By on April 4, 2022

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsRemember 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!

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, striping - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf 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).

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, gearshift - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsA 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).

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, LH rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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!

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, radio - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis 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.

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car is quite grimy inside, but not quite to hooptie status.

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, speedometer - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI 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.

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsA 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.

1985 Ford Escort wagon in California junkyard, Thermo-Guard sticker - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou 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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16 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Ford Escort GL Wagon...”


  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I had an 85 2 door Mercury Lynx hatch with a 4 speed manual. Slowest acceleration of any vehicle I have ever owned. Small cars are so much better today including the Mirage.

  • avatar
    la834

    Wasn’t a fuel-injected version of this engine available by 1985? Or was that only for the GT model?

    The “world car” hype in the 1981 advert was largely false. The European Escort *looked* like the North American version, but was nonetheless entirely different. I think they shared about 7 parts.

    One of the improvements made in the Escort over its long run was a much better rear seat fold-down mechanism. The original design (shown in the 1981 commercial) had a one-piece backrest that simply folded down against the cushion, leaving a floor extension that was much higher than the trunk floor. 1984 and later cars got the improved design shown on the featured car, where the seat cushion folded forward first to allow the backrest, when folded down, to be at the same level as the rest of the trunk floor. Higher-trimmed models like this one also got a 50/50 split folding seat.

    I never knew exactly what that long slot on the right side of the center console was intended for.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      Now that you mentioned the rear seat folding mechanism, I don’t know why most brands stopped offering this system. I recall Ford still used this “seat cuhion folds forward to allow the backrest” at least until 2012 because I owned a 2nd gen Escape and I liked it. It provided a flat cargo surface which can’t be found on most of their new vehicles.

      Did they discontinue this feature for the sake of “easiness of just doing a 1 step rear folding process”? Was it for safety standards?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        My money is on the beancounters wanting to save the pennies. Remember when many cars had articulating trunk hinges instead of the space-robbing goose neck types? Heck, even GM W bodies had the nice hinges. Well, we are back to goose neck hinges…

    • 0 avatar
      Mike-NB2

      Dude, that long slot on the right of the console is to store your papers, business papers.

      https://youtu.be/sft3VHxru2s?t=30

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      I don’t know about the 85 1/2 but my 85 had an electronic carburetor which was troublesome. I had to shift to 3rd gear on a hill on the interstate. I had to replace the carburetor and the head gasket went. It had to be the worst car I have ever owned.

      • 0 avatar
        Michael S6

        My mom bought a brand new 81 Mercury Lynx which was as slow a a turtle running in peanut butter. Over the six years of car ownership we paid as much money in repairs as the car initially cost. It was Ford’s first foray into building a front wheel drive car in the USA ,and Ford’s Quality is number one slogan was off the mark by a couple of light years.

  • avatar
    jmo2

    The wear on the shift knob and boot, seats look to me like 90k levels of wear, not 190 and certainly not 290.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This was ready for the junkyard the day it left the Edison Assembly (NJ).

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 1983 my sister bought an 81 Escort GL hatchback in black with the 4 speed. For a three year old car it had it issues, probably because it was the first year of the American model with teething issues, from the head gasket to paint fading and electrical gremlins. The later model years like this one that seemed to last were far better with these issues ironed out.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    One of these days I am going to purchase a lab coat — so that I can look like a Ford engineer.

  • avatar
    The Snu

    My father in law had a Sunoco service station. The “Shop truck” for many years was an Escort wagon much like this, but an automatic. It had the little seatbelt mouse, if I recall. The car had a smell to it, such that it earned the name “Kashkaval” (which I understand is a Romanian cheese)…

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    First engine I ever blew up was in my ’81 Escort wagon, bought new. I guess it wasn’t as happy as I was being in VT in winter as it cracked the block. Replaced under warranty but never really the same, or maybe the thrill had worn off.

    Sold it and was happy to cover the outstanding balance on the loan with enough for a bicycle.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Whatever you do, don’t tell Mazda the curb weight of the 1985 Ford Escort Wagon.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    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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