Rare Rides: The 1986 Ford Escort EXP, for Driving Enjoyment

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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rare rides the 1986 ford escort exp for driving enjoyment

Rare Rides featured an EXP once before, in the form of a tidy first-generation example painted in blazing orange. Today’s EXP is a much more modern looking second generation, in two-tone grey and black.

The first Ford EXP was manufactured until partway through the 1985 model year. It carried on alone after its short-lived sibling, the Mercury LN7, ended production during 1983. Small, lightweight, and down on power, the EXP focused on fun driving and fuel economy. It even reached an impressive 44 miles per gallon highway in the hands of Car and Driver. But, by the middle of the Eighties, the competition in the affordable two-seat economy coupe field grew up like weeds around the EXP. Pontiac created the Fiero, Toyota had the MR2, and Honda offered the CR-X.

Ford knew it was time for a new EXP.

Ready during 1985, the new EXP was offered officially as a 1985.5 model. Its release coincided with a refresh of the Escort, from which the EXP borrowed many of its parts and a platform. The odd looks of the first generation were gone, replaced with the smoother, ruler-designed Escort look. Fittingly, the model was renamed Escort EXP. Unique to EXP were the front and rear bumper designs, as well as a grille.

New for ‘85.5 was the larger 1.9-liter inline-four from the Escort. EXPs used a three-speed automatic, or four- or five-speed manual transmissions. Wheelbase, length, width, and height were all nearly identical to the old EXP, though weight increased from 2,047 pounds to 2,338.

There were two distinct versions of Escort EXP, a fact which seems to elude Modern Internet Times. The lower end version was the Luxury Coupe. Standard Escort seats and fewer options were matched with a carb-fed version of the 1.9 for 1986, which produced 90 horsepower. TBI was added for ’87 and ’88, though power did not increase. At introduction in 1985, only the Luxury Coupe was available.

Upscale EXP customers waited for the more expensive Sport Coupe, introduced for 1986. Here, upgraded bucket seats and a center console filled an interior which featured additional power equipment like side mirrors. The Escort GT donated many components to the Sport Coupe, including a suspension the Luxury Coupe did never received. Here, the 1.9-liter had electronic fuel injection and initially produced 106 horsepower (increased to 115 in ’87).

Unfortunately, sales of the EXP peaked its first year at over 98,000, and fell immediately. The second generation never recovered that initial figure, and averaged about 27,000 sales per year. It was discontinued during 1988. But by then nobody cared — it was Probe time.

Today’s 1986 EXP is a Sport Coupe located in Washington, which is in Pennsylvania. With a five-speed manual, recent repaint, and 75,000 miles, it sits at $5,000 on eBay presently.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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  • IBx1 IBx1 on Jun 19, 2019

    That's actually a handsome little design.

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jun 19, 2019

    I've always liked these , they were much more handsome than even the Escort GT, but our base FX16 (not GTS) was considerably faster . These seemed to be popular with the competition car audio fans. Inexpensive to get into leaving lots of money and space available for equipment

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.