Junkyard Find: 1985 Ford Escort GL Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1985 ford escort gl wagon

Remember the era, around the middle of the 2010s, when we were all supposed to desire a brown station wagon with a manual transmission (or mock those who liked brown wagons after it was cool)? Well, today’s Junkyard Find is just that!

If you’re going to be strict about the Brown Wagon thing, your approved long roofs must have rear-wheel-drive and a diesel engine, both of which this Escort lacks. And, for the real sticklers, its color is some flavor of Ford’s “Desert Tan” paint, not a true Bilirubin Brown. At least it has the “Dual Bodyside Paint Stripe” option, which cost an extra 39 bucks (about $105 in 2022 dollars).

A four-on-the-floor manual transmission was standard equipment in the El Cheapo L and Slightly Less Cheapo GL trim levels of the ’85 Escort, so the original buyer of this car had to fork over an extra $76 for this sporty five-speed rig. If your American Escort shopper demanded a three-speed automatic in 1985, the price tag was $439 ($1,180 now).

The engine is the base 1.6-liter cam-in-head CVH with a carburetor, rated at 70 horsepower. You could get a 2.0-liter Mazda diesel engine in the ’85 Escort wagon, though I have never seen one.

The MSRP on this fine machine was $6,765 (around $18,190 today). That’s a pretty good deal for such a useful vehicle with great gas mileage (just as fuel prices crashed), especially when the cheapest possible Honda Civic wagon cost $7,195. That Civic had a seven-horsepower advantage over the Escort with a base 1.6. The Escort wagon thrashed its Cavalier competitor on price, undercutting the Chevy by two whole dollars!

The Escort got a facelift midway through the 1985 model year, getting the newly-legal composite headlights and a different grille. This car is the earlier version, not the “1985-1/2” one.

This four-speaker AM/FM radio added $109 to the cost of the car ($293 now), which was totally worth it considering the very high quality of the pop music of the era.

This car is quite grimy inside, but not quite to hooptie status.

I found this car in a San Francisco Bay Area yard, and there’s no rust at all. It might have 90,800 miles, but I’m guessing 190,800 or 290,800 would be more likely.

A high-mile, non-Honda/Toyota, 37-year-old subcompact wagon with the wrong number of pedals is worth about the same as a runner or as scrap these days, so this Escort had virtually no chance of escape once it entered the junkyard ecosystem.

You see these stickers on some 1980s cars. I assume it’s some kind of aftermarket paint-coating treatment.

The Jetta and Corona were bigger and more powerful than the first-gen Escort (and thus thirstier), but so what? CHECKMATE.

The 1985.5 Escort got special TV commercials.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Shawn A Shawn A on Apr 05, 2022

    I have a two tone brown 1985 escort with the diesel and the 5-speed, it still runs, gets 50mpg+ and is licensed.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Apr 06, 2022

    Yeah, I remember the Thermo-Guard stickers (I still see them occasionally). Yes, a paint coating thing, to pad dealer profits, in the F&I office. Did it work? The paint on this one seems to be okay (it could use a wash and wax), so maybe yes.

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