box of sheets of aluminum foil. More alt right comments than actual comments on international trade policy. Also a great deal of ignorance about the global oil industry. I'm a geophysicist and I pay attention such things. Best of all we got to watch Tassos go FULL BOT on us.
  • El scotto No one and I mean no one on here is a UAW member or a salaried employee of the Big 3. Then again if someone identified themselves on here they would pilloried every time they posted.The comments on here are like listening to the overgrown children who call into sports radio shows.
  • Statikboy Those tires are the Wrong Size.