Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford Escort GT

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
Ford sold Escorts in North America from the 1981 through 2003 model years, with the ’91 and later cars based on Mazda designs. I’ve never been much interested in the 323/Protegé-derived Escorts, instead keeping a junkyard lookout for the increasingly rare Dearborn– designed 1981– 1990 machines and especially the hot– hatch Escort GTs. Here’s a once-mean-looking black ’86 Escort GT in a Colorado Springs self-service yard.
Ford started using the Escort name way back in the middle 1950s, with the name going on a cheap version of the Ford Anglia wagon. The true Escort hit the streets of Europe in 1967, and this small rear-wheel-drive car sold by the millions over there. For 1981, the Escort went to front-wheel-drive, and the idea was that everyone in the world would be able to buy what amounted to the same car. All of Ford’s competitors would just give up, and the Blue Oval would soon rule the globe.
Americans hadn’t much liked the extremely European Capri and early Fiesta, though, despite runaway success for those models on the other side of the Atlantic, and so the European and American Escort designs diverged early and often as changes were made to Detroit-ize the car we got. They look fairly similar at a glance and share powertrains, but the chassis and body differences mean that they’re first cousins at best.
The Escort GT first appeared here in 1982 (after a few minutes being sold as the Escort SS), and it had some suspension improvements plus cool-looking graphics.
By 1986, the Escort GT had an engine with more power than the one in the regular Escort (108 versus 86 horses), though the “HO” 1.9-liter four was available as an option on non-GTs.
The sticker price on this car was $8,112, or about $21,400 in 2022 dollars.
That price compared favorably with that of the less powerful Civic Si hatchback ($8,349 and 91 horsepower) and Volkswagen GTI ($9,190 and 102 horsepower), though the Dodge Omni GLH blew it away on both price ($7,918) and power (146 horses).
The slushboxification of the American road had been underway for decades by the time this car was sold, and so plenty of ’86 Escort GTs rolled off the line with the 390-buck 3-speed automatic option. This one has the five-speed manual (which cost $75 extra on the four-on-the-floor-equipped lower Escort trim levels that year).
The interior has been gutted by junkyard shoppers, so we’ll never know if this car had the $148 AM/FM/cassette audio system.
Colorado Springs swings much more to the right than Denver, what with the Air Force Academy and headquarters for such evangelical organizations as Focus on the Family being headquartered there, so I see a lot more Trump stickers from the 2016 campaign— you know, before it was cool— in this yard than I do in the yards 70 miles to the north. Cannabis-related stickers on junkyard cars are equally prevalent in both areas.
Cars in Colorado Springs junkyards also tend to have more stickers like these on the fuel-filler doors than their Denver counterparts; perhaps it’s a result of the heavy Juggalo influence on the culture there.
I always try to get at least one photo with Pikes Peak when I shoot discarded cars in this yard, so here you go— it’s the snow-covered peak in the clouds.
Car ads of the middle 1980s were heavy on the synths and whooshing noises.[Images by the author]
Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • John John on Feb 03, 2023

    I had an 87 escort GT that was silver, it was a fun little car and got 35+ mpg average, one time I got 42 average on a turnpike trip.

  • Perry Perry on Sep 07, 2023

    Hello how you doing I just like to say that I had seven escorts all but one was a GT the first escort I bought was a red plain Jane escort I bought it for $800 at a car lot close to where I live anyway when I bought the car had a tick in it so I went out and bought some oil for it got some 650 and put that in there and then I drove it to Saint Joe Missouri everything was cool until I was getting back on to the ramp to take me back to Kansas City and the check engine light popped on and it started running all funny and I couldn't pick up speed but I didn't let it die so I kept it floored and it slowly started picking up speed by the time I got to being back on the highway it started running normal I think nothing about it until the next day and it did the same thing again so I took it back to the lot and the guy had his mechanic check it out and he said there's nothing wrong with it but the day after that it did the same thing again so I said it's still doing the same thing and the guy said well once you buy a car from here it's yours and I said well I can almost see maybe 2 weeks or 2 months but 2 days long story short he gave me my money back and I bought an escort GT off of lot I tell you what when I got behind the wheel of that thing I was hooked I was really hooked at the power that it had compared to a chevette anyway long story short I love them cars I really love those cars but you probably had a problem the problem was the front end the friend didn't have an a arm if they will put an on machine in the front the front end is probably lasted a lot longer my problem was when I hit a curve right that hit a curve and I'm cleaning up on the curve I've bent the frame I tell you what I love them cars but right now the price of a 87 escort GT will probably run you into the tens of thousands of dollars now because everything is going up including used cars I couldn't believe it I saw the price of a 89 S10 Chevy Blazer for 14,000 not 1400 14,000 I'll tell you where I miss my escort I miss all of them but I just thought I'd tell you that thank you

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.